2015 KTM RC 390 Test Ride Review
2015 KTM RC 390 – Click above for high resolution picture gallery

KTM RC 390 Review

Bike Tested: 2015 KTM RC 390

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 2,37,790/-

The RC 390 isn’t an all-rounder, it’s a fast and super sharp bike for enthusiasts

If someone asked me to write a review of the KTM 390 in my sleep, I think I would do a fine job of it because since the arrival of the KTM 390, I have written more than 10 reviews of both the RC and Duke 390, this includes first rides, comparisons, etc. This has obviously made my job tough today as I sit to pen down the full blown review of the KTM RC 390, a motorcycle which has been hyped so much that people almost forgot its younger sibling. There is no doubt that the full faired 390 is a hooligan honed for the track but beyond all that orange glory, there is still a lot of tests this Austrian machine needs to pass through. Fast and sharp it might be, but how is the KTM RC 390 to live with for a person who isn’t Marc Marquez in the making.

Motor Quest: The KTM RC 390 is the full-faired version of the Duke 390 which made its world debut in 2013 and was launched in India in the second half of 2014. The motorcycle will get a slipper clutch in the second half of this year.

The KTM RC 390 looks very appealing and has a sharp and unique design

Styling – Ask anyone and they will say the colour scheme of the RC 200 looks much better but somehow the colour white has got associated with the 390 in our minds and that’s why the RC 390 looks very apt in white shade. Sure the attention to detail is impressive but beyond appreciating the rich hardware, one will definitely not like the fact that the RC 390 isn’t as full faired as it ought to be. Yes, it does look good but why is the frame so exposed? That’s because the fairing isn’t as big and if you look at some Japanese full faired bikes, you will notice that full faired means nothing is exposed, forget the frame, even the monoshock is usually not visible.

A layman wonders why the frame is exposed like this, is it a modified bike?

Of course I am ranting because just a few days ago I wrote the RC 200 review and I simply can’t write the same thing here, right? Our test bike came with the ugly-duckling of a saree guard which I was hoping would simply fall off, it’s purely not needed on a bike which is mostly going to be used as a solo ride. Even if a RC rider has a pillion, chances of the lady wearing a saree is slim to none. Probably Bajaj-KTM should make the rear tyre hugger and saree guard as optional, thereby reducing the price by a couple of thousands but now I am being cheap! The dimensions are quite compact for a machine with such displacement and while we have been all praises for the quality, the finish of the exhaust cover is far from impressive (refer second and third picture in performance section of this review).

The fully loaded cluster could do with a better tachometer so one can actually use it

Instrument Cluster and Switchgear – We all know the instrument cluster of all KTM bikes are the same and it carries an insane amount of information too so I am not going to go there. Instead, I will focus on things which should be improved and that starts with the tachometer which is completely useless, one simply can’t read it when the bike is being gunned and since the revs rise very quickly, you upshift using guess work when riding full throttle. Since the RC 390 does have daytime running light type parking lights, the switchgear should have been such that low beam would always be on, just like how it’s on all Kawasaki bikes.

Sporty riding position makes the KTM RC 390 best for short rides

Ergonomics – Comfort isn’t the RC’s forte and that’s evident as soon as you get riding as this bike can tire you out in no time. The wrists are what take the maximum beating but one shouldn’t complain as KTM never pitches this bike as a city ride or a touring machine, instead it’s a track motorcycle where it excels at its job. A pillion is welcome thanks to the cowl like seat which uses material that is super soft. However, one must remember, the pillion does sit a bit high and that’s amplified due to the raised rear-end. The mirrors on the bike are placed in a way that they are close to useless and become completely of no use once the rider has his jacket on. The new footpegs are of better quality than what’s see on the Duke.

