Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

The KTM strengthens its offering in the competitive segment of mid-sized roadsters with its unprecedented 790 Duke twin-cylinder engine. To gauge it, the Journal moto du Net opposes it to the best French sale in the category: the Kawasaki Z900. Duel special A2 license, in flanged version at 47.5 hp (35 kW).

Small booster: since June 1, 2016, all future bikers, whatever their age, put the boot on the license A2, intermediate format limited for two years to motorcycles 35 kW (47.5 hp). Permit A without power limitation is only accessible after this period and a paid 7-hour training. Completed the direct access to license A from 24 years old that authorized the old device... 

This questionable constraint, the license B allows him to drive from 18 years all types of cars, including a Bugatti Veyron 1000ch! involves closing many large motorcycles to make them accessible to new motorcycle licenses. Including Sacros-saints roadsters from 700 to 900cc, a popular and competitive category.

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

As if that were not enough, this clamping is only allowed on motorcycles whose power in free version does not exceed 70 kW (95 hp), which is twice the maximum threshold in A2. In other words: the Z900 and the new 790 Duke are theoretically out of reach of young people, because they develop respectively 125 and 105 hp in Full! 

Fine strategists, the manufacturers however found the parade to adapt their motorcycle too powerful to the requirements of the A2 license: to propose an identical declination, but irreversibly clamped to 95 hp. This is the case of the Kawasaki roadster best selling in its category in Europe in the first half of 2018 and its new rival KTM, opposed here in their A2 configuration of 47.5 hp.

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

In static, the Orange passes before the Green
Apart from this clamping at 35 kW, the Kawasaki Z900 and KTM 790 Duke "A2" are identical to the standard models. Aesthetics, cycle part and peripherals are exactly the same, as much to flatter the ego as to contain the costs of production. So, no need to build two separate motorcycles as Kawasaki had experienced with the fire Z800e!

Their equipment, however, seems oversized compared to their power limited to 47.5 hp and their status as "first bike". The remark is especially for the KTM: its robust boxed swingarm imposes, as well as its monobloc calipers with radial fixing manufactured by the Spanish manufacturer J. Juan and its optical LED to the shape of horseshoe.

But it is especially in terms of technology that the 790 Duke is illustrated, contiguous to the suffix "L" in version A2 with its electronic throttle, traction control and ABS corner-sensitive, four driving modes and his assistant initially, like sports bikes. It even receives always standard, a bidirectional shifter (up and down without declutching), equipment worthy of a Superbike! 

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

No rival offers so much to date, but its price is felt: 9490 euros against 9099 euros for the Z900 A2 (currently on sale at 8499 €). Young people will cough... Except that "young license" does not necessarily mean "young biker": the quadra or the fifties A2 with the generally higher purchasing power can ignore these tariffs to afford the fun to start on a bike at the top! 

Still, the Z900 blows the blow against this riot of equipment: it's very simple, except ABS mandatory, the Kawasaki is devoid of any form of assistance! Its axially fixed calipers and swingarm square section reinforce this "basic" appearance against the KTM, which still marks points with its bent valves, reinforced hoses and wide color screen controlled from the handlebars.

The static sleeve of our duel is it folded so far? Not necessarily because the Z900 goes green obviously! Thanks to its finish a notch above, strong of an irreproachable presentation with the exception of the cache in plast (oc) ique on the median part of its tubular lattice. Above all, its suspensions offer an even wider range of settings.

The need for compromises is actually felt in two areas that KTM usually deals with: the quality of depreciation and that of certain materials. Excessively sharp scoops along the tank of the 790 Duke are particularly "cheap", its mirrors seem to date and the electrical circuit could in some places be better integrated.

But the main disappointment comes from its suspensions, very basic despite their provenance from WP (brand KTM): the mono-damper, mounted without link and it is adjustable only preload, while the inverted fork is deadlocked altogether on any form of adjustments. The Z900 has an adjustable preload and trigger at the front and back.

Finally, if "our" test KTM displays skilfully Pirelli Diablo Rosso III (Dunlop Sportmax D214F on the Kawasaki), its original mounts is not normally so sporty: the 790 Duke receives standard Supermaxx ST tires from at Maxxis, Taiwanese manufacturer renowned in the world of cycling and off-road motorcycle but almost unknown on the road segment.

