Yesterday had to be one of the most satisfying days in my life as an avid motorcyclist. Having ridden the much awaited and beautifully executed KTM RC390 for a review for the major part of a Sunday has been an experience which I struggle to put to words. The fact that we managed to do it before most other people brings some more joy and satisfaction, both as an enthusiast and as a journalist. What fired the excitement in all of us with the news of the faired Duke, followed by a whole bunch of spy images, has culminated into a delightful experience on the terrific machine. The RC390 exceeded our expectations, and our heartiest congratulations to Bajaj and KTM for achieving the feat. And we are not averse to letting you know that right in the beginning of this review, as most of us knew it was inevitable. Join us for the amazing ride, in the following pages.
With the media motorcycles yet to arrive, in normal course of events, we’d have had to wait longer to lay our hands on the beautiful machine. Luckily, though, a Facebook update popped on my wall as the RC390 was spotted at KTM’s Seawoods service center. I grabbed my phone faster than lightening and dialled a few numbers. After a few restless days of discussion, the good folks at KTM Navi Mumbai agreed to give us the motorcycle for the first half of a delightful Sunday. But then, reviewing the KTM RC390 alone wouldn’t have completed the picture. So after a brief discussion, we decided to get to you a shootout along with this review. It’s anybody’s guess as to which are the most potent challengers to the RC390 in the Indian two-wheeler market today. So we arranged for its naked avatar, the 390 Duke and the Japanese warrior, Kawasaki Ninja for a showdown.
For now, though, we’ll be swinging a leg around the RC390 only for a standalone review. Let’s crank up the review, shall we?
Looks and Styling
The very first glance at the RC390, and you keep looking till your boss literally shouts out your name. That’s the kind of impact the RC390 has on you. The black body styling, the white fairing, the well sculpted windscreen, the powder coated orange chassis and wheels and the uniquely styled twin projector lamps blend well to create a view that would grab attention in an instance. The RC means business, and you know it right from the very instance you look at it.
The dual projector headlamps along with the daytime running lights give it a unique, aggressive front look while also providing superior illumination in the dark. The mirrors get integrated turn indicators which give the KTM RC390 a cleaner and meaner front look. The windshield offers protection from wind blasts at high speeds, while also allowing for better aerodynamics than its naked variant. The meaty WP upside down suspension at the front and the white monoshock at the rear lend the RC390 a premium look while taking most of the bumps on the road mildly better than its naked counterpart. The full fairing also transfers the heat from the radiator fan downwards, away from the rider’s legs – providing the much needed respite from engine heat in slow moving stop-start city traffic. The air sucked in by the fairing is allowed to pass through, further aiding aerodynamics. The front fender is a typical sports motorcycle unit and gets a matte finish treatment. The Indian variant gets an front fender extender which stops muck and dust from flying on to the engine and the radiator.
The chiselled, angular tank has a plastic surface and has recesses on the sides to allow the rider to lock his knees in, boosting confidence while negotiating even the trickiest of corners. The tank also receives an ‘RC Race Competition’ sticker behind the fuel tank lid and RC lettering on its flanks. The handle bar grips have also been changed when compared to the 390 Duke. The bar grips receive a small KTM logo imprinted. The dotted pattern, unlike on the 390 Duke, covers only a part of and not the entire grip. The handlebar also receives bar-end weights helping reduce the vibrations and protects the levers in case of a crash.
KTM have tried a new design element by keeping the powder coated orange trellis frame as visible as possible. This is a one off thing in the segment and works in RC390’s favour. The fairing is white in colour and is loaded with KTM stickers along with an orange strip which has 390 written over it. The lower cowl gets an ‘RC Race Competition’ sticker. A small peep hole is also provided to keep a check on the engine oil level.
The aluminium swingarm, the powder coated orange wheels and disc brakes on the RC390 are similar to the ones that are found on the 390 Duke. This has helped the manufacturer to keep costs low and price the RC390 competitively. A rear tyre hugger comes as a factory fit but we really don’t think many people would keep it on especially after the monsoons are over. Same is the case with the saree guard.
