MCN Fleet: Becoming friends with KTM's 125 Duke

Published: 01 May 2017

I remember when MCN Deputy Editor, Richard Newland, gave me the news that KTM wanted to loan me the 2017 125 Duke. I instantly said 'yes' and then waited patiently for it to arrive at the MCN office. 

Forget the rest of the team's 2017 fleet bikes: Fireblade SP, Ninja 650, GSX-R1000R, SuperSport S. Pish posh! I was getting a KTM 125 Duke. It's got a full-colour TFT dash, don't ya know. 

The first time we met...

Me and my new pal met for the first time at the Carole Nash MCN London Motorcycle Show earlier this year. It was literally the first time I got a chance to sit on Doris (yes I've named her Doris. Thanks to MCN Senior Road Tester Adam Child, who occasionally calls his wife 'the Doris', the name has now stuck). 

MORE MCN FLEET

Here is the proof that it was like love at first sight, the first time I touched her...

Now after a week of riding Doris, the fact that she is the smallest bike on the long-term squad this year is far from insignificant.

The 2017 update has given KTM’s smallest Duke a fair few additions to help it punch well above its weight. Firstly, it’s been given a full makeover, which basically means it looks incredibly similar to the hyper-naked 1290 Super Duke R.

And secondly, when you switch the ABS off a yellow warning light flashes ‘not legal’ – so stoppies, wheelies, and stunts here I come!

OK, let me take it down a peg, or 10. I’m in no position to do tricks (yet) but having the option is brilliant. Aside from the fact I’m still running the bike in and haven’t experienced the bike’s 75mph top speed, it’s quite clear that this is a huge upgrade from the original 2011 model.

We’ve got engine tweaks, a full-colour dash, updated bodywork, new chassis and bolt-on subframe, WP suspension, new exhaust, a newly designed LED headlight and a new larger 13.4-litre steel tank.

However, as techy as this KTM sounds, after spending a week with BMW Rider Training on a 75bhp F700GS last month, the little demons in my head keep yelling “you need more power”.

You can’t help but ride a 125 and ask yourself ‘what is next? A Daytona 675? An MT-07?’ But with all the knowledge I’m yet to obtain, I’m trying not to jump the gun and I’m hoping that the little KTM will help me tap down a couple of gears and allow me to build a solid riding base.

Back to the small-scale fun

The best part so far is that the little Duke is the first in its class to have a full-colour TFT dash; it takes me back to my PlayStation days.

Instead of using combos to kill the bad guys or to score my hattrick against Spurs on FIFA, I’m using the ‘up’ and ‘down’ keys to navigate through the menu selection, with the right button selecting items and the left button serving a step backwards.

Saving the best ‘til last – the onboard functions allow you to take incoming calls and change audio tracks as you can pair your mobile to the bike via Bluetooth.

As if technology wasn’t corrupting our brains enough, right?

The KTM is a bit of a wide thing

The wide, straight handlebar is getting on my nerves. Only because it doesn’t fit through my gate as nicely as my Yamaha MT-125. When riding, however, the upright position is great, especially when filtering on my 60-mile commute.

If I’m being pernickety, the stand sits the bike almost upright, which makes me feel like it’s not stable. I always jig it about a bit before leaving it.

So far this light, 137kg, single- cylinder, A1 licence-friendly machine is a blast and a breath of fresh air to chuck around on country lanes. Despite the switchgear not feeling as well-made as those on my Yamaha, it’s definitely a looker.

I’m planning a trip to my KTM dealer to browse some PowerParts and I’m already eyeing up an Akrapovic slip-on. I’m also planning a trip to Wales in August for Camp
VC
(a weekend of biking with some awesome London girls) so let’s see if the 124.7cc KTM comes with me...

For now I’m just about done scrubbing in my fat new Metzeler Sportec M5s. 

Question for next time

If and how I can improve the bike that are relevant to how I ride - country lanes A roads - e.g. Will adding an exhaust system give me enough BHP to change the way this 125 rides?

What have I been wearing? 

All related reviews
All related bikes for sale