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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  1. 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.
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  2. 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 ?

  3. 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

  4. 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?

  5. 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?

  6. 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?