The KTM 390 Duke is such a different machine to the RC390, it’s hard to believe that they’re basically the same bike save for fairings and rider position. The naked predecessor to the RC390, the 390 Duke is a fantastic machine and one that deserves far more praise, recognition and sales success than it has so far received. While the RC390 will go on to be the superstar, we think the 390 Duke is in fact a better overall package.
Depending on where you live, the 390 Duke has been available from anywhere between 18 months to just arriving in showrooms. KTM staggered the release of the bike originally due to production issues at their Indian plant but for the US market, there was a fear that it would be a sales flop, what with the US market favoring faired sportsbikes over naked varieties of motorcycles.
But thankfully KTM saw the huge potential in the Duke, a bike that blurs the lines between learner machine, standard and supermoto. It’s a huge amount of fun and we think is a bike that has the ability to seriously create a motorcycle addict after just one ride.
Like the RC390, the 390 Duke utilizes a 373cc single cylinder engine that produces 32 Kw (43 hp) @ 9,500 rpm with redline at around 10,000rpm. Like the RC390, it’s a little coarse down low, but once it gets going the engine is pretty smooth. For some strange reason, the Duke I rode felt like power came on about 1,000 rpm earlier than the RC390 but as gearing between the bikes is identical, I put it down the Duke’s engine having done more miles and therefore was a bit looser. Adding to this theory was that vibrations transferred through the handlebars also felt much less noticeable.
The first thing that really hits you about the 390 Duke is it’s nimble, really nimble. This thing would give some scooters a run for their money. And it shouldn’t be surprising seeing as it weighs only 150 kg with all fluids, including fuel inside it. Putting it into perspective, the 390 Duke is 8 kg lighter than Honda’s CBR300R and a massive 20kg lighter than the Kawasaki Z300 – and with more power too. Maneuvering through traffic and car parks is a breeze, almost a pleasure.
Styling of the 390 Duke isn’t too much different to its smaller brothers, the 125 Duke and 200 Duke, though the 390 gets a bright orange frame and wheels. In comparison to the RC390, I actually found the Duke a little bit too gaudy for my tastes and the black and orange doesn’t look as attractive as the splashes of grey paint on its faired brother.
When you swing a leg over the Duke, you’re pushed quite far forward an over the bars, supermotard style. This riding stance transfers into how you approach corners too – I constantly kept finding myself putting my foot out into the corners as if I was riding on the dirt. Don’t expect to drag much knee on it though. The pegs are positioned just too low for you to be able to really push the lean angle limits. But really, I think KTM had cornering styles of getting the rear wheel sliding around in mind rather than on maximum cornering speed and lean angles and it’s better for it.
Due to the seating position and the lack of wind protection, it’s certainly not a bike you’d choose for touring and the minuscule 11 litre fuel tank will see you stopping more frequently than you’d like. You really start to get buffted from the wind at speeds over 75 mph (120 kph) and in strong crosswinds it doesn’t feel overly stable due to it’s lack of weight. Like the RC390, I found the LCD dash far too difficult to read, especially the tachometer which is just a bar that spans the top of the screen – too small to be able to glance at and quickly see what you’re doing. The mirrors not unexpectedly just showed me vision of my arms.
Out of the KTM RC390 and 390 Duke, we actually found the naked bike far more enjoyable to ride. This is probably one of the most underrated hooligan bikes available. Quick, cheap, light and flickable. The RC390 will probably outsell the Duke 5 to 1, but if you’re in the market for a cheap daily commuter, we know which we’d choose.
|KTM 390 Duke|
|Engine Type||373.2 cc single|
|Bore And Stroke||89 mm × 60 mm|
|Induction||Bosch EFI (throttle body 46 mm)|
|Valve Train||DOHC, 4 Valves|
|Horsepower||44 hp @ 9,500 rpm|
|Torque||25.81 lb ft @ 7,250 rpm|
|Chassis / Suspension / Brakes|
|Front Suspension||WP-USD Ø 43 mm|
|Front Brake||Single 300 mm|
|Rear Brake||Single 230 mm|
|Front Tire||110/70Z R17|
|Trail||98mm (3.9 inches)|
|Seat Height||31 inches|
|Wet Weight||340 lb|
|Fuel Capacity||2.9 gallons|