KTM Duke 390 Test Ride Review
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KTM Duke 390 Review

Bike Tested: 2013 KTM Duke 390

Price OTR Mumbai: Rs. 2,13,200/-

The Duke 390 offers heart thumping performance, it is one brutally fast machine.

The year 2013 has been a bit cold. Rising fuel prices and EMIs have sent auto sales plunging down (in both 2 and 4-wheeler segments). After a long wait, the launch of the KTM Duke 390 in India has been witnessed. Reviewers have been waiting to get hold of the Duke 390 and test it in Indian conditions. We could not wait, hence, we went ahead and brought you our initial impressions of the KTM Duke 390 on home soil last month. The Duke 390 is finally in our hands and we put it through all kind of roads to bring you a thorough review of the highly anticipated motorcycle you have been waiting for. So sit back, relax and grab your favourite snack because this KTM Duke 390 review is going to be a long one.

Motor Quest: KTM introduced the first Duke badged motorcycle in 1994, the Duke I 620. The Duke II came in 1998 and evolved into the Duke 690. Since then 990, 125, 200 and 390 models of the Duke have followed.

KTM Duke 390 Performance ReviewKTM Duke 390 User Experience

Styling – There is not much to say here. The styling of the Duke 390 is identical to the Duke 200 which is a love it or loath it design. The KTM Duke 390 also gets hand-guards as standard although they are missing on our test bike. You get the ergonomically scooped tank with long shrouds, slim headlight, well-crafted and purposeful engine belly fairing, minimalistic flat tailpiece and a chunky front fender. At the rear there is the gorgeous looking die cast aluminium swing arm, sleek LED tail lights, LED turn indicators, bulbous looking grab rails and the annoyingly long rear mudguard with the Indian specific sari guard and a tyre hugger. What KTM has done is something clever and cannot be ruled out. A new paint scheme and freshly designed graphics just for the KTM Duke 390 work well. Instead of the Duke, the 390 sticker is now the bold one on the bike. First KTM promoted the brand and now the capacity, makes sense.

KTM Duke 390 Road Test ReviewKTM Duke 390 Dynamics Review

The eye-catchy part of the KTM Duke 390 is the powder coated orange trellis frame and wheels, which have immaculate finish, and are loud in the flesh. When you see the Duke 390, it is a exactly like a Duke but a second look makes you realise that it is a Duke 390 all thanks to the bold ‘390’ and orange wheels and frame. The paint signifies that it is something special. The orange trellis frame is seen on motorcycles such as the Duke 690, 990 and RC series of bikes. The orange wheels are seen only on flagship motorcycles, which are high performance forged Marchesini wheels, these are normal alloys but are painted orange to show it’s a special bike, even for the manufacturer. The difference from the 200 is the exposed ABS wires on the right side and under the fuel tank where the exposed wiring harness comes falling down with heat resistant material wrapped onto it. Looks a bit of a mess, but it is not a turn off either.

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Instrument Cluster and Switch Gear – Yes, it is the same here too. We never liked the idea of the tachometer being digital and the LCD screen being small. It robs you of the fun which an analog tachometer offers. Where KTM makes up is the plethora of information, which it provides. A clock, temperature bar, economy readouts in European and Indian versions, side stand indicator, two trip meters, gear position, service due indicator, distance to empty, engine malfunction indicator and the usual shift light, neutral, turn, high beam indicators. What is new? Well, it is the unmarked ABS button right below the SET button and the ABS indicator on the top right side. The MODE, SET and unmarked ABS buttons are really hard to press and cannot be operated with gloves easily, they need some real hard pressing. Switchgear is identical too, which means top-notch quality. Back lit switchgear makes it standout (in the international motorcycle market).

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Ergonomics – Naked street motorcycle rule number one has been followed with wide handle bars, upright sitting position and rear set foot pegs. Despite the simple setup, it gives you the feel that you are commanding a ‘big bike’. The rock hard seats on the KTM Duke 390 is typical of any big sport bike. Good for confidence and enthusiastic riding but not to everyone’s taste and comfort. A small specific we found is that the foot pegs are even more rear set than the Duke 200 by a small margin. Mirror stalks are long but the glass is small, so most above average built riders with jackets will find it hard to see what is behind clearly. Pillion seat is of no use until and unless you have a sidekick who has an extremely below average built and willingly volunteers to sit on this insanely fast motorcycle.