Light Duchess, zealous Kawa
To shine in the category, KTM did not go with the back of the key of 12: not content to be as "electronically" as an Airbus, the 790 Duke also sets new benchmarks in terms of weight. Announced at 185 kg all full facts, the "Duchess" immediately glue complexes to the Z900 and its 210 kg...

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

This difference of 25 kg (!) The advantage during the engine maneuvers cut, then in traffic: a valuable asset for beginners, reinforced by its ease of handling. Despite a seat perched at 825 mm (795 mm on the Kawa), the 790 Duke is indeed surprising by its accessibility: a biker (e) of 1m75 easily laying two feet flat.

The Austrian has this quality to its size incredibly small menu: it is barely more stocky than the very playful 690 Duke, despite its additional cylinder! KTM was able to draw from the compactness of its parallel twin, the narrowness of its saddle and the small volume of its tank (14 liters Vs 17 on the Z). 

Far from making the "Z'arms", his Japanese rival replicates with his saddle ultra low (-30 mm) which seems as if dug in his chassis. The Z900 thus easily jumps from 1m70 despite its larger volumes. A nice feat to the extent that its "4-legs" has two cylinders and 149 additional cc (948 cc Vs 799)!

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

The other side of the coin: the legs are more folded than on the KTM because they have less space available. The 790 Duke pushes its advantage thanks to its slightly arched handlebar and high enough, which generates a posture with arms outstretched and bust right halfway between roadster and trail. A bit like his other big Japanese rival: the Yamaha MT-09!

On the Kawasaki, the driver has to bow more to catch his handlebars, not only lower but also wider (830 mm against 815 mm for the KTM according to measurements). The position is more aggressive, evoking the street-fighter spirit, without being radical. 

Air for the KTM!
Between its extra kilos and this less favorable ergonomics, the Z900 did not go favorite in urban congestion and yet, it is better than standing up to the slender 790 Duke: the "Green" is particularly worth its ultra turning diameter short (4.63 m against 5.16 according to the measurements) and, above all, its mechanical elasticity.

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

Its four-cylinder capable of idling in the sixth is a valuable ally, as well as the remarkable flexibility of its clutch lever. Again, young and old A2 license will appreciate! More rough in the first third of the tachometer, the twin of the KTM requires more fingering despite a better calibrated injection.

Although the 790 Duke is devoid of the hiccups that taint the go-around on the Z900, its engine revolves at low speeds: its threshold of flexibility is around 2500 rpm (50 km / h in 4th). In the city, it is better to favor the third report to keep the roundness, even the second in a busy traffic.

And that's great, because its two-way shifter makes shifting gears instant and fun: the KTM device is soft and responsive, even at low speeds. A nice surprise in this price range: that of the MT-09, for example, is more recalcitrant in addition to being a single effect (mounted only). And the "Zed"? It simply lacked: "Nine without help", as the headline at its release in 2017! 

This pleasant efficiency of the shifter "Orange" largely offsets the relative hardness of the clutch lever of the 790 Duke, in that it becomes virtually useless: it is used only to start, maneuver and stop! As much ease and pleasure even lead to wonder about the interest of a motorcycle automatic transmission...

Still, if the 790 Duke shines on this aspect, especially since the selection of the Z900 is a little rough other small "through" appear in the urban cycle. In addition to its lower availability than the Kawasaki, its engine also expels many calories: in summer, its heat up to the thighs are troublesome. No problem at this level on his rival.

The message is clear: quickly, go on clear courses to breathe the Austrian twin, preferably with an abundance of sinuous portions to take advantage of the slogan "Ready to Race" (dear to Mattighofen!

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

Ready to ... Race behind the Z900!
Place to action so for the "Scalpel", very promising nickname given to the 790 Duke in promotional videos KTM with very, very sporty accents. That which comes to flesh out an offer so far limited to the single cylinder is an Orange "pure juice", the blood type: yum!

Alas, the reality is not so tasty... Certainly, the novelty enjoys exceptional handling, despite the slight restraint exerted by its steering damper at very low speed. KTM does not enlarge the feature on its vivacity: the 790 Duke dives a flick, then dodge the spit with a celerity that leaves on the paf!

