Last summer, KTM excited us with a new rc 8c sports motorcycle, but our interest waned when we realized this was a limited production track bike that wasn’t street legal. Still, that didn’t stop interested customers from picking up the 100 units within five minutes of opening the pre-order window. It’s not that we were surprised by the high demand, as it has been years since KTM produced a large-displacement sports bike.
We may not have to wait too long, as spy photographers have spotted a new 890 Duke-Prototype KTM sports motorcycle for a test in Spain. The test bike was clad in fairings resembling the bodywork of KTM’s RC 8C and RC16 race bike, but the headlights and license plate make it clear that this sport bike will be street legal.
Unlike the RC 8C, which had the LC8c engine in a Krasea chassis, the prototype seems to be all KTM, with a frame derived from the 890 Duke. The engine appears to be based on the parallel-twin architecture of the 890 Duke R, but the engine cases are new, suggesting substantial internal changes. Looking at recent KTM history, we would expect another displacement hump from the current 889cc, which is why we tentatively call this bike the RC990 (a nude version was also recently spotted in testing, suggesting a new 990 Duke R is also in preparation).
Spy photographer Bernhard Höhne tells us that the test mule was accompanied by a Ducati Panigale V2 as a benchmark, giving us an idea of the level of performance that KTM is aiming for.
The exhaust system looks rough and looks brand new, taking up a lot of space under the engine and requiring a new opening in the belly pan. The swingarm appears to be a new design, with a slight curvature up front for increased clearance around the exhaust.
The RC990 is fitted with Brembo Stylema brake calipers, with a brake cooling duct kit similar to that of the 1290 Super Duke RR. The fork looks like the WP Apex fitted on the 890 Duke R, but the RC990 appears to have a larger rake angle.
Ergonomics seem extremely aggressive, with tall rear footrests forcing the test pilot to bend their seemingly uncomfortable knees. The clips, however, seem relatively high, but that can be subject to change. The test bike appears to use long fork tubes, and the wear on the tubes below where the clips are mounted suggests that KTM may be testing different handlebar heights.
The rear subframe looks new and will likely have bodywork to cover up any rough edges. There are rear turn signals on the license plate holder, but the finished product will need a rear light. The twin headlights also appear unfinished and currently resemble the headlights of the previous generation RC390 instead of the larger single headlight of the current model. We believe this will undergo further changes before the RC990 is ready for production.
Based on the condition of the test bike, we believe it will take at least a year or two before we see the finished product, with a 2024 launch a reasonable target.
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