Duke 200 and Apache 200 – THE OXYMORONS!!

A little intro

If you don’t know what is an oxymoron, see this and come back.

A lazy day, turned out pretty exciting as I met one one my close friends after a long time. Then he offered me a short ride of his Duke 200 and WOAAAAHHHH….. MAAAANNNN….. It was just awesome. I own an RTR 200 and these are my impressions after the short ride on the Duke 200.

The two bikes have almost nothing in common except the 200 cc engines and hence the title. I’ll just skip the never ending controversies like the looks of the bikes as they are subjective and get into practical aspects. I’ll try to avoid getting into specifications and tell about things that matter in the real world.

Saddle, suspension and riding dynamics

As I hopped on the Duke 200, the first thing I noticed was the seat height. The seat height was a bit more than the RTR 200 but still I was able to plant both the feet on the ground as the seat is also narrower. The cushioning was also on the firmer side. The seat is okay for city commutes but for long rides, it would have been nicer if it had gotten softer padding. It is not a seat that you’ll love to ride on all day.

The suspension of the Duke 200 again leaned towards the stiffer side while the Apache 200 had a softer suspension setup. The Duke tends to get less unsettled by the undulations on road at the cost of transmitting them to the rider. The takeaway – the Duke is good for taking the corners aggressively while the RTR is suited for taking the pothole ridden roads without leaving much for your spine to complain about. The stiffer suspension also reduces the nose-dive on hard braking.

The riding position is also very different. The Duke offers an upright and commanding riding position while the RTR offers a mild forward leaned aggressive riding position. The footpegs are located a bit low on the Duke 200 and though it appears to be the smaller one of the duo, it will be more suited for the taller riders.

Instrument cluster and rear view mirrors

Both the instrument clusters offer loads of information like the speedometer, tachometer, odometer, twin trip meters, gear position indicator and a fuel gauge. The Duke additionaly gets a temperature gauge (I believe personally that the RTR doesn’t need one as I’ve never felt its engine overheat). One crucial feature that the RTR misses is the side stand indicator. It can really come in handy at times. Also the engine of the Duke won’t start with the side stand which is a really good safety feature.

The rear view mirrors of the Duke felt a bit small. It does its job pretty well but larger mirrors would have been welcome. The RTR offer large rear view mirrors with good visibility.

Engine

First of all, the Duke was in the run-in period and hence I did not push it much. But still, the limited experience with the engine left me impressed.

It was hard to believe that an engine with the same capcity as mine was putting out some impressive amounts of power. With the liquid cooling and different bore-stroke numbers, the Duke puts out almost 25% more power from the same capacity cylinder.

As for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, the additional power of the Duke comes at the cost of refinement. A long ride is sure to leave your hands feeling numb.

The Duke also impressed me with the torque output. Being a short stroke, high revving motor, I thought the torque would be concentrated in the higher RPMs but it was available throughout the rev range, right from 3k RPM and the bike accelerated without any hesitation, no matter which gear I was in. It is partly because of the light weight of the bike and extremely closely stacked gear ratios (more on that later).

The RTR 200 on the other hand has a very refined engine comparable to the 150-160 cc Japs. It offers adequate power for the city rides and quick overtakes but sometimes, you get to shift to a lower gear to get enough power for overtakes. In terms of acceleration, it is positioned above all sub 200 cc motorcycles but falls a bit short of the Duke 200 and closely matches the 200 cc Pulsars (based on Duke 200 engine).

Transmission

The Duke offers a 6 speed gearbox while the RTR offers a 5 speed gearbox. But mind it – the 5th cog of the RTR 200 is taller than the 6th cog of the Duke 200.

Before I could even realize, I was in the 6th gear of the Duke and was searching for the next one to shift to. The very short and closely stacked gear ratios combined with the lack of refinement and brute power urge you to shift to the top gear as soon as possible. I personally feel that the Duke could’ve had a bit taller gears or at least a taller 6th. Some may argue that the Duke is all about fanatic acceleration but what about when you want to ride on the highways in a sedate manner.

The RTR is very different in this aspect. It gives tall and well spaced gear ratios, especially the 3rd, 4th amd 5th. You could even do 60 kmph (or even 70) in the 4th gear and still feel no vibes. The only thing pushing you to upshift will be the lack of power as you climb up the rev-range.

One thing I loved about the gearbox of the Duke is that reassuring ‘click’ with every gearshift. The gearbox of the RTR is miles behind in this regard as it offers no feedback after a gear change.

Braking

As the Duke was in the run-in, I didn’t push it much or test the full prowess of the brakes. But in my limited experience, the brakes (though more powerful) lacked feel as compared to the RTR. The brakes of the RTR are very progressive and offer lots of feel. The braking is linear and feels a lot natural.

The brakes of the Duke need to be squeezed hard to bring the bike to a halt but do not slow down the bike as expected when you go gently on them and the braking performance is non-linear.

But at the end of the day, it the the Duke that has more stopping power.

Engine braking

Not everyone is a fan on engine braking but for those who love engine braking, the Duke 200 won’t disappoint you. The RTR 200 has a slipper clutch that offers a few benefits but at the cost of engine braking.

The engine braking will really come handy in slow moving traffic where you can just let go off the throttle and the Duke will slow down without bothering the brakes. Do the same in the RTR 200 and it will just carry forward its speed (mind the slipper clutch) but hey… you’ve got nice progressive brakes to help you.

Nitpicking

After riding both the bikes back to back, It was very clear that they are designed for different purposes and both of them come very close to fulfilling their respective purposes. But nothing in the Universe is without any flaw and so are these bikes. What I’m gonna mention here are not some serious issues but some minor things that could’ve been taken better care of. I’ve mentioned most of them above. Here are the miscellaneous points that were left out.

Duke 200

The horn of the Duke 200 felt like a scooter horn. Seriously…. how could they provide such a horn with such a bike designed for pure performance?

Also, ABS would have been a welcome addition considering the fact that even the lower capacity bikes come equipped with ABS.

RTR 200

The top-end of the RTR 200 is nothing and riding a Duke only made me think more of it. The power delivery is linear till 7k RPM, then plateaus out till it reaches 9k RPM and after that… ssssss…..*runs out of breath*.

The RTR 200 could’ve been better with a side-stand indicator.

Choosing a bike

There is not much to talk here. Both the bikes come to serve entirely different purposes at entirely different price points.

If someone wants to buy a Duke 200, they’ll not be looking at the RTR 200 and if someone wants to buy an RTR 200, they’ll not be looking at the Duke 200.

If you want a motorcycle for city rides that is more powerful than most other bikes but you aren’t about wide open throttle at every possible opportunity, there is the RTR 200 for you.

If you want a purely performance oriented motorcycle that accelerates as you wring its ear (throttle), there is the Duke 200 – the most powerful and quickest 200 cc bike out there. (faired ones not taken into consideration)

Wear a helmet

Ride safe

Thank you

Please do check the index of my blog for more posts.

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