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2021 KTM 890 Duke: MD Ride Review

When we tested the KTM 890 Duke R last year we were more than impressed. From the engine performance to the suspension and the brakes, there wasn’t much we could criticize. In fact, journalists everywhere seemed to rave about the new Duke.

For 2021, KTM has introduced a standard model 890 Duke. You can read all about the details and specifications for the bike in our preview article. Basically, the bike is very similar to the 890 Duke R with a few exceptions. The fully adjustable suspension is replaced by a non-adjustable 43 mm fork and a rear shock adjustable for spring preload only. The brakes are not the top drawer Brembo items found on the 890 R, but rather KTM-branded items. The front brake disks are a bit smaller, as well, at 300 mm versus 320 mm.

Rather than the super sticky track-day Michelins found on the 890 R, the standard 890 Duke features Continental ContiRoad tires. The standard 890 Duke still has a steering damper, and an IMU assisted series of rider electronic aids.

If you don’t purchase the optional Track package, you get the standard three ride modes, including Sport, Street and Rain. These include default settings for traction control and ABS, while the optional Track mode allows the rider to select from nine levels of traction control, a launch control and an anti-wheelie off switch.

The fundamental nature of the base 890 Duke is the same as the more expensive Duke R, thank goodness. This includes the fantastic 889cc parallel twin engine, six-speed transmission, and the chromoly steel frame that provides such excellent feedback and control. LED headlight and daytime running lights are standard, as well as a color TFT display.

The standard 890 Duke has slightly different ergonomics in comparison with the 890 Duke R. The seat height is lower and there is a more relaxed rider triangle. Frankly, for everyday riding, we found the ergonomics of the base model 890 Duke superior, i.e., more comfortable. The handlebar bend is more natural, rather than the bend found on the 890 R that encourages a more aggressive forward lean from the rider.

The engine is every bit as good as we discovered when we tested the 890 Duke R. KTM says that the standard 890 Duke puts out 114 hp, five less than the 890 Duke R. We rode both models back-to-back, however, and couldn’t tell a difference as far as engine performance is concerned. This is one of the best motors in the motorcycle industry. It has a very broad spread of power, throttle response is excellent, and the uneven firing order creates a wonderful character and feel. Outstanding.

As we said, the ergonomics are superior to the racier model for commuting and everyday riding. A bit more relaxed, but not so relaxed as to sacrifice any corner carving ability.

We were impressed with the brakes found on the standard 890 Duke. Offering a bit less feel and a bit less power, they nevertheless are more than enough on the street, and would do a competent job at a track day, as well. The smaller brake discs, and their lower inertia, might even make turn-in a little easier on the base model 890 Duke. Handling is outstanding.

The largely non-adjustable suspension is definitely a step back from the higher priced model, which not only offers full adjustability, but also has a more refined feel. Nevertheless, the settings chosen by KTM for the 43 mm Apex fork, and the shock are a pretty good compromise.

Suspension is a tad stiff for cruising around, but not harsh. When the bike is pushed on a twisty road, the suspension is stiff enough to handle aggressive riding … only starting to feel a bit taxed when ridden at close to track speeds.

The six-speed transmission does the job, and we never missed a shift, but we think that KTM could still make some improvements here. Actually, the base model 890 Duke shifted a bit better than the Duke R we had with us, but both bikes are still a tad behind Japanese quality shifting.

Straight line, high speed stability is excellent, and is coupled with the flickable nature we came to love in the more expensive model. The standard tires on the base model are Continental ContiRoads, a new sport touring tire from the German manufacturer. These tires serve their purpose well, combining plenty of siping for wet weather with good dry weather grip near the edge. Compared to pure sport rubber, however, they fall short when it comes to ultimate grip and bigger lean angles.

The new 890 Duke is a great bike, largely due to the fantastic parallel twin. It is reasonably comfortable, fast and agile. At $1000 cheaper than the 890 Duke R, you have to ask yourself whether you need the adjustable suspension and the higher end brakes found on the more expensive model, together with the more aggressive ergonomics. We don’t think you could go wrong with either bike, and suspect you would fall in love with the 889cc parallel twin engine in either.

