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KTM RC 390 Café Racer - Marla review, test ride

27th Oct 2015 12:32 pm

Faaster Wheels has just made a café racer based on the KTM RC 390, and has called it Marla. Yes, the mad hatter from Fight Club.

  • Make : KTM
  • Model : RC390

For those of you who have watched the movie Fight Club, or even read the book, there is little explaining to be done. For those of you who have not, Marla Singer was a character, and oh, some character. She was strong-willed, and completely off her rockers.

Why am I telling you about her, you ask? Well, this KTM RC 390-based café racer by Faaster Wheels that we got our hands on for a morning, has been inspired and named after the character. The real question one would want to ask though is, how close is the character of the bike to the lady of the Fight Club?

The KTM RC 390 is a properly fast entry-level sportsbike. It is quite light at 166kg. For the purpose of developing the café racer, it has been made lighter still. The entire fairing has been stripped, the pillion seat has been removed and replaced by a lightweight metal rear cowl, the rear sprocket has been replaced by one that weighs less than half the weight of the stock one, and even the battery has been replaced by Aerovoltz battery, about 2.5kg lighter than the stock Exide. Overall, weight is reduced by 15kg.

All this chipping away has not left Marla looking indecent. The front cowl is now a vertically mounted plate and houses the projector headlamps. It, along with the tank, engine and rear cowls have been wrapped in a metallic, matte-finished blue vinyl film by Hexis imported from France. We love the vivid colours on this café racer, the blue works very well with the exposed orange trellis frame, usually hidden from the eye on the stock motorcycle. The entire appearance is young and brat.

As for the electronics, Marla retains the stock instrument cluster and switchgear. ABS for the braking system has been retained too. The headlamp, or whatever is left of it, uses the stock projector headlamps. The tail-lamp is done away with and the rear cowl now integrates LED bulbs. Turn indicators are LEDs too.

The engine itself has not been tinkered with, but to get more out of it, it is controlled by a plug-in performance ECU from PowerTRONIC. This lets it rev higher, compensating for the larger rear sprocket which now has 47 teeth, a couple up on the stock RC, and weighs 0.486kg compared to the stock's1.146kg. Helping it breathe better while revving higher is a K&N performance air filter. These small upgrades make a considerable difference while accelerating off the stop light.

Twist the throttle open, and the motorcycle takes off with an urgency. The gearbox remains the same, and the close ratios will have you shifting fast through all six gears before you see figures in excess of 130kph. It’s easy to get carried away and have the front wheel simply skimming the tarmac in the first two gears.

Connecting the engine to the gearbox is a slipper clutch, picked up from the 2015 KTM 390 Duke. We managed a top speed of 165kph on the speedo, before I started closing on traffic ahead on the highway.

However, this KTM RC 390 café racer is not only meant for speed. Yeah, the stock KTM RC 390 offers great handling. Faaster Wheels has tried to make it even better. The T-plate on the front has been dropped 5mm, and rake reduced. As a result, turn-in is easier, and overall flickability of the motorcycle is improved. The suspension remains stock, working flawlessly over rough patches and round bends. The brakes have also been upgraded with EBC pads at the front and rear. The improvement in braking prowess is evident in how quickly the motorcycle sheds speed.

Once you sit on the Marla, you don’t miss the stock seat, because the one on this café racer is roomy and comfortable. Moving around is easy.

The only niggle I came across while riding was that the engine at idling speeds was prone to cutting off. However, Faaster Wheels say this is only till the ECU is properly fine tuned, and with the way the rest of the ride impressed me, I’m happily ready to let this one pass.

The Marla checks most boxes. For a custom-made motorcycle, this works to plaster a smile on the onlookers’ faces. It also managed to keep me happy posting some impressive figures on the speedo. Marla Singer might be brash, and this namesake isn’t too far off the mark, but it is a quality that becomes desirable in a café racer, especially one that has KTM’s orange blood running in its engine and chassis.

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