Is the time right for this mini naked bike?

Here’s one we didn’t see coming: According to Asphalt & Rubber’s Bothan spy network, the KTM 200 Duke is headed to the U.S. market.

The 200 Duke may be a small bike, but it’s been a big part of KTM’s lineup since its 2012 launch. The 200 was one of the first machines built in conjunction with Bajaj, KTM’s partner in India. Along with Indian production, KTM also assembles these machines in Colombia, Argentina, and the Philippines. The 200 Duke is sold in high volume in markets around the world, but not in the U.S. (although the previous-generation version is sold in Mexico).

If the 200 is popular overseas, why isn’t it sold in the U.S.? Easy—in the American market, size matters. The 200 Duke uses a DOHC, liquid-cooled, 199cc, single-cylinder engine with a four-valve head and makes about 26 horsepower. For many riders in the U.S., that’s not enough to handle their highway riding needs, or not enough to stroke their ego—or both.

Things are changing, though, and the U.S. is seeing renewed interest in small-capacity bikes. Machines like the Honda Grom, Monkey, and Super Cub, and Kawasaki’s Z125 are popular again. With the modern moto market mostly seeing motorcycles as fun toys, not real-world transportation, there’s an emerging market for low-stress, easy-to-ride bikes. With a 32-inch seat height and dry weight at 308 pounds, the 200 Duke should be unintimidating for learning riders (maybe these bikes will show up on motorcycle training fleets?).

The coronavirus pandemic could also be a factor in this decision. COVID-19's impact on the motorcycle market isn’t fully clear yet, but sales have been stronger than anticipated in the past few months. Maybe KTM has some sales predictions that show a booming future for low-cost motorcycles?

Speaking of cost, A&R predicts this bike will come to the U.S. with an MSRP around $4,000. Currently, the KTM 390 Duke sells for $5,500.

Small-capacity bikes have always been important in the U.S., but for the past 40 years, most riders have considered 250cc the starting point. There was a Kawasaki 125 Eliminator cruiser,the Japanese-sold 125-class dual sports, and a handful of other sub-250 bikes, but they were rare. Currently, the only common motorcycle under 250cc in the U.S. is the Suzuki DR200. KTM’s mean-looking 200 Duke, with trellis frame, bright paint, and edgy styling, would be the most radical machine the U.S. has ever seen in this bracket. If the rumors are true and the bike really is coming, A&R says it will be a late-2020 model.