BonkersVille – KTM Duke 390 road-test

KTM Duke 390

The time couldn’t have been more perfect; the overcast skies had just given way for the evening sun, the golden glow from the edge of the helmet signalled a beautiful dusk, while some streaks of dust were blowing around courtesy the cool winds. One ride of this brilliant machine, the KTM Duke 390 and my sweaty palms and forehead were begging for mercy for what lay in-between my legs was a motor that could very well write itself into the history books! I know what you are thinking; after all how can a “mere” 44PS engine be so good or, for that matter so bloody fast? I know you are thinking, it is a motorcycle after all; how fast can it go? I know you are thinking that I have, perhaps, gone bonkers.

With 44PS on tap and a top whack of 160km/hr.+, the KTM Duke 390 is anything but normal. Take, for instance, the fact that with a twin cam, 4-valve configuration, nikasil coated cylinders, forced lubrication and vertically stacked transmission shafts, which is so KTM-ish, this thing manages an absolutely staggering 300bhp/ tonne. That is just phenomenal, and it is the least I could say!

Yes, it might seem like your Duke 200, but let me make it crystal clear, that is where the comparison ends. The KTM Duke 390 shows us what practical performance means, it shoves us in the face with pure power and brutal acceleration, and a hundred things more. I need to settle down for my nerves are still tingling with the wonderful sensation. A bike like the 390 Duke can give, even the seasoned riders all the power they would ever need to go as fast as they possibly could think of on public roads. When I say, there would be absolutely nothing that we bikers could crib about as far as performance is concerned, I say the truth.

KTM Duke 390

KTM Duke 390

KTM Duke 390

With the KTM Duke 390, what KTM has effectively done is, they have raised the bar of motorcycling (especially Indian motorcycling) to an entirely new level; it is the perfect mix of usable power, a brilliant price and a wonderful feel of being satisfied with your machine. First glances can be deceptive; for someone who is looking at the 390 Duke for the first time, it might seem a carbon-copy of the Duke 200. Even when you take it out on the roads for a spin, there are hardly any eye-balls which will take a second look at the machine. They probably will think it to be a Duke 200, after all. But, if you look a little closely, changes are apparent. There are the 390 decals on the fuel tank, the ABS equipped disc rotors, those gorgeous little hand guards and a slightly fatter rear tyre. Quality has not been compromised on, and I, during my short stint on the Duke 390 failed to find any faults on the machine, quality wise.

As much as I am happy with everything else on the Duke 390, I was a little disappointed from the sort of localization that Bajaj has done with it. From the branding to the handle grips and the switch-gears (which has been sourced from the Pulsar), and many other small bits on the machine which have been sourced locally. Now, there is nothing really wrong in doing it; adversely, it does bring the prices down. Howsoever, upset I was, I am happy to say that Bajaj has not compromised with the quality of the localized parts at all.

Enough talk about boring tid-bits, let’s get down to riding it! It doesn’t matter if you are looking at simply pottering around town or are looking at blasting down that favourite highway of yours, the KTM Duke 390 is up for all that and much more. When ridden slowly, it’s as docile as you could possibly think of, but when the throttle is opened wide, this thing is an absolute maniac of a machine! I mean how else can you describe a 0-100km/hr. time of 5.5 seconds odd; that’s almost the sole territory of some big boys (read fast 4-wheelers) and those things cost the Earth! As long as you are below that 4k RPM mark, you feel that the machine is somewhat unhappy; it just urges you to wring the throttle a little more. And as you pass the 6k RPM mark, there is a certain push like someone has kicked the crap out of the machine, and there is just no looking back from thereon. This machine blasts past everything else on the roads like there is no tomorrow. However, a word of caution for the newbies – please don’t just wring the throttle wide open, for the Duke 390 will let you taste dust in no time whatsoever.

