KTM 125 DUKE (2011 - 2016) Review
At a glance
|Owners' reliability rating:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Overall ratingNext up: Ride & brakes
If you’re looking to get your license, learn to lift either wheel or pursue some lightweight urban thrills, the KTM 125 Duke can do it for you. It doesn’t seem like a regular, budget 125 machine; it feels like a premium motorcycle that just-so-happens to be low capacity.
It’s a shame that engine modifications only allow restriction and not an enhancement of power. The Duke certainly challenged the Yamaha YZF-R125 and arguably became the new king of the 125s.
It looks the part and it's cool and that's its unique selling point. It was easily the best looking naked 125 when it was launched. It feels like a 'normal' big bike, is reasonably solid, not too flimsy and relatively roomy.
To do stoppies and tricks, it's just like a BMX with an engine, It's easy. You've got to be a bit more brutal to do a burnout, but it will do it.
Ride quality & brakesNext up: Engine
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 steering lock is a little limited around town - and might make the figure-eight manoeuvres on your test more challenging.
While track riding – not an impossibility on the 125 Duke by any means – the 125 Duke will allow you to scrape pegs, knee sliders and anything else you care to trail along the floor.
The suspension actually works
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 suspension actually works, there is some controlled damping at both ends and there's a reasonable amount of feel. However, the tyres feel a little wooden.
Just how comfortable is the KTM 125 Duke? Back in 2011 one of our team rode one to the Alps and back. That isn't something you could do on many 125cc machines...
EngineNext up: Reliability
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 KTM 690 Duke, which due to space issues has no camshaft rocker and only a single overhead cam.
Unquestionably smooth and capable, it’ll get to 40mph in no time at all, and on to 78mph in a straight line. Despite only managing 15bhp it feels responsive and zesty enough to thrill.
It's a shame European and learner regulations limit the Duke’s power, because it would do extremely well with another 10bhp under its belt. The engine is comparable to other four-stroke 125 machines and it will happily chug along at 65mph all day.
Reliability & build qualityNext up: Value
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. The gearbox is smooth and there's not too much vibration
Value vs rivalsNext up: Equipment
The 125 Duke cost £3695 when it was released, which was a lot of money for a 125. KTM must have known this as they offered one year’s free insurance or low rate finance packages on the bike which were worth hundreds to young riders saddled with prohibitive premiums.
The Suzuki Van Van [£3065], Yamaha YBR125 [£2399] and Honda CB125R [£3170] were all considerably cheaper, but just couldn’t touch the 125 Duke for quality. The next best thing – the ubiquitous Yamaha YZF-R125 - cost a whopping £4249, which made the little Duke seem like a bargain.
On the used market, you can find a KTM 125 Duke for sale with low miles for around £2,000.
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 the “READY TO RACE” welcome message.
The orange backlight on the dash illuminates a range of stats and figures that puts even the KTM RC8 to shame. The 125 Duke’s clocks are definitely 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 your average 125.
Plus, there were a stack of factory extras to pick from the accessory catalogue, including LED lights, sticker kits and headlight masks, so watch out for these on the used market.
|Engine type||4v, DOHC, single-cylinder, liquid cooled, fuel injected, 6 gears|
|Frame type||Steel trellis|
|Fuel capacity||11 litres|
|Front suspension||WP-USD Ø 43 mm|
|Front brake||Four piston, radially bolted caliper, brake disc Ø 280 mm|
|Rear brake||Single piston, floating caliper, brake disc Ø 230 mm|
|Front tyre size||110/70 R 17|
|Rear tyre size||150/60 R 17|
Mpg, costs & insurance
|Average fuel consumption||75 mpg|
|Annual road tax||£20|
|Annual service cost||£200|
7 of 17
How much to insure?
|Warranty term||Two year unlimited mileage|
Top speed & performance
|Max power||15 bhp|
|Max torque||12 ft-lb|
|Top speed||78 mph|
|1/4 mile acceleration||-|
|Tank range||180 miles|
Model history & versions
KTM launched the 125 Duke in 2011. A new version was released in 2016 with even better build quality, engine tweaks, new chassis and a TFT screen dash.
The 125 Duke is the smallest member of a naked bike dynasty from KTM. Above the 125 is the A2 licence-friendly KTM 390 Duke, and one riders have served their time on that model they can progress to the brilliant KTM 690 Duke.
MCN Long term test reports
MCN Fleet: It’s so-long to KTM’s pint-sized Duke
It’s a bittersweet ending with KTM’s 125 Duke. Our time together has seen me develop my riding and enjoy most of what biking has on offer. We’ve even conquered the A1M on our daily commute and her 15bhp-self has been super economical, even though I’ve revved the hell out of her. Above all, we well a…
Owners' reviews for the KTM 125 DUKE (2011 - 2016)
12 owners have reviewed their KTM 125 DUKE (2011 - 2016) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.
