KTM Duke 390 vs KTM RC 390: Which one should you buy? A ready reckoner


The RC390 is epic- no two ways about it! But it’ll always have the Duke 390 hiding in its sharp shadows. With both bikes priced competitively and close to each other, there’s a big dilemma brewing in the minds of motorcycling enthusiasts who have a couple of lakhs and some change lying around- which fiery KTM to put money down on?

The question prospective buyers should be asking themselves:

Which one suits my riding style better?

MY2020 KTM RC 390 BS6

Well, that depends on what you ride. The RC390’s crouching forward riding position won’t go down too well with riders who like to be seated upright, while those who are used to riding committed machines like the Yamaha R15, won’t have too much of an issue coping up with it.

Which one is more comfortable?

Again, the RC’s aggressive riding stance and the not-too-comfy saddle sees it lose to the Duke 390 as far as comfort goes. Not that the Duke 390 is all soft and cushy to start with but it is the pick between the two if you will be spending a lot of time in the saddle during your rides.

Which one is better for a city commute?

MY2020 KTM 390 DUKE BS6

Manoeuvrability in sticky city traffic will be a little dicey on the RC390 regardless of your riding style – here the Duke 390 will shine through, although the RC offers better heat dissipation- the Duke will direct the heat to your calves in stop-go traffic. Also, the high compression motor in both the bikes is not too happy pottering about town- it’s edgy character always wanting to bolt and snap.

Is there any difference in fuel efficiency?

In spite of weighing a tad more (almost 8Kgs), the RC390’s updated aerodynamics keep things in check- so expect the efficiency figures to be the same. So in all possibility, the RC390 will return around 32-35 kmpl, maybe a little less if ridden like it’s meant to be!

Which is the easiest to live with?

We’d say the Duke 390 is more livable with if you’re looking to commute on your gnarly KTM. The Duke’s riding position is more upright and all about attitude. Elbows outwards, and you’re ready to weave through brisk traffic, accompanied by 10.5k redlining bursts and cracking downshifts- to soothe the hooligan inside.


The RC390’s aggressive crouched riding position is more committed, more focused- not something that’d be appreciated in stop-go traffic. It comes across something more special – a pleasure bike for blasting around the ghats at the crack of dawn or on the occasional track day. The Duke will do all that with aplomb, but the RC just makes you feel more connected and involved.

Since it’s more “focused”, does it handle better?

Of course, it does. The full fairing and weight forward position make the RC feels more planted to the ground. When pushed to the limits, the differences between both the Austrian stallions’ characteristics become more apparent. The RC comes into its own zone, carving corners like a tool – more involving and eager to strike a rhythm with. It’s for the patient hedonist in you, who’d wait for the right time and the right place. While the Duke offers similar thrills anytime, anywhere, it’s dynamic skill set starts to get thwarted towards the limit, and that’s when the RC will pass by you, coming into its own.

Which one is the fastest?

Both bikes employ the same 373cc single-cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid-cooled engine that puts out a heady 43.5PS of power and 35Nm of torque. All this is used to shove around just 147 Kgs of RC390 and 139 Kgs of Duke390. Both bikes are properly fast, but RC nudges ahead all the time. Essentially it puts the power down better and hangs on to the tarmac – but just marginally.

The way she looks!

The RC390 is a thing of sheer beauty. With a razor-sharp fairing nestling those twin projector headlamps, she’s dressed to kill. Not that the Duke isn’t a hoot to look at, but compared to the RC, it pales a tad. But then again, looks are subjective and one can’t go wrong with the aggressively styled Duke either- it’s just that it’s been around for a while now.

Can I go touring on the RC390?

We’d suggest otherwise. It’s meant for long and engaging blasts on suitable roads with a much-needed rest session afterwards. The aggressive riding stance will get you worked up over long distances. The Duke, on the other hand, is a better bet to fulfil your wanderlust. However, if you’re the sorts who’d happily tour the country astride a Yamaha R15, then the RC390 won’t be much of an issue!

Is it worth the extra money?

Hell yeah. For those who really enjoy motorcycling in its most unadulterated, enthralling, and technically correct form – there isn’t really another substitute for the RC390. It’s a razor-sharp tool for those who want to hone their riding skills and get free shots of dopamine while being at that. Those who are looking for a bit more versatility have the choice of opting for the 390 Duke.

Regardless of everything, the Duke is the one to keep if you’re commuting every day and go out for that occasional weekend ride. It also gets a colour display, compared to the orange-lit screen on the RC390. But the RC390 makes more sense as a weekend tool to vehemently enjoy the twisty stuff every weekend or whenever the need arises. Also, if you like posing, the RC390 with its searing looks is just about the right tool for your show-off business. If you’d like to add to your dilemma, there’s also the 390 Adventure!


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