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Performance and Gearbox – Until now, everything was simple and sane. Powering this motorcycle is a heart of a monster. A single-cylinder, DOHC, 373cc engine pumps out 43 BHP of power at 9000 RPM and 35 Nm of torque at 7000 RPM. The engine is smooth and refined throughout the rev range and is loaded with technologies which are usually used in racing. The cylinder is sleeveless, hence coated with NIKASIL which is used to reduce wear and tear in modern four-stroke racing engines. The piston is a forged unit, which gives it a quick reviving nature and reduces heat. The cam and its follower are most prone to wear and tear because it keeps constantly sliding in a demanding high performing engine hence KTM coated it with diamond like coating for reducing friction by a huge margin which enhances performance in return.

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Every important part of the Duke 390’s engine is on par with racing engines, which are used for endurance or track racing. This results in insane performance and exact engine characteristic which an enthusiast would dream off. The high tech components helps in weight reduction and this motor weighs only 36 kgs. One more fact worth considering is that the 373cc unit churns out a whopping 43.5 PS which means PS/litre number is an outstanding 118! This theory suffices that every single horsepower is used to deliver heart-pounding performance. In first gear the Duke 390 hits 56 km/hr, in second gear 82 km/hr, in third it does 105 km/hr, in fourth it maxes out at 135 km/hr while in fifth it tops out at 156 km/hr. While cruising at 100 km/hr in sixth gear, the engine is relaxed doing 5000 RPM and cruising at 120 km/hr in top gear results in 6500 RPM on the tacho, which means overtaking while cruising at these speeds doesn’t necessitate a downshift. However, heavy wind-blast is felt post 130 km/hr which is a bit irritating on long straight roads (KTM offers a windshield visor which will surely help to contain wind-blast to some extent).

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Below 5000 RPM, the engine is as relaxed as any DOHC engine. Nevertheless, there is good low-end torque thanks to the capacity and taller gearing, which makes it relaxing to cruise around in town. The less frantic fuelling makes it more drivable, unlike the Duke 200 where you bump into the limiter almost all the time. Overall it is less frantic with smoother fuelling and taller gearing. Even with the taller gearing you don’t have to rev the hell out of the engine due to the narrow power band, which is from 2000 RPM to 10,500 RPM rather than 12,000 RPM in most bikes. This is perfectly aligned with street bike characteristic. To give you an example of the gearing, the Duke 200 uses a 43T rear sprocket while the Duke 390 uses a 45T rear sprocket. However, it is not easy to ride in town as the engine heats up a lot like any other liquid-cooled sports bike. You will have to keep speeds above 60 km/hr in third gear or above to avoid the heat. However, once you cross 5000 RPM, the Duke 390 turns into a Nuke and shoots forward with the urgency of a missile.

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300 BHP per tonne can no way be tagged as tame. You don’t feel anything that is going inside the engine, it just shoots forward with utmost smoothness and feels like a two-stroke engine of yesteryears. If we give this motorcycle to a two-stroke lover, he would go the petrol bunk and ask the pump attendant to mix oil and petrol. The acceleration is the party piece of the KTM Duke 390 and it is fabulously savage. Accelerate in a rush in first gear and you are bound to do a 75-degree power wheelie on the Duke 390. It gives you a rush, which you cannot imagine until and unless you ride it. Front is very lively when accelerating hard and it bounces a bit, it is not scary but it’s the part of the riding experience which displays the ferocity of the power to weight ratio. 60 km/hr is dealt in less than 3 seconds. 100 km/hr comes up in a recorded 5.6 seconds and the top speed is a whopping 160 km/hr plus which comes as soon as you shift into sixth gear and there is hardly any wait. There is a wait though, which is for 170 km/hr, which can be extracted only if roads and nature support. The engine is much louder and throaty with the use of the same underbelly type exhaust as the Duke 200. Although it does not sound sporty or pleasing but it sounds exactly as the characteristics it possess, a growling monster.

