It’s almost 4 years, KTM predicted the future of small-capacity performance motorcycles in Asia and the rest of the world by inventing one- the KTM 390 Duke. And thanks to its class-leading power-to-weight and useful performance, it didn’t take KTM much to become a brand respected by sport and touring enthusiasts alike. While the fun and manic KTM 390 Duke is yet to come across a true rival of caliber, it seems KTM isn’t resting on its laurels.
Leadership and learning are intricately connected to each other and KTM, the leader in its segment, has mastered the trick of relentlessly improving its motorcycles and staying ahead of the pack. And this time too, it’s no different. KTM has taken its inimitable 390 and made it even better, and that’s what we talking about here; the 2017 KTM 390 Duke. More orange than before, this 2017 model could easily pass off as an extensive upgrade, but KTM insists it has completely revamped the motorcycle and this one is the second generation KTM 390 Duke.
Under the scorching sun, that catchy KTM orange looks even louder, and thanks to all the styling updates, the new KTM 390 Duke has an even more aggressive stance. But before we head out onto the tarmac, here’s a quick check on what’s visually new. There’s the dashing new split-LED headlamps similar to the KTM 1290 Super Duke, bigger 320mm brake disc up front, an intuitive TFT display, longer fuel tank cowl that now hides a bigger fuel tank, updated trellis frame with bolt-on subframe, wider and better cushioned seats, and a conventional side exhaust.
However, what’s difficult to identify without a little help from a KTM representative are the open-cartridge front USD forks, slightly taller seat height and a shorter wheelbase.
Eager to know what’s new with its single-cylinder 373cc engine? Sadly, there isn’t much that’s changed here, apart from the 2Nm of additional torque. No reason to rejoice as that bump is to compensate for the 10 kilograms increase in kerb weight (149 kilograms total). Yes, to every KTM Duke lover’s horror, the KTM 390 Duke has put on some mass but KTM says that weight gain is collateral damage for making its motorcycles cleaner and greener. Does that added weight crash the KTM 390 Duke’s ridability? Thankfully, no.
The KTM 390 Duke can still be a hooligan and while KTM has introduced ride-by-wire, power delivery is still a bit twitchy. Yes, the throttle response is direct but we expected it to be more linear as going on and off the throttle isn’t smooth and that’s all the more evident while trying to modulate the throttle around corners. But whack it open and it will lunge forward. There’s decent power till 6,000rpm, but it’s beyond 7,000rpm where the real party begins and it goes on till the marker breaches 10,000rpm. Plus, the gruntier exhaust note only adds to the sensation. Like the outgoing KTM 390 Duke, you don’t ride it, you race it. It’s still a delight to ride fast.
In the process of making the new 2017 KTM 390 Duke more aggressive, KTM has altered the overall rake angle and thanks to a slightly rear-set footpegs, you now sit a little more tipped forward than before. Nothing to worry about for those cornering junkies as despite the altered rider geometry and added heft, the KTM 390 Duke continues to take corners with glee and you can really push it around the twisty stuff. There’s that superb suspension set-up, a shorter wheelbase and those meaty Metzelers working their charm.
Talking of the Metzelers, here’s a spoiler; KTM has retained the tire size but changed the overall compound. So now a set of Metzelers will last longer and also be cheaper to replace. Cheaper and durable tires. We couldn’t tell the difference in grip but pushing the motorcycle around corners felt positive and our dozen odd brake tests were satisfactory. Oh yes, the brakes – the new set-up feels amazing, there’s ample bite and paired with dual channel ABS, you can brake deep into corners. KTM also lets you switch off the ABS completely or just cut off the rear. Not sure if we’d like that in our riding conditions, though.
Since this was strictly a controlled riding experience, we shall reserve our verdict on the new KTM 390 Duke’s ride comfort but overall, the KTM 390 Duke continues to be a cracker of a machine – crazy and nimble, bringing your wilder side more to the surface… We expect the 2017 KTM 390 Duke to be a bit higher in price than the outgoing model, which was priced at 199,900 THB.
The 2017 KTM 390 Duke continues to be the best in its class and the one to go for if touring and occasional track riding is your thing. Remember, this isn’t just a product of circumstances but a result of KTM’s relentless efforts of pushing the performance envelope further. And that it has surely done.