Small-Displacement Ride With A Big-Bike Attitude

The battle of the flyweights rages on as KTM stays in the fray with its race-tastic 125 Duke. KTM takes much the same tack as the competition and builds its entry-level ride to resemble the machines it has to offer further up the licensing chain. The angular Duke bodywork and exposed Trellis frame set the stage for the key player, the 11 kW powerplant that keeps the 125 Duke within the A1 performance envelope and turns it into a weapon in the fight for the zenith of the nadir, ie, the entry-level masses yearning to breathe free. KTM has established quite a name for itself as the King of Thumpers with a proven off-road record, but today I’m going to take a look and see how the littlest Duke stacks up against the rest of the 125 cc streetbike field.

Continue reading for my review of the KTM 125 Duke.

  • 2017 - 2018 KTM 125 Duke
  • Year:
    2017- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Price:
    4199
  • Price:

KTM 125 Duke Design

2017 - 2018 KTM 125 Duke
- image 780294
Light weight and low center of gravity makes it easy to wrangle around the parking lot.

Viewed in profile, its easy to see the aggressive, spikey nature it inherits from its larger siblings, starting right up front at the vertically divided, LED headlight can. The extreme back-angle of the face is mirrored in the leading edge of the cowl that springs forward from the fuel tank for that characteristic angularity that seems to persist on back to the tip of the tail. An upswept exhaust toes the line and picks up the angle of the exposed subframe to tie it all together in a most sporty fashion that keeps it well clear of the tarmac.

In keeping with the rest of the Duke line, the exposed Trellis lends an unmistakable industrial air to the project, and the factory didn’t miss the opportunity to boost that effect with contrasting black and orange paint on the main frame and subframe, respectively. At the command and control center we find short-rise bars that push the rider up into a relatively upright position with a TFT instrument panel that covers all the informational bases in an easy-to-read format. Gotta’ say I’m loving the thin-film transistor tech; reading stuff while under way is plenty tough, and anything that allows that information exchange to occur faster so you can get your eyes back up on the road ahead is good, m’kay?

In spite of the deep-scoop seat that is offset by a tall fuel-tank hump and upswept subframe to ensconce the rider within the bike, the seat still rides at a moderate 830 mm that may tax the shortest riders just a bit. Sure, the 137 kg dry weight and low center of gravity makes it easy to wrangle around the parking lot, but tiptoes are still tiptoes, and tiptoes can be uncomfortable, especially for the inexperienced.

KTM 125 Duke Chassis

2017 - 2018 KTM 125 Duke
- image 780297
The industrial look ties right into the design of the larger displacement Dukes for a clear line of succession.

The exposed Trellis frame leaves little to the imagination and contributes as much to the overall look as any of the body parts. Gotta’ say I’m a fan of the industrial look it imparts, and like so many other details, it ties right into the design of the larger displacement Dukes for a clear line of succession.

Tubular steel members form the standing structure with a cast swingarm that works with a coil-over WP monoshock to articulate the rear wheel, but the strut comes with nothing beyond the minimal spring-preload adjustment. Oh well, that’s hardly surprising since that kind of stuff is generally left off in order to keep costs down, and a low sticker is of paramount importance when you’re trying to garner support from the youngest demographic, and most likely, their parents as well.

WP supports the front end as well with a set of beefy, inverted 43 mm forks, but like the rear end, comes in plain vanilla only with fixed damping values. The brakes offer some redemption in the form of a large, 300 mm front disc and four-pot caliper that’ll help you haul things down in a hurry. Out back, a 230 mm disc and single-piston anchor slows the rear wheel with a twin-channel, Bosch 9MB ABS feature that provides the only safety net on the mini-Duke. That’s OK though; I think learner bikes should be as raw as possible, but concede that the ubiquity of anti-lock brakes means that riders have a reasonable expectation of always having it available. We’ll just leave the advanced riding techniques that call for intentionally breaking traction for subsequent steps in the rider progression.

Frame: steel trellis frame, powder coated
Steering Head Angle: 65 °
Front Suspension/ Travel: WP upside-down ø 43 mm/ 5.6 inches (142 mm)
Rear Suspension/ Travel: WP monoshock/5.9 inches (150 mm)
Front Brake: 300 mm, four-piston radial fixed caliper, brake disc
Rear Brake: 230 mm, single-piston floating caliper, brake disc
ABS: Bosch 9MB two-channel ABS
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 X 1/4"

KTM 125 Duke Drivetrain

2017 - 2018 KTM 125 Duke
- image 780301
KTM enjoys a reputation as the “King of the Thumpers,” and it doesn't disappoint here.

KTM enjoys a reputation as the “King of the Thumpers,” and it doesn’t disappoint here. A water-cooled plant delivers the power to the tune of 11 kW to keep it A1 compliant, and of course, the water jacket serves a dual purpose by attenuating much of the mechanical noise from inside the case for cool and quiet operation. Needless to say, the water-cooling feature will hold itself in good stead in conditions that would have an air-cooled engine, and its rider, sweating something fierce.