The underbelly exhaust, like its siblings, peeps out from the aft end of the undercowl, and appears extremely well integrated into the design. Another interesting element that grabbed our attention was the pillion seat. Can’t spot it? Well, that’s because it has been designed in such a way that it seems like part of the body. While the seat design provides a cleaner look to the motorcycle, the utility gets hampered a bit. The rear panel has a Kawasaki Ninja style pillion grab bar integrated into the body. The tail section has been inspired by its bigger sibling, the RC8. The LED tail lights add to the sporty look of the RC390 while, at the same time, provide better visibility to vehicles behind even in broad daylight. The tail light has been divided in three sections. The middle section is at peak illumination at all times. The flanking sections illuminate to the fullest when the brakes are applied.
The brake and gear levers and the rider and passenger footpegs have been painted black which complements the overall look of the motorcycle. A new extended panel is connected to the frame which holds the pillion foot-pegs. Moreover, along with the mandatory saree guard, there is a new India exclusive addition to the KTM RC390 and that’s the one-sided pillion grab bar which has been designed for pillions who prefer to sit with both legs on one side. On this bike? Well, good luck to them! At the rear the KTM RC390 features the same sturdy aluminium swingarm that is found on the 390 Duke. The cast aluminium swingarm provides grea rigidity while keeping the weight in check.
However, there is some scope for improvement. The seat for example, could have been better padded and more comfortable. It will take most average riders some time to adjust to the saddle, though that’s not something that an aftermarket gel seat cannot solve. Also, the daytime running headlights have to be manually switched ‘ON’. But that is not an earth shattering flaw and one can easily live with it. What we hope is taken into account are the rear view mirrors. It is difficult to keep a track of vehicles approaching from behind as the view in the mirrors is blocked by the arm. Except for these few niggles, according to us, the overall design is excellent, and gels well with the wild nature of the KTM RC390.
The full faired body provides good aerodynamics while adding to the style quotient of the KTM RC390.
The Projector headlights along with Daytime Running Lights look fab while also providing optimum illumination.
The LED tail lamp offers good visibility to the vehicles approaching from behind even during broad daylight.
The clip-on handle bars on the KTM RC390 allow for a committed riding stance.
The rear-set footpegs have been pushed behind as compared to the Duke – this one’s the best trackday tool we can think of in the price range.
The super sticky Metzeler rubber allows optimum grip at high speeds as well as around the corners. At close to Rs 18k, they’re quite pricey though
The rider seat is a little stiff. Would require some getting used to before one decides to set off for longer rides
The pillion seat has been designed to look integrated into the body giving the KTM RC390 a cleaner design. Unlike what you may think, it’s quite soft
The pillion grab bar is an India specific addition. The second seat also has an integrated groove for the pillion rider to grab on to.
The mirror integrated turn indicators give the RC390 a cleaner front look.
The switch gear is built well. It features a day flasher and an engine kill switch. We would have appreciated a factory fitted hazard light switch too.
The multifunction LCD dispay instrument cluster provides a host of useful riding information
- RPM Meter
- 2 Trip Meters
- Fuel Level
- Engine Temperature
- Gear Shift Indicator
- Engaged Gear
- ABS Indicator
- Side Stand warning
- Average Speed
- Fuel efficiency figures
- Distance to empty
- Service interval meter
And a whole lot more…
The under belly exhaust gives the RC390 a better center of gravity and an extremely sleek styling.
Bosch ABS that comes as standard on the KTM RC390 gives the motorcycle dependable stopping power even in adverse conditions.
Ride and Handling
We feel that KTM have built the RC390 as a very focused machine – it is, in every way, an ideal track tool. The clip-on handlebar coupled with the rear-set footpegs and the grippy Metzeler tyres make it an ideal cornering machine while the windshield takes care of those wind blasts. The rear-set footpegs also allow the rider to lean harder into corners. Reducing the steering rake has shortened wheelbase, and the ground clearance has been increased slightly. This has enhanced the flickability and changing directions is as easy as it gets. So you can leave your worries about scraping the engine underbelly on speed breakers right behind you. The reduced front suspension travel makes the RC390 more rider friendly as there is least amount of pitching during sudden braking and accelerating. The suspension set up of the RC390 is also slightly softer than the Duke, and doesn’t end up rattling the rider’s bones on broken roads. The RC390, thanks to its front weight bias, shorter suspension travel and a more committed stance makes the rider feel more connected with the road, and in better control (thank the Duke) on the limit.