Summary of owners' reviews
|Ride quality & brakes:|
|Reliability & build quality:|
|Value vs rivals:|
|Annual servicing cost:||£200|
Annual servicing cost: £160
Mpg are spot on, run I had today was good, rung the neck on the wee thing, good accelerations to 60, afterwards it's a steady waiting game, had 83 out of it on the flat but it didn't like that! Can sometimes be temperamental to get above 70, been on a down hill full power and only got 72 once. (For scottish folk) I topped up at Tescos in Camelon, no motorways as L plate, through Stirling, Callander, Tyndrum, over Connel bridge, round to Glencoe then back down the other road to Tyndrum again, needed a refill at the Esso in Callander. Full route plus detours was 193 miles, plenty of over taking and darting about, only used 8.36L, so mpg is defo above 100 and that wasn't taking it easy. Took a crash very well a few weeks back, only needed new handle bar, gear lever and slight scratching on passenger grips, other than that no body damage for sliding out at 50! Reliable little bit of kit, had it 2 months and done just under 3k, commuting and pleasure, no issues at all, already ran in up to 4k by prior owner (4 years and 4k! Doesn't know what he missed out on). Only downside, sitting on it for 5 hours in a day isn't comfy!
Bought for son thought this was bike to have, great when it was going but major issues with electrics very very poor brake switches broke, indicators stopped working engine management light on for no reason & bike would cut out took it for repairs computer showing no faults bump start in 3rd gear & everything good all ok for 3 days then starts again revving up on its own in traffic it was dangerous lost a lot of money the boy nearly lost his job due to being late with breakdowns never again.... private 2nd hand buy only had it 6 months had to sell as spare or repair son is gutted.
Version: White ABS
Annual servicing cost: £250
Very good bike. Quick, very fun on twisty roads, comfortable, good brakes (ABS works very well), smooth clutch/gearbox and nice sitting position.
Fantastic to do trips on twisty mountain roads with a speed limit around 80km/h/50mph. The bike has plenty of power in those speeds. On motorways with speed limits over 110km/h/70mph it struggles on hills.
Very quick accelerating up to about 80km/h/50mph. The power is close to instant, very nice! Wish it was more willing on motorways, have to remember that it's only a 125.
Well built, battery failed and I had to fight with the dealership to get it replaced. The bike only had 1000km/620mi on the odo. Fixed and no problems after that.
Uses hardly any petrol. Cheaper to insure than any "R"-badged 125. RC 125/YZF etc. Quite expensive to service, short service intervals.
Everything is good except the exhaust system. Swapped it to an Arrow exhaust system. Sounds very good, giving the extra feel.
Buying experience: Got it 100£ cheaper than the list price at my dealer AMD Motorsykler in Oslo, Norway.
Great learner bike that's nimble, light and easy to live with. Will easily do 200+ miles to a tank.
Abs as standard and never feels at strain. Solid stopping power.
Lively little unit, well as much as a 15hp 4 stroke can be. Nippy to about 30mph but does seem to stop pulling way short of what my old yamaha r125 did. Neither of them are rockets though!
Rear brake line was rubbing and almost wore through so needed replacing. It could have been avoided if it was correctly fastened from the factory.
Have only had the first 600 mile service which was just over £100 at Ktm. Insurance was over 30% cheaper than the r125 but different people have different circumstances so you may not have such a difference.
Abs as standard, good multi trip computer and digital dash with shift light and service counter. Some neat little powerparts available direct from ktm I added the hand guards for a small amount of wind protection.
Buying experience: Dealer. Paid £2995 with under 300 miles on it at a year old. At the time it seemed fair.
She rides nice through the traffic but the build quality just isn't good enough. My first problem was the gear lever falling off about a month after I'd bought her. I managed to pull over and limp to a garage in second. The next thing was the electrics, she kept shorting out. By the time I'd reset the clock for the umpteenth time, I gave up and accept it. The big problem came in summer. The temperature gauge had always read hot. The KTM dealer told me this wears normal and not to worry, but sure enough this was not true. One hot summer did her. One day the temperature warning light came on. I stopped and waited, then took her to my local garage. The damage was extensive and KTM didn't want to know (she was just outside the 2 year guarantee). I paid £600 for a new thermostat, new alternator and various other bits. The mechanic told me he'd spoken to a friend who worked for KTM and the word was that the thermostat was too small and couldn't cope. He recommended getting rid. I googled it and found various others who'd had the same issue, but KTM (who's customer service is legendary for being bad) told me no such issue existed. So I fixed her up, rode her for a few more months and then part exchanged her for a new Yamaha XSR700. Goodbye and good riddance. I would not recommend this KTM to anyone.
Poor but.d quality. Unreliable.
Buying experience: Inmoto in Croydon. They were okay, except that they lied about the high temperature reading right at the start.
The bike is fantastic! I have now done 13000 miles on the bike and there has been no issues at all. I commute 50 miles a day on the bike along dual carriageways and she has no problems keeping up with the traffic. The ABS breaks are fantastic and they will stop on a dime. A bike really worth getting if you are on your CBT or A1. however it will still make a great little town bike if you don't need to commute that far for work.
