This bike here - the KTM Duke 390 - must have unsettled most of the Indian motorcycle enthusiasts when it arrived almost a year ago. Why? Well, we all have a habit of asking each other, "So, which one's better?" and take out information from internet or magazines and just draw a comparison. One 250cc against another 250cc, one 150cc engine versus another 150cc engine. That's why when the Duke 390 arrived, most jaws dropped to the floor. First reason was what KTM had claimed before the launch (0-60 in 2.6secs, 0-100 in 5.5, top speed of over 170kmph etc etc etc), the second reason was the fact that it competed in a segment that had no other motorcycle. So that made it literally uncomparable to anything else. And if there was no Duke 200 in the market before it came, it would have been the most radical (I am shying away from using the word 'beautiful' because it's highly subjective) design India had ever seen.
The fact that it was being made in India ensured that the price remains good enough for the Indian enthusiasts to dream about this motorcycle and also realise it. The second fact that the export models too are made in India tells us that the quality an Indian customer is getting is as good as the quality his English or American counterpart is getting left nothing to worry about the quality of this product from the Austrian manufacturer. But is it all about the good things that has been said and written about the Duke 390? Scroll down to know what we have to say about it.
I won't disagree to the fact that it very much looks like a Duke 200 with a new paint scheme, but I personally do not mind it. Every time I have taken it on the roads, it has made heads turn and eyes roll. The Orange trellis frame, the orange alloy wheels, sporty hand guards are more than enough to distinguish it from anything else Indian eyes have ever seen. Yes the saree guard and the tyre hugger look kind of obnoxious to me on a machine like this, so I got them removed as soon as I laid my hands on it. The engine part looks neat without any extra wires oozing out of the frame, but the quality of the plastic and some of the parts that are made in India to keep the price under check takes away the premiumness from it. To be honest, I have always loved the streetfighter look and this bike here is no exception – just the way it was almost a year ago when I saw it for the first time in flesh and blood.
Engine, Performance and Fuel Efficiency
The first thing that will stir up the first few emotions in you once you bring it to life by turning the key is the exhaust note. The growl that comes from this single-cylinder engine means business. The engine is an overbored version of the Duke 200, which makes it 373.2cc. I am not sure how KTM managed to do it, but this engine delivers a (kid you not) 44bhp of maximum power at a pretty high 9,500rpm and a maximum torque of 35Nm at a slightly lesser 7,500rpm. The gearbox is entirely new and has been made keeping in the mind the optimum comfort without compromising on the performance. The first three gears are short, but the last three gears are tall, very tall in fact. I was told to not take it beyond 7,5000rpm mark for the first 1,000kms and it left me a bit disappointed. But it was all-fine when I realised that it was doing almost 140kmph at 7,500rpm in sixth gear. The power delivery is boombastic. Put it in the first gear, but make sure you release the clutch easily, because if your right hand has moved a little too quickly, the front tyre is more than eager to leave tarmac. We all know the 0-60 and 0-100 figures so I won't get into it, but just a little caution, if you are not careful or properly geared try not to figure out what all this machine is capable of doing. But there is something that is annoying. The engine or the radiator fan throws too much of heat on your legs if you are struggling with a stop-and-go traffic situation. The flip side of this massive performance is a not so impressive fuel economy. Under normal city situations with fair amount of traffic, the Duke 390 will give you a fuel efficiency between 20-25kmpl which can be irritating keeping in mind the small tank it comes with. The 11-litre fuel tank will take you no longer than 200kilometrs on a tankful.
Riding and Handling
The ride quality of the Duke 390 is the most promising aspect of it. Despite being a naked bike, it lets you do things that only top-end sport bikes can let you do. For the first time in India, a bike comes with a set of Metzeler tyres. The Metzeler Sportec M5 tyres are known to be one of the stickiest tyres in the world and the ones on the Duke 390 also come with 'Made in Germany' labeled on them. Throw the Duke 390 in any corner with as much lean as your courage or Physics allows and you will leave the corner as fast as you entered. But being soft compound, they get used real quick and also cost a bomb. My rear tyre got ruined in less than 12,000kilometres and I had to pay Rs 9,500 to get a replacement. The stance is very aggressive which lets you remain in complete control of the motorcycle all the time. The 43mm upside down front forks from WP are the same ones that are used in the track-ready RC8 R and guarantee maximum stability and precision. The light alloy swingarm, which is directly linked to the WP monoshock give it a phenomenal track like rigidity. The Duke 390 is also the only bike in its category to come with anti-lock braking system (ABS) as a standard fitment. The ABS, which has been made by Bosch is a state-of-the-art piece of technology and kicks in just when needed letting you have all the fun without killing it. The 300mm disc at the front along with the four-piston caliper from Bybre ensures that you can stop on a dime when needed. For those who love to live on the edge, the ABS can be turned off. The meter console is generously equipped and gives you all the information you need. The bike switches off automatically in you engage a gear with the side stand down making it a very useful proposition in terms of safety.
To sum it up, I would say that the KTM Duke 390 is not for you if you like to take things easy. This bike will encourage you, or rather force you to rev it harder in every gear and squeeze the hell out of it. It will encourage you to throw your Physics lessons in the bin and defy the laws that were laid by Newton. It will force you to hone your skills to enjoy it to the max. This friend had jokingly called it 'the new widow maker' a few days ago, and I agreed with him half-heartedly. One half agreed because of the immense power and the stuff this machine can do which can force you to make errors without realising. The other half disagreed because of the safety features this bike comes preloaded with. The super sticky Metzelers, the ABS, the 300mm disc at the front, the upside down forks are all good enough to make sure that unless your luck has conspired to work against you, you are always safe on this motorcycle. However, I would personally urge you to ride safe, not take unnecessary risks and wear your helmet – after all, with a bike like the KTM 390, you have to enjoy the ride for sometime, don’t you?
KTM Duke 390 Test Ride Review - BikePortal