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Review: KTM 390 Duke

Driven August 2013

Review: KTM 390 Duke
Though the KTM 390 Duke looks just like its 200cc sibling in size and shape, it is quite dissimilar in fact. Visible differences on the 390cc Austrian are its loud orange alloys, a powder-coated trellis frame and new graphics, a larger fuel tank, wider handlebars and new German running shoes.

The 390 Duke features an all-new heart with a Nikasil-coated cylinder with forged pistons and a new head crank-case, among some other new organs. This gives the single-cylinder, 373.2cc, liquid-cooled engine a healthy output of 43bhp @9500rpm and 35Nm @7500rpm, which further results in an impressive power-to-weight ratio of 296bhp per tonne. A real quick one, this.

As far as performance is concerned, the 390’s mid and top-end is definitely where it’s at. The 390 Duke motor behaves like a motorcycle engine of a higher cubic capacity at times – knocking and lugging at low revs – and smoothening out once past 3500rpm.  The floodgates of power swing wide open over 4500rpm and you’ll hit the 10,000rpm mark rev limiter in first and second gears almost every time you whack open the throttle. Gearing is taller in the 390 Duke, which calls for fewer shifts on the go. Sixty on the speedo comes up before you can count to three. And by the time you count to six, the Duke will have crossed 100kph.

The tiny orange-lit fully-digital instrument cluster houses a host of information readouts like the speedo, tacho, trip, as well as the engine temperature and fuel level gauges – most of which are easy to read on the fly. ABS comes standard on the 390, and there’s also an unmarked button to disengage the anti-lock braking system, if necessary.

Everything about the 390 Duke oozes aggression - from the familiar brawny styling to its radically potent engine. The ride on the 390 is stiff and very sport-oriented. Low speed ride quality is a bit lumpy, but things ease out as you pick up the pace – which is apt for a sinewy little street bike of this stature. Like the 200 Duke, the 390’s saddle is stiff but offers good room for the rider to adjust his seating over long rides. However, long distance travel will prove quite uncomfortable for the pillion rider.

Cruising the streets at 60kph at around 4000rpm in fifth, and 100kph at 5000rpm in sixth feels effortless. The engine loves to be revved, and works well with the chassis, suspension, and brakes in adapting to aggressive/enthusiastic riding styles. 110/70 - 150/60 Metzeler Sportec rubber on the 390’s 17-inch rims are a level up from the 200’s MRF treads, and provide exceptional grip even in wet conditions. The four-piston 300mm and single-piston 230mm Byrne disc brakes at the front and rear wheels work splendidly, and give the rider confidence to brake late. We loved the whine of the engine while decelerating in gear. It’s as if the bike’s unimpressed with you slowing down and is urging you to get a move on. Simply brilliant!

The only downer we witnessed with the KTM 390 Duke was that the engine got quite hot while commuting in slow-moving city traffic for a while. However, out on the open highway, this problem doesn’t exist. Getting ahead of traffic is definitely the 390 Duke's forte, and in a combined city and highway cycle of both easy and hard riding, we got a respectable fuel economy figure of 33kpl.

The numbers
1cyl, 373.2cc, 43bhp, 35Nm,  ground clearance - 172mm, 154kg, 11litre fuel tank, Rs 2.06 lakh (on-road, Mumbai)

The verdict
The 390 Duke isn’t for the faint-hearted. If you’re an enthusiast whose commute involves riding fast for the sheer fun of it, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the KTM 390 Duke. At this price, for that much power, nothing in the market at present comes close.

Christopher Chaves

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