KTM 890 DUKE R (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Faster and more refined than the 790 Duke
  • Ideal trackday middleweight
  • More focussed than main rivals
MCN AWARDS
Best Naked 2020
WINNER

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £420
Power: 119 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.8 in / 834 mm)
Weight: Low (366 lbs / 166 kg)

Prices

New £10,399
Used £9,500 - £10,100

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

It might look similar to the 790 Duke, but the 2020 KTM 890 Duke R is sharper, faster, grippier and more refined. If you’ve ever wondered what a top-level race bike feels like in the corners the KTM is an orange-tinted window into that world.

Its new engine is refined, punchy, characterful and proof that you don’t need huge power to get your rocks off on the road. The gearbox, blippers and shifters are all bang on the money, too. It’s hugely capable but as single-minded as a supermoto. If you’re not worried about that, this is the scratcher for you.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
5 out of 5 (5/5)

On the face of it the 890 Duke R is a slighter bigger, more expensive 790 Duke with a few more bells and whistles. That is indeed the case, but it’s also one of the finest handling road bikes money can buy.

Former Grand Prix winner Jeremy McWilliams had a strong hand in its development, so it was never going to be a blancmange, but having a devilishly fast rider in your test team isn’t always a guarantee of success. Being given the keys to KTM’s toy cupboard and able choose the best tyre, brakes and suspension is. The net result is a machine that will lean and grip in ways few road bikes could dream of.

Compared to the lower-spec 790 Duke, it sits taller for improved ground clearance and agility (its 834mm seat is 9mm higher), but what sets the lightweight (just 166kg dry) 890 Duke R apart from any number of road bikes with fancy suspension, like its close rivals: the Triumph Street Triple RS and Yamaha MT-09 SP, is the way its new fully adjustable WP Apex forks and shock are set up.

A static view of the KTM 890 Duke R

They have the kind of sophisticated damping control and perfect spring rates you’ll only ever find on a properly sorted race bike: firm and controlling, but still plush enough to suck up the bumps. Nothing mass produced usually feels this good and there isn’t a damping click or preload turn you’d want to change.

The 890’s only limit diving into corners is the rider’s bravery and with so much mechanical grip at the rear, friendly power delivery and traction control, you can pretty much accelerate as hard as you want from the apex. It gets a slight weave-on under hard acceleration at high speed, but that’s just what wide-barred nakeds too when you push-on.   

KTM 890 Duke R WP forks

New Michelin Power Cup 2 rubber also plays a big part in the 890’s incredible sure-footedness. They have the grip and stability of slicks, which isn’t a surprise as there isn’t much tread going on, but unlike racing tyres it doesn’t take much to get lots of heat in them. During development Jezza and the boys were getting 58 degrees of lean on track and struggling to get the tyres to break loose, which isn’t hard to believe.

Stylema Brembos, normally seen dangling from the front of the latest superbikes are things of wonder, especially on a bike so light and grippy. The span and ratio-adjustable lever only needs the lightest of brushes to get your triceps bulging and the back brake is nicely weighted. 

Spacious for six-footers, with perfectly positioned bars and pegs, the 890 Duke R is a one-trick, balls-out-on-a-Sunday morning pony. It’s an unashamed toy and its rivals will do distance, motorway runs and carrying pillions (the 890 doesn’t have a rear seat or pegs) better.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Starting life as the 790 Duke, the parallel twin is bored and stroked, bringing capacity from 799cc to 890cc and the compression ratio increased. Power is up 16bhp to 119bhp.

The end result is an engine that’s shouty, but smooth and full of grunt, giving the KTM the playfulness of a big supermoto on the throttle. It has all the power you need for a neck-straining naked on the road, but on track you’re going to get monstered by 1000s on the straights before they hold you up in the corners.

KTM 890 Duke R engine

The 890 Duke R can be an angry so-and-so when no one is looking, but it’s sweetness and light when you’re cruising. The throttle action is light, the ride-by-wire perfect and the gearbox and up/down shifter as crisp as a fresh tube of Pringles.

For a parallel twin it actually has the character of a V-twin with its vibes in all the right places and an exhaust roar that’s somehow slipped past Euro 5 ears.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

Fresh out of the crate the KTM is nicely finished and the bright orange wheels are fabulous, but our online owners’ reviews of the 790 Duke’s build quality and reliability are mixed, so we hope they’ve been addressed with the 890.

It’s also a bit plasticky around the edges, especially its switchgear, but that will be the last thing on your mind when you’re halfway around a corner, horizon at full tilt with a massive grin on your face.

The KTM 890 Duke R is capable of big lean

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Dealer servicing isn’t the cheapest and it’s expensive for such a single-minded bike, but day-to-day running costs won’t be high and being so light it’ll be good on fuel and won’t eat tyres and brakes.

KTM 890 Duke R vs nearest rivals

KTM 890 Duke R vs Triumph Street Triple RS vs Yamaha MT-09 SP

We took the KTM around the MCN 250 test route with two of its closest rivals, the Yamaha MT-09 SP and the Triumph Street Triple RS.

Triumph’s Street Triple RS is the go-to middleweight naked sportster, and it’s easy to see why: you get the performance to embarrass bigger bikes, a glistening spec and more handling than us normal folk can ever use. It’s very focused, though – if you loved the cheeky 675cc original this feels like a flat-barred R6.

