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Bajaj-KTM: Ready to race!
Shubhabrata Marmar in Mumbai
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November 17, 2007
You might have read it in the papers recently that Bajaj has picked up a 14.5 per cent equity stake in KTM, the famous Austrian maker of excellent, orange motorcycles.

KTM has quite a long history, but the upshot is that the company is famous for its off-road motorcycle prowess and is rapidly gaining respect for its excellent street bikes as well. The street bikes are a recent phenomenon, which with Bajaj's equity intervention, should be of great interest to us as well.

KTM has been fiercely independent from the start and much - if not all - development is inhouse. The other thing KTM is famous for is racing. KTM's tag line is 'Ready to Race' and that philosophy is the reason for the thrilling performance and character of all its machines, from the kiddie-motocrossers to the gigantic Dakar-conquering Adventure.

The official word on the Bajaj-KTM tie-up is that the Indian company will take over the distribution for KTMs in South Asia, while the two will jointly develop 125cc and 250cc products. These products will be ready to be branded Bajaj or KTM and could be sold in either form across the globe.

Also of interest is the fact that as our CBU market develops, KTM's bigger street bikes could find their way into Indian garages.

When questioned, Bajaj officials said product timelines were still being discussed, but it is understood that the first KTMs in India could be less than a year away.

That also means that Auto Expo in January 2008 in Delhi could make a fair splash of orange in Bajaj's usually blue stall.

While KTM's range of machines start from 50cc onwards, three machines are of significant interest to us based on the 800+cc CBU import rule. The first is the KTM 950 Supermoto.

This bike was launched only last year and is a big 950cc V-twin in the supermotard format (dirt bike with street wheels and brakes, more or less).

This means long-travel suspension to absorb bad roads, inherent agility and rugged build quality. Need we say more on this subject? The second, and probably the motorcycle we at Business Standard Motoring are rooting hardest for, is the SuperDuke.

The SuperDuke is a 990cc V-twin naked sportsbike. It is fast, powerful, fun and in many ways, the 'rightest' sort of motorcycle for our conditions. That it looks absolutely brilliant in a futuristic, cutting-edge sort of way only makes it more appealing.

However, the most interesting of the three was unveiled only recently at the Milan Motorcycle Show, and the one you're looking at in the pictures. Meet the KTM RC8.

What began as the sharp-as-a-scalpel RC8 Venom concept a few years ago is now KTM's flagship street motorcycle and the Austrian firm's superbike.

The RC8 boasts a 1149cc V-twin engine (racing rules now allow 1200cc V-twins to compete against 1000cc inline-fours) which makes 12 kgm and 155 bhp. KTM claim a near-200 kg weight figure, but don't think the RC8 is heavy, that weight is fully fuelled and with all fluids, ready to ride.

The engine is hung in a light, steel tubular chassis with an alloy subframe for the pointy rear end. Under-engine exhausts are all the rage right now, and KTM shows its design flair here by doing the cleanest, most elegant articulation of this so far.

KTM says the base bike will feature adjustable geometry and seating ergonomics, so it will be easy to set up for racing and street riding.

Given that Yamaha will open the CBU segment with the YZF-R1 (another 1000cc-class sportsbike), and that reports suggest that the Honda CBR1000RR and the Suzuki GSX-R1000 are also being readied for Indian launches, the RC8 is, really, the obvious pick for a CBU launch.

In international markets (and in Superstock, 1000cc production class, racing), the RC8 will go head-to-head with these very machines.

But CBUs aside, motorcycle enthusiasts are looking forward to the wicked small displacement (125-250cc) street bikes that Bajaj-KTM will develop.

KTM's reputation for quality, reliability and performance almost guarantees that these streetbikes will be outstanding. In either case, the future is bright and yes, cliched though it is, we'll say it: it might just be orange.

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