The 2021 KTM 890 Duke is priced at U.S. MSRP $10,999. Take a look at KTM’s website for additional details and specifications.

30 Comments

  1. for a thousand more the r version is a bargain!

  2. Jeremy says:

    I’ll go against the grain here and say that I really like the look of this bike.

  3. Nick says:

    To me, this just looks like a cheap Chinese learner bike with a slightly larger engine. Definitely not a bike to sit and admire, even if the dynamics are good. KTM’s have never looked handsome, apart from their motoGP bikes, but this one of the most forgettable designs of the lot.

    • Randy says:

      What do you want it to look like? A standard from the 70’s? It’s a standard. With no bling. But it can’t look retro because it wouldn’t sell in sufficient numbers. So it has to look modern. Besides, the buyer for this is someone that has many criteria instead of one (like HP or Track ability). They want a good all around bike and will get that even if it looks a little bling-less. I would prefer a couple color options like the Japs, but that’s about it.

  4. Gary in NJ says:

    I so want to go test ride one of these, but I know it will turn into a $10,999 free test ride. To me, for my purposes – this is a perfect motorcycle.

  5. Staying in Mexico says:

    It’s a really nice bike if you have the coin to drop on it! A few years ago wanted to ride track days to improve my riding skills, All I had in the Garage was a V-Rod and a Ducati ST4S both lovely bikes in their own way. Really thought about dropping almost 12 grand and then while shopping around sitting in the Suzuki dealer was a 2017 GSX-S 750 that almost every Euro magazine said was a pretty decent machine but every American Y-tuber and Paper mag said it was terrible and pushed the Yamaha FZ09 on the masses. Some of the negative comments were the wet weight at 459 pounds and no electronic rider aids, But it had the K-5 GSXR 750 Motor that was severely detuned, or was it? The dealership offered it to me for $5400.00! I paid and rode home and found it not really a bad machine for what its purpose was as a middleweight. First few track days I learned how to ride better and honed my skills Let me tell you riding on the track makes my Monthly tail of the dragon trip boring! So the time came to Upgrade the Suspension and the first thing was Front Fork and rear shock custom built by Matris in Italy total cost with me doing the install $1345.89, Full Dyno by the Famous KWS Motorsports, 98 rear wheel horsepower so same day Full Arrow exhaust dropped 31 pounds used Woolich racing to set up the ECM and turned off everything that restricted HP re-spun it on the dyno to 111 HP, Next Open the airbox drop in a BMC change the Stacks to short ones remove the Baffle on the air intake and enlarge it and the secondary throttle plates would not fully open until 9500 rpm and then close to 50 percent after that tweak we made 117 HP, Next I dropped in 2005 GSXR 750 Camshafts that really woke it up to 123HP Kicked the rev limiter up from 10.5 Grand up to 11.3 Found four more horsepower 127HP and 69 foot-pounds of torq. Arrow 975.99 Dyno, Tune 550.00 eBay GSXR750 Cams 65.00 I installed back to the Dyno 75.00 Total Price of 8411.88 for a Really cool really great handling and very quick bike! I want to thank Revzilla and Cycleworld, Motorcyclist, Many Y-tube reviewers for not really telling the truth and for helping me purchase and with passion build a really nice Track Day bike with no Electronic rider gizmos and forcing me to make very quick intelligent choices with my right hand

  6. Tommy D says:

    If Husky could apply a different style to this platform it may sell better. KTM could put this into a Moto2 style bike and absolutely be the killer track day bike. The Kramer version is nice and all but a street bike to compete with the new R7 would be welcome.

  7. Mick says:

    What is more aggressive about the ergos on the R? Having taken a quick look at some photos, I didn’t spot anything.

    Whatever, a thousand bucks for better suspension and something closer to an off switch for the rider aids? Sign me up.

    Maybe not. For me, it is still too heavy and has more power than is necessary. I like twins. But I won’t bite until they come in much closer to the weight of a single. Replacing one big cylinder with two smaller ones shouldn’t weigh as much as a nephew.

