KTM 890 DUKE R (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Faster and more refined than the 790 Duke
  • Ideal trackday middleweight
  • More focussed than main rivals

At a glance

Power: 119 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.8 in / 834 mm)
Weight: Low (366 lbs / 166 kg)

Prices

New £10,399
Used £10,400

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.

Riding the KTM 890 Duke R

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 -
New price £10,399
Used price £10,400
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

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

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