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2020 KTM 890 Duke R: MD Ride Review, First Thoughts

We have only put a few miles on our KTM 890 Duke R test bike, but a few things are already abundantly clear.

First of all, for an 890cc twin, this bike is very fast. Dare we say ridiculously fast? With decent mid-range, the 890 Duke packs a wallop up top.

Keep in mind that we rode our 390 Adventure to the KTM headquarters when we swapped for the 890 Duke R. This undoubtedly impacted our first impressions, somewhat, but the 890 Duke R feels like a track-day bike in comparison. Everything feels very taut, and purposeful.

The components are dead serious, as well, from the Brembo brakes to the adjustable WP Apex suspension and the extensive suite of electronic adjustments available.

We will have a full, final report posted on MD next week after further testing. Take a look here for all of the specs and details on this exciting new model. Stay tuned.

51 Comments

  1. Skybullet says:

    If/When the 890 Duke GT version appears, it would be a great opportunity to tame down the styling to appeal to the obviously different demographic a GT will appeal to…. Like me.

  2. john says:

    All good except for one thing – the KTM beyond UGLY 3 dart styling. The headlight and those stupid forward plastic panels on the tank

  3. Apexologist says:

    I’ll chime in that I love the bike. Not to say I wouldn’t change the exhaust, add a small windshield, perhaps ammend the seat over time. Looks like a goer… nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Know what I mean? The real reason I’m posting today is the comments on fairing vs. no fairing. You remind me of when I was in sales, at the time selling Kawi, Suzi, KTM. A couple of guys rode up, one on a Kawi Nomad, the other on a late-model Wing. I’d never seen them before so I thought they were touring through. The Kawi guy rolls up to our service department and starts talking to them about something he needs. The Wing guy, early sixty’s, open faced helmet still on, is slowly meandering through the showroom. I can see what’s happening and am pretty sure he is just killing time while his buddy does his thing. I’m not too busy so I figure I’ll go make friendly with Mr. Wing. “How’s your ride going so far today? Can I help you find something?” He looks at me… “Naww… just lookin’. Actually, maybe you can. That’s my Wing out there. Whenever I’m riding at highway speeds, I get this (he starts making slow waving motions around his face) BREEZE!!” Now the fact that I didn’t explode into laughter was perhaps the hardest thing I’ve ever done. 😉 No offence to Mr. Wing and all the Wing riders out there.

  4. pedro says:

    They sure packed in a lot of stuff for short money relative to the 790. If they dropped the price on the 790 by a couple of grand, I suspect I could be a very happy man.

  5. marloweluke2 says:

    I concur. I would love to see this in GT version. Half fairing, bigger tank and repositioned exhaust to carry luggage. Not interested in a naked bike.

    • Superlight says:

      I agree with the GT concept, except Kiska Design will screw up the look as they always do, especially when adding extra bodywork to make it a “GT”.

  6. Josh B. says:

    I still don’t understand why there isn’t an 890 Duke GT at this point…

  7. Anonymous says:

    Just can’t bring myself to like this type of bike. I do like the wheels though. (shrug)

  8. Stevox says:

    That exhaust can, what an abortion!

  9. fred says:

    I’m still not in the market for a bike, much less a new bike, but I’m really impressed with this one. Obviously, it’s focused on the hooligan crowd, but it looks like it would be a great bike for the rest of us. It appears from the website that the 790’s panniers & tailbag fit, and a quick-release windshield could probably be fitted. It should make a great sport touring mount. I like practical, everyday, bikes. KTM would probably be horrified, but this could be a great all-around bike.

  10. J Wilson says:

    KTM makes seriously nice bikes. Even though I can get past the ‘praying mantis’ styling (and they’re hardly alone at that), when oh when will they ever start putting street-style seats on their non-dirt products instead of those slim dirt-bike-style seats ?

  11. mechanicus says:

    I sat on a few KTM’s at the local dealer – the mid-Duke is particularly interesting for me. But dang, you guys must have cast iron hemorrhoids – KTM seats suck.

  12. MrAntimatter says:

    Let us know how it is for extended riding. I’m looking for that next perfect mid-weight sports tourer that is a decent commuter but can pack on the miles.

    • Superlight says:

      You would really “pack on the miles” on a naked bike? This is no sports tourer. The first windy day would find you staying in the garage (no wind protection), plus where is the ability to carry anything with you, given that high-mount exhaust?

      • todd says:

        Depending on how windy it is, keeping it at or under 80mph on my 690 Duke is comfortable on the long highway stints. Even with my faired K75S, I don’t travel very far over 80 anyway.

