KTM Duke 390

Dreams were set on a Honda CBR600 but that’s isn’t happening just yet. Possible entry of the Yamaha MT-09 and/or the Honda CB500X both (having made their debut in 2013) are so rightfully apt for the Indian roads and its touring possibilities. With a spark rekindled within, so began the quest for a motorbike of this generation.

Way back as a school going lad, used to drool over the super-bikes that were center-spreads in auto magazines. During my college-going days, the Yamaha RD350, RE Bullet, Yesdi Roadking, Yamaha RX100, Suzuki Shogun held a unique place with many and quite likely still does. In 2000, got myself a Hero Honda CBZ, my first girlfriend as I would call it. Fifteen years gone by and am still loving every time am out riding. It’s smooth ride and cat-like purring sound on letting go of throttle to reduce speed brings me a smile every time.

A new year 2015 ushered in and I start off by going over to various bike showrooms one by one for an introduction to these babes….err… bikes. A test ride wherever possible, or simply sit astride the bike and listen to the sound of the engine running.

Listed out the following bikes with my first impressions :-

  • Harley Davidson Street 750 – Short. Costly spares. No ABS. A souped-up Bajaj Avenger.
  • Honda CBR250R – Just a full fairing bike. Good first bike but not a step-up from my CBZ.
  • Kawasaki 300/250 – Similar to Honda CBR250R, only costlier. Heavy. High maintenance.
  • Kawasaki ER6n/650 – Good but not good enough. Reminds me of a hunchback.
  • Kawasaki Z800 – Beautiful and sounds great. Expensive.
  • KTM Duke 390 – Light. Fast. Idling sounds like auto with sore throat.
  • KTM Duke RC 390 – Track oriented stance. Sounds like another Duke.
  • Royal Enfield TB 500 – A tractor on 2 wheels (Ignored totally).
  • Triumph Street Triple – Nice. Bug-eyed headlights. Expensive.
  • Triumph Tiger – Impressive but expensive.

Sure, there are super bikes in the above list but how viable are they on ‘roads’ that we ply on (crater sized pot-holes, unidentified humps to make one airborne, mobile-glued jaywalkers and animals resting peacefully) was in question. Such bikes are happier on highways, touring or track, I suppose.

Back at home to bifurcate the pros/cons of each bike. Read through various online blogs and forums several times for nearly a month. Concluded on what fitted my purpose (touring) to its cost (value for money) – KTM Duke 390

A wild horse that needs to be tamed. Not an ideal choice for daily commutes in peak hour traffic wherein personally I would rather commute on a bicycle or a 100/150 cc scooter/motorbike. Delighted with the grip on road and power. Not too happy being pillion on the bike, but this wasn’t so much of a worry factor. Need pillion comfort, then look at an Enfield or Harley with sissy bars. Duke is for the rider.

A week after all the paper work and documentations, one evening got delivery of the bike along with the welcome kit, basic medical and tools kit. Tensed as I rode through peak hour evening traffic to get home in one peace. With due persistence from folks at home, had to reluctantly take it to a temple to get ‘blessings’ and tikas all over the bike that I wanted to remove as soon as possible.

Not going through the technical details of the bike, but if interested do check with Google maharaj or the KTM official webpage. To know the bike’s features and benefits, view this video, and for a good review (more so from the Indian perspective) check this video by Shumi from Overdrive magazine.

In short
Over a few days, took it for quick short rides to get a good feel of the bike, gear shift timing, braking and the console that had a plethora of information…quite like getting to know your new girlfriend’s moods, likes and dislikes better. Ideally the rider should know his/her bike well enough to know when to change gears, but here the RPM meter helps nevertheless.
Few things that got me cracking up were these –

  • Side Stand Down indicator – Seriously!! It’s the first thing a rider should pull up when sitting astride a bike.
  • Gear indicator – Just 6 gears, so how lost can a rider get. It’s not 27 gears as in a geared bicycle.
  • Saree guard – Doesn’t stand out odd on this bike but better without. Looks ridiculous on super bikes.

The bike is freakishly fast and simply fun to ride, with its wide handlebars and grippy tyres that gives good control to maneuver, flick it side to side and cornering. The clutch lever is hard and gives the left hand some serious grip exercise. Need to remind yourself every time to increase throttle slowly knowing the fury of the bike. KTM staff instructed to never fill petrol up to the very brim. Also to not hard press the tank cap on straight on but to turn the key, press the lid in and then release. Seats aren’t so hard as it’s made out to be, but yes the pillion can get quite uncomfortable with the slightly inclined hand-grab rails adding to the plight.

For some gear when riding the bike, splurged a bit on a DSG Evo jacket and Aspida Ares full gauntlet gloves. More on the bike and travels with it to follow soon after the break-in period and first service is done.


  • Alche
    February 16, 2015 - 11:10 pm | Permalink

    Did you consider the Z250? I am split between Z250 and D390 – The 390 obviously being better bang for buck. But somehow the Z250 feels more practical with a much larger fuel tank, and a not as hot-when-idle engine.

    A well written blog. Do continue writing on your experiences.

    • pavan
      February 16, 2015 - 11:22 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes, did consider the Z250 for it being a looker, but I rather prefer purpose, power, less weight and value for money. A slightly smaller fuel tank isn’t so much of a problem. The Z250 is close to a lakh more than the KTM 390 that which offers ABS, superb tyres, good power to weight ratio and much lower maintenance cost. Thank you and hope this helped.

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