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MD First Look: 2012 KTM Duke

We here at MD love single-cylinder street bikes, but I’ve always expected them to be a little slower, a little buzzier, a little less suited for prolonged high-speed riding. At least, I did until I rode a KTM Single. The orange company is great at building high-performance models that offer the same performance and reliability as a middleweight Twin, except with more character and a lot less weight.

The pinnacle of that gestalt is the outstanding 690 Duke, sadly only available in the USA market for a few short years. Under 400 pounds with a splash of gas in the tank and putting out over 60 incredibly smooth horsepower, it was a joy to ride. And now 2012 brings an improved version, with an upgraded motor, more street-oriented styling, and anti-lock brakes.

The motor makes the same 70 (the press release says 70, the tech sheet says 68, but the old model made 70 as well) hp as the outgoing model, but it’s all about quality, not quantity, right? Thanks to a new dual-plug cylinder head and new electronics, the new mill features longer 6000-mile service intervals and 10 percent better fuel economy.

The chassis gets some big changes, too. The styling is now more big-Duke and less off-road than before, with a lower seat (by more than an inch) and more orthodox left-exit exhaust. It also gets a cast radial-mount Brembo brake caliper with Bosch ABS and fully-adjustable WP suspension. Claimed tank-empty weight is 335 pounds — add about another 20 pounds when the 3.6-gallon tank is topped off. It’s about the same weight as the old 690 Duke, and I can personally attest to that being big fun with the 60-ish hp the bike makes at the wheel.

The bad news: it’s not available in the USA, and a leaked Powerpoint slide from a presentation to North American KTM dealers confirms it won’t be here for 2013 or 2014, either. But if you think a single-cylinder streetbike like this would have a home in your garage, you can reach KTM’s corporate HQ through its website.


  1. morpheous says:

    Well put RD, and as having owned both the SV650 (33,000 mi) and then the Duke III690 (27,000mi) in that order in the last 6 years, I can verify all your statements. The Duke is hands down the best motorcycle I have ever owned and ridden. I deeply regret selling it recently and will pursue this new one when its available to the US market. I like the changes, still hate the headlight, the Superduke headlight looks much better on it! πŸ˜‰

  2. Jack says:

    Used to own a Duke II and it was a great bike in the terrible streets of Houston. Stolen but very fun. I test rode a Duke 690 and really liked that bike and will probably be my next bike. Love the looks of the new Duke but I guess they figure the US market won’t support it. Top notch. Shame it won’t be coming here.

  3. Scott in the UK says:

    I wish you had told me that 16 years ago when I took my SRX 600 on 2400km tour over 8 days. πŸ™‚

    I don’t like motorways, they are a necessary evil. But for people in many parts of the world its possible have a more interesting ride, and avoid them. If the new Duke was available now in the UK and I fitted on it (I’m pretty short) AND I had the spare cash to have a second bike after the Guzzi, I’d get one tomorrow. RD350 is right – there are bikes aimed at enthusiasts for single cyclinder bikes, and there are a few of us about.

    • Scott in the UK says:

      Good comments mate but this was when I lived in Australia – a country that makes the USA look well crowded and overpopulated. πŸ™‚

      Yeah its no great shakes to go that far I’ll agree, but a lot of people say you cant tour on the singles, and they would be wrong. You can, but it will probably be a different kind of touring to Gold Wing / Electra Glide touring.

      all the best,

      Scott The Aussie (in the UK)

  4. CBR250R says:

    Well said RD350. Well said.


  5. tdm850 says:

    I’m going to borrow this from Beavis for a second, “Booooiiinnnnggg!!”

  6. John says:

    The real problem is price. The duke costs around $9K. For a single?? There are alot of bikes in that price range. That bike should have been priced like an SV650, which is aimed at the same customer.

  7. Mike says:

    The bad news: it’s not available in the USA, and a leaked Powerpoint slide from a presentation to North American KTM dealers confirms it won’t be here for 2013 or 2014, either.


    Actually I suggest bad news for KTM.

    A boycott of all KTM products forever by every rider in America that would buy this great bike………and the same from all the rest of us based on KTMs absolute lack of respect for our American market and this super single.

  8. SL says:

    I am in the market for something right now. I have decided that I don’t need to do the liter bikes anymore. I love them, but they are entertaining at speeds that I am ready to let go of. More than half of my riding has been in the dirt, and these bikes look like you can have fun throwing them around at cop friendly speeds. I am in the early part of my research, but if I could get a new 690smc I would buy it. I still don’t totally understand the line between the Duke and Smc, but I do like a “big thumper dirtbike that has began mutating to the street” concept. As I look at the leftover and second hand market I am beginning to think about the Aprilia sxv 5.5. Maybe a little to much dirtbike, I need to read more. The one thing I do know is that if the local KTM dealer had a 690 smc on hand I would have signed the papers.

