Now-a-day it's seems that bikers can only talk about engine capacities and power outputs when they meet. On paper, the Honda CBR250R and the KTM Duke 200 give each other a tough fight – 250cc versus 200cc, but both the same maximum power output.
So far as the torque is concerned, the Honda CBR250R has an upper hand at 22.9Nm as compared to the KTM Duke 200's 19Nm. Both are liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, have four valves and come with DOHC.
All this sounds very competitive theoretically. But once on the road, the engines put up a completely different show from each other. The Honda CBR250R engine, like a typical Japanese motorcycle, is extremely refined and smooth. The KTM Duke 200 comes nowhere close to it. On the performance front, the Honda CBR250R does a 0 to 100km/h sprint in 8.47 seconds, for which the KTM Duke 200 requires 9.18 seconds.
One would naturally ask why the Honda CBR250R, especially considering the fact that both make exactly the same amount of power and the KTM is 25 kilos lighter than its competitor. The answer lies in the manner in which these two motorcycles have been geared. The Honda CBR250R runs a much higher gearing than the KTM Duke 200, because of which it can touch the 100 km/h mark in a performance run in just the third gear while the latter has to go all the way up to the fifth gear to do the task. Two more shifts obviously consume some time and set the KTM Duke 200 a step behind. Also, as mentioned earlier, the KTM Duke 200 has a little less toque than the Honda CBR250R.
If you live like me in Bangkok, the city streets are where these motorcycles spend most of their time and that is the most crucial aspect of this comparison. With its upright riding position, compactness, wide handlebar and quick roll-on acceleration figures, the KTM Duke 200 suggests that it stands at the top. The KTM Duke 200 is very easy to manoeuvre in traffic, to find gaps and zip through them. Besides, sitting tall helps in finding the free line in the urban chaos.
The bigger and heavier Honda CBR250R is not as friendly in this respect. While you get a small motorcycle feel on the KTM Duke 200, the Honda CBR250R feels comparatively bulky with its big fuel tank between the thighs and a full fairing. But that isn't the deciding factor. The ride quality plays a big role in deciding which one is better and the Honda scores here yet again. Its softer suspension set-up manages to deliver a comfortable ride on the Honda CBR250R even on irregular tarmac. The KTM Duke 200's suspension is too stiff (even on the second most soft setting) and transmits the effect of every bump on the road straight to the rider's spine. Add to it the hard and edge seat.
Not just the ride quality, but also the low gearing, once again spoils the game for the KTM Duke 200 within the city. Even in the fourth gear at 60 km/h, the KTM Duke 200's engine feels stressed and a shift up becomes mandatory. Most of the city riding has to be done either in the fifth or sixth gear. It is quite true that the low gearing supports low speeds in higher gears, but then even in the fourth gear, the slightest of throttle input gives a sudden surge of acceleration and one gets pushed back due to inertia, thus taking away smoothness from the ride. The fuel injection is also responsible to a certain extent for the edge throttle response.