KTM Duke 390

On 12th February came home the KTM Duke 390. It is a 373 cc, 43 bhp, street bike capable of the top speed of about 163 km/h.

The Duke 200, i.e. the 200 cc variant of this bike, was launched much earlier than the 390 here in India. It was something I had been mulling over buying for a long time. I had been craving an upgrade for a while. Although faster, the 200 wasn’t that much of an upgrade or even that much faster than what I already owned. i.e. Hero Honda Karizma R.
And then the 390 was announced and I started salivating at the thought of riding/owning/going on trips/becoming a-lone-riding-introspective-unshaven-cool-guy.

About the same time I discovered the Triumph Street Triple as well, which is one of the more affordable high end street bikes available in India. So it was a combined drooling over both the bikes (so much so that my keys started sticking!) The Street Triple is an awesome awesome bike and hopefully something I will own/ride one day. But, for now, it has to be the Duke. A bike as fast as the Street Triple deserves better roads. Not to mention, in spite of being one of the lower priced high end bikes in India, it is still prohibitively expensive. I’d be hard pressed to justify spending that kind of money on a bike when I already own one and I could get a car instead… to the family. Not to myself of course… MOAR BIKES!

So the 390.

The attributes of this bike are perfect, custom fit for India. It is fast! Faster than almost everything else riding on Indian roads. But not so fast that you will be in the first gear throughout your daily commute. Being a street bike, it has a commanding/more in control seating position compared to the other semi-highend bikes available here at the moment. It is light(almost as light at the karizma). It has ABS. All of that combined with the steering rake AND the Metzeler tyres, it is very easy to throw it around in traffic and corners without a worry in the world. The ‘light’ can be a bit detrimental sometimes because of how crummy Indian roads are. (Try going over 50 km/h on any of the brilliantly engineered fly overs/bridges in Bangalore, for example. You are going to be jumping every time you go over one of the joints in the bridge. Scary.)

I’ve managed to go on three trip in the few months I have had this beast with me.

What I’ve learnt about the 390:

I don’t know if it is because its a big single cylinder, but the engine breaking is on the higher side. She isn’t as free revving as the bikes I’m used to. Which is pretty great when you’re riding fast and can make use of that breaking to get some pretty nifty throttle control. eg. If you know you have only about 300m before you have to slowdown/turn, gun it in the 3rd and just let go when you’re almost there and she’ll pull you back to slow/turning speeds without the need of breaks. Frees up your hand and you can hear the bike wail.
But the same thing can be painful when you’re going slow. You’re stuck with playing with the throttle and keeping it constant or shifting to a higher gear and playing with the clutch.

She has a higher than what I’m used to revving engine. I regularly hit the rev limiter without intending to because it gets up there so damn quickly.

Heat is a constant issue. A long city commute through traffic will almost always mean that the engine will heat up to the point of need-to-stop-and-cool-down but recent changes to the newer bikes have made sure it doesn’t reach that point. You can hear the fan start up noticeably, if you haven’t already noticed from your left thigh being baked. As a result, shorts and chappals for longer commutes are a no-no.

Miserable efficiency and a minuscule 11 ltr tank equals lots of fuel stops.

I’m happy I got this bike. If someone asks me about it, I say it’s a good bike. Its still feels like a Bajaj, although a Bajaj with KTM watching over it, but Bajaj none the less. Its been about 4000kms and there have been a few minors issues: Chain slapping, throttle cable breaking, gears are a bit clunky, etc.
The fuel efficiency is average at best and miserable at worst. A full tank of taking it easy (120 k/hr max speed) will give you about 225kms to the last drop. Gunning it hard will give you 170kms or so. I rarely get out of the first three gears during an average city commute and it takes some getting used to ride it slow because of how aggressive the low revs are. I have managed to cruise on the highways at 140+ k/hr without any issues, maxing out at about 163 k/hr with no handling issues what so ever. Although the lack of a wind screen is a bitch to deal with. I’m not a fan of the exhaust note on the lower revs but the higher revs wail can be fatally intoxicating.

But if you are a 150-200cc bike guy looking for an upgrade, there is not a bike better than this you can get in India.


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