KTM 390 Adventure Review: Dirt on Orange and Orange on dirt!

KTM 390 Adventure Review: Dirt on Orange and Orange on dirt!

KTM has always been known for its off-road motorcycles. Numerous wins and championships in the world’s toughest rally events speak volumes about KTM’s prowess at making motorcycles that can kick up a storm (heard of Toby Price and the Dakar?) while other motorcycles kick up some dirt. So when they entered the Indian market with the Duke, a street motorcycle, and then the RC, a full-fledged track beast, something was amiss… the sense of ‘Adventure’ inherent to KTM. Years later, the void is set to be filled as KTM has launched the 390 Adventure in India. But does it live up to the hype? Is it everything that we hoped and waited for? We flew to Pune to find out. 

Text: Karan Singh Bansatta

Photos: Sikandar Amin Khan

The first Indian made KTM that we rode was the Duke 200, and its performance set new benchmarks. We were blown away.

But that was the year 2011. The RC 390 was the first bike in India on which anyone could train to be a track racer, and boy was it fast… a proper pocket rocket!

The KTM 390 Adventure was unveiled at EICMA 2019 and it caught the fancy of the enthusiasts the world over. And we see no reason why it shouldn’t have. The 390 range has been immensely popular all over the world and the ‘Adventure’ dimension was the last piece of the puzzle. It was armed to the teeth with tech and the venerable 373.2 cc single-cylinder engine from KTM and was thus bound to be a screamer. But usually motorcycles, on their way to India, tend to shed some of the ‘goodies’. But then, it makes sense too since ours is a rather price-sensitive market. And so, the KTM 390 Adventure has lost some thing(s) too. Adjustable suspension is one of them. But anyway, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, pun intended. 


The perennially important question: How does it look? In our opinion, it looks good. A bit edgy, but good. While I believe that it may not fit the bill for a ‘good looking motorcycle’ for everyone, most would be able to cope with the insect-like front fascia. It harks back to the KTM design philosophy of the old… make’em look like they want to chew you up and spit you out. And it does look that way.

But then, KTM Adventures were always styled differently than your regular ADVs.

For example, this 990 Adventure that we rode in the Austrian Alps in 2011.

Another reason for that is the size… or the way it portrays its size. It looks big… proper big. And that too without lots of fairings and plastic and pixie dust and whatnot. It has its soul bared and you can see the ‘Adventure’ lurking inside. We really liked the design of the exhaust, and the way the engine guard and the bash plate have been executed. Overall, it may not be a good looking motorcycle for everyone but it sure is a purposeful looking one. And it is one of the few motorcycles which grow on you. 



And now, onwards to dem juicy bits! KTM 390 Adventure is powered by the same 373.2cc mills that power the 390 Duke and the RC 390. Therefore, the power and torque remain the same as well; 43 bhp of power and 37 Nm of torque. Even the gear ratios and the final drive remains the same which is a little sad. One doesn’t want something which is slightly bland at the low-end for steep climbs full of rocks… or boulders… 

And on that note, it should be made clear that this motorcycle is a Duke masquerading as an Adv-tourer and trying its best to avoid being caught. While it is mostly successful, it does get caught sometimes. To get the best out of it, you have to stay above 4,000-4,500 rpm and god forbid if you go farther than that… you won’t want to let it go! At least we didn’t. 

It has ample power to make the rider laugh and cry at the same time. You laugh thinking about how your brash attitude took you to a terrain that you are not prepared for… not by a long shot and then you cry when this fantastic little wild-child gets you out of there. Skill is important, of course, and a  motorcycle that can accentuate those… is priceless. The KTM 390 Adventure is that motorcycle. 

One of the things that are a welcome change- the curved radiator with two cooling fans. Orange stuff notorious for overheating? No more! And it works quite well. It was rather hot in Pune and the motorcycles were being brutalized… sometimes by expertise and sometimes by… well… you know. Now, the motorcycle gets a ride-by-wire throttle. With the on-point fueling, it makes for a joyous experience. 

Another luxurious addition to the ‘entry-level’ adventure-tourer is MTC or Motorcycle Traction Control. While its importance can’t be overstated from the safety point of view, the implementation could have been a bit better. When you are off the tarmac, you’d want that thing off but every time the motorcycle is switched off, even with the kill switch, it comes back on and it does get on your nerves after a while. But even then, it is a useful addition and it might just end up saving one’s life but be careful when you are taking it off the road. It has an off-road mode too which can let you slide the rear to some extent, but then, it cuts in a bit too quickly robbing you of power and that is something you won’t want… especially on the inclines! 