Yamaha’s MT-09 SP doesn’t have the same outright handling or rush, but counters this with greater usability than the Triumph. It’s perhaps the best pure road bike here for ‘normal’ riding, and cheapest too.

But it’s KTM’s new 890 Duke R that wins. Punchy, light, easy to ride and oh-so-agile, the beefed-up twin is the trackday-ready tool you’ll genuinely want to ride every day.

Equipment

4 out of 5 (4/5)

As well as top-shelf brakes, suspension and tyres, you get the full brace of power modes, lean sensitive riders aids, an up/down quickshifter LEDs and a colour TFT dash. 

Specs

Engine size 890cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 8v, parallel twin
Frame type Tubular steel
Fuel capacity 15.4 litres
Seat height 834mm
Bike weight 166kg
Front suspension 43mm WP forks, fully adjustable
Rear suspension Single WP shock, fully adjustable
Front brake 2 x 320mm discs with four piston Brembo Stylema calipers. ABS
Rear brake 240mm disc with single piston Brembo caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 120/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 180/55 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost £420
New price £10,399
Used price £9,500 - £10,100
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two years

Top speed & performance

Max power 119 bhp
Max torque 73 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

2020: Model introduced. Based on the 790 Duke, the 890 Duke R has a bigger capacity engine, more power, higher-spec suspension brakes and tyres.

Other versions

None

Owners' reviews for the KTM 890 DUKE R (2020 - on)

2 owners have reviewed their KTM 890 DUKE R (2020 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your KTM 890 DUKE R (2020 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Engine: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.5 out of 5 (4.5/5)
Equipment: 5 out of 5 (5/5)
Annual servicing cost: £420
5 out of 5 An engineering masterpiece.
07 October 2020 by Grahame Cooper (alias 'The grim reaper').

Year: 2020

Annual servicing cost: £350

I have ridden bikes for 46 years and currently own 20+ bikes from 50cc to 1000 cc gp replica superbikes. I followed a friend on his recently bought 890R for a 200 mile Sunday blast on mostly B roads a while back and found myself working extra hard to make my S1000RR turn in order to stay behind him on some of the tight, narrow bends. I got home and googled this funny looking bike with orange wheels. I contacted various dealers on he Monday morning and had cut a deal by the Wednesday. My 890R handles and stops better than anything I own now and better than anything I have ever owned or ridden. The only two negatives are firstly KTM's method of marketing this model. The bikes are advertised at £10,399 on the road but if you want the tech pack (extra modes) and q/shifter etc its several hundreds more. If you want heated grips it is two or three hundred more, if you want cruise control it's more again. By the time you have a complete bike you could have almost bought a new BMW S1000RR (complete with all of the above) and that tends to stick in your craw a little. Especially as most of the extras are on the KTM already and a software update (plug in) at the dealers is all is needed..... and not forgetting that the 790 that this bike super seeds had all of these things included in the otr price. The second negative for me was the standard exhaust which I thought looked like a trout. The akrapovic I had fitted added a further £875 to my bill. Taking all this into account would I recommend this bike to a friend? ...... Hell yes !! Riding one of these has been described as being like 'snorting cocaine from a hookers arse'. I don't know much about that but it's a bit like riding my first RD350 ypvs 38 years ago...........but better and safer.......... but it is still a bit naughty.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

The above rating is in my opinion simply without doubt.......but only if used as a Sunday blast B road toy. A pillion seat and rear pegs come in a box but in my case will never be used. Luggage capacity is very limited and the covering of longer distances will not be the most comfortable and this is not what this bike was designed for. The bike is a brilliant example of how to create a lightweight, minimal scratching tool which (in the right hands) is capable of trouncing bigger/faster bikes on B roads and shorter race circuits. It also makes for a fun commuter.

Engine 5 out of 5

120 hp and 67 ft lbs is mega from this parallel twin and to be so useable in all modes and at all revs/speeds is an engineering masterpiece.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

I have seen no corrosion yet, it hasn't broken down and the finish appears to be excellent thus far. The plastics and vinyl graphics although obviously designed to be lightweight, could perhaps be a little tougher but I am perhaps being picky here. (Carbon fiber would have drastically increased prices). Otherwise would be 5/5

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Parts are a tad expensive. The 350 servicing cost is estimated and could change.

Equipment 5 out of 5

The tyres, suspension and brakes are phenomenal. It is a 'naughty bike' and most equipment is designed around performance and safety. A radiator guard was a useful add-on due to the short front mudguard and the price of KTM parts.

Buying experience: As stated above, the advertised £10,399 otr price just seemed to keep rising and rising as I conversed with the dealer. Just thinking about it still makes me wince.

5 out of 5 The real deal
12 September 2020 by Colin

Year: 2020

Annual servicing cost: £500

It feels like an extension of your body,no need to ride it just think it. I've been on everything from 50cc to fire blades, nothing comes close to the chemistry you are investing in.This is from a man with 40yrs on two wheels. Its awsome enough said.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5
Engine 5 out of 5

Perfect power everywhere

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

Build to perfection. Best quality components throughout well done KTM

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

Forget the 790 scalple, the super scalple is the real deal

Equipment 5 out of 5

Buying experience: £400 OFF LIST BARGAIN

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