KTM Duke 790 Review
|✓||Torque, electronics, weight, headlight, handling, sound, suspension|
|×||Finicky day/night display mode switching, brakes, can get hot in traffic|
What Is It?
The KTM Duke 790 is a middle of the range naked bike and is closely related to the 790 Adventure models.
Engine: 799 cc Parallel Twin, 103 bhp
Economy: 50 mpg, 150 miles
Seat Height: 825 mm
Wet Weight: 174 kg
Top Speed: 145 mph
What Is It Like?
This is my third KTM bike. My previous bikes were the 125 Duke and the 390 Duke so for me a natural progression on to the 790. I had previously had another make but on visiting a dealers on a bitterly cold rainy winter's day I spotted the the 125, for me the colour hit me, the whole fun look of the bike (could even inspire to ride on cold and dreary days) so bought on the spot and that is where my affair started with KTM.
I have always been pillion passenger on motorbikes and have travelled to many overseas countries on bikes. Then six months before I hit 50, and I still don't know why, I booked up for a CBT and went for my licence and passed not many days before my 50th and I really still can't believe i did it...
As much as I loved the 390 I wanted to have a bike with the capacity for motorway riding and short trips to Europe if I want to go on my own so this pushed me on again to progress. This bike ticks the boxes and the biggest one is the weight. It's so easy and so nippy around traffic with my commute into the city for work.
Changes I've Made
- KTM grips
- R&G radiator guard
- R&G engine bobbin protectors
- R&G side stand plate
- KTM tank protectors
- KTM wheel graphics
- Oxford Aluminium handguards
- KTM luggage and rack
- Orange brake reservoir cover
- Fly screen
- Weight of the bike, especially for me as a female rider so this was a big deal for me, it gave me confidence as only a couple years in so still learning
- Front light - what a great look, so bright you are visibly seen in the dark, do get flashed though as other drivers think I'm on full beam
- The overall look of the bike
- The sound of the bike
- The handling so responsive
- Ride is just so much fun
- I personally find them comfortable (125, 390 and 790)
- Display unit reacts to day and night far to much, 125/390 did not so will bring it up next service, shame it can't be overridden
- Clock / temp - wish it was bigger as it hard to see but very overly large mph
- Does get hot on the legs and the fan kicks in, not as much as previous bikes, does rather heat my knees up if stuck in traffic
- Over tightened chain / noise had to be corrected
- As all motorbikes heated grips should come as standard, we live in a cold climate
- Still waiting on Power Parts to purchase or receive, crash bars not available or KTM hand guards
I've ridden other bike makes in my short motorbike career but this bike for me is what biking is about. An attractive, fun, lightweight bike. It inspires me to want to go in all weathers and I'm still disappointed that I've reached home - that's how much I love it.
All bikes have their good points, bad points and issues but I would still continue with the KTM brand.
- Samantha H, 2018
How Does It Compare?
The Second Opinion
I’ve owned the 790 for around eight months, I’ve done around 5,000 miles on it and I have to say it has exceeded my expectations at every turn. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that this bike was my first. I passed my DAS test last summer and I rushed out to buy it, having researched it first and found it to be the best bet.
I bought it because of the value it presented. I could not find a bike at this price point that was so easy to ride and came with so much safety jiggery-pokery. While I am yet to test the bikes lean sensitive traction control, the ABS has helped out a few times. I’ve also progressed as I’ve gained confidence and the bike has matched me step for step. It's default is Sport mode, but during the drier weather it was permanently on Track.
Please note I rode a number of test bikes at the time, including the amazing Kawasaki Z900RS and found the KTM was so easy to ride in comparison it's not funny.
The thrill from the noise of the exhaust to the urgent acceleration is awesome. More awesome is the fact the bike never seems too troubled with corners. As I gain confidence and push it faster, it just grips and grips (especially since the addition of Pilot 2’s).
Talking of the exhaust, my main ‘mod’ was the addition of the Akrapovic end can. While it looks great, I genuinely think the difference between the sound on the Akra and the stock can is minimal. And both sound amazing, especially on the over run.
The bike feels extremely well put together with the fit and finish first class, even 5,000 miles or so later. The only maintenance so far has been the regular chain cleaning, the application of ACF-50 a couple of times through the winter and a warranty fix for some water that was pooling in the fuel cap. Apparently a kink in an overflow pipe was to blame and like I said replaced without issue. The first service was fine and I rode the Maxxis tyres until I couldn't get a drop more from them, before replacing for the Michelins.
A quick note on the Maxis rubber. In my limited experience I didn’t feel a lot wrong with them. I’m a noob and so perhaps I wasn’t pushing the bike too much, but I have noticed that the additional confidence from the Michelins is remarkable. So I would advocate changing as soon as practical.
I’ve also added a small Puig deflector screen to the front that will come back off when the weather improves. It doesn’t look great, but it does a good job of shielding me from the wind. The bike is completely comfortable up to and past motorway speeds. The wind isn’t really an issue until around 60, though it becomes more so as you get faster and faster! The bike on the other hand responds in a surefooted and confidence inspiring way all the way up to and past legal speeds (my mate told me).
I’m just over 6 foot and so the height of the bike was a draw too, as I dislike the sensation of squatting on my bike. The 790 is comfortable as hell for at least an hour and I regularly ride for 90mins or so before taking a break to stretch it out.
The only real issue I have with the bike is the suspension. I’m a heavy guy too, but I find it’s a bit soft and bouncy at speeds. And pushing on when riding A roads with challenging surfaces and hilly bits can leave you feeling a bit sea sick. The bike seems to handle it all OK though. Fuel consumption is great; I basically fill the tank each time I go out (about £12) and get a good 150 plus miles on a run.
- Awesome fun
- Safety features give confidence
- Handling, handling handling!
- Some exposure to the elements at speed (hey, it’s a naked sports bike!)
I’d have one again and I might even look at the Adventure version. Though I’ve also got my eye on the bigger 1090 Adventure for next time too!
- Tony D, 2019
More KTM Duke 790 Reviews
Had countless bikes over the last 40+ years. Mostly been sportsbikes but decided to 'go naked'. Had an XSR900 (lovely bike), but fancied a change. Read reviews on the 790 and took one for a test ride.
Very different to the XSR and not sure at first, but got such a good deal on one that I took the plunge. Going in for 1st service tomorrow. Standard apart from R&G Tail Tidy and the 'Ergo'/comfort seat. Having KTM heated grips and Oxford handguards fitted. I went for the black as think it looks classier.
- Engine character and sound...all the pops and crackles on the overrun
- Suspension quality...just right. Never adjusted any suspension on any of my bikes, and the 790 is definitely plusher than the XSR
- Electronics...TFT dash, quickshifter, modes etc
- Looks...not 'pretty' but mean looking
- Handling..light and flickable
- Fuel Economy
- Longish service intervals
- Ergonomics and comfort
....mmmm..not much at all really
... OK so far, but have read about various issues on forums, which is a slight worry 😕...although mine seems to be fault free at the moment
- John N, 2018