Ballistic mid-range performance results in the KTM RC 390 being a road rocket

Performance – KTM’s 373.2cc single-cylinder engine needs no introduction at all, it has really made people go crazy with its terrific output numbers, 43.5 PS and 35 Nm on a motorcycle which weighs just 12 kgs more than its street-fighter sibling, the Duke 390 being often called the spiritual successor to the iconic Yamaha RD350. Slapping on our VBOX and giving the RC 390 the beans confirmed that the extra weight hadn’t affected the mad acceleration, this KTM too did the 0-100 km/hr run in 5.68 seconds (5.61 seconds for the Duke 390). Meanwhile, the improved aerodynamics start to play their part post 140 km/hr over which the RC is quicker than the Duke to its top speed of a speedo indicated 179 km/hr (real speed 169 km/hr).

Identical motor as the Duke, the RC 390 carries the flaws of its non-faired sibling

So there is little doubt about the engine, it is after all the heart of the motorcycle and it thoroughly transforms the riding experience with its strong mid-range surge and good top-end. Sadly though, Bajaj KTM haven’t made any changes to the engine in spite of feedback pouring in from every corner of the world. Even the gearing hasn’t been altered which is a big disappointment. All this means there are still vibrations but mostly at high RPM and they can be felt on the pegs. The motor doesn’t sound exciting enough and although the sound is minutely different than the Duke, it doesn’t match the show of the bike. In short, everything between the RC 390 and Duke 390’s powertrain is identical so while the RC goes the same way, it also has the same issues as the Duke.

Although a hoot to ride, the RC 390’s motor heats too much for city riding

The KTM RC 390 isn’t the bike for city use, it’s best suited to open roads if you want to have fun

Let me elaborate. For starters, the powerplant is quite unrefined and ride even a 150cc motorcycle and you will find it eons more refined than the RC 390. That’s not all, heating is an even bigger problem than the Duke. Yes, you read that right. With the Duke 390, everyone complained about the heat, with the RC 390, the rider doesn’t get the heat on his legs (thanks to the full fairing) but heat dissipation is poor and when ridden in the city, the RC 390 heats a tad bit more than the Duke 390. To confirm this, we rode our long term Duke 390 along with the RC 390 and found the latter to have 1 bar higher heat on its temperature meter all the time. The problem is amplified when the RC reaches peak heat and shuts down, refusing to start and you are embarrassed by pushing the bike to the side of the road.

The mid-range is so strong, you get a shove and can fly on the RC too

KTM has given the RC 390 an overactive fan so that tries to keep the motor cool but still it doesn’t help much while the fan noise becomes quite loud and naturally irritating. The tall gearing means you have to be in first gear in crawling traffic and the bottom end isn’t strong either. The gearbox is slick shifting though but somehow the quality of the gear lever isn’t as good in quality as the initially KTMs, there is tendency of the lever breaking and that’s even without aggressive shifts (the fairing also starts rattling after some time). The clutch (no slipper clutch in the immediate future) is on the heavier side but you do get used to it. The RC 390 is as frugal as the Duke 390 so expect a real world mileage of 25 km/l in the city and 28 km/l on the highway, that with a reduced tank capacity by 1-litre results in a poor range of under 200 kms.

There is so much feedback and feel that riding fast around sharp bends is easy

Riding Dynamics – If there is a place where the KTM RC 390 absolutely excels, it’s handling. With multiple changes made to the RC over the Duke, this KTM is sharper and more confidence inspiring. We have already gone over the changes done to the RC in the review of the RC 200 so we will refrain from discussing about the same here. Instead, let’s get a feel of how the bike is around the twisties. Unlike the RC 200, the RC 390 isn’t as fun because it’s so quick that you simply aren’t able to think or react before you come to a corner. Instead, one needs to modulate the throttle accordingly to best soak in the experience.

 

On a twisty section, the KTM RC 390’s massive power means you reach from one corner to another corner so quick, that you simply don’t have enough time to grin under your helmet. The good part is, there is ABS and that too standard but initial bite is lacking, something which is much better on the RC 200. The Metzeler tyres offer supreme grip and in comparison, the smaller RC feels like it is using average tyres. The RC 390 also offers more space to move around and that helps a lot in attacking corners, the feedback being immense.

