KTM 390 Duke First Review: Mayhem, Minified!

| July 18, 2013 | 53 Comments

KTM 390 Duke India road test review (84)

Words: Hanoz Patel, Arjun Dharve and Amit Chhangani

Images: Amit Chhangani

A few days back, we told you that the KTM 390 Duke is the bike which will change the face of motorcycling in India if priced right. It was priced right. In fact it was priced even better than what we’d thought. And now we’ve ridden it too. So do we still stick by what we said?

With its 44bhp of power and a 160 km/h+ top whack, we thought that the new KTM would come closer than ever to the ‘practical performance’ threshold for a performance bike in the Indian market. We told you that the 390 would give seasoned riders almost all the firepower they need to go almost as fast as they could ever go on public roads, with little (to some) or nothing to crib about as regards useable performance.

KTM 390 Duke India road test review (3)

We also told you that with the KTM 390, the Indian performance motorcycling was entering the right zone, a pocket where there is a harmonious confluence of power, price and a sense of satisfaction with the performance. So were we right? Or is the KTM390 Duke another disappointment? Much as you’d like to give it a thumbs-up straight away, there are some things you need to know before you go and book it. Read on to find out.

Styling and Finish

KTM 390 Duke India road test review (18)

For an untrained eye, the Duke 390 is nothing but a replica of the Duke 200. We observed this on our short stint on the road as well, where hardly anyone gave us a second look until seeing us shoot like a bullet. Pay close attention, though, and some changes are obvious viz., 390 decals, ABS equipped disc rotors, hand guards and a slightly wider rear tyre. The overall build (read: plastics) is just as good as on its smaller sibling. We did not find any rattles or squeaks from any parts of the bike during our experience.

Bajaj Auto have healivy localized the KTM390 Duke, and it’s evident in the form of the branding on several components. Look closely and you get to find a lot of bits with local suppliers’ inscriptions on them – radiator being one of the examples. There’s nothing wrong whatsoever with that though, as long as quality is not compromised.

KTM 390 Duke India road test review (26)

Observe with a keen eye and you will also see that a lot of parts are shared with the Pulsar200NS. The handle grips for example are from the Pulsar clan and so are the clutch and the brake levers. The handle bar end weights, too, are from the Pulsar.

While we don’t have any issues whatsoever with this parts sharing, we do have a problem with the shoddy wiring on this premium bike. Now we don’t know whether this was the case specifically with our test bike, but the exposed wires under the tank managed to stick a thumb into our eyes and it would have been good if those wires were properly harnessed. In many places the electrical wires have been covered with electric tape in an untidy manner. Ahead of the handlebar, under the tank, on the sides, the casually clumped together wires on the 390 aren’t quite a beautiful sight.

KTM 390 Duke India road test review (39) KTM 390 Duke India road test review (32)

Apart from that little issue, the KTM 390 does a fabulous job of keeping quality and finish above par in almost all the places. By itself, it looks like a wild little machine, and those orange painted mags just take the cool quotient a notch higher. Hanoz wants those wheels to be painted in black, and we officially want to kill him for that.

The diminutive size and similarity of the KTM 390 Duke to the KTM 200 neutralizes the exclusivity to an extent, but on the flip size manages to do a fantastic job of keeping the kerb weight down to just 139 kgs and power to weight ratio at a crazy 293 bhp/tone. Now that’s what we really want, don’t we? Those preferring a full fairing to lower weight may go to hell. Thank you!

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About the Author ()

Dyed-in-the-wool motoring enthusiast and internationally published writer. Been around for a bit to be clued in about the latest happenings in the world of crankshafts and pistons. Movie buff, Steve Jobs worshiper, wanderer and philosopher who loves his scotch. Follow Amit on Twitter @amitchhangani for the freshest auto news, opinions and other random ramblings

Comments (53)

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  1. Gurushankar Subramanian says:

    The “Do Not Open” cap is the radiator vented cap. The coolant cap pours into a plastic reservoir and is totally separate from the radiator.

  2. Chinmaya says:

    I too took a test ride on D390. However being an owner and a fan of how aagressive and maniac D200 is, I and a couple of other D200 owners were not that impressed by the ride. Agreed, D390 comes to life post 6000 rpm, and anything below that it sputters. When we take a test ride, we also consider those things apart from opening the throttle wide open. For example, I also commute on my D200 to work, and i find it is the best tool amongst bikes to cut the traffic. Sadly, with D390 I felt it will frustrate you a bit in bumper to bumper traffic.

