Decades ago, it used to be that if you wanted a 125cc motorcycle you were spoilt for choice with nearly a dozen to choose from. But then the industry forgot all about getting new people onto bikes and the choice of a solid, 125cc learner or commuter motorcycle reduced to essentially three; Honda’s workhorse and basic CBR125, Yamaha’s equivalent YBR125, or the racey but utterly impractical and expensive YZF-R125. So if you were one of those people looking for a decently priced first bike that looked pretty smart but didn’t announce to everybody that you were either a delivery rider or a wannabe racer, you had nowhere to go. But then in 2011 KTM launched their 125 Duke and suddenly the motorcycling world - and more importantly customers - took notice.
The newer 2017 machine has built heavily upon the heritage delivered from that first iteration by providing new riders with the same cutting-edge engine technology but this time with better suspension, LED lights, ABS as standard, a slightly higher riding position - that makes the new 125 Duke feel even more like a ‘big’ bike - and a sexy full colour dashboard that despite not being a touchscreen wouldn’t feel out of place in a Tesla.
It’s smooth enough looking to garner looks of envy rather than derision at the traffic lights, and smooth enough too from a ride perspective to cruise through town without any fuss or fumbling.
At £4290 new (check your local dealer for discounts or demo bike deals), it’s not the cheapest of machines at first glance - especially when compared to the glutt of £1500 Chinese ‘own brand’ bikes arriving onto the market in recent years - but the new KTM 125 Duke is almost without comparison the smartest and best-handling bike in its market.
We’d go so far as to say it’s not only one of the best 125cc category bikes you can buy today, but it’s close to being one of the best commuter bikes on the current market of any engine size.
Assuming that you don’t mind the colour orange that is.