KTM's 390 Duke is Asia's most awaited motorcycle for 2013, and one of our test riders rides it on the pristine streets of Austria to confirm whether it can live up to all the hype.
KTM and its Indian partner are on a roll. Just how triumphant their solid partnership has today turned out is visible in KTM having shot up the ranks to usurp the crown of Europe's number one motorcycle producing factory. It's no coincidence this happened in such a flash, for both companies first formulated, then steadfastly followed their intelligent game-plan, riding KTM technology into the high volumes, small capacity road motorcycles segment, on the back of affordable production at the Indian production facilities.
First of this new KTM breed was the KTM 125 Duke, sold only in Europe and a few other countries, followed by the KTM 200 Duke, making the KTM 390 Duke the third Austrian effort. The KTM 390 Duke is the first KTM to be sold in all markets KTM today operates in. The sporty big-single is a road going streetbike just like the KTM 200 Duke. We recently hopped on to sample the KTM 390 Duke on top-class roads in Austria, KTM's home turf. The edgy and aggressive KTM 390 Duke is styled similar to the KTM 200 Duke, only a little extra visual mass and refreshing new colors really distinguishing the two. Bright orange rims mark the easiest way to tell a KTM 390 Duke apart. The muscular, flamboyant KTM 390 Duke is a compact, modern day motorcycle, with a weight tipped forward stance. There's a generous helping of KTM's sporty 'Ready to Race' DNA, sharp angles and steep creases seen on all quarters. The KTM 390 Duke is impressively lighter than most other motorcycles in the same class, KTM having shed every excess kilo to keep the KTM 390 Duke to a bantam weight of 139kg.
There's a powerful, halogen bulb powered headlight, set in a familiar, elongated bikini fairing. That's crested by a tiny visor, protecting a dinky, digital instruments bay. As earlier, reading anything on the tiny display is a task, more so when riding fast, just like the KTM 390 Duke is built to be ridden. The cascading type rev counter is annoyingly small, with speed being the only readily legible information. A bold, red shifter beacon is a helpful aid when pushing the quick-revving KTM 390 Duke to its limits.
The KTM 390 Duke comes with a near flat set, tapered alloy handlebar, and the same uncomfortably hard, dimpled palm grips offered with the KTM 200 Duke. Illuminated switches are a neat touch from KTM, and these work with nice and crisp tactile feel, Dog-leg shaped control levers and functional rear view mirrors are standard, these neatly mounted on rubber boot protected stalks.
The KTM 390 Duke's attractively sculpted fuel tank unit provides riders thoughtfully scooped indents for thigh grip, but the new motorcycle's ankle grip tabs are located too low behind the foot rests for feasible use.
The KTM 390 Duke engine sits suspended from a beefy looking, orange powder-coated steel trellis frame, its stubby, tastefully finished exhaust located just behind a sporty belly fairing. There's plenty of alloy, including a smart swingarm, several sub-frame sections and your brake and gearshift pedals. The KTM 390 Duke comes with split seat, a contemporary tail-fairing, slim brake warning light and outstretched number plate mount.
Overall quality is good, as are fit-finish and attention-to-detail.
The liquid-cooled KTM 390 Duke is powered by a four-stroke, 375cc, single-cylinder (bore and stroke, 89mm x 60mm) engine with dual overhead camshafts driving a quartet of valves. There's a forged piston and Nikasil coated cylinder for enhanced performance. Peak power output is a healthy 44 horsepower at 9,500rpm, better commanded by your wrist than typed out on a keyboard, and the KTM 390 Duke is good for 3.59kgm of torque made at 7,250rpm. The six-speed transmission shifts smoothly always, with a well weighted feel in a one-down and five-up, toe-shifted pattern. Power is transmitted to the rear wheel via a X-ring-sealed drive chain. Each gear ratio is well spaced, the KTM 390 Duke coming into its element when gasses hard, as you quick-shift up the box to keep revs in the meat of its powerband.
The KTM 390 Duke clutch works with progressive feel, with only marginally heavier pull than the KTM 200 Duke. Throttle response is immediate on the fuel-injected motorcycle, and the power band is wide. The KTM 390 Duke's engine provides ample low-end grunt, building into a strapping mid-range that flows all the way up to redline, over 10,000rpm. Top-end power is strongest, best performance calling for hard pushing over 6,000rpm. The KTM 390 Duke provides seriously quick acceleration, and easily holds respectable cruising speeds, with the instruments showing 7,000rpm when doing 130km/h in sixth gear, and 5,000rpm at 100km/h. We took the KTM 390 Duke up to an effortless speedometer indicated top speed of 107km/h in third gear, an indicated 133km/h in fourth and over 150km/h in fifth, with sixth still to engage. KTM tells us it has tested the KTM 390 Duke to a true 165km/h top speed in sixth, which we can verify soon after strapping on our test equipment.
The KTM 390 Duke's exhaust note is rorty, baritone and best served with a good helping of high revs. The new engine is impressive, always feeling smooth, vie-free and willing to rev.
The KTM 390 Duke is held together by a steel trellis frame. Its riding position is back upright, but still sporty as your legs bend below the knees, similar to the KTM 200 Duke. There's enough space for riders to move around in the firm riding saddle. Chunky 43mm upside-down front forks are standard, as are an adjustable monoshock and aluminum alloy swingarm. Ride quality is taut, aiding the chassis as it delivers sporty, sharp handling, although this could be slightly softer, offering more comfort on the final production motorcycle for the Asian market. The KTM 390 Duke feels nice and light to handle, always commendably stable and responding swiftly to steering inputs and weight shifts. This KTM likes going round corners, and does so with a neutral, confident air. This isn't a very forgiving motorcycle however and deserves some respect, especially if new to this level of performance.
Low-profile, tubeless Metzeler radial tires will be standard on the Asian model, these working to provide reassuring grip throughout our, fast ride. Speaking of safety, the KTM 390 Duke comes with a four-pot, radial-mounted single 300mm rotor disc in front and 230mm disc brake at rear, plus ABS. The Bosch 9MB, twin channel ABS braking system working like a dream throughout our ride, barely intruding on brake feel at all but working smoothly, only when required, to swiftly react and make the right amends for excess braking. ABS can also be switched off, via a button on the instruments panel. Unlike the KTM 200 Duke, on the KTM 390 Duke, the engineers have ensured the adjustble rear brake pedal is now more accessibly positioned.
The attractive KTM 390 Duke looks all set to redefine the sporty Asian streetbike benchmark. This powerful and refined KTM comes on strong, with all bases covered, including quality and able handling.