It’s great to see that Team Orange is still continuing to innovate and recreate its concepts through the use of outlandish designs and fast and forward-thinking bikes. Aimed at the top seat in the middleweight naked bike segment, the 2024 990 Duke packs the heat into its all-new frame and its specifications.
While people are celebrating its launch and imminent arrival, and while even co-workers are looking forward to seeing the bike and getting their hands on it, I’m a bit fifty-fifty with the motorcycle, mainly because I am a 790 Duke owner, I like my bike, and the 990 Duke’s design doesn’t do it for me, at least not yet.
“Taking aim at the mid-weight crown”
KTM’s press release was separated into several sections. Each of which, raises a few questions in my head. The 790 Duke was far from perfect, and I’m sure KTM had a bunch of reasons why it changed up and moved around a lot of things.
Back then, the Duke lineup was very distinct going from one model to the next. In terms of the little-r Dukes (390 and below), you’d get a light and agile package with a bit of grunt mixed in for its displacement class. Going over to the Super Dukes, you get an extremely exciting engine that takes names and no prisoners. In the middle of both of that, I considered the 790 and the 890 Dukes to take the best of both worlds from either end of the spectrum. The svelte profile coupled with the great chassis made it an epic corner-carving machine like its smaller siblings. Meanwhile, the LC8C motor punched above its weight in terms of torque delivery to mimic its bigger brothers while delivering a respectable amount of power for a twin-cylinder.
Now, KTM is moving away from the smaller bikes in its lineup, a move that brings the 990 ever closer to the 1290s and the new 1390 Super Dukes, and that can be seen in the bodywork of the bike. No longer is it as slim as before. The move towards a stockier cockpit was kind of disappointing for me. I loved the feel of the 790’s tank, at least for me and my inseam. Now, there’ll be more between the legs which is great given that the 790’s lack of bulk left some riders feeling a bit exposed, something that I (with my lanky build) had no trouble wrapping my legs around.
One thing I’m skeptical about is the fact that KTM removed the rear fender for its promo materials. The bike looks good from the back in the press photos, but I know for a fact that the rear of this bike will definitely be a little less wonderful with some legal bits attached. The front, meanwhile, is perplexing me in a similar fashion to Yamaha’s MT-10 facelift. Granted, KTM’s designs are different, but after getting used to and loving the 390’s, 790’s, 890’s, and 1290’s designs, I can’t help but feel a little taken aback by the new face. It’s a hit or miss depending on who you asked, and I was hoping that KTM would’ve delivered something of an evolution to its mantis-like front-end, but instead, we got a transformer.
So, the tank got bigger, which is great for range, but so did the engine, so its fuel range may stay the same. The thing is, the tank looks so much taller and so much wider than the 790/890 Dukes, so how much did it grow? Well, the added bulk nets an additional half quart of fuel, or about a tenth of a gallon. At 3.8 gallons, it’s still a win. KTM engines are known to be quite fuel efficient but the added bulk, as mentioned in my point earlier, doesn’t seem proportional. Perhaps there is more under the tank fairings. I can see this as an ergonomic improvement as I’ve had a bit of trouble resting my chest on the 790’s tank. It’s not a totally comfortable experience in a full tuck if I’m being totally honest.
“Suspension and Chassis”
Big changes here for the 990 Duke. KTM still continued with its trellis frame, something that the 790 and 890 got right. This time around, we’re still looking at a similar layout as before, with the frame and engine working in tandem with each other. The bigger change happened at the back of the bike with a new subframe design and a move from an open-lattice to a closed-lattice swingarm.
Damping duties are handled by a 43-millimeter WP APEX open cartridge fork with 140 millimeters of travel with compression plus rebound adjustability, and a gas-assisted rebound and preload-adjustable WP APEX Monotube shock with a lightened linear spring at the back. The new hardware puts this about on the level of the 890 Duke R in terms of suspension kit. Other manufacturers nowadays, even on the lower end of the middleweight segment, offer either some or a full level of adjustability, so I’m digging what KTM has packed into the 990’s frame.
Architecturally, you can spot a lot of similarities from going from the other middleweight Dukes. The 2024 990 Duke took a more precise approach to frame design this time around, and it features reinforcements in key areas that add to the stiffness of the chassis. It’s a refinement over its predecessors and paired with the new swingarm pivot point and the upgraded hardware, it looks like it’ll bring an improvement of chassis performance for the brand in its category.
Further back, the swingarm and subframe were changed. Simplified and stronger than before, it accommodates a bigger air intake that feeds to the 947cc twin. My biggest pain point with the 990 is the fact that the exhaust is no longer a high-mount. I loved the setup on the Scalpels, and it left the sides very clean, netting it a very sleek appearance and something of a big supermoto. I was hoping that the spy shots of the 990 prior to its EICMA appearance were early prototypes and that KTM would keep the high mount. Alas, it didn’t come to pass, but at least the muffler looks like it has a bit of height to it.
Other stuff that KTM refined include a gravity die-cast closed-lattice swingarm that is lighter than the open-lattice unit in previous models. It’s not as stiff as before which is better according to KTM, and the other bit in the front: the Forged Aluminum Triple Clamp, was something that was once an aftermarket solution for previous-generation middleweight Dukes. It’s now stock which is great.