    • Akshay Ballal says:

      Well this can’t be a deal breaker though Chinmaya… Adding another 60,000Rs on a Duke 200 you get a Metzelers, ABS and taller 6th gear enabling touring.

      I guess keeping the low end torque might have been intentional by KTM because they had intended to make Duke 390 a commuter-cum-touring-cum-hooligan bike… To have some calmer city rides which are mainly on lower RPMs might have pushed back KTM to have a cum(Hindi) low end torque :P

    • Sam Singh says:

      Agreed! but buying a car or bike is mid-long term investment(or relationship as some say) and does take some time to getting used to with the machine and same goes for ICE. spend time with your bike and it will take attributes suitable to drivers driving/riding style to an extent after the run-in period! i would like to see some 3-6 months or 5k -10k km ownership reviews first and i am sure they will be positive.

      reading again what i wrote makes me think i am totally biased to D390, maybe i am in love with this tiny mean machine :P

  3. Sahil Sagar says:

    What’s the average Fuel Consumption(km/liter) You got with test bike?
    i Booked it and the guy from the showroom told me that it will be around 30-35, can we really expect this fuel economy from this bike?

    • While we did not ride the bike from dry-to-dry to comment assertively on the efficiency, the bike did show us a maximum figure of 35 km/l. Minimum efficiency displayed was 14 km/l. We did not ride the bike moderately for much during the test run.

  4. Harsha B says:

    It is a complete review. Provide lot of insights about the bike.

    On-board mileage is just 14 KM/L. Is this a flaw ? or Is it the result of pure revving ?

  5. 123456 says:

    Does it come with Steel Braided brake lines? O.o

  6. Kumar says:

    Hey its nice review.
    I am 6 feet tall, is that comfortable for tall rider. I have booked already booked.

  7. vinay says:

    A good review indeed. I own a TBTS 350, a RD 350 and very much interested in this machine. I sometimes feel Bajaj has compromised on the neatness of assembly for the cost of the bike. They still have time before they roll out these in volumes to fix minor glitches. I have lot of expectations from this bike and would like to test ride this beast soon.
    For me the turn down would the exhaust pipe dents , the wiring harness and of-course any annoying sound.

    • amit says:

      There are some issues, and we share your concerns. However, we believe that these glitches will be ironed out in the newer lots. Also, its better to compromise on neatness than compromising on features and performance.
      While we don’t endorse shoddiness in product turnout, we would like to credit KTM / Bajaj for bringing a fully kitted machine with ABS and Metzeler tyres here. If they had to cut cost elsewhere, in some more insignificant areas to facilitate that, we wouldn’t be too grouchy about the fact

  8. vibhav says:

    A nice review. How good is it for the touring ? In there anyu way we can carry fuel for the KTM, because 10.5 litre tank is a joke for touring. Secondly how good would it be in the hills(i am from Shimla) where the ride is mostly in low revs.

    • amit says:

      To be honest, the KTM 390 Duke isn’t a bike which lends itself to hardcore touring. It’s got a peaky engine and small size. Its got a comfortable seating position though. With us Indians’ experience with the 150 and 200cc piddlers this would still come across as a capable long distance machine though. Not cut out for touring if you look at it from a purist perspective though

  9. Aflah says:

    nice review.

    looks like its a perfect enemy for cbr.

  10. kunal bhaskaran says:

    I test rode the 390 the other day.

    I give it 2 thumbs up…though a 3km test ride is not enough to feel like one with any motorcycle.

    Awesome handling, brakes and its size mean you can totally use the HP on tap.Looking forward to blasting around the twisties with this one :)

  11. Rohit Jain says:

    I am glad to have spent time reading your review … loved every bit of it … thanks for being candid !

    I had taken a test ride at KTM Vashi but it was too short to feel its awesomeness … the only problem I faced were the oddly placed foot pegs far behind cramping my legs even in that short ride … can anything be done to it ?

    Keep up the good job :)

    • Hi Rohit. We are glad you liked our review.
      Well, its difficult to change the position of the footpegs. Ride the bike for a day, and you’ll feel more comfortable with those pegs sooner than you think.

  12. sudhakar says:

    Amazing review guys…u have mentioned everything that a buyer is looking for. after a test ride (twice :)) last week my heart was jumping and smiling at 16okmph. love the ABS which gives instant confidence boost to twist the throttle little more.only thing i didn’t like is 90days waitin period.

