For the past two decades, KTM has been a well-known motorcycle manufacturer especially with off-road bikes (motocross and/or dirt bikes). However making only a certain kind of bike didn’t seem economically viable, and thus in recent years they have expanded their range to building street-legal ‘dualies’ or motards, and even cars like the KTM X-Bow.
However, not all countries legalise motocross bikes for the road even though they have headlights. Even in Malaysia, our friends in JPJ are also quite strict when it comes to these types of ‘scrambler’ bikes for the road.
Although KTM has decided to make street legal supermotos like the KTM 690 Duke, it just wasn’t enough to make the cut. A vast majority of motorcyclists don’t ride (or rather can’t afford) a BMW S1000RR or a Kawasaki Z1000 to use for commuting or recreational riding, but instead choose to ride a moped or any low-capacity bikes for daily commuting. But how does one bridge the gap between a daily commuter and a fun Sunday bike?
In 2007, KTM took the plunge and worked with Bajaj, an Indian bike manufacturer, to work on lower engine capacity bikes. Through that cooperation, they came up with the Duke 125 and 200. The engine was derived from the Bajaj Pulsar. The Duke 125 and 200 were terrifyingly popular in India and other parts of the world and became a huge success for KTM (and Bajaj!).
Not very long after, KTM launched the 390 Duke in 2013 and like before, it was a success.
A few weeks back, I got the chance to ride the KTM 390 Duke. I had the bike for an entire week which allowed me to ride this machine all I wanted but for most part, I only rode it to work. Over the week, as I had the opportunity to test the bike out, I deduced eventually that this is something I love to own but would not purchase. Read on to find out why.
First off, I have rode the KTM RC 390 (the younger twin of Duke 390) a few months back when a friend of mine bought one. Both machines are mechanically identical but differ in looks, design and riding position.
Personally, I love upright riding positions more as I have a bad back which gets accentuated if I lean forward for too long. Not to mention, I’m an enduro lover, so of course I would prefer the upright position. The 390 seat is comfortable enough for town rides, I can’t comment for long distance as I did not get the chance to try. The original seat provides ample space for the rider and pillion, and comfortable enough for solo or two-up town rides.
Over the course of the week that I rode the 390 Duke, I did find some things irritating about the bike, however, I’m not sure if it’s because of the bike or caused by the person who previously took the bike.
First off, we all know this bike was out for quite some time already. Nonetheless, the power of the fuel-injected single cylinder engine makes is simply amazing. The claimed 44 hp at 9,500 rpm is good enough to throw you off the bike, if you’re as light as me. From standstill to 100 km/h, I did not manage officially record the time, but, it felt like it didn’t need very long – probably only three seconds, four tops. It didn’t take too long to hit the top speed of 170 km/h as well. However on my friend’s RC390, I could easily top 180 on that – unsure of what’s causing the Duke 390 to lose out. (Could be down to simple aerodynamics. – Ed.)
In times of need of power for overtaking purposes, the engine does a perfect job delivering the power the very moment you twist the throttle. It comes instantly. That can be seen in the video below.
Mated to a six-speed gearbox, you would find that the comfort zone with the least amount of vibrations is between 120-130 km/h. Very typical cruising speed for many modern motorcycles.
Fuel economy, however, is not what you might find on this bike. One full tank lasts about 250 km (without emptying the reserve) which is just slightly below what single-cylinder bikes could do, but for its performance, it’s a decent trade-off.
*The fuel consumption results vary based on different riding style.
Equipped with Bybre’s four-piston 300 mm brake discs in the front and single-piston 230 mm in the back. The Duke 390 also comes with ABS – which is really helpful in emergency situations. If this is the first time you are hearing about ABS being installed on motorcycles and wonder how would it help a two-wheeler, head over to YouTube to check it out. Despite the fact that the bike had some issues with the ABS (Chris told me it wasn’t working when he handed the bike over), the brakes were however truly efficient enough to stop in times of emergency.
I did the braking test from 60 km/h and from 100 km/h to a complete stop and it didn’t take a long distance to come to a complete halt. The test was done with both front and rear brakes.
*Braking performance may differ for riders of different build
Then there is the under-belly exhaust which makes the bike look simple and neat. Many may not agree with me but I love the sound the stock exhaust makes. It’s silent and doesn’t attract unwanted attention from the police. Well, we all do not like to be stopped and have our lovely officer to pass you a love letter, do we?
The Duke’s under-belly exhaust is also capable of wading through flood waters. Did you know you could wade through flood waters without fearing the engine might get flooded? Of course, this is not a recommended practice. Low, knee-level flood works but don’t blame me if you decide to submerge your bike entirely and the bike goes bust.
When it comes to riding the bike, I found several annoying things about this bike (and specifically the bike I rode). Namely the horn, rear brake pedal and clutch lever. I had a bit of trouble reaching the horn, it feels as if there is something blocking me from reaching it and the clutch lever is too far away from my fingers’ reach. The clutch lever also caused soreness and cramps on my fingers and palm during town rides where I need to shift gears a lot. Then comes the rear brake, where the pedal seems to be placed higher than the footrest, necessitating your foot bend up unnecessarily.
As stated in the previous review, I said that my pet peeve when it comes to bikes is vibration. The entire week I had this bike, I noticed for a single-cylinder, it doesn’t have much vibration. Thanks to the balancer shaft, the vibration on the footrest is no different unless I place both my feet on the rear footrests.
Comfortable on the hands, that’s good enough, honestly. You don’t want sore palms from vibrations if you’re going on a long distance journey. Priced currently at RM28,672.30 (nett selling price with GST, roadtax and insurance) it’s a steal for the performance it provides. – Contributed to AF by Jeff Ng
Chris Wee says…
As I left the KTM office in Shah Alam, I knew immediately that I’d be passing this 390 Duke to Jeff to review, for the simple reason that I didn’t fit. Yup, the KTM 390 Duke is a compact bike, ideally suited for both commuting and the occasional Sunday blast up Frasers Hill. Manoeuvring through traffic is a cinch thanks to its size, and the heaps of low-end torque on tap make darting from corner to curve exceptionally easy. It’s not even necessary to change gears really. I didn’t like the riding position much simply because as I mentioned just now, I’m too tall for the little 390; I feel perched on the bike. However, it looked just right when Jeff got on it and scooted off. I knew right away this was more a bike for him than me, and his subsequent antics on it proved exactly that. Kudos to KTM for producing such a well-balanced bike. It’s a two-in-one really, daily commuter + Sunday fun-bike. Nice one! – CW.
KTM Duke 390 photo gallery