Before I get started with this review I must admit some prejudices. Firstly, I like my bikes stock. Secondly, I like my bikes to be on the calm side of wild. That, I’ll explain.
When I got my 390 Duke, I had briefly tested the Race Dynamics Powertronic V1 but passed it up. The reason was that the performance, for my taste, felt too hooliganish. It reminded me very much of the 2013 KTM 390 Dukes that had a dull bottom end and very potent mid-range. Now take this and amp it up. Yep, the Powertronic V1 could be exciting, but also a bit tiring to ride. So, very soon, I was happy to pull off the box and get back to stock. Stock is good.
But recently, I noticed Race Dynamics talking about a new Powertronic V2. Meh. Except, traction control! That caught me hook, line and sinker. An aftermarket traction control system is a fantastic idea! So, I pestered them to let me test it. More on that later. So, shortly after, the Powertronic V2 kit turned up at my doorstep, ready to be strapped onto my bike. And here’s what followed.
Installation and build quality
Inspired by the manual that came in the box, I decided to take this on as a DIY project. The booklet turned out to be quite unhelpful and so, I turned to some RaceDynamics installation videos on YouTube to help me out. It took me a couple of hours to complete the installation, but if I had to do it again, it would take less than half that time. The tricky part was that the videos do not show you how to install the new crank and throttle position sensors and figuring that out took a bit of time. However, new installation guides are on the way. And, you always have the option of the RaceDynamics rep installing it for you.
Now, on to the good stuff. The quality of parts is fairly impressive. The sheathed loom, the Powertronic case, and the connectors look and feel solid. With the V2, Race Dynamics has moved to an all-new wiring loom that does away with the need to cut or splice any wires. The wiring loom has four couplers, each neatly labelled, that plug straight into the stock points. The kit also comes with three zip ties to strap the wires to keep them away from hot parts. The Powertronic box feels tough and squeezes under the seat. However, if you had to nitpick, small details like the cutouts for the two status lights, and the coupler to turn the bike back to stock settings look a bit rough.
What’s it like to ride?
First ride - you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. Then as you find your favourite stretch of road, you find that you are carrying way more speed into corners, without any effort and without even realising it. To broaden the appeal of the Powertronic unit, RD is now offering it with two preset maps. One is a Performance map and the other a Highway Map. Both differ in their approach, but have two things in common. Firstly, there’s an added smoothness to the motor. Secondly, the motor feels crisper. I have never thought of the 390 engine as dull, but after switching between stock and other two maps, you start to notice some holes, well dips, in throttle response.
The Performance map, as you would expect, offers more power and more revs. Think of it as a map for slashing lap times because, over a stock Duke, it really will. The rev limiter now cuts in at around 12000rpm and it doesn’t feel forced or desperate. Power doesn’t drop off at 10000rpm, instead, peak power is made somewhere around 11000rpm. Power also seems more lower down in the rev range and the overall power delivery feels very linear. You start to feel this is how the stock bike should be! The beauty of this state of tune is the way the power builds and leaps into the final 3000rpm, making the experience feel richer but, very natural. It gives the 390 engine a fluidity that’s very welcome. The importance of this on a RC grows manifold especially if you are a track rider.
With the Highway map, the focus is on usable power. There is a perceptible difference in the response available in the mid-range. My gut actually says there’s more response here in the mid-range than with the Performance map. Clearly though, the Highway map doesn’t have the mad rush at the top end that’s seen on the Performance map. This is a very sensible balance given its intended usage. The Highway map would make great sense for city use too. RaceDynamics claims that for the same pace, Powertronic V2 ends up delivering better fuel efficiency when compared to stock. We’ll be sure to test that claim as it could prove to be a valuable aspect for riders who use their Dukes for touring.
Also, switching to the stock settings is fairly painless as the kit includes a coupler that when mounted in place of the Powertronic unit, sends the control back to the stock ECU. The only thing that feels like a bit of a hindrance is the switch for the maps. Right now, the switch sits with the 'box under the seat. So, swapping between maps requires you to stop. I managed to undo the retaining clip with my gloves on, so it isn’t all that difficult. A switch near the handlebar would be the obvious next step. The unit also comes with the software that allows you to calibrate your own maps.
Should you buy? Upgrade from a V1?
The Powertronic V2 costs Rs 18,000, so should you be shelling out such big bucks on it? Obviously existing Powertronic users would want a slice of this action. Sadly, getting this richer, natural experience isn’t just down to a new map. The V2 runs new hardware and that’s what gives it this level of sophistication. Yes, springing for an all-new unit might seem too much, but performance enthusiasts might be swayed as RD is set launch a quick-shifter upgrade along with this. But, the real reason I was interested in the V2 was the claim that it would offer traction control, which I am promised, will be offered in a months time. And, with that in the offing, the V2 doesn’t seem like just another performance update, but a very solid framework that currently delivers added excitement, finesse and electronic sophistication for your bike in the near future. It takes a serious performance motorcycle and lifts it to another level. Yes, I generally like to keep my bike stock, but, this is one time it just doesn’t make sense. Stay tuned as we keep you posted as we clock more kilometres with the Powetronic V2.