Photos by: Bernhard Höhne/BMH-Images
Last summer, KTM got us excited with a new RC 8C sportbike, but our interest waned when we realized it was a limited production track bike that was not street legal. Still, that didn’t stop interested customers from scooping up all 100 units less than five minutes after the pre-order window opened. Not that we were surprised about the strong demand, as it has been years since KTM produced a large-displacement sportbike.
We may not have to wait too much longer, though, as spy photographers have spotted a new 890 Duke-based KTM sportbike prototype out for a test in Spain. The test bike was clad in fairings resembling the bodywork on the RC 8C and KTM’s RC16 MotoGP racer, but the headlights and license plate make it clear this sportbike will be street legal.
Unlike the RC 8C, which had the LC8c engine in a Krämer chassis, the prototype appears to be all KTM, with a frame derived from the 890 Duke. The engine appears to be based on the 890 Duke R’s parallel-Twin architecture, but the engine cases are new, suggesting some substantial internal changes. Looking at KTM’s recent history, we expect another displacement bump from the current 889cc, which is why we’re tentatively calling this bike the RC990 (a naked version was also recently spotted testing, suggesting a new 990 Duke R is also in the works).
Spy photographer Bernhard Höhne tells us the test mule was accompanied by a Ducati Panigale V2 as a reference point, giving us an idea of the level of performance KTM is targeting.
The exhaust system looks rough and appears to be brand new, taking up a lot of room under the engine and requiring a new opening in the belly pan. The swingarm looks to be a new design, with a slight bend in the front for increased clearance around the exhaust.
The RC990 is equipped with Brembo Stylema brake calipers, with a brake cooling duct kit similar to the one on the 1290 Super Duke RR. The fork looks like the WP Apex equipped on the 890 Duke R, but the RC990 appears to have a larger rake angle.
The ergonomics appear extremely aggressive, with high rearset footpegs forcing the test rider into an uncomfortable-looking knee bend. The clip-ons, however, seem relatively high, but that may be subject to change. The test bike appears to be using long fork tubes, and the wear on the tubes below where the clip-ons are mounted suggest KTM may be testing different handlebar heights.
The rear subframe looks new, and will likely get some bodywork to cover up the rough edges. There are rear turn signals on the license plate mount, but the finished product will need a taillight. The twin headlights also look unfinished, and at the moment look like the previous generation RC390’s lights instead of the current model’s larger single light. We suspect that will undergo some more changes before the RC990 is ready for production.
Based on the state of the test bike, we suspect it’ll be at least a year or two before we see the finished product, with a 2024 launch a reasonable target.
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