KTM’s tiny Duke 390 packs a far larger punch than its size would suggest, or cubic capacity for that matter. On the road and track, it could put some bigger bikes to shame. This new version is more of an evolution of it predecessor.
The split headlight unit up front looks like an inverted pitchfork and houses all-LED headlamps and daytime running lamps. The new TFT colour instrument display connects to your smartphone and can stream/control phone calls and audio. There’s a new fuel tank too - it’s made of steel and is capable of holding up to 13.5 litres of fuel. The fuel tank is more vertical and forward-inclined than before giving it a more powerful aggressive and ready-for-action stance. Other cosmetic changes include a simpler underbelly pan, a side-slung exhaust (as opposed to the erstwhile underbelly unit) and newly designed seats.
The new bike is powered by the same 373cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder unit as its predecessor, with the power figure unchanged at 43.5hp at 9,000rpm and peak torque bumped up by 2Nm to 37Nm at 7,000rpm. Other changes include the addition of ride-by-wire throttle to its powertrain.
Thanks to this ride-by-wire system, the throttle is wonderfully smooth, and gives you much more control over power delivery. Most of the power is concentrated in the middle, between 4,500 and 8,500rpm. Stay in that powerband and you will have a grin plastered onto your face. The 390, however, does not feel very comfortable in lower revs, which might be an issue in traffic.
This bike has been nicknamed ‘The Corner Rocket’ by KTM, indicating, in a most unsubtle manner, that this one is for the corners. And, it comes as no surprise, this bike is absolute dynamite around corners. The chassis, suspension and tyres all work together in wonderful sync to take you round gracefully, safely and most importantly, quickly. The shorter wheelbase (by 10mm) makes the bike that much easier to flick in and out of a corner aided by the smooth responses from the ride-by-wire throttle. Its cornering ability does not imply lacklustre stability on straights the 390 stayed incredibly stable even at the 150kph mark.
The suspension setup has been upgraded too. At low speeds, the ride is a bit jarring, though things smoothen out considerably as you pick up pace. Bigger ditches are best handled at a crawling pace. Braking power has also been improved. Braking is forward-biased and is mighty effective, which is good considering the engine’s massive firepower. The ABS has been upgraded - it gets three modes now, namely Off, Road and Supermoto. The Supermoto mode keeps only the front ABS on while switching the rear off, for those who want to have some fun.
The 390 Duke rides on Metzeler M5i’s as before. However, the speed rating on these tyres has gone down from ‘W’ to ‘H’, which means they are good for speeds up to 210kph. Nevertheless, the tyres provide good levels of grip. The seat is slightly higher than before and the foot pegs are pushed back a bit, making the seating position feel more comfortable. It feels more upright - perfect for urban riding and lesser cramped than before.
The large colour TFT screen up front displays a wealth of information and allows riders to change a range of settings and sync their smartphones for phone call and audio controls. The menus can be toggled using buttons on the left switchgear. The brightness and colour on the display auto adjust based on how bright it is. When in daylight running lamps (DRL) mode, it will switch the headlamp on if it senses poor ambient light in the area.
The bike also comes with adjustable brake and clutch levers to make it more comfortable for riders’ various gloves and hand sizes. The knuckle guards have been carried over from the previous 390 Duke. There is also a new suspension guard for the rear monoshock, a small piece of protective plastic to shield the suspension from mud, gravel and other foreign materials.
The 390 is explosive to ride, razor sharp in terms of handling, comfortable for longer stints in the saddle, decked to the brim with equipment and features and striking to look at. And with the inclusion of ride-by-wire and stronger brakes, it is more manageable than ever. At ₹2,25,730 (ex-showroom, Delhi), it is a bit more expensive than its predecessor, but you get a whole lot of bike for the money. The 390 Duke is yet another phenomenal bike from KTM.