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KTM RC 390 review, road test

31st Dec 2014 10:30 am

KTM has a new flagship in India, the sporty RC390, and we’ve just put it through a full road test to confirm exactly how it performs in India.

  • Make : KTM
  • Model : RC390

The list of exotic sportbikes available now in India is seemingly unending, with a variety of quick two-wheeled machines available to cater to all rider’s tastes. Sadly, due to soaring price tags, many larger-capacity bikes retailing in India remain out of reach for most Indian enthusiasts.

Over the past few years though, KTM with Bajaj has slowly been changing things, bridging the gap between the affordability of everyday commuter bikes and the capabilities of focussed performance bikes. Now, this super successful partnership has introduced yet another motorcycle, that’s being touted as nothing short of extraordinary.

The newly launched 200 and 390 RC or Race Competition siblings are two fully faired sportbikes that share the same engines as their Duke siblings, yet ride nothing like them.

We get astride the flagship KTM RC390 to tell you how this bike performs in Indian conditions.

The KTM RC390 may share the same engine at the 390 Duke, but it rides nothing like a Duke. The RC390 is held together by a steel trellis frame that ensures stability even when pushing to the limit. Forward-mounted clip-on handle bars and rear-set foot pegs most certainly make for an aggressive ride posture. This isn’t a forgiving bike for beginners, but will prove rewarding for experienced riders looking for the sharp handling edge of a sportsbike. The manufacturer has given the RC390’s rider seat a firm touch, with minimal padding, as only to be expected on a sportbike such as this.

The RC390 is stable at high speeds, even past 150kph, and its fairing deflects wind well, leaving behind a calmer environment to think when piercing through the breeze. The ergonomic fuel tank also provides good thigh support. Once you get used to the RC390’s wide turning radius, negotiating traffic doesn’t take much effort.

The RC390 comes with beefy, 43mm upside-down WP front suspension that absorbs bumps at high speeds, despite reduced travel compared to the Duke. The RC390 also has sharper steering angle, which makes the bike more agile. Speaking of which, the bike tips into aggressive lean angles without much effort and springs back quickly, to blast out of corners with composure.

Tubeless, radial Metzeler tyres front and rear provide solid grip on tarmac, and decent grip on concrete too.

Braking duties are taken care of by hydraulic-fed discs, front (300mm four-pot, radial mounted) and rear (230mm). The front brake has strong bite when required. ABS here is a Bosch-KTM developed 9MB, twin-channel system, never compromising on performance or safety.

In our brake tests, the RC390 stopped in 58.58 meters from 100kph, taking 17.82m from 60kph.

The all new KTM RC390 comes with sharp, tapered styling, that gives it a mean, funky look that is thoroughly fresh. Taking a good look at the new bike, it’s clear that KTM wanted to produce a slim, agile sportbike, with the added benefit of a full fairing.

Its track-bike silhouette may remind you of KTM’s supersports RC8, but in the flesh, the RC390 has its own unique identity. Its protruding chin gets LED ‘fangs’ placed just under twin projector headlamps. A transparent visor is used on the RC390 and flows smoothly downwards to provide it a streamlined stance. Atop sits a familiar, amber-lit instrument console from the Dukes, with clearly legible speedometer. However, the odometer, twin trip meters, real-time average speed indicator and mileage calculator are displayed all in a crowd here, and could have been more readable while on the go. A bright red shifter beacon flashes to warn you when it’s time to shift up a gear before you hit the rev limiter, and you can set this to different points in the rev range.

The tapering rear view mirrors look good, with flush fit indicators built into them, however don’t offer as good a view behind as required. Clip-on handlebars provide the RC390 a sporty feel, more so due to a meaty supporting centrepiece. As on the Duke, the RC390 also gains hard rubber dimpled palm grips that lack comfortable feel. The RC390 comes with illuminated switchgear, which proves really useful at night. The 9.5-litre fuel-tank also houses a battery, here instead of under the seat, where it is located on the Duke.

The stepped pillion seat is smartly disguised as a cowl, and it’s difficult to tell this without a quick feel of the cushion. Interesting bits are added on the RC390, such as camouflaged under-seat grab scoops that do not interfere with the RC’s sleek rear panel, though there’s also a single grab handle on the right. An eye-catching LED tail-light sits under the seat, and goes with the flow.

Overall, like every KTM available anywhere in the world, this RC390 looks every bit a purpose-built performance motorcycle. KTM and Bajaj have made sure that overall fit, finish and quality of materials used to build this bike have no shortcomings whatsoever.

Propelling KTM’s RC390 is exactly the same engine from the Duke 390, a 373.3cc, four-stroke, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled and fuel-injected gem. The RC390 blasts to life with the push of a button and promptly settles into an exciting and ‘ready-to-race’ note. This responsive engine packs 42.9bhp of power at 9,000rpm and peak torque, 3.57kgm is produced at 7,000rpm. The short-stroke (89mm x 60mm bore and stroke) engine comes with dual overhead camshafts to drive its four valves, enabling strong power from just over idle, all the way up to its 10,300rpm rev limiter.

KTM has equipped the RC390 with a forged piston, and Nikasil-coated cylinder well, all working to increase overall performance. The KTM RC390’s engine sounds best when revved high. An unadulterated response from its lightweight throttle unleashes all 42.9bhp without hesitation. The well weighted clutch feels just right while pushing the bike on the highway, and performs smoothly when riding in city too. The close-ratio, six-speed transmission ensures precise shifts in a one-down, five-up pattern; and the RC390 accelerates so quickly that quickshifts and an open throttle will reward you with high speeds in a jiffy.

The motorcycle is capable of cruising speeds of 130kph in sixth with relaxed ease. The powerful KTM RC390 is also capable of boisterous acceleration; we took it past 60kph from a standstill in 2.93 seconds, 100kph in 6.15sec, and thereafter to 150kph in 16.34s during our performance testing. The RC390’s third gear is good for 101kph, fourth for 124kph and fifth pulls you all the way up to 148kph. With still more in reserve, the RC390 on test with us touched a true 160kph in sixth. Perhaps the RC390’s biggest Achille’s heel, is the engine revving across its wide powerband to meet its 10,000rpm limiter, which feels like it’s arrived to quickly for a track focussed bike like this, where you don’t want to be caught out needing to shift gears mid corner, and a bit more revs would have been really welcome.

To its credit, the KTM RC390’s 36kg engine displayed refined, smooth manners and stayed vibe-free throughout this test.

The KTM RC390 returned 22.20kpl within city limits riding through congested traffic, while on the highways this went up to 22.9kpl. The 390 Duke managed 26kpl on an average, but then again RC390 is a whole 8kg heavier than the Duke.

KTM provides a real-time mileage indicator on the RC390 that is quite accurate.

We have now ridden the KTM RC390 on a variety of test tracks here and abroad, on open highways and in heavy city traffic. The ‘Race Competition’ bike naturally feels most at home at a track and does well on highways too, where it blasts you to triple-digit speeds in seconds. It’s riding in the city with heavy traffic on a daily basis that can get uncomfortable on this bike, due to such a track-focussed posture. On the other hand, due to such seriously quick performance and sharp handling, the RC390 makes a perfect stepping stone for riders who aspire to ride a quick, supersports class multi-cylinder superbike someday.
And at Rs 2.05 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) it’s perhaps the sweetest biking deal available in India today, with safety features such as ABS brakes as bonus, still not even optional on several more expensive sportbikes. The KTM RC390 has barely any flaws then, to spoil an otherwise superb package; making this a KTM that’s well worth every last paisa in India.

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