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Three Decades Of Hooliganism - The KTM Duke Story

Sutanu GuhaFeb 8, 2024

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KTM Duke Origin

To commemorate 30 years of Duke the team from Mattighofen is releasing a trio of 30th anniversary Dukes in 2024.

Think words like - Fast, Agile, Aggressive, Loud Colours, and Orange - You’ve probably conjured up the image of a KTM. The origin and establishment of this image for the Austrian brand has been nothing short of an achievement and it all started with one badge - the Duke. Making this achievement all the more iconic is the fact that it has already been 30 years since the first KTM Duke was showcased to the world. 

Over the years, the bikes got more menacing looking and the portfolio expanded from just one bike to a bunch of exciting bikes. So, how did these all unfold? Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

The Birth (1994)

The 'OG' Duke

KTM entered the street motorcycle scene with the inaugural KTM Duke. The first Duke was powered by a 609 cc single-cylinder engine, and its distinct style, combining elements of a supermoto and a streetfighter, instantly made it a hit. The exposed trellis frame and the minimalist design further set the tone of what a Duke will look like, and in the process captured an enthusiast's imagination of a stripped-down bike designed and built around unbridled performance. 

The Evolution (1999-2005)

Sticking to this winning formula, KTM kept on improving the Duke series, and in 1999 the Duke II was introduced. The same engine was now producing more power and that increase in performance was complimented by sharper aesthetics. By now, KTM had laid the groundwork for the evolution of the naked segment within its portfolio. 

KTM Duke Evolution

The next six years of research and development finally culminated in 2005 when Team Orange launched the Super Duke in 2005. It was powered by a new 990 cc, V-twin engine called the LC8, and it was this mill that gave the KTM the cult following it continues to boast of. Along the sidelines, KTM also kept on improving the 620 Duke up until 2008, post which the 690 Duke was launched. And in 2011, the Austrian brand in collaboration with Bajaj launched its most compact Duke ever in the form of the 125 Duke. Although designed in Austria, the 125 Duke was built at Bajaj’s Chakan plant and exported to Europe. 

Redefining The Middleweight Naked Segment (2012 - Now)

KTM 390 Duke

But the best was yet to come. Making performance-oriented naked sport motorcycles accessible was when the brand introduced the 200 Duke. Soon after, when the game-changing KTM 390 Duke was launched, it was like all hell broke loose. In India, for the first time, enthusiasts and general buyers could think about bringing home a performance motorcycle without breaking the bank as the bikes were manufactured in India by Bajaj Auto. We are already into the third-generation Duke, and going by the crazy following that the bike continues to have, the Duke continues to capture that wild imagination even now. 

The Hyper-Naked Dominance

While we were busy honing our skills with the KTM 390, 200, and 125 in India, in 2014, KTM dropped another major bombshell called the Beast aka the KTM 1290 Super Duke R in 2014. Going back to its V-twin roots, the new 1290 Super Duke R was powered by a bigger 1,301 cc V-twin engine rated at 180 bhp and 140 Nm, thus creating a whole new segment altogether that we now know as Hyper-naked. But that was not it.

KTM 1290 Super Duke

Setting a whole new standard and continuing to push boundaries,  KTM last year reintroduced the 1390 Super Duke R. It was the same engine but with a bigger in-diameter throttle valve, coupled with a larger intake and airbox - the 1390 Super Duke R produced 190 bhp and 145 Nm. The 1390 Super Duke R is right now one of the most powerful hypernaked performance bike that can give major manufacturers like Ducati or BMW Motorrad with its V4 Streetfighter or S 1000 R, a run for its money any day. 

The Evolution Continues

Three decades is not a small amount of time. Over these years KTM has grown from strength to strength to accommodate several other body styles (fully-faired sports bikes to adventure). But the Duke has remained its popular product with respect to sales and it continues to hold the beacon of innovation for the brand. The fact that the KTM Duke isn’t a brand that’s restricted to a certain section (read as rich bikers) of riders is what makes the brand so special among enthusiasts.  

To commemorate this milestone, KTM launched the 30 years of Duke Campaign and along with that 30th-anniversary models of the 390 Duke, 990 Duke, and 1390 Super Duke R. It will offer enthusiasts a chance to win one of these iconic models through digital platforms, and the celebration will culminate in the international media launch in Almeria, Spain.

KTM Duke
30 Years Of Duke
KTM 390 Duke
KTM India
KTM 250 Duke
KTM 1390 Super Duke R