When I initiated this project with MO‘s long-term 790 Duke, my goal was simple. I just wanted an excuse to keep the bike as long as possible before I would be required to give it back to KTM. However, even before I considered buying the 790 for myself, I hatched another plan. I was going to build my vision of what a 790 Duke R would look like. Now, KTM has let the cat out of the bag and proved that a 790 Duke R really was never planned, meaning that it decided on an 890 Duke R instead. While it is beyond my capabilities to bump up the engine’s displacement (and retune the counterbalancers or shorten the shifter throw, among other things), as I run down the list of changes I applied to my 790, I don’t think that, although I was just trying to craft my conception of the ideal naked middleweight Twin, I strayed very far from where KTM has taken the 890.
Building an R
The two places where KTM cut corners on the 790 Duke are pretty much agreed upon: the brakes and suspension. Fortunately, there were several good options available to address these issues. Rather than saying these were shortcomings in the Duke, I felt these were obvious clues as to where the next iteration of the 790 was heading. After all, Triumph has been quite successful with multiple variations of its Street Triples. Why wouldn’t KTM do something similar? At least, I was half right.
In the comments of the other articles I’ve written about this project, some of the more cynical readers have approached these changes as things that I needed to fix – as if there was something inherently wrong with the Duke. I see it more as …read more