KTM RC 390, RC 200 Track Review
The gorgeous RC siblings are here to start a new trend in India and that’s track days
Yes, yes, we are as excited as you are when we were called to test ride the RC siblings on the track. The best part is that riding them back to back tells you exactly what are the major differences between them despite they being similar in endless ways. Obviously it is our job to tell you the details about what has been happening under the skin and how different these motorcycles are from the Duke siblings. The track test was none other than the iconic one of Bajaj’s Chakan plant in Pune which is no technical circuit but has the best balance of everything. Almost two kms of straight, one fast sweeper or let’s call it the climbing banking, a downhill and tight corners make up for where Bajaj Auto does its own testing. So let’s start talking about the track torture we gave the RC siblings because we have had our first impressions on the road and on the track, in a controlled environment and without looking for anything we nail the throttle, try to scrape the pegs and getting our knee down was the agenda. Was it as fun as expected. Peel some oranges, drink some lemonade because it is getting really hot here!
So let’s first get done and dusted with the similarities of the RC siblings. Both these bikes look identical except for the colour schemes in which the RC 200 is being praised a lot for its black and orange paint work while the RC 390 in white has a charm of its own and is filled with a lot of cool and techno graphics and also has the Duke 390 inspired power-coated orange trellis frame and wheels which are already offered on the RC 200 which the Duke 200 does not have. The RC series is the same on equipment. What the RC 390 has, the RC 200 also has like the Duke siblings but the only major difference now is ABS and Metzeler tyres which are not offered on the smaller RC. The RC also gets dual projectors, DRL lights (which are not on by default) and a rear seat which is a seat and a cowl at the same time.
When it comes to ergonomics they are the same too. Rear set footpegs which are positioned lower for better leg room but the seats remain really small and hard for the rider which may not accommodate everyone of every size. On the track all of this works as good as vanilla with chocolate syrup and additional strawberries for total fun and dedication. Dedicated riding position helps you fling from right to left very effectively and without maximum concentration on positioning itself. The clip-ons are on the higher side and coupled with lower set footpegs, these are very forgiving bikes to ride on the track for newbies and still give you the thrills of a proper sport bike thanks to well calibrated ergonomics and bomb of an engine under your command.
We are riding the Duke 390 on a daily basis and our first impression on the road for the RC was surprisingly very different from our Dukes. On the track too, it’s no different either. It is a very different machine and there are some flaws with the Duke which is high speed stability and the extremely light front end which has been taken care of on the RC. Lower, stiffer and better damping at the front of the RC series means there is no wobbling at high speeds, the feedback was already really good but on the RC it is totally surreal. Turn-in and the forks talk to you so much that they are like your girlfriend, who you love when she talks all day long. Needless to say, the turn-in is super duper sharp and precise thanks to 1.5 degree less rake over the Duke (25 to 23.5 on the RC) and the moment you turn-in, you have a huge smile on your face because the way the RC peels into corners is just pin-point precise and feels as accurate as your calculator which crunches 10 digit queries in a matter of seconds.
Riding a 400cc bike fast and hard on the track without being endangered are the amazing qualities you are paying for
As we already know, the chassis is fantastic but it flexes even less than the Duke which makes these stiff chassis equipped bikes even more confidence inspiring to ride. The shorter wheelbase of 27 mm over the Duke and the higher centre of gravity makes things even better which conjoined with the idea of an aluminium swing arm, assuring you with direction changes which are super quick and uninterrupted. The Metzeler M5 Sportec tyres on the track show what they really are. They were mind blowing on the road and they are sensationally scintillating on the track. The MRF tyres on the Duke 200 are really good but the traction levels on the Metzelers are so good that after riding the RC 390 first and the RC 200 later, we found ourselves complaining about the tyres. Needless to say, enthusiasts will only choose the RC 390 and so KTM has provided Metzelers on it. Meanwhile the RC 200 is for the road and for newbies who will come on the track and will find it above satisfactory but on the limit, even more stickier tyres are the need of the day. However, why get more grip when you can get a bike with more power and better grip to exploit the handling of the same chassis.
In a straight line, needless to say, the RC 390 was fun to ride and that too without pushing it hard one bit. The RC 390 saw 170 km/hr on the straight every single time and braking hard was the best part. Taking both fast sweepers around 100/115 km/hr was a task which required minimum effort and the chassis can take even more quite easily. ABS did not kick in even once because we did not reach the very limit of last moment braking. The track was new to us and before we started getting the hang of the track, time was up and we were back into the pits. After riding the RC 390, the RC 200 felt very slow. However, the best part is that the speeds through sweepers were higher and the adjusting to the brakes and limit of the tyres was seen quickly with all the riders. The RC 200 obviously reached top speeds in a blink of an eye but KTM really needs to smoothen out the rev limit in sixth gear so that riders can hold it. When we did reached the RPM limit in sixth gear on the RC 200, the RPM kept bouncing back and the speeds decreased from 137 to 134 km/hr. However, you can balance the throttle but that takes quite some practice as the RC 200 is still frantic.
Overall, how do we sum it up? All we can say is that these bikes are purely meant for the race track and they don’t fail to impress one bit and keep you grinning and laughing all day long. They are not meant for touring or going to office or college. Obviously you will do that and you can do that but the real fun lies on the track where these machines shine as bright as the mighty sun (reason why they are orange? Yes!). The balance, the ease of use, the radical design, the immense value for money tag make them a no brainer if you want to master the race track. These bikes are by far the best performance motorcycles in India and join the league of the cult Yamaha R15. Yes, it is that good and the RC bikes have the power that you always needed at the track. You can enjoy it on a daily basis but do take the time to go to the race track with it if you are going to buy it. The Duke fits your bill if you don’t want to do track days at all (the Dukes can do track days too). KTM is all set to start track fashion here in India with the splendid stallions being available from their stable. Like how their partner Bajaj, with their Pulsar started the touring and street riding idea in India. Tracks will be made in India throughout the nation and there will be a time where you can access a track which is no further than 500 kms way. All we can say is, we are mighty impressed with the Race (the) Competition bikes and can’t wait to road test them. Till that time, prepare yourself and be Ready to Race!
Further Reading –
KTM RC 200 vs Honda CBR250R
KTM RC 200 vs Pulsar RS 200
KTM RC 200 vs Pulsar RS 200 – Video
KTM RC 390 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300 – Video
KTM RC 200 Review
KTM RC 390 Review
KTM RC 390 First Ride Review
KTM RC 390 vs Kawasaki Ninja 300
KTM RC 390 vs KTM Duke 390
Picture Editing – Sri Manikanta Achanta