So the engine department is well sorted but with KTM’s accolades in making stellar off-road bikes, a little more grunt in the lower rev-range would have been appreciated. 

The 6- speed gearbox is a star in its own right. Packed with the awesomeness of an anti-hopping slipper clutch and a Quickshifter (YES! YOU READ THAT RIGHT! A QUICKSHIFTER FOR THE SAKE OF EVERYTHING THAT’S HOLY!), one can really go at it if they have got the cojones. The clutch action is featherlight and you can say goodbye to discomfort even in stop and go traffic. 

So overall, the performance of the KTM 390 Adventure does not disappoint, but it does leave some things to be desired, namely; more grunt at the lower end of the rev range, better implementation of the Traction Control, and a little more refinement. 



As it has been since the beginning of time, handling is the best aspect of this KTM as well. The KTM 390 Adventure is built around a lightweight trellis frame. On paper, that sounds good, in the real world, it makes the motorcycle a hoot. It is so nimble, so agile, and so responsive that it is almost magical. It may seem like an exaggeration but stay with us. 

When one starts to ride a motorcycle and learns to ride it, they are bestowed with a certain skill set. Now, the people who are riding in MotoGP or the Dakar rally, have honed and sharpened those skills beyond comprehension. But even mere mortals like us, have those skills and a lot of it is derived from feeling. How a motorcycle behaves underneath you as it squirms for traction or as it tries to compose itself. We can all feel it but for most of us, we need the motorcycle to communicate those things to us. And the KTM 390 Adventure does that very well. 

It can be explained via this statement: “I wish I wore my brown pants when I first saw the testing ground that KTM chose for us. And when I came out unscathed, I knew that I owed a huge chunk of it to the motorcycle despite wanting to hog all the limelight… the little bit of it that was there anyway!”

Talking about the suspension, the KTM 390 Adventure has been decorated with WP Apex long-travel suspension with 170 mm of travel up front and 177 mm of it at the rear. The suspension held up very well and inspired a lot of confidence. Adding to that confidence was the 200 mm of ground clearance. We were quite surprised at the kind of abuse this motorcycle could take. Rocks… keep going, loose gravel… keep going, steep climbs with bigger rocks… keep going. It just… keeps going. But then you have to go slow. 

The suspension is soft and if you ride the 390 Adventure like you’re preparing to be the next Dakar star, it will leave you a little disappointed. And that is where we’d like to point at an important goodie that the 390 Adventure dropped on its way to India; adjustable suspension. But despite that, it is more than enough for what most of us are capable of and even more so, for what we intend to do with this motorcycle for the most part. 

Now, the brakes are stellar. Lots of bite, lots of feel from the lever, and ABS. And not just ABS, Cornering ABS with off-road mode. Engage the off-road mode and let the rear slide as much as you like… or as much as you can manage to be honest. 

Now, the 100/90 and the 130/80 tyres on the 19” front wheel and the 17” rear are just what the doctor ordered for making a capable off-roader. But the Metzeler Tourance tyres… not entirely. The rubber is meant for light off-roading and anything extreme is just pushing your luck. The tyres are tubeless which is a good thing but the wheels are… not spoked. But that is no reason to be spooked because they took a lot of abuse rather sportingly. How long can they go on like that, we can’t say just yet. 

The geometry of the motorcycle is spot-on. The relatively relaxed steering-head angle and the longer wheelbase go a long way in making this motorcycle a steady operator without making it too lethargic. So, handling wise, the KTM 390 Adventure is sorted for all your off-road shenanigans, limited only by the tyres and also to some extent, by the suspension. 



The KTM 390 Adventure is an adventure-tourer and its ergonomics are set like one. The rider’s triangle is comfy when you are sitting on the bike, the narrow tank and toothed footpegs ( with removable rubber tops) help a lot when you are riding standing up. The handlebar is wide and offers a lot of leverage. The adjustable windscreen offers ample protection from the wind. The seat is long and spacious. Even the pillion seat is spacious and comfy if you do not plan to carry a lot of luggage. So if you want to take the 390 Adventure for a long haul, it’d back you up fully. 

