KTM was relaunched under new management in 1992, following the failure of KTM Motor-Fahrzeugbau AG. The Development department worked flat out on new concepts for the future. One of these projects aimed to produce a fun bike for the road, powered by the state-of-the-art, water-cooled, LC4 single-cylinder from the competition enduro. The vehicle project name back then was “Terminator”. It was designed to roll on 17-inch tyres, a 300-millimetre front brake disc provided the necessary deceleration and high-quality WP components promised a curve-bandit par excellence.
A large proportion of the single-cylinder fun bike’s components originated from the LC4, although their hard enduro origins were barely perceptible. A striking front fairing with ellipsoid twin headlights and orange metallic paintwork gave the DUKE an unmistakable appearance, for which Gerald Kiskawas responsible. Kiska, who as a young Austrian designer won a KTM invitation to tender, has since bestowed every KTM with its identifying features.
The DUKE entered into series production exactly 20 years ago. The displacement of the LC4 engine was increased to 609cc and, with 50hp, the 620 DUKE was the most powerful single on the market. The DUKE chassis consisted of the very finest components. The upside-down forks and White Power shock absorber with progressive damping offered numerous setting options. Together with a four-piston fixed calliper from Brembo, the 320mm brake disc ensured the bike was brought safely to a standstill. Weighing only 143kg on the road, the DUKE was fitted with 120/70-17 and 160/60-17 tyres – today still the standard ‘footwear’ for most Supermotos and the latest DUKE.
The first DUKE was an important chapter in the history of KTM: a fascinating motorbike, tuned uncompromisingly for riding pleasure. The DUKE 4 has been available since 2012. Judging by the latest 690 DUKE that stands before us today, much has been gained: smooth running, space for a passenger, suitability for long-distance trips. But, completely in keeping with the “First Edition”, the latest DUKE is still a hot rod for enthusiasts and experts alike, light as a feather, lightning quick and amazingly suitable for everyday use.
The DUKE was even available with the smaller 400cc LC4 engine to begin with. A total of 500 “First Edition” bikes were built, of which 50 were fitted with the 400cc engine. You therefore bought exclusivity with the bike.