    • Motoman says:

      Once again Mick a meaningless comment (or portion anyway) that shows your myopic viewpoints:

      “Replacing one big cylinder with two smaller ones shouldn’t weigh as much as a nephew.”

      My nephew is 25 and weighs about 220lbs.

    • Dave says:

      Take an engineering class sometime. Turning one cylinder into two does add a lot of weight. 2x of all of the “heavy” stuff, most notably the steel crankshaft. Based on how many road bikes are multis and how few are singles, you can see that most all street riders agree that the weight is worth it.

      Get the 680 while they still make it. It’ll most likely be replaced soon by a smaller twin.

      • Mick says:

        Take a trip to planet earth sometime. While you’re there, pull an engine out on one of these bikes and an engine out of a 690, weigh the two of them, and get back to me on that engineering comment.

        I already have a sub 300 pound single, with Ohlins suspension, that makes a 690 seem heavy. I would welcome a smaller twin replacement for the 690. I have been waiting for thirty years for a twin that makes more power than a 690 that weighs about the same.

        In that thirty years the average street bike has actually gained weight. Totally unimpressive engineering in my book.

        My nephews are all over six foot tall Motoman. I meant the general idea of a nephew being a young boy. Once a nephew is over six foot tall or 220 pounds you have him ride one of your other bikes rather than give him a ride on yours. Not so?

        Though I must confess that living in the far reaches of earth (Netherlands, France and New England) has forced me to fail my nephews. None of them can operate a manual transmission and riding on my motorcycle would scare the crap out of them. They aren’t even any good at riding bicycles. I suck as an uncle.

        • Motoman says:

          Just joking Mick. I disagree with a lot of your opinions but I respect your intellectual approach in forming them. Most of the people on this site I disagree with would become a riding buddy if we met in person. It’s happened before and no doubt will again.

          And I would say you’re a good uncle, leading by example is the best way to teach IMO.

        • pedro says:

          Do you eat with a titanium spork?

  8. viktor92 says:

    What about the engine vibrations ?

  9. ABQ says:

    Somebody at the Sunday geezer motorcycle meet up asked “Where is the 400 pound bike that I could ride all day”. I pointed at a KTM that was parked right there in front of us. Really, guys. It has been here right in front of us the whole time. Look:
    “By using the 889cc engine as a stressed member, the 890 Duke flaunts a mere 372-pound dry weight. For reference, our 2020 KTM 890 Duke R tipped the scale at a paltry 405 pounds wet and we anticipate the standard model to be in that realm.” – Some other motorcycle magazine
    Street bike, track day bike, road to the crest bike, back road bike, day trip bike,….
    It has been right in front of you the whole time.

    • todd says:

      If it’s anything like the 790 Duke I tried, it was noticeably heavier and slower to respond to input than the 690 Duke. Guess which one I bought? I weighed my bike at 329 pounds, with a little less than half a tank of gas after I swapped out the stock exhaust.

    • blitz11 says:

      I have a 2015 690 duke (Earl) with a Penske shock and Traxxion Dynamics inserts in the fork. My daughter has a 2019 790 Duke (Pearl) (2019 – first year).

      I prefer the 790. Marginally heavier, but way faster, smoother, and the stock suspension is WAY better than what was on the 690. The 790 is probably the nicest, all around motorcycle i’ve ridden. It is a bit goofy looking, but once you’re on it, that doesn’t matter.

      Both bikes perfectly reliable.

      690 – stock exhaust.
      790 – Delkeveic to clear soft luggage. Sounds sweet, saves ~10 pounds.

      • todd says:

        You really should be comparing the 2016+ Duke 690 with the 790. Much closer in terms of outright performance, no contest on the handling and weight comparison. That’s probably why the 890 came out immediately after the 790 debuted.

    • Ken Kenworthy says:

      I feel as though it is a shame that you two seem unable to appreciate any of the multitude of platforms using the 692.7 cc KTM single.

  10. todd says:

    I just can’t accept that headlight.

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