The brakes could do with more front-end bite while the ride is stiff for our roads

Where the KTM RC 390 isn’t at home is city roads. Firstly the motor just doesn’t feel up to the task of handling daily chores as stop-go traffic is its enemy. Then there is the ride quality which on bad roads is so poor that it can rattle you. The ground clearance has increased over the Duke 390 but somehow the RC 390 still manages to scrape its exhaust cover over large speed-breakers, a non-issue with the street-fighter sibling. High speed stability is excellent and the composure at triple digit speeds is higher than the naked 390.

For a practical and sweet sounding bike, the Ninja 300 is a better but more expensive bet

Verdict – First and foremost, there isn’t a ‘one bike fits all’ kind of thing, so anyone looking to buy the KTM RC 390, stop, think and then decide if this is the motorcycle for you. Don’t get me wrong, the KTM RC 390 is a terrific bike but it certainly isn’t a bike for city riding, nor is it apt for touring. The RC 390 is a specialised weapon, it’s a knife which cuts through corners with precision. That is the only reason, other than the looks of course as to why one would buy the RC 390 over the more practical Duke 390. That said, if you want a fast bike and are obsessed with corners, there is nothing better than the KTM RC 390 and certainly none at this price point.

The KTM RC 390 isn’t a very practical motorcycle and is a bike which is dynamically rich but lacks heavily on real-world usability. If you want to make a statement in college, you are better off getting the RC 200 while if speed is your criteria, the Duke 390 is a better deal. Want speed, style and handling in one package, nothing comes close to the RC 390 then.

Nothing beats KTM when it comes to value for money biking in India

What’s Cool

* Appealing motorcycle which looks wicked with those headlights, turns attention easily
* Rocket of a motor has immense outright performance and can outrun every other Indian bike
* Super sharp handling, inspires terrific confidence to ride hard and fast
* Top-notch hardware along with standard ABS makes it very rich on the spec front
* Stellar pricing brings the RC 390 close to a lot of bike enthusiasts
* KTM’s sales and service network is the biggest for any performance bike brand in India

What’s Not So Cool

* Not comfortable for daily riding, the ergos are committed and the ride quality is harsh
* Powerful motor heats a lot in the city which along with tall gearing makes it best for open roads
* While it’s a sports bike, it simply doesn’t sound like one, more so at idle
* Inconsistent quality with some parts feeling sub-par, the fairing starts to rattle soon
* Not for the highways, the tank range is low and the mirrors offer little rear-ward visibility
* Difficult to clean; cuts and creases along with an exposed frame get dirty quick

Alternatives: Kawasaki Ninja 300

The curves are always in the KTM RC 390’s sight, it’s so sharp around them

KTM RC 390 Specifications

* Engine: 373.2, single-cylinder, liquid-cooled
* Power: 43.5 PS @ 9000 RPM
* Torque: 35 Nm @ 7000 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed
* 0 – 100 km/hr: 5.68 seconds (VBOX tested)
* Top Speed: 169 km/hr (VBOX tested)
* Fuel Consumption: 24-28 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Frame: Powder-coated tubular steel space frame
* Suspension: Upside Down Forks (Front), WP Monoshock (Rear)
* Tyres: 110/70/17 (Front), 150/60/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: 300 mm Disc (Front), 230 mm Disc (Rear), ABS

KTM RC 390 Dimensions

* Length x Width x Height: 1978 mm x 688 mm x 1098 mm
* Wheelbase: 1340 mm
* Ground Clearance: 178.5 mm
* Seat Height: 820 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 10-litres
* Kerb weight: 166 kgs

Riders: Hrishi Mandke, Viraj David; Picture Editing: Sri Manikanta Achanta

Further Reading –

KTM RC 390 Long Term Review
KTM RC 390 First Ride Review
KTM RC 390 Track Test
KTM RC 390 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300
KTM RC 390 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 – Video
KTM RC 390 vs KTM Duke 390
KTM RC 390 vs MINI Cooper