KTM Duke 390 Road Test Review

Riding Dynamics – Armed with a trellis frame, WP upside down forks at the front and WP monoshock at the rear (which is directly mounted on the swing arm), the KTM Duke 390 has excellent dynamics. Pottering around in the city is a point and shoot affair. It is as easy as entry-level motorcycles. High speed stability is excellent due to stiffly sprung suspension and slightly longer wheelbase than the Duke 200. On a twisty roads is where the Duke 390 comes alive. The Duke is very agile when turning into corners and completely planted through the sweepers. You can just keep on changing directions repeatedly if you want to keep up the pace on endless twisty roads. Steering feels minutely slow due to added weight and longer wheelbase when compared to the Duke 200, which it shares the platform with. Nevertheless, the fun factor and grin levels are the same as the younger sibling.

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Grip levels on the Duke 390 are phenomenal in the wet. The bike stays planted like it’s in the dry thanks to the super grippy Metzeler M5 Sportec tyres. The Duke 390’s tyres are the same dimensions as the Duke 200 but since this motorcycle is capable of doing more speeds even more quickly, an upgrade was necessary. The 300 mm disc at the front uses a four-pot radial calliper and the 230 mm disc at the rear uses a single pot calliper, which assisted by ABS works very well to stop the Duke 390, right in its tracks at any given speed. ABS pulsating was not experienced more than once which was when we stood on the brakes at 150 km/hr. Ride quality is properly stiff and ride is harsh. Mid corner bumps will unsettle the bike if you are going too fast. It gobbles small potholes with ease but bigger craters of our monsoon roads really ruin the comfort when it comes to city riding. The ride is liveable though as most of the bumps don’t filter as much as they do on normal motorcycles due to 150 mm suspension travel on both ends.

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Verdict – Overall, we think the KTM Duke 390 is magnificent. The Duke 390 screams performance. Every part of the engine is thoughtfully engineered to provide racing experience and utmost reliability. This KTM is what the Duke 200 should have been. Having said that, the 390 becomes a sweeter deal with far more control, added practicality for Indian conditions and ABS coming as standard. At this price, it is wet dreams come true for motorcycle enthusiasts. You can only understand the magnitude when you start the engine and accelerate into the horizon biblically quick. This is something you imagined can only be felt with superbikes which come at ten times the price. Everything about the KTM Duke 390 is 10 or 20% better than expected and praise does not get higher than that. The Duke 390 is the only bike in India, which will thoroughly appeal to both the heart and head. This truly is an entry-level sports bike you have been waiting for all these years.

The KTM Duke 390 is an all out pocket rocket and the way it accelerates can leave you spell bound. There is simply nothing at this price which can even come close.

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What’s Cool

* Performance
* Handling
* Metzeler tyres
* Value for money

What’s Not So Cool

* Engine heat
* Pillion seat
* Ride quality

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2013 KTM Duke 390 Specifications

* Engine: 373.2cc, 4-valve, single-cylinder, water-cooled, DOHC
* Power: 43.5 PS @ 9000 RPM
* Torque: 35 Nm @ 7000 RPM
* Transmission: 6-speed manual
* 0 – 100 km/hr: 5.6 seconds
* Top Speed: 170 km/hr
* Fuel Consumption: 25-28 km/l
* Fuel Type: Petrol
* Suspension: Upside down forks (Front), Monoshock (Rear)
* Tyres: 110/70/17 (Front), 150/60/17 (Rear)
* Brakes: 300 mm disc (Front), 230 mm disc (Rear), ABS

2013 KTM Duke 390 Dimensions

* Length x Width x Height: 2002 mm x 873 mm x 1274 mm
* Wheelbase: 1372 mm
* Ground Clearance: 170 mm
* Seat Height: 800 mm
* Fuel Tank Capacity: 11-litres
* Kerb weight: 154 kgs

Pictures – Anannd Sampat

Further Reading –

KTM Duke 390 Video Review
KTM Duke 390 Long Term Review
KTM Duke 390 Long Term Review – Second Report
Kawasaki Z250 vs KTM Duke 390
Kawasaki Z250 vs KTM Duke 390 – Video
KTM Duke 390 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300
KTM Duke 390 vs Yamaha RD350
KTM Duke 390 vs Honda CBR250R vs Royal Enfield Continental GT