Excellent. The riding position is comfortable, yet poised and cornering – thanks to the big bike ergonomics but small bike weight – is nimble and swift. The turning circle is good, though not phenomenal, while track riding – not an impossibility on the 125 Duke by any means – will allow you to scrape pegs, knee sliders and anything else you care to trail along the floor. The front brakes are fantastic and beautifully responsive, allowing you to really feel the front forks load on mid to heavy braking, while keeping the bike perfectly stable and straight. Anyone keen to lift the rear wheel will find the four piston calliper and the centralised riding position more than up to the job. The rear shock, too, absorbs any bumps in the road well and provided decent cushioning on a range of roads tested.
The single-pot 124.7cc DOHC, liquid-cooled and fuel injected engine is an entirely new design for the 125 Duke. It’s more similar to the firm’s enduro models than to the 690 Duke, which due to space issues has no camshaft rocker and only a single overhead cam. It’s also unquestionably smooth and capable. It’ll get to 40mph in no time at all, and 78mph in a straight line. Despite only managing 15bhp it feels responsive and zesty enough to thrill. Shame European and learner regulations limit the Duke’s power, because it would do extremely well with another 10bhp under its belt.
This is not just a bike that’s just good enough for learners, this is a bike to welcome young riders to the world of premium motorcycles. A walk around the Austrian-designed, Indian-built 125 Duke confirms the impression. The 43mm upside-down forks are by WP, as is the adjustable, linked rear shock, the four-piston radial front brakes are produced by Bybre (an Indian division of Brembo) and all the lights – from tail to indicators – are LEDs. The service intervals are a relatively short 3,106 miles.
Yes, £3695 is a lot of money for a 125… but on launch KTM is offering one year’s free insurance or low rate finance packages, which could be worth hundreds to young riders saddled with prohibitive premiums. Then, when you consider the high re-sale value of well maintained KTM-built product, means the price doesn’t seem so high after all. The Suzuki Van Van [£3065], Yamaha YBR125 [£2399] and Honda CBR125R [£3170] are considerably cheaper, but just can’t touch the 125 Duke for quality. The next best thing – the ubiquitous Yamaha YZF-R125 - costs a whopping £4249, which makes the little Duke seem like a bargain.
Insurance group: 7 of 17 – compare motorcycle insurance quotes now.
Top drawer. The KTM’s dash lights up in a display that’ll send butterflies spinning through every 17-year-old’s stomach. From the “charging” rev-counter to “READY TO RACE” welcome message to the orange backlight and range of figures that shames the RC8, the 125 Duke’s clocks are the best on the market. The mirrors are excellent and all lights on the bike are LEDs. It’s got decent pillion support too, as the seat and frame are larger than yer’ average 125. Plus… there’s a stack of extras to pick from the accessory catalogue, including LED lights, sticker kits and headlight masks.