As far as the gearing is concerned, KTM has done a brilliant job, really. The first 5 gears are spaced out perfectly to be able to potter around town or blast down the roads, while the 6th gear is ample tall. What this essentially mean is that you can cruise at a lazy 120km/hr. on the speedo while the engine has enough juice left in it, incase you decide you want some more thrill. I weigh in at 62kgs, and with me onboard, hitting the 2nd gear at a fast pace meant the bike did wheelie a couple of times. This was a little unexpected, but a LOT of fun indeed. This machine has a lot of surprises in store for a rider who can really ride her hard; surprises which I am sure will surprise even the most hardcore performance enthusiast, let alone a newbie!ย Overall, the mill of the Duke 390 is an absolute crazy, high-revving, adrenaline pumping unit which should keep you happy for a long time to come. If you think that this is not really a practical machine which can be ridden on a daily basis, I would really suggest you either take a test-ride and be beaten at your own words, or better still, just take a hike.

KTM Duke 390

KTM Duke 390

KTM Duke 390

KTM Duke 390

KTM Duke 390

KTM Duke 390

KTM Duke 390

Braking on the KTM Duke 390 is another of its huge plus point. It is taken care of by the Bosch 9MB 2-channel ABS system and comes as standard in the awesome package that the 390 has to offer, overall. Ofcourse, there is the switch to turn ABS off, but I don’t really see a point in turning such an important safety feature off. Front brakes have a single 300mm disc with radial mounted 4-piston caliper, complete with ABS, while at the rear a 230mm disc does the job with single piston caliper and ABS.


All was well in the KTM land, but then it decided to throw in another big surprise – the pricing! With an on-road price of Rs.2 lakhs, this thing screams value for money. No other manufacturer in this country offers anything even remotely close to this machine, at double the price! With a price-tag like that, Bajaj has absolutely hacked the competition dead center, where it hurt them the most. This price, as I see it will be really hard for the competition to match up, really. If you are looking to get a new machine, and can afford a 2 lakh rupees bike, then you don’t really need to look any further than a spanking new KTM Duke 390.

As the sun set, and my ride came to an end, I couldn’t help but wonder what a machine this has turned out to be. All that hooplah before the launch was so worth it. With this, KTM has delivered a knock-out punch on the face of their competition. This evening might have come to an end, but it sure is a new dawn for Indian motorcycling. Thanks to the guys at Kraftfahrzeug Trunkenpolz Mattighofen, the word ‘bonkers’ just got a new meaning altogether.

* A special thanks to KTM Gurgaon, for providing the KTM Duke 390 for road-test and photo-shoot.

*Also, a huge word of thanks to Manfrotto, for providing with tripod and photographic support.

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  • Jasmeet Singh  On August 11, 2013 at 2:07 PM

    It was great providing support for the photo shoot, Bobby. Manfrotto has always been at the forefront when it comes to support technologies and it will always be. It is not for anything that it has been the number 1 choice of professionals all over the globe. Thanks for using our products. We look forward to further association with you, in the future. Thank you.


  • Ajay  On August 11, 2013 at 10:51 PM

    I felt the review ended quickly, felt like u missed some parts
    Awesome clicks, Could you provide a link to download the full resolution image of D390 ie the superb images that you have clicked


    • vulpineshooter  On August 12, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      Hi Ajay, this wasn’t supposed to be a full-blown review. This was more of an hands-on review of the Duke 390. Yes, I missed out on certain part like, probably the handling, the details of the various parts’ quality, et al, but I just wanted it to be limited to about 1800 words. ๐Ÿ™‚ As or the images, yes, I shall share the high res of the same, for wallpapers. Surely. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • jvdjaved  On August 12, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    Nice Review, I too had a chance to test ride it and it did a wheelie in 3rd gear. Awesome machine ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Sharang  On September 17, 2013 at 1:18 PM

    Best pics of the 390 so far.


  • Vicky  On April 22, 2016 at 11:41 AM

    Great Pics of KTM bike. thanks


  • prakash  On April 23, 2016 at 5:28 AM

    Good looking bike n nice Picture .
    ktm service centre in Patna


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