MCN Fleet: It’s so-long to KTM’s pint-sized Duke

Published: 21 December 2017

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 and truly become good pals. 

Practising riding with other #MCNFleet17 bikes

A lot of my time with Doris the Duke I’d spent riding with fellow bikers. I gained confidence in riding better from watching other’s biking behaviours and getting pointers. On one occasion I was with my dad; him on his 2007 Fireblade and me on Doris the updated-for-2017 Duke. I, riding a hair dryer working hard to get up to the national speed limit while dad was cruising behind me. When we took some country lanes he was able to dispose of cars at the flick of a wrist and I simply couldn’t overtake. One place I did have dad, was when filtering. I imagine the Duke was better than the Blade thanks to her light 137kg and wide steering lock, ha! Take that pops! But then the road opened up and there it was again... dust-in-my-face.

Pillion fun

From one parent to another, I took my mum on a shopping trip. Through town having a pillion for the baby Duke is no problem. Reaching 40-50mph is actually quite swift. I could still easily nip out at junctions and roundabouts without putting anyone in danger. However, getting to 70mph is a big sluggish so a pillion on the motorway is a definite no-no. Dual carriageways is fine, the bright orange bike and LED headlight stands out too.

PowerParts added

  • Aftermarket exhaust (£500.82) – Louder, not much difference to performance, looks ace. 
  • Hand guards (£66.12) – Must-have! Give a bit more protection against wind so hands stay a tad warmer.
  • Front slide pads (£32.64) – Protecting the forks from any damage.
  • Chain guard (£50.10) – Chain protection out of stainless steel, KTM also included a rear fender.
  • Standard plate in large (£41.04) – Perfect for parking on grass when on all my camping trips this year.
  • USB-power outlet (£25.08) – Utter sh**e. Doesn’t even charge my phone. In fact, my phone loses battery-life when plugged in to the KTM. A complete waste of money.
  • Ibraket for iPhone 7 Plus (£100.32) – Cool contraption, not waterproof so make sure you have a suitable phone case.

Road tripping

I’ve proved that a 125 can do a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g. 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.

Upgrading to a 390?

If you’ve been following my journey you’ll know I was screaming to the gods above for “more power!” Then the heavens granted me such pleasure with the 390 Duke (44bhp) for one afternoon.

The power is obviously an incredible difference and you notice it as soon as you turn the throttle in any gear – compared to the 125 it just rockets forward and now feels like I can get to 70mph comfortably. I can keep up with traffic and even overtake with ease. It takes much more planning on the 125…

Now with more experience, the 125 gets to around 68mph in fifth gear and up to 73mph in sixth, especially when going downhill. However, if you hit even the slightest incline, the 125 drops down in mph in sixth, which is when you need to switch down to fifth, and switch to it fast.

The 390 has enough power not to worry about all that. It’ll do 100mph and also returns 69mpg. It’s everything you need.

It feels no heavier, higher or harder to ride than the 125 and the brakes are really responsive, too. At £4599, the 390 is just £500 more than the 125 but offers a huge amount more. After you pass your test, this is a great next step and if you already own a 125 you’ll feel very familiar straight away. I’m still a fan of Doris, my 125 Duke though. So, to conclude, would I buy a 125 Duke? If I lived and worked in a city, yes. 

Goodbye Doris...

KTM 125 Duke final average stats

Price: £4099

Torque: 9ftlb @7500rpm

Bike weight: 137kg (dry)

Seat height: 830mm

Fuel: 13.4 litres @81mpg = 168.8 range

Pictures by, Black Kite Creative - www.blackkitecreative.com

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