This entry is part 2 of 26 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#26

The K03 looks quite a bit like a KTM, but it will wear BMW badges.

There is still considerable speculation about the new BMW entry-level bike or bikes, but some things are settled: it has been developed in Germany; it is a liquid-cooled single with a reversed cylinder head; it will be built in India by TVS (current best-known bike: the snappy Apache); and it will come in three different versions, one of which (see photos) looks remarkably like the KTM Duke. The others are GS and sports variants.

The bike is aimed mainly at holders of the European A2 licence class, which means that it will meet LAMS restrictions here in Australia. It has upside-down forks and single discs front and back, and rolls on premium tyres. German magazine MOTORRAD has speculated that instead of 250 and 500cc capacities, which is what most commentators seem to think, the bike will be a 400.

Here’s the competition – KTM’s second biggest seller in Germany, the 390 Duke.

An argument against that is the new bike’s factory code designation – K03.

That suggests a 300cc engine, but MOTORRAD generally has excellent lines of communication with BMW. If the bike is a 400, that would give it a chance of matching the 390 Duke’s performance without relying too much on expensive technology. Perhaps it matches the Duke precisely and has 390cc capacity as well…

This road version looks rather industrial, which suggests that it will get at least a part fairing.

The Duke, by the way, is also built in India – and is KTM’s second best seller in Germany after the 1190 Adventure.

It makes sense for BMW to match (or better) it. The Bavarians’ two year old agreement with TVS to develop sub-500cc bikes has been seen as a response to the success of the small – 125, 200 and 390 – Duke range.

KTM 125 Duke – will there be an eighth-litre BMW as well?

We should find out all about the new bike at Milan’s EICMA motorcycle show in November, at the latest. It appears that all of the bikes will be built by TVS in Chennai, and will be sold as TVSs in India and some other developing markets.

The First World will get them as BMWs.

Can the Indians match the kind of build quality we expect from major marques? The jury is out, so far.

Also made in India – Harley-Davidson’s Street 500, recently introduced in Australia.

Triumph has chosen Thailand as its low-cost manufacturing base instead, a decision that must mean major worries in Hinckley whenever the Thai political situation blows up. But certainly Thai quality appears to be up to scratch.

BMW is of course not the only marque that is looking to India’s combination of low wages and other overheads with expertise in building large quantities of small bikes. As well as assembling bikes, Harley-Davidson manufactures some of its 500 and 750cc Street machines in India. I’ve already mentioned KTM – and we shouldn’t forget local marque Royal Enfield.

REPSOTS, eh? The Chinese are still at the stage where they copy others – and often badly.

While India is the developing nation which attracts most First World motorcycle manufacturers, it is not the only one. As I mentioned, Triumph builds bikes for the Western world in Thailand; BMW did the same with the now-discontinued 450 in Taiwan;

Yamaha exports 250s from Indonesia – the list goes on. China is also a major manufacturer of ‘Japanese’ badged bikes; I’ve toured a factory in Chongqing that is entirely dedicated to Yamaha dirt bikes. Oddly, though, China does not feature substantially as a manufacturing partner for European bike companies, except BMW for a relatively small quantity of single-cylinder engines.

Perhaps the business styles are still too different. PT

BMW’s F 800 R in the “old” look, which the new bikes are definitely not following.

Triumph has decided to trust its manufacturing future to Thailand, but there may well be an Indian tie-up in the future.

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