    • Thanks for the compliment Sudhakar. The 90 day period is being quoted only for hygiene factor. We talked with Probiking and they said customers should be able to get their bikes in 25 days

  13. vishva says:

    i booked …and i am excited :D

  14. Hi thanks for the detailed review and yes it helps. Am a bit concerned about engine heat issue. Is KTM 390 good for long rides non stop?

  15. Abhilash Ravi says:

    Hey, wonderful review about the bike, It really helped me to make a decision. I'm only concerned about the engine heat. I hope it won't effect much during long rides.

  16. Abhilash Ravi says:

    Hey Samuel, normally on long rides, it is preferable to take breaks after riding continuously for about 300kms or 4 hrs.

  17. abhilash says:

    Hey, wonderful review about the bike, It really helped me to make a decision. I feel bad for the pillion riders. My only concerned is about the engine heat. I hope it won’t effect much during long rides.

  18. Engine heat isn't much of an issue while you are riding at speeds upwards of 50km/h. It bothers you only when you are riding at crawling speeds or waiting for the light to turn green at a traffic signal.

  19. raj says:

    awsome review sir, i am thinking to book KTM 390 its my first bike. do u think it is fair deal to keep KTM 390 as a first ride in my garage?

  20. Hai, Your review was good enough for me to decide. I had already booked one, I had not seen this bike yet. I just checked the data. I just want to know its braking ability. Kindly let me know.

  21. Hai, Your review was good enough for me to decide. I had already booked one, I had not seen this bike yet. I just checked the data. I just want to know its braking ability. Kindly let me know.

  22. Hai, Your review was good enough for me to decide. I had already booked one, I had not seen this bike yet. I just checked the data. I just want to know its braking ability. Kindly let me know.

  23. Zeeshan says:

    Nice review Amit! Always a pleasure to read your articles :) I has started my biking love affair with your writings in the mag you worked for earlier. Good to see you again :)

  24. Kiran Chandra says:

    Watch this review – KTM Duke 390.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c0xCNCzWQg

  25. Rohith says:

    Did any one watched this review of KTM Duke 390
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c0xCNCzWQg

  26. Abhishek Vr says:

    Hey FRIENDS.

    Here's the LATEST #VIDEO_REVIEW of the all new #KTM_DUKE_390.

    Do watch it and give us your valuable Suggestions to Improve..

    Video Link – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9c0xCNCzWQg.

  27. Anurag Singh says:

    real value for money.

  28. Bender says:

    Hi Amit. Great honest review. I’m a happy CBR250R owner looking for a little bit more power, a more comfortable riding position and ABS and this little beast seems to fill all checkmarks. However, I use my bike 95% for conmuting to work through heavy traffic, so I’m concerned about the heat coming from the engine at low speeds. Is it really serious?

    If you were me, would you upgrade to D390?

  29. saijo says:

    any information about launching new colors?

  30. Reeto says:

    Hi. Is it possible to tweak the pillion seat through an after-market seat guy to comfortably accommodate a pillion? What is the max tank range under sedate riding (below 130 kmph)using premium fuel? Can a magnetic tank bag sit on the 390’s fuel tank? How punishing is the suspension on bad roads?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Hi. Is it possible to tweak the pillion seat through an after-market seat guy to comfortably accommodate a pillion? What is the max tank range under sedate riding (below 130 kmph)using premium fuel? Can a magnetic tank bag sit on the 390′s fuel tank? How punishing is the suspension on bad roads?

  32. Hello Amit, I know you since your Bike magazine days and I am a bit confused as to whether I should go for the Duke or the RE Conti GT. My back is thrashed and I have to toss between a Rock(Suspension of the Duke) and a hard place(Riding stance of Conti GT) Please advise….

    • You shouldn’t go for either if you have a bad back. The Conti GT with its stooped riding stance is not recommendable for your condition. The Duke 390 is a better choice, but only if you have to choose only between these two

  33. Hariss says:

    Hello Amit, Nice article.

    My name is Harish. I’m based out of Hyderabad. I have been looking out to enhance AKRAPOVIC exhaust for ktm duke 390. I reached out KTM customer care sending an email about requirment but was unsucessful due to no response from KTM.

    Could you please direct me where can i buy this power part ?

  34. firma jordan says:

    Thanks for the sensible critique. Me and my neighbor were just preparing to do a little research on this. We got a grab a book from our local library but I think I learned more from this post. I’m very glad to see such fantastic info being shared freely out there.
    firma jordan

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