2 Aug 2012

KTM Duke: great little big bike (with a few modifications)

I am really pleased with this new KTM bike of mine. Time will of course tell, but it could be one of the best machines I have yet owned. At least it is probably the one best suited to the main use that I make of motorcycles: going quite fast on small roads, for variable distances. The roads around where I spend as much time as I can, in South-West France, are a bit like this....

Or, looking in the other direction to the next bend and with the setting sun behind one, this...

In other words there are plenty of bends and very little traffic. One has to be on the look out for occasional gravel and the odd tractor, but late evening on weekdays is usually pretty good once harvest is over. Riding this landcape with the 690 Duke is a permanent buzz as the bike is so light and responsive (power/weight ratio is all), is a leech on these roads, and can suffer my occasional (frequent?) line errors and last minute adjustments willingly and without going crazy. It also has good brakes and (if you need it) ABS on them.
I am increasingly thinking that modern sports bikes, while great fun on a track and if you are stone crazy, have far too much power for the roads we ride. In addition, as Colin Chapman (of Lotus fame) said when asked what should be added to a car: "add lightness". 

I am getting used to the orange frame, and its somewhat angular looks, both of which I initially found rather garish. Black on the rest keeps things within reason, or maybe this is a case of love being blind. After all, I got used to the rather stange looks of my Ducati Multistrada.

I have changed the original and rather bulky silencer for an after-market thingie produced in Spain and sold to me be a very efficient company called Silverstone Motor here in France. You can just see it in this pic but I will get back to this topic in a while.

As I said in my first report on riding this machine for a full day up from Lyon to Paris on minor roads, the first thing to change was the seat. The orginal seat is fine for a short journey, but it has a kind of roll at the back end of the rider's part (the passenger number is a separate pad and I haven't seriously tested that bit yet) that pummels your coccyx over a distance, making it quite hard to walk the next day! So I had this thing fitted from the very comprehensive "Powerparts" catalogue of the manufacturer. Now why can't they just fit a proper seat in the first place?

As you can see, the roll blends in with the rear seat so one can slip back if needed. Anway, a full day's riding with this new seat caused me no pain and so it stays. What else? A couple of mods that I had done before the bike was delivered. Although this is hardly a high-speed cruiser, it will hold more than legal cruising speeds on the motorways without problems (not that I use such roads much on a bike), so I had a small screen/wind deflector fitted. Seems to work fine, but then I haven't tried riding the KTM without it!

Another couple of mods from tha start were handguards and heated grips. Haven't needed the latter much yet, but they might keep me on the road for longer into this winter. However the handguards have probably already saved me a broken finger (and brake lever) when some f**ckwit in a car pulled out to overtake when I was already overtaking him, failing to use his rearview mirror, which he probably lost in the proceeds. You can just about see the temperature control for the heated grips and the mounting for the GPS I occasionally use as well. These KTM handguards are well made, as I experienced. They have an alumiuim brace that joins to the handgrip, this protecting hands and levers.

Now for the (partially) esthethic mods. Well, for now, I just removed the garish stickers on the headlight fairing and the tank, leaving the more discreet one on the air filter casing. And the original silencer is too bulky and makes the bike sound like a sewing machine when at low speed. I am not in favour of hugely noisy bikes, but I do like my machines to sound like they are alive. I thought about the Akropovic number offered in the KTM Powerparts catalogue, but it seemed very expensive. So I looked around on this marvellous tool called the web and found this little twin-exit number, produced in Spain by a company called IXRace. Easy to fit and it sits in tighter than the original part, as well as being much smaller and shorter. I like the curves too. The sound is not a lot bigger, but perhaps a tad deeper and crisper. I see there are baffle plates on the end of the exits. Might just play around with them a bit later. Here is a picture and a video...

No other mods have been made for now. Getting to know the bike and enjoying it a lot. I was initially concerned about the lack of flexibility of the motor, which clanged and banged under 3000 rpm. But that is changing now that is has been run in properly (2000 kms on the clock). Noticed a couple of really nice details. It has a gear indicator, which I have not had on a bike before and find it quite useful on the small roads that turn a lot, even if I tend to play it by ear and the rev counter. Also, when the fuel tank goes onto reserve (I haven't yet worked ou how much is left in there), the computer tells you how many kilometres you have been running since you went onto reserve. It also has two trip meters, which I suppose could be useful one day. All of this is electronic of course and you have to push buttons on the speedo block, taking one hand off the bars to change from one set of information to another, but, hey, what's the problem? 

Ride safely, within reason...