KTM Duke 390 Long Term Review
The Duke 390 continues to put a smile on our face, as we explore the maniac performance
The KTM Duke 390 has created quite a racket in the performance motorcycle segment and the effect is so vivid that no other manufacturer has dared to respond to the Austrians yet. We ourselves are overwhelmed by the Duke 390, so much that we have done almost every possible story under the sun, right from a comprehensive review (including a video review), comparisons with the Kawasaki Ninja 300 (including a drag race), Yamaha RD350, Honda CBR250R and Royal Enfield Continental GT. Not to forget, we even tested a few tuning options on our long term Duke 390 and were also the only people to do a comprehensive long term review of the bike. Now you know everything about this KTM and here is our second update, wherein we won’t talk about the usual, rather focussing more on how the experience has been with this 43.5 PS pocket rocket. Has the Duke 390 continued to impress us even after the honeymoon period has gone or there is more than what meet’s the eye? Read on to find out.
We have been riding our KTM Duke 390 day-in and day-out and there hasn’t been a single day where we haven’t got on to the saddle of this orange wheeled monster. This is simply because the Duke 390 continues to invite you, it’s one motorcycle which is more about the riding experience than about posing at the nearest club or invoking jealously. That said, the styling has really grown on most people who see the bike on a frequent basis. While initially, not many people would give the Duke 390 a second glance, the admiration towards the motorcycle has increased drastically. Children look at it and shout KTM while it manages to stand out of the crowd when parked in the city, next to other motorcycles. The styling is outright bold and out of the usual, which tends to find flavour with on-lookers after repeated encounters.
However it’s not all rosy as it appears. There are a few problems like the heating in the city. Just to give you a perspective of how quickly it gets hot, let me take you through the whole ritual of getting the bike out of my housing society. Once I reach the garage, the first thing I do is turn on the bike, so it gets warm (best practise to ensure the engine’s life isn’t compromised). By the time I gear up, the Duke 390 has already reached three bars on the temperature. If I happen to get a call, within three minutes, it is almost up there, reaching peak heat. In case I ride off with the three bars on the temperature meter, by the time I leave my colony (which is like a 300 metre stretch), the 390 has already reached five bars of heat. This heat can get quite a lot in city traffic, specially if you are going stop and go, as the heat does roast your thighs. However on the highways, this isn’t an issue at all, as long as you ride at speed. Even if you redline in all gears, all the time, it won’t heat much.
Other gripes I had with our long term KTM Duke 390 was the Pulsar borrowed parts. The Rs. 100/- Minda levers are just too cheap in feel and function, so I got the bike a pair of adjustable Pazzo levers, these being for the Ninja, I had to change the yolks to the Karizmas, along with changing the front master cylinder to the 223cc bike’s. The result is improved braking due to the Hero borrowed parts while the levers give a slightly better initial bite and really boost the experience of riding this motorcycle. The clutch feels lighter and more precise. The Pulsar palm grips are the cheapest I have encountered (every other bike I have ridden have better palm grips), so I opted for Ariete Universal Grips which feel so much better.
Then there is the issue of the sound of the 390 Duke. While it doesn’t sound bad at all, as the exhaust note improves post service, we riding and reviewing twin and four-cylinder bikes has spoiled us for choice. While we await an exhaust system (which we will use in sync with an ECU remap), we went ahead and swapped the stock air filter with a stock replacement K&N filter. The bike sounds so much better now with an improved intake note while the performance has also seen a marginal improvement, not a world apart but the minor improvement is a positive step none the less which also includes a softer idling note and better ride-ability (jerk free in low gears) in the city. Being a large single, vibrations are there and although you won’t feel them on the pegs normally, if you ride with canvas shoes (the ones with thin soles), you can feel a lot of vibes on the pegs.
Other changes on our mind was to get a matte black paint job but that would in all likelihood rob the feel of the Duke 390’s stock and understated appearance. We are also considering some stickering on the body (the stock stickers aren’t lamented and the monsoon season is crazy in Mumbai). KTM offers a sticker set in its PowerParts range, which priced at Rs. 6000/- is certainly on the expensive side. Like the non-lamented stickers, to reduce cost of production, Bajaj has done some smart engineering like the same console also display readouts in miles (simply select odometer display and keep the ‘Mode’ button pressed for 15 seconds without starting the bike). One can also adjust at what RPM the shift light blinks by pressing the Mode/Set button for 10 seconds on Trip 2 display. Keeping Mode button pressed gets you into RPM1 (which is first five gears) while doing the same with Set button let’s you alter RPM2 (which is sixth gear). You can adjust the RPM light up to 12,450 RPM (RPM1 can be set to 12,450 RPM only if RPM2 is set the same first) but rev limit kicks in at 10,500 RPM.
KTM’s vast service network for a premium bike is icing on the cake for buying a bike from this Austrian company
The service experience has been excellent too. Reminders from the service station for service due and quick service with the technicians being patient enough to understand your problems and doing their best to solve it. KTM service is easily the best in the two-wheeler space because the guys at the service station are quick to respond, always open to conversation and you can stand right there in front of your bike, seeing what’s happening and what’s being done to your 5.6 seconds to 100 km/hr motorcycle. The cost of service is reasonable too and considering this is a performance bike, you only end up paying as much as you would pay to upkeep a machine with half the engine capacity. However, KTM should be more proactive when it comes to recalls, the front sprocket change wasn’t conveyed to us till we reached the dealership.