“Wheels and Tires”
KTM fielded a bunch of options for the global market, depending on where you bought your bike from. For the 790 Duke, a lot of people were skeptical about Team Orange’s decision to go with Maxxis SuperMaxx STs. While adequate and worth wearing through, there were better options out there, and KTM decided to go with Continental and Michelin for its next go with its pair of 890s. This time around, KTM went with a brand that should be exceedingly familiar to a lot of seasoned riders. Bridgestone is the provider for the 990’s shoes with a set of S22s on board as standard.
You could say that KTM is saving its Brembo brakes and master cylinder combo for the R version of the 990 Duke. The 890 R had some of the best brakes in the business paired with the weight of the bike, and the suspension that it had. However, I feel that the KTM-branded J.Juan setup will suffice given that the suspension is more of an upgrade compared to the non-R middleweight Dukes. It’s still the same, but lighter, 300-millimeter floating pair of discs in the front with four-piston calipers clamping down, and it’s still the same rear brake paired with a 240-millimeter disc at the back.
The 790 and 890 editions of the LC8C were some of the most compact and powerful twin-cylinder engines of their respective displacement categories, but the new Duke’s 947cc parallel-twin LC8C bulks up ever so slightly but still remains one of the more compact power units out there. With 123 horsepower and 76 pound-feet of torque, it’s a monster of a middleweight (pun intended).
In the press photos, we see an Akrapovic Evo line for the 990 Duke, and it looks great. The stock exhaust, however, might not be as flashy. The system was tuned to meet the homologation requirements for emissions and the sensors are improved. Knowing KTM, the air-fuel mixture may be quite lean to adhere to the Euro standards as well.
I’m not a fan of where the exhaust sits, mainly because I think that the 790 and 890 got it right. Either way, it’s a new look.
KTM claims that the 990 Duke is the “leader in the sub-1000cc segment,” from its LED lights to its full-color five-inch TFT display, three ride modes with an additional two ride modes as extra options. I’ll say that KTM’s TFT display here on the 990 Duke jumps three generations of displays, and it’s finally caught up with the brand’s adventure and even its current crop of 390s. Bigger and better now, the 990 now has the same setup as the new adventure bikes and the super nakeds in the KTM lineup. We even get USB-C now which is great if you need to plug in during a ride.
Demo mode makes a return, and so does its questionable nature of dangling a piece of meat in front of the rider. I’ll say this, though, if you are a rider that values performance and that giddiness whenever the front wheel lifts or the quick shifter makes the exhaust pop, then this is a package that is well worth the investment. If anything, performance mode will “unleash” what the bike can do, and it’s something that I would personally get if I were to own this motorcycle. It’s that mid-way mode between sport and track, allowing the rider to cut loose, but retain some of the creature comforts that the 990 Duke offers, which includes cruise control. I usually keep my 790 on track mode since it gives me the most control over the options available in the motorcycle’s tech package.
Other signature KTM features make a return like Supermoto ABS which allows for rear wheel skids. Definitely not something I turn on regularly on my 790 Duke, but it’s great to see that KTM hasn’t lost its zany character when it comes to packing its bikes with tech.
I’m 50-50 about this bike
As a long-time KTM rider and fan, I’m happy that the 990 Duke is here, though there are some bits that I’m not too fond of like the LED headlight is something that I have to get used to, the new tank is something that I am not too happy about, and other stuff like the exhaust placement leaves me a little disappointed.
KTM took a few small steps away from the Supermoto-esque ergonomic package. It’s a bit more like the other sport nakeds now with a seat that’s canted forward and forces the rider towards the tank. The seat retains largely the same height, but it now features a two-degree tilt compared to the 890 Duke’s cushion. The handlebar is still the same length as the 790, coming in at 260mm, and the tank is wider than before, and we can expect a sporty set of footpegs. I think that part of the Scalpel’s charm was that the seat wasn’t totally secure, and the rider had to intentionally secure himself or herself onto the bike.
At some point, the 790 and 890 Duke was regarded as a jack of all trades of sorts. Super precise with an accommodating ergonomics package that allows it to be a bit of a tourer, a bit of a track bike, and a fun all-around hooligan machine. Now that the 990 is here, the smaller Dukes are present, and the 1390 is making its presence known, we see a big shift in KTM’s direction. Bigger does seem better in some cases, but the edgy and slim styling of previous bikes is something that I will miss from the brand. KTM still has the 790 in the lineup, and I’m doubly sure it’s still a great bike to ride, but the 990 Duke will be
On the other hand, I was kind of disappointed when the covers came off the 990 at EICMA and when the spy shots came through. From the Scalpel to the Sniper, KTM has ditched its knife and brought a big gun to the fight in the middleweight category. For all its technological and engineering advancements, I’m all for the 990, but the perplexing part comes with the design direction of the brand. Everything is getting bulkier and maybe it’ll grow on me just like the 790 Duke did eventually. KTM can go as big as they want for their Super Duke models, but in the case of the middleweight 990 Duke, you have to ask whether bigger will be better for it. To lose the 790/890's identity in a niche it carved out from the start doesn't sit well with me, but I'd love to be proven wrong.