KTM 390 Duke: First Ride

We bring you an exhaustive ride report of the KTM 390 Duke!






Having already been introduced to the Duke 200 by KTM, many Indian bikers have been waiting with bated breath for the launch of the bigger 390 Duke. But it’s not only the enthusiasts in the country who represent the eager bunch. In fact, its very own maker KTM Sportsmotorcycle AG too is sufficiently inclined to unleash the more ferocious sibling to the world. It is heavily banking on this machine as it prepares to launch the built-in-India motorcycle not just in selective markets, like it did with the younger siblings the 125 and the 200 Duke, but across 80 countries worldwide where it will share dealership space with all other KTM motorcycles. There is a lot riding on the 390 Duke for KTM as the Austrian bike-maker commences its onslaught on the street market after having globally led the charge in the off-road segment for over five decades now. Also Read: KTM 390 Duke launched at Rs 1.80 lakh


The 390 Duke is aimed at plugging the gap between the 200cc and the 600cc segments bringing with it strong performance in a lightweight framework offering form and function for the street. To be sold across all KTM markets, the machine has to deliver on all counts where it offers excitement for the established performance driven markets as well as practicality and affordability for the emerging ones. And by the looks of it, the 390 Duke sure does achieve all of that, with élan. On the outside, the 390 Duke is identical to its younger sibling, the 200, barring minor changes to the graphics on the tank, all-new white paint scheme and the wheels and the steel trellis frame powder coated in trademark KTM orange.





Changes on the 390 are more for purpose than poise. For instance, the bigger Duke now gets bar-end weights on the flat wide handlebars and they do a fairly good job of keeping vibrations from throbbing the rider’s palms. The view from the saddle is unchanged and the info-filled geek-friendly digital console upfront remains identical barring one small yet significant addition – the ABS toggle switch. Located on the lower left side of the digital console, the switch to turn off the Bosch-developed ABS is slyly hidden and cannot be spotted visually but only felt on a press of the finger.






For the stunt crazy lads out there who prefer one wheeling over two, the trick to turn off the ABS is to slot the motorcycle into the neutral gear while the engine is running and to keep the button pressed until the ABS light on the display starts to blink. ABS De-activated!!! And to turn it back on (we think many would want to on such a mental machine), simply switch off the engine and crank it up to get the ABS working again as the ABS indicator light stabilises.






Thumb the starter and one can instantly figure that the engine note is raspier and the exhaust is significantly louder over the 200 Duke. Gruntier hum at idle, the loudness and crispy ‘brraaaaaap’ of the larger 390 Duke comes to light as the revs build up. The 375cc single cylinder motor, (the name 390 has been coined to maintain the Duke family naming – 690, 990 and the soon to be launched 1290 SuperDuke) gets a new cylinder while the engine crankcase and the cylinder head are retained from the mill that powers the 200 Duke.


The KTM/Bajaj Auto development team hiked the capacity of the 200cc engine to 375cc by upping the bore and stroke from 72 x 49mm to 89 x 60mm. The dual overhead camshafts operate the four valves via DLC coated aluminium finger followers. The finger follower mechanism basically ensures a smooth and consistent valve actuation resulting in improved torque and power output while cutting down on fuel consumption with help of highly accurate valve operation even at sustained high speeds.







The 375cc engine gets a lightweight forged piston and Nikasil coated cylinder for improved engine response and longer life. All the techno-wizardry within the 375cc liquid-cooled fuel injected motor transforms in to a whooping power output of 45PS at 9,500rpm and 35Nm of torque at 7,250rpm. And to keep the temperatures from soaring, especially in warm countries, the 390 Duke gets a bigger radiator as well.


Mated to an all-new six-speed transmission, the gear ratios on the 390 Duke are well spaced to make good use of the available torque throughout the mid-range. Unlike the 200 Duke wherein one had to stay in the short powerband of the machine in order to keep the thrust handy, thanks to the capacity hike and solid torque output, 390 Duke offers a wide powerband that will appeal to fast riders as well as the lazy street bunch all the same.







