Flashback Friday: KTM 390 Duke: Power To The People

  • May 19, 2023
  • Views : 10207
  • 4 min read

Ten years and two distinct generations (so far) of the world’s fastest Indo-Austrian

The KTM 390 Duke has become ubiquitous today: every motorcycle enthusiast with superbike dreams (but not quite superbike budget) goes for a 390 Duke. And we have Bajaj to thank for it, who had the vision to bring a relatively niche brand to Indian shores. Without further ado, then, here’s a quick recap:

2013 - Gen 1

June 2013. KTM had already tasted quite some success with the 200 Duke, and its indianised counterpart, the Bajaj Pulsar NS200. And then the 200 Duke’s elder brother joined the party. 

Visually, it looked almost identical to the 200, save for the paint scheme. But look closer and you noticed the ABS rings on the discs, and the Metzeler tyres. The party piece, though, was its 373cc single-cylinder engine, which made an unbelievable 42PS and 35Nm. For reference, the most powerful single of the time was the Royal Enfield Classic 500, which made 27PS and 41Nm, but was almost 40kg heavier!

The 390 Duke quickly gained a cult status as a no-compromise (relatively) ‘super’ naked, its trellis chassis and W-rated rubber leagues ahead of every single-cylinder (and even twin-cylinder, like the Kawasaki Ninja 300) bike out there. And the fact that it was priced at Rs 1.88 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), meant it was truly a bang-for-the-buck proposition. 

2015 - Gen 1.5

KTM had already chanced upon the perfect formula with the 390 Duke. But it had a few niggles, like the heavy clutch and jerky low-speed throttle. The first update, then, addressed these issues with the inclusion of a slipper clutch and a mild retune to the ECU, for smoother power delivery. 

Apart from these small adjustments, though, it stayed unchanged. Same price, same thrills, same frenzied fan following!

2017 - Gen 2

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KTM flipped the script with the 2017 model, giving it a much sharper design, a new LED headlight, a smartphone-compatible TFT console (a first for an Indian bike), larger 13.4-litre fuel tank (3.7 litres larger than the outgoing model), a bolt-on sub-frame, and new seats. The engine stayed unchanged, still making 43PS, though the inclusion of ride-by-wire meant power delivery was now (comparatively) silky smooth. Moreover, a new, larger airbox helped improve the engine’s breathing, increasing torque to 37Nm. 

The issue, though, was that all these changes brought with it a 10kg increase in weight. Add to that the new H-rated Metzelers (the harder compound was projected to last longer), and a roughly Rs 30,000 price hike, and it all brought a frown to enthusiasts’ faces. 

2020 - Gen 2.5

Like the previous half-step evolution before it, the BS6-complaint bike was largely the same, save for the inclusion of a quickshifter, a first-in-segment feature. 

Of course, it was now slightly better for the planet (though without a drop in performance). The exhaust was routed from under the engine (rather than beside the cylinder) for a 12mm reduction in ground clearance. And it got a new matte grey colourway. 

However, what truly worked against it was the pandemic, leading to supply chain shortages, and subsequent price hikes (yes, multiple) , and finally the recent OBD2 update. As a result, the ex-showroom price went up from Rs 2.52 lakh (in March 2020) to Rs 2.98 lakh (in May 2023)!

2023 (?) - Gen 3 

As we speak, KTM is readying the next, all-new version of the 390 Duke, which has been spotted testing quite regularly

The next-gen 390 Duke will likely be lighter, and possibly have slightly higher performance figures than the current 390. This, coupled with the lighter alloys and brake rotors from the new RC 200 and RC 390, should make it more flickable as well. It’ll come chock-full of features too, with switchable, cornering ABS, traction control, and quickshifter, with the larger TFT console offering turn-by-turn navigation (at the very least) along with the usual complement of smartphone connectivity. 

KTM could unveil the updated 390 Duke globally at EICMA 2023 (November 7-12) with the India launch slated for the end of this year.

Summing up, the KTM 390 Duke continues to be the last word in performance at a (relatively) accessible price point. And though many challengers have come and gone (and are even set to return) in its 10-year reign, there isn’t yet a motorcycle – the world over – that can challenge the corner rocket, and come away unscathed!

KTM 390 Duke (2017-2023) Video Review

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