The Z900 accuses the blow, and severely: its additional mass does not allow as much improvisation, the additional inertia that it generates impacting all phases of driving. To summarize: the one flirty relaxed while the other requires more concentration.

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

On the other hand, the "surgical precision" vaunted by the Austrian manufacturer is not at the rendezvous on the 790 Duke, the fault to its amortization quickly exceeded in dynamic driving. Too soft and not particularly well tuned, its suspensions do not offer the expected rigor of such a bike. Casting error ?!

Their insufficiency is significant when the bitumen is clutched: maintaining a high rhythm generates poorly channeled movements, in addition to highlighting a perfectible stability at high speed. Subject to strong constraints, fork and shock collapse without restraint, to the detriment of precision and driving pleasure...

Driving fast with the KTM requires fluid handling and a nickel coating, like the one borrowed during our press presentation in Spain. Here, dear, curious chance! In the end, the "Scalpel" singularly lacks sharpness. Who would've believed that? Certainly not the current owners of 690 Duke! Beginners, at first less demanding, will undoubtedly be less disappointed.

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

Much more firm suspensions, the Kawasaki shakes more in the brittle portions: the Z900 here pays its more restricted travel (120 and 140 mm against 140 and 150), held among others to contain its seat height. Assise that turns out to be extremely hard on these two motorcycles: to believe that no one has exceeded 100 km of a draft during their development?!

Still, the compromise of depreciation of the Green is more effective: despite its dry absorption of bumps, the Z900 has this cohesion that is lacking his Austrian rival. Healthier, the Japanese take the opportunity to take and keep the lead in the succession of turns. 

On the other hand, Akashi's bike loses a few points when braking, which is rather inconsistent when the lever is pulled. Power is present, but needs to be summoned firmly. The radial callipers of the KTM are much more efficient and easy to dose. At the back, one and the other are sufficiently powerful to correct a trajectory.

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

K-character engine
Another area in which the 790 Duke takes revenge on the Z900: the engine temperament, very - too - smoothed on the Kawasaki in this version flanged to 47.5 hp. The explosive and torque character of the original "4-leg" is totally watered down by its specific "A2" cartography. Result: the "Zed" accelerates with vigor, but extremely linearly.

Our comparisons of recoveries are without appeal: Green is dominated by the KTM at 3000 rpm and at 5000 rpm, regardless of the ratio. Its excess weight also explains this striking difference in yield. Too bad that the vibrations of the entire series "Z" are still in the game, despite serious progress over the old Z800...

The 790 also vibrates significantly, especially under the boots and hands, but it is readily forgiven this "small" inconvenience because of its cheerful communicative mechanical. The twin growls and farting generously in his exhaust raised, and it is not that the swagger: she walks the Katoche, even slammed to 47.5 hp!

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

The novelty takes turns with vivacity up to 5500 rpm, the threshold where the bridle suddenly cuts the class. The 790 Duke continues to take turns, but slowly and without really accelerating: the 47.5 hp is reached, the engine will not deliver one more!

His raises remain nonetheless very consistent between 3000 and 5000 rpm, with beautiful peaks of torque that give him a friendly character and player despite its limited power. Of the two, the 790 Duke is clearly the most fun in terms of engine.

The Kawasaki, clamped over the entire speed range, is too timid on this point: its acceleration has virtually no peak up to 7000 rpm, then begins to decrease to meet the power limitation. In other words, shooting the remaining 5,000 rpm is useless... 

Duel KTM 790 Duke VS Kawasaki Z900

Verdict: the 790 Duke "A2" serious strengths 
Lively, light and extremely well equipped, the KTM 790 Duke wins our duel against the Z900 in this configuration A2. The new bikers who choose it to learn the joys of the bike will appreciate its devilish handling, its reassuring size, its player engine and its plethoric endowment. 

Their satisfaction could nevertheless evolve at the end of their two-year apprenticeship, when the desire to accelerate the pace and take advantage of the 95-hp release will occur. The soft damping of the 790 Duke may disappoint some, especially those who imagined chisel trajectories and "cut" the competition with their "Scalpel"...

The Kawasaki Z900, certainly neglected in electronics, is much more consistent and efficient in this area. And as its 4-cylinder returns much of its liveliness from 35 to 70 kW, said that the outcome of this game would have probably turned in his favor with unbridled bikes to 95 hp!