      • mickey says:

        I’ve ridden all over the country on naked bikes with a tank bag and tail pack on the passenger seat for gear. Recently rode my naked CB 1100 from Ohio to Arkansas for a week of riding good roads and back home again. Drove straight thru on the way home 698 miles in 12 hours. No big deal. Ridden it to North Carolina multiple times. West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania.

        Nearly all motorcycles were naked bikes until Craig Vetter invented the Windjammer in the 70’s. Touring on a naked bike is nothing new, or unusual.

        • Tom R says:

          For every situation there are some hard-core 1 percenters, and in this case Mickey and Todd are a couple of them.

          For most of the rest of us, this bike is no doubt an awesome tool-just not as a tourer.

          • fred says:

            I have to vote with mickey. IMHO, it’s not hard-core, it’s just being a motorcyclist if you ride. Touring via motorcycle is fun, regardless on the label. “Hard-core” is having to buy a different motorcycle for each type of ride you do.

        • Superlight says:

          A person can ride anything , anywhere, but that doesn’t make it a “sport touring” bike. Yes, I used to ride many miles on my new ’65 Honda 305 SuperHawk in the days before decent wind protection, but once I tried ducking out of the windblast I liked it.

          • mickey says:

            My other bike is a Yamaha FJR 1300 so I am familiar with ducking out of the wind blast. Before that a Honda ST 1300 I put 110,000 miles on. Both terrific bikes for long distance travel, but they weigh 640 and 717 pounds. Sometimes it’s nice to have less weight and to feel the wind. That’s the essence of naked bikes.

            Naked bikes don’t have to be relegated to riding a few local roads in your neighborhood. They can actually go places.

          • fred says:

            Sport touring is a state of mind, not a kind of motorcycle. Just went on an short sport tour / day ride with a few friends – a Ninja, a Tiger Explorer, and a Scout Sixty. 2, 3, or 4 cylinders, 600cc to 1200cc, and we all had a great time.

          • mickey says:

            I agree fred. I go on one trip every year with a group that includes a CB500x, an MT 10, A NC750X and my CB1100. None would be considered sport tourers in the traditiional sense but that doesn’t preclude us loading them up with soft luggage and taking off to parts unknown for a week to 10 days of riding curvy back roads.

            Then again I might load up the FJR, a traditional sport tourer, and point it some direction and be gone for a week too.

            If I owned the above KTM I wouldn’t hesitate to put a tank bag and tail pack on it and head someplace.It would be perfect for a trip to the back roads of south eastern West Virginia/Virginia.

      • VLJ says:

        There is no reason not to put 500-mile days on upright naked standards/sportbikes. I did so all of the time. I prefer nakeds to bikes with windshields. This 890 Duke’s seating position leans the rider forward more than enough to provide an effective counter-balance against the wind. It’ll be fine.

        I’ll never get why people act like riding a naked bike on the freeway is such a problem. It’s not. At all. You quickly get used to it, and, in fact, come to appreciate the smooth, quiet airflow.

        It’s a motorcycle, not a Bentley. Get over it.

        • Superlight says:

          The problem is I’ve ridden naked bikes on freeways before. When it’s not windy, no problem, but when it is, no thank you. If you guys like that kind of punishment, go for it!

          • VLJ says:

            It’s just as windy with a windshield as without. The only difference is the addition of a windshield helps to turn the machine into a large, wind-catching sail, while also adding an annoying element of increased wind noise and/or turbulence.

          • mickey says:

            When it’s windy, windshields only help if you are riding straight into the wind, otherwise if you turn the wind hits you in one side or the other..or the back. Our wind is predominantly from the west. If I only rode into the wind I’d eventually end up in the pacific ocean. If I turn north it hits me on the left side, south on the right side and east in the back.

          • TimC says:

            Re: straight into the wind only – not really. You can angle yourself a bit and the right fairing can really help. The FZ6 one seems to be a rare really-good compromise in this area – granted, I am Mr Beanpole so my head/shoulders are up out of any turbulent zone.

      • Pedro says:

        Small screen, some hand guards, the world is your oyster.

    • Marcus says:

      I’ve ridden across the US and back on a naked bike with just a rack mounted top box. A proper snug fitting quality leather jacket is key to keeping wind blast/buffeting to a minimum. Also if you can buy a helmet with as small a shell as you can that fits your head.
      I have also done long distances on a dedicated sport tourer and while it’s luxurious, I felt more of an accomplishment when done on the naked (with the right gear).