The second service of the bike was recently done and the RPM shift light has been shifted from 7500 RPM to 10,000 RPM (you can change it yourself too as written earlier in this report). Not that we care much about the shift light as the tachometer is small and almost useless. The real fun lies in the mid and top-end of this 373.2cc single-cylinder motor. The performance has improved post the second service, the bike sounds better, feels more refined and goes like stink, like it always did. We don’t really redline (or even cross 6000 RPM) on a daily basis as you can still have a lot of fun with the 390 by riding it sedately, pulling the long throttle to its maximum in top gear. Mileage has been a constant 27-30 km/l which is good considering we do end up doing triple digit speeds at any given opportunity.
KTM Duke 390 Second Service Cost
* Motul 10W50 Fully Synthetic Oil – Rs. 733.33 per litre x 1.5 litres = Rs. 1100/-
* Oil Filter – Rs. 65.78/-
* Spark Plug M12 (Bosch) Rs. 173.78/-
* Fuel Filter – Rs. 88/-
* Strainer Mesh Assembly – Rs. 51.56/-
* Strainer Evacuation – Rs. 38.22/-
* Chain Spray – Rs. 145.78/-
* Chain Clean – Rs. 130/-
* Consumables – Rs. 65/-
Total Cost – Rs. 2090/- (inclusive of VAT, Service Tax and Education Cess).
Note – Air filter not replaced as K&N filter works for the entire life of the vehicle.
In fact, the Duke 390 is such a versatile bike, it has become our support bike when we test bigger and faster bikes, because it’s at home cruising along at 80 km/hr in top gear as it is flying at 150 km/hr, taking just under 16.50 seconds to reach that speed from standstill, that’s fast, oh yes. The Duke 390 can keep up with bigger bikes and although it can’t really overtake them, it always keeps the more powerful machine in its sight, being less than a minute away in arriving at the destination. But before you start flying, you need to let the engine warm up by letting it idle for 2 minutes or else the bike can stall continuously on a cold engine.
It’s not only the straight-line performance which continues to impress, it’s also the dynamic package. While the ride quality is stiff, we have got used to it and don’t complain or care much about it, specially with setting two. The handling continues to be a delight, the lightness offered by every chassis bit on the motorcycle continues to bowl us over every time we take to the saddle. All this makes the 390 super sharp around the twisties and inspires so much confidence to go faster, the tyres offering terrific grip at all times. It’s only at high speeds where the front-end feels a bit loose, preventing quick lane changes. Stiffening the suspension to the maximum helps, just recently I have had it turned to the stiffest and the ride quality has become quite a bit of a bother.
The brakes too are excellent, with the ABS really working its level best to ensure lock free stopping at all times. The initial bite is lacking though (not on our bike with new master cylinder) and the disc makes some noise (as dust accumulates around the disc), something which we have had to accept since the issue is with almost every bike. Not that it affects braking performance, it’s just a bit irritating with the screeching sound. We also have to fill air every week in the bike (we have been filling Nitrogen since day one) but still it tends to lose 2-3 PSI when the bike is simply standing idle for a few days.
Among other things, the Duke 390’s biggest problem is it tends to get dirty too soon. While we have no qualms of riding a dirty bike as it has its own character, the chain tends to lose oil every 500 odd kms and you have to keep lubricating, a task made difficult by the side stand sensor which turns off the bike as soon as you get into gear with the bike on the side stand. You need a racing stand to lube the chain which again makes the wheels dirty real quick every time you lube. With little oil on the chain, the gearbox becomes very rough and it’s frustrating when you can’t find the right cog most of the time. During the rainy season, the Duke 390 has been really difficult to keep clean as the exposed body catches all the dirt of the road insanely quick.
The ergonomics of the Duke are upright, something not everyone likes but you do get used to it. But go on a long ride and the bike does tire you out. It’s this very design of the ergos that necessitates you to be very attentive when riding fast, something that tires you both mentally and physically. If only the pegs would have been a bit lower and the handlebar not so wide, it would have been a lot more easier. Not to forget, the Duke 390 is a single-seater, even KTM calls it a solo machine and getting a pillion on-board requires you to be extra careful with the throttle. The 390 Duke is best ridden alone, the impressive power to weight ratio not being hampered.
Another inconvenience we have with the Duke 390 was the fuel tank capacity of 11-litres, this continues to bother us even now. Every time you plan a ride, you have to fill up to the brim and the realistic tank range is a shade under 200 kms, which is very less if you are the touring kind. You usually fill earlier to prevent going absolutely dry and are able to fill in 8-litres at max. The only good part though is the distance to empty feature on the console which let’s you plan your fuel stops quite accurately. The feature loaded instrument cluster continues to find our applaud, there is so much of information on offer and believe you me, most of it comes in use.
So the KTM Duke 390 isn’t a perfect bike, nothing is perfect after all. But this made in India 170 km/hr motorcycle does have far more positives which easily outweigh the negatives. When you factor in the purchase price, low cost of maintenance and wide service reach, the complete package becomes even more mouth watering. There simply isn’t anything which is as much fun or even close to as fast as the Duke 390. Twin-cylinder bikes from the same category with a higher asking price (Kawasaki Ninja 300 and Yamaha R25) won’t be able to touch the Duke 390 be it on the straight or in the corners, that very thought making us love our long termer even more.
Previous Reports –
Further Reading –
KTM Duke 390 Review
KTM Duke 390 vs KTM RC 390
KTM Duke 390 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300
KTM Duke 390 vs Royal Enfield Continental GT vs Honda CBR250R
KTM Duke 390 vs Yamaha RD350
KTM Duke 390 Tuning Box Comparison
KTM Duke 390 vs Kawasaki Z250
KTM Duke 390 vs Kawasaki Z250 – Video