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MCN Fleet: 500-mile trip to Wales on the baby Duke

Published: 17 August 2017

Updated: 17 August 2017

Touring is seen as the preserve of big-capacity bikes – riding across the country, eating up the miles. But do you really need a 1200cc motorcycle to go touring? And could my little Duke cope with luggage and panniers from Cambridge to Wales? There was only one way to find out and after a weekend away camping in Wales I knew the answer – the Duke is capable of tackling most things.

After my trip I felt a little bit invincible on the 124.7cc Duke. This small machine has a big bike feel and after 515 miles in four days I believe you can take any bike anywhere.

Although I can’t pack light, what I did shove in one Givi tailpack and a second Givi backpack was light enough. Piling in clothes, one pair of shoes, a torch, chocolate bars, tent, inflatable mattress, pillow, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner and a few other bits, the bags reached a total weight of about 12kg.


Using two straps and one cargo net to keep it all down, it wasn’t until I got back from my trip that I checked my payload details. But considering the bike is designed to carry two 80kg riders, you don’t have to worry about a bit of kit on the back. Just make sure that all luggage is securely mounted.

Cruising at 65mph

The KTM’s Metzeler Sportec M5s did a cracking good job during the trip – I felt they were confidence-inspiring in both wet and dry conditions. The only time I felt insecure was when I had to battle the wind blast while trying to overtake lorries on the motorway, but that’s a symptom of the KTM’s light weight. The KTM sticks to 65mph comfortably on the motorway and will go up to 70mph for a decent (although not that clean) overtake.

The KTM redlines at 12,000rpm and the Duke reaches just over 10,000rpm at 70mph in 5th gear. Put it in 6th gear and she goes into a bit of a lull. If you’re going up a bit of a hill, she’ll even go down as far as 60mph in top. It’ll do it, but motorways aren’t fun.

It’s really important to note that doing a max of 70mph on motorways can be challenging as you have no upper performance margin left.

Luckily, where the bike does shine is on A-roads. On country lanes my revs were always higher and this is where the most fun is to be had.

Our Office Manager and Online Editor made it to #CampVC @vc_london 🏍⛺️ #camping #ridinf #ktm #125 Duke #Honda

A post shared by MCN - (@motorcyclenews) on Aug 5, 2017 at 12:45am PDT

The wide handlebars also help to flick through the country lanes – almost like man-handling a baby bull.

There are some great little touches on the KTM and where it stands out among its rivals is the switchgear and dash. A great feature is the day and night mode on the TFT dash which reverses the backing colours for visibility during the day and lack of glare at night and is measured by a light sensor.

The TFT screen is the first of its kind for a bike of this capacity and also has illuminated switchgear buttons. Perfect.

Fits like a glove

For my 5ft 3in frame the bike’s ergonomics work very well, however when I stop at the lights I have to shift over ever so slightly to put my foot flat. After 1500 miles with this bike I’m really used to this shifting, but that feeling took some time.

A long journey like this is really comfortable on the Duke. It was only when I got to the two-hour riding mark that I started noticing a sore butt. Despite that, the seat and position isn’t too bad. I didn’t ache when getting off the bike, just a bit of a stretch and I was back on for another two hours of riding to reach the destination.

The 125 Duke didn’t stick out like a sore thumb on this cool biker chick gathering. Its mean demeanour meant it parked up with the crowd like one of the gang. It rode over the grassy terrain and steep hills without any issues – it’s that old KTM off-road lineage.

What is Camp VC?

My destination was an all-women biking festival. It was good vibes all round at #CampVC, organised by a group of girls who call themselves the VCC girls, bringing a bunch of like-minded ladies together for their first annual event. The event near the Brecon Beacons saw over 250 attendees and taught over 50 women to ride for the first time.

With the smell of burnouts in the air and live music, people travelled from as far as Canada and Australia to join in and grab some free beer, free yoga classes, as well as enduro, flat track and skate- boarding lessons.

There was also the opportunity to go on a group ride out to explore Wales – and even get yourself a tattoo. Wild. With Honda, Sailor Jerry and VANS as sponsors, the VCC girls are set to repeat the festivities in 2018.

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