  9. Roadrash1 says:

    I love this bike! To me (a two-time Buell XB9SX owner) it has a very similar vibe. I also agree it would be really cool to have a clip-on version of it, with humane ergos.

  10. RD350 says:

    I love this bike.

    While I liked the looks of the Duke II and the last 690 Duke better than this latest effort, I would still buy this bike if given the opportunity.

    70hp in a 330lb package is a recipe for fast cornering, back road fun. I could likely get this bike down below 300lbs with a little effort and a few bucks. That’s light!

    I wish it was going to be available in the US …

    Hey KTM .. since the RC4 single cylinder sport bike project is on hold, why not bring in a trackday/race version of this Duke 690? No street equipment, race exhaust, .. not for highway use, etc. “Ready to race” as it were ..

    There are a lot of riders doing track days these days here in the United States .. I think it would sell well to that crowd.

  11. CBR250R says:

    If KTM released this bike wrapped in sporty RC8R clothing with a slightly more upright riding position, I would HAVE to buy it. Imagine that – great handling, 355 lbs, 70 hp, fuel-injection, reasonable insurance, single-cylinder (easy maintenance, +60 mpg fuel economy), all enveloped in racy attire. I don’t like the Duke look. Dress it up a bit and this would be the ultimate fun machine. Of course – a common refrain would be that it “costs too much for a single-cylinder”. Ironically – that IS the reason why I would buy it – because as RD says above “If you want fun and stupendous handling, this is the bike for you”. And I don’t mind paying for quality components. I think I would rather spend my money on fun, lightweight, and great handling, no matter how many cylinders the bike has.


    • Chris says:

      Mike your confused and I bet new to motorcycles. You want a sexy bike (to you) wraped in plastic with an upright seating position. All the sudden the bars start to get in the way of the upper fairing (to make it comfy) or look cool in your opinion. Let me compare. Would you rather have a woman that was good looking, smart, good job, outstanding cook and a nimpho in the sack or…..a really smoking hot chick that nags on you all the time, can’t cook and is lame in bed. Sure the hot one is cool to show off to your buddies but if your into than your not gonna ever get my point. Ride because the way it makes you feel, not how cool you look.

      • CBR250R says:

        Chris – not sure what you are getting at, as your reply wasn’t communicated very clearly. Perhaps my original message wasn’t clear either. I was merely stating that I would like to see the KTM 690 Duke offered in a more super-sport-like setup (i.e., like the rumored KTM RC4) with ergonomics that would allow for more comfortable city riding as well. The CBR600RR for instance, has a more upright riding position (compared to other supersports) that makes it more comfortable for city riding. I have a WR250R that is very comfortable to ride with a nice, very upright riding position like the 690 Duke. My CBR250R has a more aggressive riding position (though still relatively upright) that makes it slightly less comfortable to ride than the Yamaha – but on the street – I much prefer this riding position, as it makes the CBR250R so much more fun to ride than the WR250R.


  12. S Calwell says:

    I like KTM’s approach to design, quality over cost. Buying a bike and then replacing marginal suspension, seat, brakes, etc. is more expensive than getting a factory engineered set up. It’s working for Ducati. What will the changes to the 2012 SMT be?

  13. John says:

    I’m with Fazer6, I love it but can’t blame KTM for not bringing it Stateside. The US market only seems focused on cruisers and sportbikes right now.

  14. fazer6 says:

    Love it, but I can’t fault KTM for not bringing it stateside, considering the huge number of leftover ‘old’ ones around.

  15. Justin says:

    I like the last Duke better.

  16. SensibleSteve says:

    Errrr, isn’t that a “right exit” exhaust? At least as you’re sat on the bike. Gearchange on the LHS, rear brake and exhaust on RHS. Styling moving away from offroad definitely an improvement over earlier models.

  17. mugwump says:

    Phewwww, that was close. Good thing there isn’t a KTM street dealer within hours and hours of here otherwise I’d be getting excited.

  18. RD says:

    After owning just about every sportbike the manufacturers had to offer, I bought a 690 Duke. It is without a doubt one of the most amusing motorcycles I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning. If you want fun and stupendous handling, this is the bike for you.

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