I'm a midlife (40s) convert to biking. Rather than go straight to DAS, I decided to pick up a used 125 and ride it for 6-8 months to get my skills and confidence up. The Duke was perfect. Most of all, it's tremendous fun and just whets my appetite to get into biking. The brakes gave me great confidence, even when I was instinctively using my rear brake only (and often engaging the ABS as a result), and then I was able to work on my technique and learn to rely on the front. Same for the steering and suspension. I'm sure it's very basic compared to bigger bikes (rear preload adjustment only, for instance), but every time I think I've maybe pushed it too hard going round a bend, I've been able to make it around. "78 mph in a straight line" is more than I've managed. I did get to an indicated 75 going on a steep downhill, but tops on the flat is more like 65. No matter: it's a ton of fun at lower speeds. The only reason I give it four stars is that the price is obviously quite high for a learner bike. A 17-year-old would love this if (s)he could afford it (or more likely talk the parents into it). I'm hoping to convince my teenage daughter to take it when I move up to a bigger bike; it will hook her on motorcycles for life.
I've got nothing to compare it to. I'm sure if you're used to a BMW with ESA, this will seem rough, but find it stable and non-threatening for a newbie. As the MCN review says, it dives under hard braking, which I feel is educating me about how bikes handle; it always seems under my control. A bit of vibration at very high revs.
Very tolerant for a beginner. It does fine if I run it at 6,000 or 3,000 rpm. Again, it's giving me a chance to experiment and learn the craft, without punishing me harshly when I get it wrong.
The previous owner took good care of it, and I've tried to do so as well. It all seems in good nick after 6,000 miles.
The price is high for a bike with L plates. Otherwise, it's not bad. My mileage has varied considerably with how and where I've ridden it, but I get about 70-80 mpg on average.
Doesn't have the goodies that bigger bikes might have. A centre stand would be nice for chain maintenance, and I'd have liked heated grips to help me through the winter. The pillion seat has made an ample platform for a 30-litre rear bag. The original tires still have plenty of tread after 6,000 miles, though they're starting to square off slightly.
Buying experience: Used bike purchase
The equipment is really good; the brakes are sharp, good suspension to keep you comfy on the crap roads, digital speedo is cool and iv'e had a lot of comments on that. The KTM duke 125 looks the bees knees and feels like a bigger bike. The low down position means you feel really in control of the bike and the clutch is so smooth. however, it is a bit on the slow side, not the accelerating (thats really good) but the top speed isn't great, don't feel too safe on dual carriageways is all but for a learner 125 and commuting to town and back I couldn't ask for much more. Also, haven't had any problems other than keeping it clean in winter due to lack of fairing and exposed parts.
It's a brilliant bike that you can throw around corners and comes with decent equipment. I got one as a learner and I've kept it for commuting as it does a bazillion miles to a tank, my weekend bike is a Ducati and the KTM feels very light in comparison but really does get a lot of attention from admirers, its a good looking 125. The only downside is that the service intervals are short and to keep your warranty you have to take it to a KTM dealer and these are not as easy to find as you would think, especially if you have to ride there on a 125 !! But I would recommend this as a brilliant looking first bike.
My experience with this bag of indian bolts hasn't been the best. Bought from new and in 3000 miles the headstock bearing went AS WELL as a warped disc!!! Next 6k miles and another warped disc... Without listing all the dates I'll just give you the list of what has gone wrong in 12,000 miles (12 months of use). Brake light microswitch faulty X5! X2 warped brake disc (Front) 3 Coolant leaks from THE SAME PLACE - Mechanics tried to patch it up first time, the pipes were not seating the other times. Headstock Bearing DO NOT GET THIS FROM GEAR4 IN MARKET DEEPING. THEY ARE OVERCHARGING COWBOYS! DO NOT GET IT AT ALL. SAVE YOUR MONEY AND BUY A RELIABLE 125 LIKE THE CBF125 OR YBR125!
I've had one of these for a few months now, and it's been excellent. I commuted to work on this which was an 80 mile a day round trip in all weathers. Handled the main roads, winding back roads and town without a problem (it will cruise comfortably at 62 miles an hour and if you floor it, will hit around 70 - 75mph) It's also quite big for a 125, so you can get used to the feel of larger bikes early on and nor will you look out of place if you're fairly tall (I'm 6ft and it fits fine). It looks great, well built with quality parts and makes a decent noise too. The price may seem excessive for a 125 but you won't have any trouble selling it on later and they hold their value extremely well. It sips at fuel and KTM also have insurance deals for getting younger riders on the road without breaking the bank. If you're looking for a simple commuter bike to get you from A to B, there are cheaper alternatives but if you want to start riding and look to get bigger bikes in future, the little KTM is probably the best place to start.
Great looking and fully loaded as are all KTMs ... BUT ... I got one a few weeks ago (May 2011) and it comes limited to 100kph (62mph) as standard, yet KTM can turn this off. You cant! Its one of those modern mapping things. I have asked my dealer (Gear 4 Market Deeping) and they have no idea when the delimiter will be available. Fine whilst it is running-in but frustrating after. KTM seem a bit NFI when asked, not really giving a stuff about the 125 LL market yet. This is not to say the bike is not very good,but Dealer to Head Office comms appear sh*t. It could be my dealer?? I would hold off buying and talk to more dealers... it may be worth the extra miles if yours is not great. Redline KTM have been more helpful.