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The roar of freedom in the south

The roar of freedom in the south


See what it’s like to explore the wonders of Muslim Mindanao on a KTM 890 Duke R

By Maki Aganon

The Mindanao Freedom Ride (MFR) is one of my most anticipated rides every year. This adventure group riding event allows you to experience the beauty and culture of Mindanao in a safe and fun way. This year, MFR lived up to its theme: “Discovering the Wonders of Muslim Mindanao” by taking us through roads less traveled and an immersive cultural riding experience.

Norminring Motorbikes, a Mindanao-based premium multi-brand dealer of Ducati, KTM, Kawasaki and Kymco motorcycles, conceptualized MFR to align with its core values of adventure, discovery, and camaraderie. This year marks my fourth time to join the MFR, and I am still as excited as the first time I participated in the event, way back in 2016. Every year brings a totally different experience, with different routes and different challenges. Despite this, MFR still makes sure each annual event highlights its core value of giving back. This year, we helped send monetary aid to schools in Marawi City and Basilan Island.

Writer with the KTM 890 Duke R in Mindanao

I really enjoyed covering MFR throughout the years, with each ride featuring about 50 to 100 riders from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Experience taught me that riding in and out of a pack requires a fast bike. The touring market here consists of predominantly liter bikes (1,000cc and up) that can quickly adapt to Mindanao’s road systems. The island group’s main roads can be as wide as four to eight lanes at times, while bypass roads feature thrilling bends and, if you’re lucky, amazing scenery of the mountains or the sea. Middleweight to long-distance touring bikes can quickly adapt to this road system.

On this particular ride, I was tasked to take the riding group’s photos and videos. I needed something quick, agile and light. And there was no better bike suited to the task than the KTM 890 Duke R. So, when we arrived at Cagayan de Oro, I was ecstatic to find out that Norminring Motorbikes’ management took note of my request to borrow the KTM for the ride. (I also learned that I would be using a second bike throughout our six-day, 2000 km trip, but that’s a story for another time.)

Motorcycle vibe in Cotabato

In this year’s MRF, we passed through Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which took us through Cotabato, Lanao and Marawi. From there, we would proceed to Zamboanga City and Basilan Island. I used the KTM 890 Duke R for the run from Cagayan de Oro to Molave via Cotabato and Lanao del Sur (about 800km).

Dubbed the Super Scalpel, the bike looked gorgeous in the Atlantic Blue colorway mixed with its trademark KTM orange. I immediately felt the power of its parallel-twin 889cc engine on the get-go. With Street, Sport and Rain Modes, and a Track mode software update option, this orange beast can work well on any road conditions–and also if you want to have a little fun on the track.

We started from Cagayan via Talakag – Wao – Banisilan, passing through beautiful scenic mountain views. The road is a mixture of wide, paved concrete and swooping twisties–challenging corridors through Mindanao’s mountains. The 890 Duke R is such a fun bike–I was able to enjoy its sharp and light handling.

I was also able to easily glide in and out of the group whenever I needed to fly up front or stay behind to take some snaps. The quickshifter and auto-blip functions are godsend, too, minimizing hand fatigue and making it easier for me to speed up or slow down as needed. It even lets you lessen the use of the clutch lever through seamless transmission.

Maximum decelerating power is important to tame a ravaging horse, and the 890 comes with exactly that–Brembo Stylema monoblock calipers, probably the best brakes in the biz. Its stopping power is mind-blowing. They helped a lot when I would fully open the throttle on wide open spaces, and found myself having to brake hard when suddenly hit with a tight hairpin.

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After a quick stop at Tent City, Alamada to check out a Baguio-like spot with an amazing view, we went through Maguindanao going up Malabang, Lanao del Sur, passing through small towns. This is where fatigue can kick in because of some road imperfections. The bike is not at its best at a slower pace; it’s built for speed, after all, allowing me to easily fly by 80 other riders (Did someone say “Eat my dust?”). By the time we reached Ganassi, the pace started to pick up, but this time, through narrow uphill twisties. Thanks to the bike’s traction control, I was able to enjoy it despite riding on damp surfaces.

If there is one thing that stands out with the KTM 890 Duke R, it’s the precise handling and feather-light agility to command the bike in the corners at your will. I would also commend the powerplant engine that delivers that acceleration easily. The bike’s triangle-oriented ergonomics is sporty but also great for street use. It is poised to be a high-performance bike with only little needed upgrades (particularly software updates) if you want to unleash its full power.

One side note: This is not a touring bike. If you do want to tour with the Super Scalpel, make it quick, but make it fun. I have never been so excited entering twisties than with the KTM 890 Duke R. It screams playtime and definitely could play catch-up with Ducati Multistradas and BMW GSs of today. I only wish there was a quicker way to change riding modes on the fly, or maybe have the same settings as Yamaha MTs, where you could switch modes with the flick of a finger.

If you enjoy smooth, paved twisty roads, then this might be the bike for you. Although they look aggressive, the Duke 890 R’s handlebars are positioned a bit higher to also complement daily riding. On the graph, it sits as a twin-parallel middleweight naked bike with amazing performance and equipment that could add much excitement to your long way back home.