A significant change which will appeal to most Indian biker junta is the tall sixth gear ratio, which hands the 390 Duke with some solid touring capabilities for our roads. While the 200 Duke felt stretched and out of breath at 138km/h, the 390 Duke can reach a top whack upwards of 170km/h while effortlessly sustaining triple digits cruising speeds slotted in sixth gear and nowhere near the redline – and all this without compromising on the initial acceleration with the 390 Duke still managing an estimated 0-100km/h time in the region of five seconds. We will know for sure once we get to test the bike in India with our test equipment sometime next month.








By employing the same engine architecture as on the 125/200 Duke albeit attaining capacity hike and better overall performance only with internal amends, KTM has managed to deliver a compact and lightweight 375cc motor which weighs only 36kg and allows them to use the same ultra light steel trellis chassis of the 125/200 even for the larger 390 Duke along with the same lightweight die-cast aluminium swingarm. Totalling to just 149kg of mass with all fluids topped up including 11 litres of fuel, the KTM 390 Duke dishes out a competition devastating power-to-weight ratio of 302.01PS/tonne!


And while I experienced every single benefit from this weight saving in the mad acceleration of the 390 Duke on the open freeways around Salzburg, the really weight saving benefits came to the fore when the highway ended and the winding road began. Turning directions with minimal effort, the 390 Duke was a hoot on the narrow country roads carrying precise lines around corners thanks to its lightweight build backed by incredible throw of power and torque providing incredible levels of excitement and fun even as you exited corners in a higher gear without feeling the need to downshift.







Although the turning is sharp on the 390, it is not twitchy and offers excellent road holding and stability even at speeds well above 140km/h, which is largely attributed to the 1,367mm wheelbase – a 6mm increase over the 200 Duke’s figure. Also the saddle height on the 390 is dropped by 10mm and it now measures at 800mm making it even more comfortable for short riders.






A lot of the thrill-filled experience on the 390 Duke is courtesy of the stiff suspension setup that the European-spec 390 models boast but on our roads it will be a slightly different story with softer spring rate tuned towards comfort for Indian roads. However it won’t be too far away from hitting the far end on the fun-meter as the 43mm inverted suspension upfront offers 150mm travel while the direct swingarm mounted monoshock on the rear gets adjustable preload. Both the suspension units are developed by KTM’s subsidiary WP or White Power Suspension from Austria and are made by WP’s Indian partners, Endurance.





But all of this would not be so good unless the tyres can keep up with the demands of the 390 Duke’s raw power and supple chassis. And hence the Bajaj/KTM pairing has decided to stick to Metzelers tyres. Unlike the 200 which runs on MRF rubber, the cast alloy 17-inch wheels on the 390 Duke will come to India shod with Metzeler Sportec M5 Interact tyres employing a 110/70-17 on the front and 150/60-17 on the rear. On the Austrian ground the tyres delivered exceptional traction and feedback without any sort of unsettling behaviour even under hard cornering and braking.








And combined the high quality tyres with the Bosch developed 9MB Two Channel ABS (which can be disengaged at will), coming as standard fitment, the equipment level on the KTM 390 Duke is truly in sync with the company’s Ready to Race principle. The braking hardware too is top notch with radially mounted four-pot calliper 300mm disc upfront and a single piston floating calliper 230mm disc serving the rear.






To sum it up, the 390 Duke indeed packs in a lot more firepower over its younger sibling although without adding more mass and not requiring any extra efforts when on the saddle. The 390 Duke is loud and radical not just too look at but also to ride but not over the top thus making it a proposition that can be all things to all riders be it sport riding, touring or freestyle stunt riding. And knowing how Bajaj Auto/KTM partnership has worked out before in case of the 200 Duke, the 390 too will be well within the reach of the cash-strapped Indian enthusiast.






Although both the companies are tight-lipped on the pricing, from what we know and understand, expect the KTM 390 Duke to be priced around Rs. 2 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi). But what we know for certain is that the motorcycle will be launched in India in the month of June and the deliveries will commence immediately once launched. One more thing we are sure about is that if you are not the one too keen on owning a full-faired race-spec machine, the KTM 390 Duke is a sure shot pocket rocket which can give all the jollies of a fast bike without emptying your bank balance or compromising on the day-to-day practicality which is so vital on our Indian roads.


Related KTM 390 Duke stories:

KTM 390 Duke launched at Rs 1.80 lakh

KTM 390 Duke vs KTM 200 Duke: What's different?

All-new KTM 390 Duke : Special Preview!

KTM 390 Duke: In Pictures!




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