Truly, another chapter of world motorcycling history is being written as we breathe. Just as the European factories withered in the shadow of the Japanese Goliath in the ’60s and ’70s, European manufacturers are coming back into their own as the global market changes.
Case in point is Austrian manufacturer KTM. Once just known to off-road enthusiasts for making tough, fast competition machines, the big orange factoryis now producing a full line of dirt, dual-purpose and street motorcycles. Its share of the USA market is growing, assisted by the introduction of new models like the Adventure, Superduke and RC8. But these are big, fast machines for expert riders—what about the entry-level market?
Enter the Duke 125. A joint venture of KTM and Indian manufacturer Bajaj (which owns 39 percent of KTM), the 125 is a stylish, inexpensive single-cylinder four-stroke roadster that offers entry-level European and Japanese buyers a little more edge and excitement. Bajaj’s expertise in the small-displacement bike market—and inexpensive labor and parts resources—make it possible. And now there are rumors of 200cc and even 350cc versions for other markets.
Actually, it may be more than a rumor. I’ve seen a photo, allegedly posted to a Facebook account by a (reckless) KTM dealer, of a Powerpoint slide presented during the North America KTM Dealer’s meeting in June. On the slide, KTM”s new-product launch schedule is clearly spelled out. The news for 2012 is mostly mild updates, but 2013 promises not just a Duke 350 for the USA, but also a 1290cc version of the Superduke R. KTM fans will also be able to buy the new line of electric-powered Freerides, including a motocrosser and an enduro.
For 2014, there’s even more interesting news. A 1290cc Adventure may also appear—does this mean KTM is putting a stroked RC8R Superbike motor into its entire lineup of big Twins? Makes sense, as KTM has three different big V-Twin engines coming out of its factory now. There is also apparently something called the “Moto3 350” slated for dealers in 2014. Will this be a street-legal version of the four-stroke Moto3 racebike KTM is developing? Or a roadracing version sold only to licensed roadracers, like the Red Bull Cup 125?
Caveat: the photo I saw could be a carefully generated hoax (not that hard to make a Powerpoint presentation in KTM’s style, then snap a blurry shot of it with a camera phone), so take everything you’ve read with a grain of salt. But it sounds reasonable to me—I’m looking forward to a day at the go-kart track on a Duke 350.