KTM 390 Adventure - Expectation vs reality

KTM 390 Adventure - Expectation vs reality

6th Jul 2018 5:11 pm

The hardcore go-anywhere motorcycle you always wanted or a damp squib? Here’s a real-world perspective on the upcoming KTM 390 Adventure.

The KTM 390 Adventure has, for long, been anticipated as the motorcycle that can do no wrong. The math used to infer this is simple. The 390 Duke street bike is already phenomenal, so the Adventure version will be nearly as quick/mad/wild (tick appropriate adjective). Oh, and doesn’t KTM make the best motocross bikes, like, ever? Cut to when the spy images of the near-production model began to emerge. "Wait, this is not as hardcore as I wanted it to be," said some, almost as if in protest.

Yes, it isn’t. For that, KTM makes the 350 EXC-F enduro motorcycle, and trust me, it’s not the nicest motorcycle to ride. Rather, it’s not a motorcycle you’ll want to ride every day, or everywhere. I was introduced to KTM’s MX and enduro range early in my motorcycling life (God bless those kind souls), and having enduro-ed everything from indestructible four-stroke 250s to fear-inducing two-strokes and some big 450s (even from Suzuki and Kawasaki), I can tell you that hardcore is not the way to go. At least, it’s not the way to go for a huge chunk of people. KTM is, ultimately, a business and sales numbers matter.

Instead, KTM has wisely decided (or so one would interpret) to focus on what the most rational amongst you have been asking for – a long-legged motorcycle that can do sustained high speeds, with the capability to venture fairly deep into the unexplored. In effect, here’s a motorcycle you will certainly enjoy – pillion and luggage secured – on the open highway and through a trail, even if you may not necessarily end up conquering the latter. This works for most of us, right?

Here’s why it should. Firstly, the 390 Duke sports a high-strung motor – high enough to set off the radiator fan faster than on most other machines in or around its class. This, despite the average rider short-shifting in the interest of engine preservation or fuel efficiency. Off the road, you don’t always have that choice. Therefore, to want a harder-core motorcycle is fantastic, but it comes with a compromise in terms of everyday usability for the average enthusiast.

Then, you have the subjective matter of skill. In an era when motorcycles even as large as the Triumph Tiger 1200 XCA are friendly to ride thanks to clever electronics, the 390 Adventure should be a cinch, no? Not really. The 390 Duke is already a handful in most situations; its aggressive responses aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and (of this I am certain), both, you and I know of at least a couple of guys who’ve gone out there and mangled themselves and their KTMs in exasperating incidents. This, with those super-sticky Metzelers and on tarmac! 

A 390 Adventure, no more aggressive (or perhaps calmer) than the 390 Duke, is what you will really be able to apply off the road. Oh, and it goes without saying that it will be capable of sustaining high speeds over long distances with an appealing level of comfort to offer. My key grouse, however, is the demand for more off-road ability from certain quarters of the Internet. Presumably, these are the few who have good friends in orthopaedic clinics.

Another subjective matter that we mustn’t overlook in our excitement-fuelled haste is that, effectively, we’re signing up for putting our shiny-new Rs 4 lakh motorcycles through immediate abuse. A lot of us avoid such a thing altogether or at least prolong it until complacence/boredom sets in. Now, of course, this is a purpose-built motorcycle, so this proposition shouldn’t seem so scandalous, but still, it’s a lot of new metal (or plastic) to scratch, dent and twist. KTM’s apparent approach (funnily enough, drawing only from images at this stage) to not taking the hardcore route is, thus, only too rational. The upshot is that most of KTM’s prone-to-accident-damage components are cheap to replace, so it’s only your ego that’s up for some bruising.


Since we’ve gotten so far and so patiently, some speculation is well-deserved, right? First, the milder one. I’m of the opinion that KTM will offer the 390 Adventure in two variants – one for the highway-only types (with fewer utilitarian bits), and the other for the more adventurous lot (with all the bells and whistles). The latter could be priced higher, and be kitted out with a substantial luggage rack we’ve seen in some of the spy images and also more expensive Excel rims (seen on all the spy images, though these could be for the Euro-spec versions only or be made available as optional extras). The 390 Adventure is certain to give KTM’s cherished baby – the PowerParts division – a big boost. It’s going to be an add-ons fest, in other words.

Now, a bigger (if also bleaker) bit of speculation. To spawn the 390 Adventure, KTM has had to expand its inventory by a noticeable margin. Despite cleverly adapted bits of hardware (such as the frame, the swingarm and the engine itself), the Adventure will still feature a lot of application-specific bits – the longer-travel USD fork, all of the bodywork, some of the mountings, and so on – and the cost of development wouldn't have been peanuts. KTM will want to recover costs and enter profitability with this project, which means there are going to be more Adventures in the near future, if not exactly at the time of the 390’s reveal or launch. A sub-Rs 2 lakh 250 Adventure? I’d love one! The math used to infer this is simple. The 250 Duke is faster than a Himalayan and probably the upcoming Hero Xpulse 200 as well, so the Adventure version...




Ruman Devmane

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Ruman is the principal correspondent for Autocar India.

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