Dual over-head cams time the four-valve head with a 33 mm throttle body to control the induction and a catalyst in the exhaust to help it meet emissions standards. A Bosch Engine Management System does the rest with a good old-fashioned cable to control the throttle; no RbW nonsense here. The clutch is similarly simple with no slipper function, just a standard wet clutch pack to couple engine power to the six-speed transmission. Yeah, that’s right, make the kids pay their dues. I’m down with it.

Engine: 1-cylinder, 4-stroke engine
Displacement: 124.7 cc
Bore x Stroke: 58 mm x 47.2 mm
Power In Kw: 14.8 hp (11 Kw)
Starter: Electric Starter
Lubrication: Wet Sump
Transmission: 6-Speed
Primary Drive: 22:72
Secondary Gear Ratio: 14:45
Cooling: Liquid Cooled
Clutch: Wet Multi-Disc Clutch, Mechanically Actuated
EMS: Bosch EMS

KTM 125 Duke Price

2017 - 2018 KTM 125 Duke
- image 780308
MSRP is a skosh over £4k, maybe a little pricey, but it's a lot of bike.

British A1 riders can expect to shell out £4,199 for a shiny new MY18 125 Duke, and they can get it in orange and white, or white and orange, both with ample blackout treatment.

Color: orange, white
Price: £4,199

KTM 125 Duke Competitors

2018 Suzuki GSX-S125
- image 779705
2017 - 2018 KTM 125 Duke
- image 780302
These engines are meant to stay within a certain power range and displacement for licensing purposes, and so the power figures shouldn't be used as the ultimate yardstick.

There’s no doubt that the Japanese Big Four enjoy the lion’s share of the business in this market, so I felt it was fair to go straight to Suzuki and its GSX-S125 for my competitor. The Gixess 125 rolls with much the same look as its larger displacement brethren, which is to say, as a straight-up naked standard.

A compact headlight housing leads the way with spiky cowlings that strike a similar tone to that of the Duke without letting it become the dominant feature. In fact, the Suzuki is generally an exercise in moderation that serves as a nice counter to the extremes of the Duke design. The tank isn’t quite as tall, and seat not as deep, so I expect it to appeal to a slightly different buyer at the end of the day. As for myself, Suzuki carries the day, aesthetically.

Large front disc brakes and Bosch ABS are constants across the board, as is the vanilla-ness of the suspension so neither really gain any sort of advantage in the chassis. The powerplants are equally equal with 10.8 kW from the GSX-S and an even 11 kW from the Duke. Bear in mind that these engines are meant to stay within a certain power range and displacement for licensing purposes, and so the power figures shouldn’t be used as the ultimate yardstick.

Pricing sees a shift in Suzuki’s favor with its £3,799 tag that falls shy of the Duke with a 10-percent lower MSRP.

He Said

“If you’re into this sort of thing, then this is just the sort of thing you’ll be into. KTM’s Duke line has a rather extreme look that I find rather sophomoric at best. Plus, historically, their seats are rather firm for my taste. That said, it does offer a viable alternative to a beginner bike from the Big Four.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “This is a small-displacement bike, but don’t let that fool you. This is a serious motorcycle. If I’m not mistaken, it was the first 125 cc bike to have ABS as standard, and that was five years ago. It’s packed with techno-wizardry with LED lights, a TFT display, and optional integrated connectivity. The tires are a good size, not some rinky-dink little rubbers, and it’s water cooled. This is a really nice bike. Basically, it’s a Duke 390 with the 125 engine in it, so fit-and-finish is on point and handling is as you’d expect. It’s a fun bike to ride, I dunno what else to say.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 1-cylinder, 4-stroke engine
Displacement: 124.7 cc
Bore x Stroke: 58 mm x 47.2 mm
Power In Kw: 14.8 hp (11 Kw)
Starter: Electric Starter
Lubrication: Wet Sump
Transmission: 6-Speed
Primary Drive: 22:72
Secondary Gear Ratio: 14:45
Cooling: Liquid Cooled
Clutch: Wet Multi-Disc Clutch, Mechanically Actuated
EMS: Bosch EMS
Chassis:
Frame: steel trellis frame, powder coated
Steering Head Angle: 65 °
Front Suspension/ Travel: WP upside-down ø 43 mm/ 5.6 inches (142 mm)
Rear Suspension/ Travel: WP monoshock/5.9 inches (150 mm)
Front Brake: 300 mm, four-piston radial fixed caliper, brake disc
Rear Brake: 230 mm, single-piston floating caliper, brake disc
ABS: Bosch 9MB two-channel ABS
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 X 1/4"
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 53.4 inches ± 0.6 inch (1,357 ± 15.5 mm)
Ground Clearance: 7.3 inches (185 mm)
Seat Height: 32.7 inches (830 mm)
Tank Capacity (approx): 3.5 gals (13.4 l)
Dry Weight: 302 lbs (137 kg)
Details:
Color: orange, white
Price: £4,199

References

Suzuki GSX-S125

2018 Suzuki GSX-S125
- image 779899

See our review of the Suzuki GSX-S125.

KTM 390 Duke

2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
- image 779295

See our review of the KTM 390 Duke.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: suzuki.co.uk, ktm.com, photographer credits: R. Schedl

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