Last year, KTM overtook BMW to become Europe’s largest motorcycle manufacturer by selling 107,142 units - more than 32% up on the year before. Its 2012 record volume came on the back of its Big Idea in on-road motorcycles, thanks to teaming up with its 47.18% shareholder, India’s Bajaj Auto. The latest new product of this flourishing joint venture is the KTM 390 Duke, LAMS approved and all.
The first model in the Indian made Duke family that will be sold globally, its arrival adds a further payoff for the shrewd gamble made by Pierer and his counterpart Rajiv Bajaj in developing a range of cool, affordable, single-cylinder streetbikes which, in showcasing the youthful KTM brand image, are helping to attract the next generation of riders to choose motorcycling over other forms of leisure pursuit
Hence the point of the new 390, as a stepping stone between the 125 version and the Austrian-made but much higher-performance 690 Duke. I headed off on an exclusive 100km first ride on KTM’s muscled-up midi-mono through the hills and valleys surrounding its Mattighofen HQ to find out how well this bike works.
With a 40% extra hike in power and torque compared to the already sprightly 200 Duke, the 390 motor’s acceleration is now really punchy, though you must keep it revving above 4,000rpm for smooth pickup on a wide open throttle without any trace of transmission snatch.
With 30Nm of torque already on tap at 6,000rpm, you don’t need to use the six-speed gearbox as hard as on the two smaller bikes. It has the same flawless operation as before, with a light, progressive-action clutch that feeds out very controllably – though you must wind it up quite hard to get the pleasing acceleration launch that the midimono motor provides. Revs mount steadily rather than hurriedly, but above 6,000 revs acceleration is even more zestful, and there’s a good sense of flywheel effect, with a long-legged feel to the 390 Duke’s performance which is unexpected for an engine with just 375 cubes, thanks to that flat torque curve – you don’t need to work the clutch nearly as hard as on the smaller-engined bikes.
The extra engine performance makes the 390 Duke really invigorating to ride, with the engine literally pulling off the 1,300rpm idle speed mark without excessive use of the clutch. It’s very forgiving as well as torquey, and there’s totally linear acceleration all through the revband, with that extra little kick above 6,000rpm when revs start to pick up a bit faster.
Cylinder head DOHC, four valves per cylinder
Bore/stroke 89 x 60mm
Compression ratio 12.6:1
Fueling EFI, 46mm throttle body
Power 33kW @ 9500rpm (claimed)
Torque 35Nm @ 7250rpm (claimed)
Final drive Chain
Frame material Tubular steel
Frame layout Trellis
Front: 43mm USD fork, 150mm travel
Rear: Monoshock, 150mm travel
Wheels Cast alloy
Front: 17 x 3 Rear: 17 x 4
Tyres Not given
Front: Single 300mm disc, four-piston caliper
Rear: Single 230mm disc, single-piston caliper
Weight 139kg (dry, claimed)
Seat height 800mm
Max width Not given
Max height Not given
Fuel capacity 11L
Fuel consumption Not given
Top speed 160km/h (est)
Could be smoother
Needs lots of revs
The rear extender...