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KTM 390 Duke review, test ride

19th Apr 2013 3:43 am

We ride KTM's potent new streetbike, the new 390 Duke.

  • Make : KTM
  • Model : Duke
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 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 what does it feel 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 there’s a bit more visual mass on the 390. The 390 is compact for its class, yet looks purposeful. The 390 Duke shows off the same sporty KTM 'ready to race' DNA as 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 away, helping to keep the bike light at an impressive 154kg, ready to roll. The 390’s stubby front mudguard is sporty, while both orange wheels look really smart. Its powerful headlight sits in a futuristic looking bikini fairing. The near flat, gently pulled back handlebar is tapered alloy, while the comprehensive instruments remain a compact, digital readout that sadly still isn't the most readable in the business. Reading much of its information, especially the cascading rev counter is cumbersome. The 390 Duke’s 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, easy to get used to and good to the touch. You also get nice dog-leg shaped control levers and functional rear view mirrors.
 
The 390 Duke comes with a muscular tank, with deep indents that provide good thigh grip. Speaking of ergonomics, we found the rider’s ankle grip tabs behind the footrests located much too low for viable use.
 
The 390 Duke engine sits proudly exposed between a beefy, orange powder coated steel trellis frame, and its centrally located, smartly finished exhaust box peeps out from under the gearbox. The KTM 390 Duke comes with a neat tail-fairing, slim brake warning light and outstretched number plate mount. 
 
 
Overall quality is good, as are fit-finish and attention-to-detail on the new motorcycle.   
The liquid-cooled 390 Duke comes with a four-stroke, 373.2cc, single-cylinder (bore and stroke, 89mm x 60mm) and fuel-injected engine with dual overhead camshafts driving its four-valves. There’s a forged piston and Nikasil coated cylinder. Engine weight is low at 36kg. Peak power output is a strong 43bhp at 9000rpm, while maximum torque produced is 3.57kgm at 7000rpm. 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 feel nicely spaced, taller than on the 200.
 
The 390 Duke does feel best when ridden hard, short-shifting up the gearbox to keep revs in the meaty bit of its powerband. 
 
The 390 clutch works with progressive feel, and only marginally heavier pull than the 200 Duke. Throttle response is immediate on the fuel-injected bike, and the power band is wide. The 390 engine provides ample low-end grunt, building into a strapping mid-range that flows all the way up to redline, over 10000rpm. There’s good torque, but top end power is strongest, best performance calling for hard pushing over 6000rpm. The 390 provides seriously quick acceleration, and easily holds respectable cruising speeds, with the instruments reading 7000rpm when at 130kph in sixth gear, and 5000rpm at 100kph also in top gear. We took the 390 Duke up to an effortless speedometer indicated top speed of 107kph in third gear, an indicated 133kph in fourth and over 150kph in fifth, with sixth still to engage. KTM tell us they have tested the 390 to a true 162kph top speed in sixth, which we will verify as soon as we strap on our test equipment.
 
 
KTM is providing a larger size radiator for the 390 in India, to safeguard the engine from excess heat. 
 
The 390 exhaust note is rorty, baritone and best served with a good helping of high revs. The new engine is impressive, always feeling smooth, vibe free and willing to rev. 
 
The 390 Duke is held together by a steel trellis frame. Its riding position is back upright, but still sporty as your legs bend below the knees, similar to as on the 200. There’s enough space for even taller riders to move around in the firm feeling riding saddle. Chunky 43mm upside-down front forks are standard, as are an adjustable monoshock and alluminium alloy swingarm. Ride quality on the European spec bike we rode felt taut, aiding the chassis as it delivered quick, sharp handling, although it’s confirmed the Indian spec bike has slightly softer suspension, so offering improved comfort over our scarred roads. The 390 Duke feels nice and light to handle, always commendably stable and responding swiftly to steering inputs and weight shifts. This new KTM likes going round corners, and does so with a neutral, confident air. This isn’t the most forgiving of motorcycles however, and deserves some respect, especially for riders who are new to this level of performance, as hasn’t yet been so readily available in India. 
 
Low-profile, tubeless Metzeler radial tyres will be standard on the India bike, these working to provide tenacious grip throughout our extensive, fast ride. Speaking of safety, the 390 comes with a four-pot, radial mounted single 300mm rotor disc in front and 230mm disc brake at rear, plus ABS. The Bosch 9MB, twin channel ABS braking system worked like a dream throughout our ride, barely intruding on brake feel ever but working smoothly, only when required, to swiftly react and make the perfect amendments for any excess braking, or poor road conditions. ABS can also be switched off, via a button on the instruments panel. Unlike the 200 Duke, on the 390 KTM has ensured the adjustable rear brake pedal is now more accessibly positioned. 
 
 
Fuel economy remains a question mark till after our shortly upcoming road test. 
 
The attractive 390 Duke looks all set to redefine the sporty Indian streetbike benchmark. This powerful and refined KTM comes on strong, with all bases covered, including quality and able handling. Bajaj has just announced an aggressive, introductory price of Rs 180,000 (ex-showroom, Delhi), at which the 390 undoubtedly packs a hefty punch and hits the sweet spot, as a well-rounded performance motorcycle with all the ingredients for iconic success. 
 

PRICE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Price Range Ex-showroom - Delhi Rs 180,000 (Delhi) - - -
ENGINE Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Max Power (hp @ rpm) 43bhp at 9000rpm - - -
Max Torque (nm @ rpm) 3.57kgm at 7000rpm - - -
Installation 373.2cc 4-per cylinder, DOHC, Single cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled - - -
TRANSMISSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Gearbox Type 6 speed, 1-down, 5-up - - -
Dimensions & Chassis Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Wheel base (mm) 1367 +/-15mm - - -
Ground Clearance (mm) 172mm - - -
BRAKES Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Brake Type Four piston, radial mounted caliper, 300mm disc (ABS) - - -
Rear Brake Type Single piston, 230mm disc (ABS) - - -
Anti-lock Bosch 9MB two channel - - -
SUSPENSION Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Front Suspension WP, 43mm upside down forks - - -
Rear Suspension Alloy swingarm, adjustable monoshock - - -
BODY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Construction Steel trellis, powder coated - - -
Weight 154kg - - -
Wheels 17inch alloy - - -
Tyres 110/70 x 17- 150/60 x 17inches - - -
EFFICIENCY Petrol Petrol AT Diesel Diesel AT
Tank size 10.2L - - -
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