KTM 390 Duke review, test ride

Autocar India
First Published: 23:13 IST(18/4/2013)
Last Updated: 12:06 IST(24/5/2013)
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We ride KTM's potent new streetbike, coming to India this June.
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Hot on the heels of their successful Indian debut with the 200 Duke in 2012, KTM and Bajaj Probiking are all set to launch their second motorcycle in India, the 390 Duke. This is the first KTM bike ever to be sold in all 76 markets KTM today has a presence in. The big-single 390 is a naked, road going streetbike, produced at Bajaj's Chakan facility on the outskirts of Pune, India. Like the 200 Duke, the sporty 390 promises a lot on paper,  with a star studded spec list, but everyones waiting to hear exactly what it feels like on the road?

And what better place to bring you this initial impression from, than behind the dashing looking 390's handlebars on top class roads around Salzburg, Austria, KTM's home turf.  
 
 
The 390 Duke shares a lot with the 200 Duke. New colours tell the two bikes apart, and theres more visual mass on the 390. The new KTM is very compact for its class, but looks purposeful. The 390 Duke shows off the same sporty KTM 'ready to race' DNA as on the 200, being a flamboyant, edgy and aggressive looking machine, with an unashamedly modern air. 
 
Sharp angles and steep creases are everywhere. All parts have been lightened with excess material shaved off, helping to keep the bike light at an impressive 139kg. The 390 front mudguard is sporty and stubby, while both wheels look really smart in orange. Its powerful headlight sits in a futuristic looking bikini fairing. The near flat handlebar is tapered alloy, while the instruments remain a compact, digital readout that sadly still isn't the most readable in the business. Reading much of its information, specially the cascading rev counter is cumbersome. The 390 Duke palm grips could likewise have been better, offering nice grip, but feeling uncomfortably hard when riding without gloves. Crisp functioning and illuminated switches are standard on the bike, easy to get used to and good to the touch. There's also nice dog-leg shaped control levers and functional rear view mirrors.
 
Detailed Photo gallery here

The 390 Duke comes with a muscular tank, with nice indents for good thigh grip. Speaking of ergonomics, we found the rider’s ankle grip panels behind the footrests located much too low for any viable use.

The 390 Duke’s engine sits proudly exposed between a beefy, orange powder coated steel trellis frame, and its centrally located, smartly finished exhaust box peeps out from below the gearbox.
 
There’s decent space for the rider to move around in the firm feeling riding saddle. The KTM 390 Duke comes with a neat tail-fairing, slim brake warning light and outstretched number plate mount, almost identical to the 200 Duke. 
 
 
Overall quality is acceptable, as are fit-finish and attention-to-detail on the new motorcycle.   
 
The liquid-cooled 390 Duke comes with a four-stroke, 375cc, single-cylinder (bore and stroke, 89mm x 60mm) and fuel-injected engine with dual overhead camshafts driving its four-valves. Theres a forged piston and Nikasil coated cylinder. Engine weight is low at 36kg. Peak power output is a strong 44bhp at 9500rpm, while maximum torque produced is 3.57kgm at 7250rpm. The gearbox offers six-speeds, a one-down and 5-up, toe-shifted box with power delivered through an X-ring sealed drive chain. Gears shift with a smooth, well weighted feel, and all ratios are nicely spaced.
 

The 390 Duke does feels best when ridden hard, short-shifting up the gearbox to keep revs in the meaty bit of its powerband. 

We touched an effortless, speedometer indicated 107kph flat out in third gear on the 390, an indicated 133kph in fourth and an indicated 157 in fifth, with KTM telling us the new bike is capable of a true 162kph top speed in sixth, at which point you see about 170kph on the speedometer. The clutch works with progressive feel, and is only a touch heavier than the 200 Duke. Throttle response is cracking, and the 390 enjoys a wide power band. There's an ample torque spread that allows you to run through a set of corners with minimal gear play, but the engine makes the best of its manic power towards the top, between 6000rpm and redline. Gas the 390 hard and you need to hang onto its handlebars properly, as the deceptively small motorcycle yanks on your shoulders with fierce tug.
 
