With 43hp and weighing 139kg the KTM duke 390 is a surprisingly fun little bike. To be honest I wasn’t particularly excited about testing it after riding it’s big brother the 690 duke for the past year but I have been really impressed with it so far. The engine has a really nice sound when it hits the powerband over 7,000 rpm and a decent enough kick to get the front wheel up with a little blip of the clutch. The fastest I got out of it was 160 km/h (100mph) and it was still climbing slowly. The ABS works well although I still find ABS mildly annoying at times. Tapping it down a few gears into the corner loosens up the back nicely to set you up for a turn and it’s super short wheelbase makes it unbelievably nimble.
Ready to race?
The tires were ok once they were warmed up a bit, but I would prefer some with a slightly flatter profile. The brakes are solid and ABS is a nice safety feature for everyday use when you are not trying to push it.
The bike can hang remarkably well with bigger bikes. I had a ride today with my friend Manuel on his 690 Duke R and stayed with him without too much trouble and together we overtook many bikes with more than double the engine size.
Cornering is super fun on the Duke.
There were a few things I didn’t like. The grips, bars, levers, footpegs, mirrors and number plate holder would all go in the bin if I had one and be replaced with some better quality and more attractive/ergonomic components from KTM powerparts. I would be stoked if KTM made a 390 R, with some better stuff as stock, including some slightly stiffer and tunable suspension, but it’s still pretty dam good straight out of the box.
The way the engine bounces off the rev limiter reminds me of riding it’s cousin the 250 sxf!
I would often find myself keeping the bike in a lower gear than was needed to keep the revs up because the engine makes this sweet almost turbo whine at higher RPM’s and is super snappy and ready to go. Not too good for fuel consumption but the sound and feeling of doing it are kind of addictive :)
For sure it doesn’t have the high speed responsiveness of the 690 Duke R, but at around 4,800 euro (I think) in Austria it is almost half the price and I had just as much fun if not more on it. I have always more enjoyed riding slower bikes fast than fast bikes slow, because when it comes to holding the throttle wide open you can do it far more often, and have less chance of ending up in hospital or jail.
In summary I would say if you are on a budget and want a brilliant little commuter, run around bike or just a bike to have a ridiculous amount of fun on then go give one of these puppies a test drive when they are available in the next couple of months! If money was no object I would go for a 690 Duke r, but since it is for most people, myself included, I think I may well end up buying one of these. I don’t know of any plans to make one but It would be wicked if there was an R version available eventually too.
Thanks to Manuel for taking the action shots.