The addition of the clip-on handlebars, fairing and revised rake has increased the turning radius of the RC390. So maneuvering the motorcycle in bumper to bumper city traffic is not as easy as the 390 Duke. But when it comes to utilising the 42 ponies of power that the engine has to offer, the RC390 feels more connected to the road (and the rider) than its sibling, the 390 Duke.
Comfort though has taken a backseat. The riding stance is committed and aggressive and that can give you sore wrists after a while. The seat, as we mentioned above, is too stiff and you tend to feel the bumps on bad patches of the road (despite a softer suspension set-up).
But that’s the way the manufacturer has designed the RC390. It’s supposed to be an aggressive track tool rather than a regular city ride. They already give you city oriented products in 200 Duke and 390 Duke. The RC series, on the other hand, is supposed to maximize fun times on a race track or on weekend trip to a twisty mountain road. All said, however, be prepared to condition yourself to the more aggressive riding stance, if you want to ride the RC on a day-to-day basis. Riders used to an upright riding position should decide whether they are serious enough bikers before opting for this one.
At the heart of the KTM RC390 is the same 373cc single-cylinder, 4-stroke, liquid cooled engine that puts out 43.5PS of power and 35Nm of torque, found doing duty on the Duke 390 earlier. Many of us have tasted the performance that this engine has to offer. But the RC390 slashes through the wind more comfortably given the full fairing that adds to the aerodynamics of the motorcycle. The engine too feels much smoother when compared to the 390 Duke. The power, clubbed with 153.5 kg weight, gives the motorcycle a healthy power-to-weight ratio of 283 PS per tonne. While the Duke 390 erupts after hitting the 7000 rpm mark, the RC390, somehow feels smoother, and a bit (just a bit) more linear than its naked counterpart. In effect, the RC presents itself as an equally powerful, slightly faster accelerating, slightly smoother machine, which is more manageable and less scary on the limit.
The motorcycle we received was fresh out of the stock and only had clocked about 30 kms on the ODO meter, the engine speed having been electronically locked at 9,500 rpm. Even better performance can be expected from the powerplant once the limiter is removed after the first service. However, even with the locked revs, the motorcycle felt quick. While pushing the motorcycle to its limits, the RC390 felt more planted than the Duke 390 due to its committed riding stance and aerodynamic body.
But all this performance really needs some potent stopping power. The task is handled by the four piston, radially bolted caliper with a 300mm diameter single brake disk at the front and a single piston floating caliper 230mm single brake disk at the rear clubbed with Bosch ABS that comes as standard. This helps RC390 to come to a standstill quicker and efficiently. The super sticky Metzeler rubber set (available as stock on 390 Duke and RC390) gives you even more confidence on high speeds as well as around the corners than on the Duke. Leaning into a corner, many riders would run out of courage before the tyres run out of surface grip.
|Engine||Single-cylinder, four-stroke liquid-cooled|
|Transmission||6-Speed Constant Mesh|
|Fuel System||Bosch EFI|
|Frame Type||Tubular space frame made from steel, powder-coated|
|Fuel Capacity||10 litres|
The KTM RC390’s performance isn’t something unheard of. The Duke has been delivering those sort of thrills for some time now. What’s new, however, is the packaging and character. With its track oriented stance, smoother engine, better stability and fantastic fully faired styling, the RC390 will tug strongly at the hearts of the sportsbike enthusiasts. While the Duke invited everyone to enjoy a joyride on its entertaining saddle, this one is only for those who are serious about their motorcycling. It isn’t the kind of motorcycle an average Joe can comfortably use for his daily commute to work. It’s meant for the erudite aficionado who would lean off it around the hilly bends, away from the swarmed city streets.
With an introductory price of Rs 2,05,000 lakh (ex-showroom Delhi), it is, by far the sweetest deal in the market. 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. So choose your poison guys, though the variety you see here in these pictures is of the more potent kind. Take our word for it!
We would like to take a moment here and thank the good folks at KTM Navi Mumbai, especially Mr Sachin Vijan, owner of the outlet, for providing us with the KTM RC390. You can walk into the KTM Navi Mumbai showroom right opposite Vashi railway station to check out and book your very own RC390.
You can contact:
Mr Virendra Negi,
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