The powerful and refined KTM 390 Duke is set to redefine the sporty Indian streetbike benchmark.
KTM and Bajaj’s partnership has yielded great results for the European bikemaker. KTM has shot up the ranks to usurp the crown of Europe’s number one motorcycle producing house. KTM pushed its technology into the high volumes, small capacity streetbikes segment, backed by affordable production at Bajaj’s modern Chakan factory.
First of this new KTM breed was the 125 Duke, sold only abroad, followed by the popular 200 Duke, making the 390 Duke the third Indo-Austrian effort. The sporty big-single is a road going streetbike just like the 200 Duke. We recently hopped on to sample the 390 Duke on top-class roads in Austria, KTM’s home turf.
The muscular, flamboyant 390 is a compact, modern-day motorcycle, with a weight tipped forward stance. There’s a generous helping of KTM’s sporty ‘ready to race’ DNA, sharp angles and steep creases seen on all quarters. KTM has shed every excess kilo to keep the 390 to a bantamweight 139kg.
The 390 comes with a near flat set, tapered alloy handlebar, and the same uncomfortably hard, dimpled palm grips offered with the 200 Duke. Illuminated switches are a neat touch a la Bajaj, and these work with nice and crisp tactile feel. Dog-leg shaped control levers and functional rear view mirrors are standard, these neatly mounted on rubber boot protected stalks. The 390 Duke’s attractively sculpted tank unit provides riders thoughtfully scooped indents for thigh grip, but the new bike’s ankle grip tabs are located too low behind the footrests for feasible use.
The 390 engine sits suspended from a beefy looking, orange powder-coated steel trellis frame, its stubby, tastefully finished exhaust located just behind a sporty belly fairing. There’s plenty of alloy, including a smart swingarm, several sub-frame sections and your brake and gearshift pedals. The 390 comes with split seats, a contemporary tail-fairing, slim brake warning light and outstretched number plate mount. Overall quality is good, as are fit-finish and attention-to-detail.
The liquid-cooled 390 Duke is powered by a four-stroke, 375cc, single-cylinder engine with dual overhead camshafts driving a quartet of valves. There’s a forged piston and Nikasil coated cylinder for enhanced performance. Peak power output is a healthy 44bhp at 9500rpm, better commanded by your wrist than typed out on a keyboard, and the 390 is good for 3.57kgm of torque made at 7250rpm. The six-speed transmission shifts smoothly always, with a well weighted feel in a one-down and five-up, toe-shifted pattern. Power is transmitted to the rear wheel via an X-ring-sealed drive chain. Each gear ratio is well-spaced, the 390 Duke coming into its element when gassed hard, as you quick-shift up the box to keep revs in the meat of its powerband.
The 390 clutch works with progressive feel, with 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’s engine provides ample low-end grunt, building into a strapping mid-range that flows all the way up to redline, over 10,000rpm. 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. KTM tells us it has tested the 390 to a true 162kph top speed in sixth, which we can verify soon after strapping on our test equipment.
The 390’s 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. There’s enough space for riders to move around in the firm riding saddle. Chunky 43mm upside-down front forks are standard, as are an adjustable monoshock and aluminium alloy swingarm. Ride quality is taut, aiding the chassis as it delivers sporty, sharp handling, although this could be slightly softer, offering more comfort on the final production bike for India. The 390 feels nice and light to handle, always commendably stable and responding swiftly to steering inputs and weight shifts. This KTM likes going round corners, and does so with a neutral, confident air. This isn’t a very forgiving bike however, and deserves some respect, especially if new to this level of performance.
Low-profile, tubeless Metzeler radial tyres will be standard on the India bike, these working to provide reassuring 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 at all but working smoothly, only when required, to swiftly react and make the right amends for excess braking. 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 road test.
Expected to cost in the region of Rs. 2,25,000, the 390 undoubtedly packs a hefty punch and is going to hit the sweet spot, as a well-rounded motorcycle with all the ingredients for iconic success.