The introduction of the KTM 200 Duke in the United States brought a few questions to mind. First and foremost is whether KTM will introduce a 200cc version of the RC. We currently have the RC 390 in US dealers, but what about its smaller brother, the RC 200? If the 200 Duke is available, doesn’t that sort of open up the possibility of the 200cc supersport’s availability stateside?
It’s not entirely impossible for KTM to turn-key and bring in the raciest of its 200cc offerings to the American market, and doesn’t it seem like the 200 Duke’s a little lonely sitting in the lineup? While there is no confirmation nor a huge likelihood that the 200cc supersport from Team Orange will come, here’s a first ride review of it anway in its natural habitat, the race track.
KTM Philippines called me to come to the track and attend the launch of the RC 200. Orange was everywhere, and the brand had several RC 200 demo units that were Ready to Race, with some perhaps more ready than others. Two out of the four units available for journalists, vloggers, and customers to test were not exactly the same due to a few cheat codes on the rims.
One pair of RCs had standard OEM tires, which is the setup that buyers will be getting straight out of the showroom floor, while the other pair was equipped with Pirelli Diablo Supercorsas. Overkill? Yes. Amazing? Absolutely. When I pressed KTM representatives about the decision to equip the demo RC 200 with Supercorsas, the answer that I got was very “KTM,” which was “why the hell not?” Not only did I get to test a brand-spanking-new sportbike, but I also had a spin on the track with some of the best rubber around. I’ll be honest in saying that Pirelli Supercorsas are a cheater tire, but I did have a few rounds on the standard OEM tires and it’s safe to say that I was impressed either way.
The enhanced RC experience
Just like the RC 390, the 200 features largely the same package as its bigger brother, which is stellar because you don’t sacrifice anything in terms of its race-ready ergonomics, which is also adjustable given the new clip-on handlebars for the 2022 year models. Everything from the RC 390 is mostly here except for the more advanced tech features like the TFT display and LED headlight among a bunch of other things. Instead of diodes, you get a halogen headlamp just like the 200 Duke which I can’t really talk about because it was tapped up for the track. Most of everything from the brand-new RC 390 is on the 200 version, with adjustable clip-on handlebars, a more accommodating and larger tank for your track sessions, and a grippier seat that’s wrapped in Alcantara.
With KTM being KTM, the RC 200 is race-ready from the factory as it is equipped with foldable everything (almost) just in case you tip over. The shifter and foot brake levers are both foldable and have a better chance at surviving a low-side compared to a fixed set. It’s a shame that the levers weren’t the foldable kind nor were they adjustable, but that's not such a big deal breaker considering that the rest of the package is just so dialed in for racing. Still, however, the side stand is hard to get to without first folding the left footpeg, which is still a very chief complaint that I have about the RC series to this day.
Running down the RC 200’s spec sheet, we get a single-cylinder, four-stroke engine with 199.5ccs of displacement, with 26 horsepower and 14.38 foot-pounds of torque, mated to a six-speed gearbox. The suspension on the RC 200 is a set of 43-millimeter non-adjustable WP APEX front forks with a WP APEX monoshock at the back with pre-load adjustment. Suspension travel for the front is at 125 millimeters while the rear travels up to 150 millimeters. It’s not going to wow you that much with its specifications, but even with its new 3.6-gallon tank, KTM was able to keep its weight down at 332 pounds dry and that’s also thanks in part to the massive unsprung and sprung weight reductions to the model. The front and rear brakes also get an upgrade. Apart from being lighter, the RC 200 has 320-millimeter front discs clamped by ByBre calipers and supplemented by a 230-millimeter rear disc brake also with a ByBre system.
More seat time required
I’m a rather green motorcyclist on a circuit with only a few track days to my name, but the experience of riding a race-bred KTM in its natural habitat was a bit of an eye-opener. I was impressed enough to consider buying an RC for track sessions because it was just that much fun. I can’t count how many times I banged off the rev limiter trying to get the maximum speed on straights and out of corners. On the main straight, I eventually got up to about 70 miles per hour and I had a ton of fun waiting for the speedometer to read as such. I spent so much time with my throttle pinned that it was borderline hilarious just how little speed I was gaining in comparison to the bigger bikes I’ve tried in the past. The RC 200 has a lot of initial pep in its step and its 26 horsepower figure is not overwhelming at all on track. In fact, it’s a little lacking for guys who are used to bikes with a lot of power. The RC 200 definitely is a bike that’ll teach you how to carry speed and proper form on the track so if you’re fast on this, it’s likely that you’ll be fast with other bikes as well.
On its stock tires, the RC 200 was still sharp in the handling department, though out of the box, the tires could use an upgrade (hence the Pirellis on the other units). The WP suspension was plenty adequate for the track since the asphalt that day was on the bumpier side of things in comparison with other race tracks. Even then, the suspension smoothed everything out. Unfortunately, the bike corners faster than it needs to brake, as the ByBre calipers had a pretty aggressive bite when slowing down. I might have scrubbed off too much speed at times because of it but I think that’s more to do with my level of skill more than anything else. Suffice to say, in way more capable hands the RC 200 could achieve some rather impressive cornering speeds just like its bigger brother.
Does the RC 200 make sense?
In my opinion, for countries like the Philippines where small bikes are pretty much everyone’s bike, the RC 200 makes a ton of sense. For the United States, however, it’s a little questionable, but what about the 200 Duke? Why is it available? I don’t know. Will the RC 200 make an appearance in the lineup? Perhaps? Perhaps not? If anything, this little racing experience from KTM was one for the books. In fact, I didn’t walk away with a record-setting lap time because nobody was timing. KTM Philippines made it clear that the track day was for fun, and everyone walked away with smiles from ear to ear at the end of the day.
For me, the point of the RC 200 is that it can be a fun bike or a serious one depending on what you want it to be. Whether it’s just a bike that you use to muck about or a real racing machine, it can accommodate your needs and you won’t have to do a ton of crazy-expensive mods to the bike because it’s definitely Ready to Race. Even after all of the sessions, the fuel economy reading never went past 2 liters per 100 kilometers, which is over 100 miles per gallon. You can, in theory, ride it every day and treat it like a cool-looking scooter.
The RC 390 is the better bike among the two and I did sit myself down after the track day and contemplated just how fun it would be to go faster. Then I quickly shot down that thought because there is just something about taking a bike to full throttle all the time that makes a track novice like me giddy with glee. Do note that we took the bikes out in the Batangas Racing Circuit in the Philippines, which is not that big of a track.
I’d happily accept another invite from KTM for another track day, even if all they gave me was an RC 200 to play around with. The KTM team also wanted to throw me on a 790 Duke, and I gladly refused their offer. Instead, I opted to take the little RC out on track again and again. Whether you’re starting out on the track like me, or an advanced rider that wants a little plaything, the RC 200 is one heck of a small bike to wring out. Now, if only it were available.