 
The exhaust sounds about as good as it gets on a single-cylinder four-stroke bike, rorty, baritone and best served with a good helping of high revs. The 390 Duke is a smooth enough, willing performer with well sorted fuelling. It feels incredibly quick to 100kph from a standing start, although we're still to strap on our data logging system to test it for more data. Holding cruising speeds in the region of 130kph is a breeze on the new KTM, the 390 Duke purring along at 7000rpm in sixth at this speed, and a leisurely 5000rpm showing on the counter when at 100kph.
 
The 390 Duke sports a toughened, welded and orange powder coated steel trellis frame and seats its rider in a back upright, still sporty riding posture, with legs pushed aggressively back from below the knees, exactly as on the 200. The 390 Duke feels incredibly small and is a light motorcycle to pilot, commendable for its impressive performance and pace capability. This isn't the most forgiving of motorcycles to ride, and deserves to be handled with respect, specially for novice Indian enthusiasts who could be new to this level of performance. 
 

Fat, 43mm upside-down front forks are standard, as are a handsome alluminium alloy swingarm and monoshock rear suspension. Ride quality feels a touch more firm than on the 200 Duke, taut at all times and allowing the bike to offer really sporty, sharp handling. Low-profile, tubeless Metzeler radial tyres are provided on both lightweight, alloy rims, providing exceptional grip throughout our extensive, often blisteringly fast paced ride, and good news is these will be standard kit on Indian bikes. 

There’s a four-pot, radial mounted single 300mm rotor disc in front and 230mm rear disc brake, the 390 Duke going a big step-up on its smaller siblings to offer the safety of ABS braking. This Bosch 9MB, twin channel braking system did a perfect job throughout our ride, never intruding on riding pleasure, working smoothly in tandem with the powerful feeling brakes only when required, to react with lightning quick response, making amends for any over enthusiastic pressure on the rear brake pedal, and keeping you safe on any road condition. The instruments console has a button that gives you the option to switch ABS off. 
 
 
The adjustable rear brake pedal is better positioned than on the 200 Duke, but the 390 Duke lacks steel braided brake lines, as are offered with the 200. 
 
The 390 Duke loves to corner, and does so with fluid ease. The new KTM turns in fast, the chassis and suspension working as one well integrated package to help you ride hard. The 390 steers with neutral feel, going exactly where you point it. This feels a stable bike at all speeds despite being so light. 

You shouldn't be considering a 390 Duke if looking for fuel economy, but do look out for our upcoming road test for more detail on that. 

The 390 Duke is a sharply focussed, sporty street bike that offers mega wallop. It's expected to cost in the region of Rs. 2,25,000 when launched in India this June, and there's nothing that comes anywhere close to offering you this serious a level of performance for that kind of money in India. The bad news is, your 200 Duke just became obsolete, and has officially been blown into the weeds by the 390. 
 
 
The 390 Duke is a winner that's sure to gain a strong and faithful following in our country, where performance starved bike enthusiasts have always longed to ride a potent machine such as this, without having to go mortgage the house. 
 
Stay tuned for more. 

 

Fact File
Engine
Installation                      375cc 4-per cylinder, DOHC, Single cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled
Power                            44bhp at 9500rpm
Torque                           3.57kgm at 7250rpm
Transmission
Type                              6 speed, 1 down, 5 up
Dimensions
Height                            1367 +/-15mm
Ground                          clearance 172mm
Chassis & Body
Construction                  Steel trellis, powder coated
Weight                           139kg
Wheels                           Cast alloy, 3.00 x 17- 4.00 x 17inches
Tyres                              110/70 x 17-150/60 x 17inches
Suspension
Front                             WP 43mm upside down forks
Rear                              WP Monoshock
Brakes
Front                             Four piston, radial caliper, 300mm disc
Rear                             Single piston, 230mm disc
Anti-lock                       Bosch 9MB two channel
Economy
Tank size                      11L


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