  13. Tommy D says:

    Weight listed is lower than the Duke 790. If this motor makes it to the Adventure R than I’m going to want to trade my 790 Adv R in. I’d like more power with the same weight!!!!

    • The Anonymouse says:

      Why? No, really. Why would you want to get rid of a bike you’ve had for a year or so for another “100cc”?

      That’s like selling your 25 pound bicycle and taking a HUGE loss just so you can buy a 24 lb 8 oz pound bicycle that is essentially the same. Just lose the 8 ounces yourself.

      Or in this case, lose the ego driven desire for new,New, NEw, NEW!

      Your current bike will do everything as well as a bike with anotherh “100cc”.

      In the end, it’s your money but I guaranty that you will have instant buyer’s remorse. Unless you are one of the idle rich with more cents than sense.;-)

      • TimC says:

        1) Combined with the lower weight and what I’d expect to be different feel of the larger motor, the difference is probably beyond the simple math.

        2) You must be really fun at parties.

      • Mike says:

        Why not? If he wants to spend his money, why should we stop him? It supports the manufacturer and the dealer. And someone gets a used motorcycle for far less than new. I’m not seeing how everyone doesn’t win here.

        If you don’t want to spend the money, that’s fine too. Personally, I feel the same as you. But, when it comes to other people’s money, that’s best for them to manage, without outside input.

    • Curtis says:

      Maybe check with MrAntimatter and see if he wants your Adv bike. LOL.

  14. Dave says:

    Really cool bike. I wish 1/4 and 1/2 fairings would come back in style (think Yamaha FZ1 and FZ6..). Seems like a bike like this would be way more practical and comfortable for longer rides with some wind protection and no downside I can think of.

    • RyYYZ says:

      Just doesn’t look as cool. Full fairing look cool. Bikini (Cafe) fairings look cool. Flyscreens are cool. But half fairing just don’t look cool, generally speaking. I’ve got a bike with one in my garage (Yamaha Fazer 8), so I know of what I speak. The FZ8 is much cooler looking. I also agree with you, btw.

      • Dave says:

        I know that’s the general opinion, but I think 1/2 fairings bikes look very cool. SV’s, VTR1000, Ducati SS, FZ’s. I think they all looked great. Plus, I’m tired of taking the lowers off my VFR just to change the oil.

      • bmbktmracer says:

        Bandit 1250 looks better with half fairing than full, IMO. Also, the Triumph Sprint RS, to me, is much better looking than the ST. And don’t forget the Paul Smart Ducati. How about the BMW R Nine T Racer?

      • todd says:

        I prefer the looks of a half fairing over a full fairing, any day.

      • TimC says:

        The FZ6 doesn’t look amazing, but it’s still aged pretty well. “Cool” is in the eye of the beholder – I like the look, some sporty/functional wind protection/cosmetics, still can see the whole (as God intended*) inline-4 sportbike motor.

        * I realize other configurations are good for various reasons. But nothing looks as right as the 4 pipes IMO.

    • VLJ says:

      I can definitely think of one downside to an upright-ish bike with a half fairing: wind turbulence.

      Not a problem with a lean-over sportbike, but whenever one adds a windshield of practically any type (other than a giant barn door that you look through rather than over) to a bike with an upright seating position the result is almost invariably the addition of noisy wind buffeting. Instead of clean, smooth, quiet airflow, you now get obnoxious turbulence.

      Plus, yes, they generally don’t look nearly as good as the original, fully naked version.

      • TimC says:

        See my remark in another comment thread – the FZ6 seems to be a rare exception in this “compromise” dept.

  15. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Now THIS is the essence of a naked bike. LOVE it!

  16. Motoman says:

    Nice job scuffing the tires in Dirck… 🙂

  17. The Anonymouse says:

    Sweet! I too, am looking forward to your well written thoughts and personal impressions on this motorcycle. I am still impressed with the idea and execution of the KTM 390 Adventure as I prefer smaller more manageable bikes and this 890 is still within my overall size range but to be honest, the 390 is plenty for me and I have owned a couple of heavyweight touring rigs in my life.

    That the displacement of the 890 is thought of as a middleweight is just the result of the often journalism driven but still ever increasing personal zeitgeist of what is “small, medium and large”…Of course there is too large but that too is personal.

    I have never owned a KTM, primarily because of the total cost of ownership but that’s what has kept me from a ever owning a Ducati. Usurious comes to mind.

    Oh well, enough ramblin’. Enjoy the ride.

  18. Falcodoug says:

    Looking forward to your review. This may just be my next bike.