KTM RC 390 Review
Bike Tested: 2014 KTM RC 390
Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 2.38 lakhs
The RC 390 is a KTM which has the visual show to match the massive unadulterated go
One of the most awaited bike launches, not just in India but the world over, the KTM RC 390 has finally been launched in Bajaj Auto style, that is, at a very mouth watering price. Being awaited for a long time now, the smaller capacity RCs have been the talk of the town ever since the Austrian firm unveiled the full faired machines at the 2013 EICMA motorcycle show. Being manufactured in India, the RC 390 is priced the most aggressively in our country which is testimony to the fact that “what goes around, comes back around”. You see, in India, we have always been starved off well priced performance bikes but the RC 390 is proof that affordable performance biking doesn’t get any better than this. A quick ride helps us to understand what this ‘Racing Competition’ machine is all about.
One of the main reasons why the KTM RC 390 has become the hot topic of every bike lover is the styling. It’s no secret that in India we love full faired bikes more than naked street-fighters and the RC quenches the thirst of those who want a fast looking sports bike. Extensive styling changes make the RC 390 look the part, the front is very devilish with those twin-projector headlights. The daytime running lights act as parking lights which you can turn on in the day and also at night to mark your presence. The fairing is well integrated but doesn’t cover the complete motorcycle and you can see a lot of wires. The upside to the semi-faired look is that there are still many exposed things like the orange frame and white monoshock which end up adding uniqueness to the package.
We love how the indicators have been mounted on the rear view mirrors but aren’t big fans of the big mirrors as they aren’t well placed to show you what’s behind. The tail section has been very neatly done, right from the cowl like pillion seat to the sharp tail light. The tyre hugger looks plain ugly and just like the Duke, this should be the first thing to go when you buy this bike. The rear mudguard is reinforced with steel below (plastic remains at the top) which results in zero flexing, making it more sturdy specially for our road conditions. The RC 390 still isn’t big and is a compact bike when viewed in person, it does look substantial thanks to the meatier body panels.
KTM has made absolutely no changes to the instrument cluster, it’s the same unit which is found on the Dukes and is loaded with a plethora of features. What has changed is the riding position. The RC 390 uses clip-on handlebars and the riding position is more aggressive. While you sit upright on the Duke 390, you sit in a forward lean position on this full faired KTM. The seat is smaller than before and the footpegs aren’t as rear-set as the Duke. The pegs are now forged instead of cast so won’t break easily. The overall result is a sporty riding position but does it tire you out? That will depend on your height. For a small heighted rider, the RC 390 will be too aggressive while tall riders won’t find it as aggressive due to their longer arms. The RC 390 is still not as committed as a Yamaha R15.
The RC 390 looks fast even when standing still but give it the beans and it’s ready to race, always
What hasn’t changed is the engine. The RC 390 employs the same 373.2cc, single-cylinder motor which we at MotorBeam internally refer to as a Nuke. With no changes to the gearing, the RC 390 is almost identical to the Duke 390 in performance. The RC does sound noticeably more throaty and hollow than before and the jerkiness at low revs is reduced to quite an extent, it isn’t as bad as the early Dukes. The bike does weigh 12 kgs more but that doesn’t make a significant difference in acceleration and our VBOX tests confirmed the RC is as fast, taking 5.68 seconds to do the 0-100 km/hr sprint. The idle feels a bit smoother than the Duke which could be down to better insulation the fairing gives. The motorcycle still has vibes, although not intrusive, you can feel them on the pegs and handlebars if you concentrate hard. Reaching 150 km/hr is done in a jiffy, twist your right wrist and the RC 390 is there, doing high speeds in no time. One need not duck down immediately as the improved aerodynamics keeps the RC going to 160 km/hr without much fuss. In the Duke 390, one has to duck down or the bike simply doesn’t cross 150 km/hr. The RC 390’s fairing helps it accelerate better but only post 140 km/hr.
The tall gearing of the RC 390 enables one to cruise at high speeds effortlessly but one must not forget, this is no touring machine. While the windshield and fairing reduce windblast to a great extent, the RC 390 has a 1-litre smaller fuel tank. You already know about the small tank range of the Duke 390 and considering the RC will be marginally less frugal (the real world difference could be negligible and the mileage hovers between 25-30 km/l), the tank range is even worse than the already bad range found on the Duke 390. KTM had no option but to shift the battery near the fuel tank, thereby eating into that space as the under-seat location became too cramped with the new raised pillion seat.
The Duke 390 has been a terrific handler but did not have the ergos to completely support knee down riding. However, the RC 390 with its ‘perfect for the track’ ergonomics and sharper steering is more suited to extreme handling. The bike turns in quickly into corners and the fantastic Metzeler tyres give it leech like grip even on the wettest of roads. The straight handlebar in the Duke 390 is still preferred in the city as it lends it agility at low speeds but out on the highway and with twisty roads in sight, the RC 390 comes in its own and is quite a hoot to ride fast. It doesn’t feel light or heavy, it just feels right and the chassis is very communicative too.
The brakes do lack initial bite but the ABS works well to keep matters safe in case you want to brake fast and hard. Ride quality is on the stiffer side and this isn’t a bike you would go gliding over bumps. The bike feels even stiffer than the Duke due to reduced suspension travel but the enhanced feedback from the steering makes the compromise in ride quality worth it. KTM has also channelled heat much better than the Duke, there is absolutely no heat on the rider’s legs but the bike does heat up and our spirited runs showed the temperature meter reach full bars quite a few times, the fan trying its best to keep matters cool. In comparison, the Duke 390 doesn’t heat as much but whatever heat is generated, the rider feels it on his legs, not in the RC.
The KTM RC 390 has been worth the wait as the motorcycle delights you with its sharp handling, crisp performance and attractive looks. The styling of the RC 390 is reason enough for many people to consider this bike as this motorcycle attracts a lot of attention on the road. Performance is scintillating and there is so much thrust on offer that you can continue to grin under your visor every time you take this bike on the highway. While it still isn’t the city slicker or touring friendly machine many expected, the RC 390 is a value for money sports bike which appeals massively to the heart.
The KTM RC 390 is easily the best sports bike for the masses as the pricing is very attractive and performance is more than ample. If you are the kind who likes to ride on valley roads every weekend and highways on a daily basis, then this is the bike for you.
* Striking design
* Sharp handling
* Crazy fast motorcycle
* KTM’s vast service network
What’s Not So Cool
* Smaller fuel tank
* Reduced practicality over the Duke
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