The only gripe that we have, and so do a few more people, is that when you are standing up, the handlebars hang a bit low so trying to get the right position with the right amount of leverage to control the motorcycle becomes a little difficult. If one plans serious off-roading with the KTM 390 Adventure, risers might be the first thing they’d want especially if they follow the taller scheme of things

On the tarmac

Everything that makes the KTM 390 Adventure a fantastic motorcycle off the tarmac, makes it an even better one on the road. Everything that limits the motorcycle’s potential off the road, does a great job on it. The suspension feels great on the road offering a compliant and responsive ride. The tyres provide ample grip on the road and the stellar braking setup complete with cornering ABS goes a long way in ensuring a safe and enjoyable ride. 158 kg dry weight makes it seem like a little hefty but it all disappears as soon as you get going. The traction control issues are alleviated on the road and the motorcycle, even with a little less grunt on the low-end of the rev range, is a bliss to ride. It is powerful, it is poised, it is comfortable… it’s awesome. 

Little Things

Mileage and Range: We do not even know why we include this bit in the Little Things section. Maybe because the motorcycles are performance-oriented… Anyway, KTM claims a range of around 400 km and the tank is 14.5 L so the fuel efficiency comes in at around 27 km/l. But these are claimed figures and something that we could not verify during this short test. 

Rearview mirrors are sturdy and offer a good view of the moments left behind. The headlight, again, we rode it in the day so we cannot comment on that but if the 390 Duke’s headlight performance is anything to go by, the 390 Adventure is all set in that regard. 

The build quality is commendable considering the thrashing that the motorcycles got and yet, nothing broke… except for one loose bar-end weight. The fit and finish are top-notch too. We really liked the design of the exhaust and the soundtrack was decent too. 

Not so little things

A motorcycle that warrants a new section altogether… cool, eh? So, We mentioned something about being armed to the teeth. Well, Quickshifter+, Ride-by-wire, MTC ( KTM Speak for Motorcycle Traction Control), Slipper clutch, ABS with off-road mode, Bluetooth connectivity, turn-by-turn navigation are the things we have already mentioned and they are all standard. The engine guard, the lever guards, a sturdy grab rail, adjustable foot-brake pedal reach, and the spring-loaded gear lever (so that it does not break in case of a fall) just highlight the fact that the KTM has left no stone unturned to make the 390 Adventure one of the most feature-loaded motorcycles in its class. 

Another nifty trick is the KTM MY RIDE. With the KTM MY RIDE system, a smartphone can be tethered to the bike, allowing you to make phone calls, listen to music and use the optional turn-to-turn navigating app. All of those goodies are managed by a beautiful screen which is navigated via the means of buttons on the cluster, just like the 390 Duke. 

What the motorcycle is really capable of! 

That’s not me. I wish that was me. I wish I could lie that it’s me. But that’d be too indigestible a lie.

The person you see giving baby Adventure the beans here… is Adam Riemann. He is a heck of a rider, a heck of a person, and a heck of a mentor. He takes up some really, really messed up adventure rides and sees them through. It was scary to see his eagerness to thrash that Adventure 390 mercilessly, intimidating the testing ground that was intimidating us.

You see the height on that one? The alloy wheels took that!

And that…

And that too!  So rest assured, they are sturdy!


2.99 Lakhs is a lot of money. And the KTM 390 Adventure is a lot of motorcycle. Maybe a bit too much if you consider the comprehensive list of features for safety and comfort. And it is still a KTM at heart (literally) so the fun factor comes standard too. Will it keep you happy on a long roadtrip? YES! Will it take you to Spiti or Ladakh? YES! Will the performance put a smile on your face? YES! Will the handling make you want to explore your limits? YES! Should you buy it? Well… you know… 

A little head to head?


And some more photos!

Rider protection at xBhp is taken care of by Rynox Gears and Axor Helmets. The Apex Crypto you see in the picture is one of the safest and most comfortable helmets that we have used. The airflow keeps your head cool and with the DOT and ECE certification, you can be sure that it’ll take care of you. The Tornado Pro Jacket and the Advento Pants have some nifty tricks up their sleeves (literally) with adjustable CE Level 2 certified armours. All-weather comfort is a given with the included rain and winter liners and the mesh-type design.




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