Test ride: KTM 890 Duke R

You have only to look at some motorbikes to know they have been designed to be a lot of fun and will put a big smile on your face.

One of them is KTM’s new 890 Duke R which really stands out in the competitive middleweight naked segment.

It’s the more fire-breathing 890 model – there is now also a ‘standard’ 890 Duke.

It gains a distinctive bright orange frame and wheels, reserved for KTM’s R models, but the 889cc engine also delivers more power and torque, in fact the most of any KTM parallel twin.

Dubbed the ‘Super Scalpel’, because it is even more than just razor sharp, the 890 Duke R pumps out peak power of 121hp at 9,250rpm and 99Nm of torque at 7,750rpm. The 890 Duke delivers 115hp at 9,000rpm and 92Nm at 8,000rpm.

The R model also gets bigger 320mm twin front disc brakes with upgraded Brembo Stylema four-piston calipers.

What you get less of is bulk, with a 166kg dry weight – only 3kg less than the standard 890 Duke. This is one of the lightest middleweights and, combined with all that power and torque, it’s a recipe for success.

Designed to be smoother and more responsive in the low and mid-range, this new engine is a real powerhouse that, in a compact chassis, means the 890 Duke R can give sportier and bigger bikes a good run.

It pulls strongly in lower gear from just 3,000rpm and, by 5,000rpm, is surging forward as you wind on the throttle – rather addictive on a winding road.

Not having to rev it hard to make brisk progress helps fuel economy too with an indicated 65mpg, even with the demo bike’s new engine. The six-speed transmission has a precise, short shift but a Quickshifter is optional.

The high-level exhaust has a purposeful burble but would not be intrusive on a long run although the 890 Duke R is more about conquering corners than cruising.

It has the handling to match with a taut compact chassis and WP Apex front forks and rear monoshock with multiple adjustments so riders can find their ideal set-up.

It’s highly manoeuvrable, turning crisply into corners with lots of grip so cross-country routes are its element. It’s a joy to ride, even well within the speed limit but, beware, it is deceptively quick.

Those Brembo brakes have plenty of progressive bite, bringing the bike to a halt quickly when needed, but have a delicate, predictable feel for slowing in traffic.

I find many KTMs too tall for my 5ft 8in frame but the 840mm seat height meant I could hold the bike up comfortably on both tiptoes or the ball of one foot – the light weight also helps. Low bars and high, set-back footpegs add to the racey feel.

The TFT display is clear, concise and easy to navigate on the move.

The 890 Duke R has standard traction control and sport, street and rain riding modes which also alter the power delivery. If you want more advanced electronics and rider aids they are optional software updates.

KTM’s 890 Duke R has the potential to gain cult status in the naked middleweight sector. This is a true KTM R bike – it is more in your face than the standard 890 Duke and puts a big grin on it too.

Priced from £10,649, just £1,000 more, it is a grand buy too.