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KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

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  • KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

    xBhp rides and reviews the KTM RC390 and RC200 on Bajaj's Chakan track near Pune. Also find specifications, price and comparisons with the competition in this review.

    Photos: Gourab Das / xBhp assisted by Sundeep Gajjar / motoGrapher

    Today is the age of smart ideas. And how smart it is to make just one good engine and put it in different style of motorcycles? Jackpot! That is what KTM and Bajaj did. And the possibilities are endless. You already have a racer and a street naked and if KTM would, you could have an adventure bike and a cruiser too! Heck, they can even have a scaled down version of the xBow car with this 44 HP engine! And of course a trial bike, if India so shows that it desires one badly enough.

    So there you have – an entire lineup to choose from. And it will appeal to the ENTIRE spectrum of motorcyclists, brilliant!

    Ready to Race, yes sir, the RC 390 is for you.
    Ready to Hoon, yes sir, the Duke 390 is for you.
    Ready to Discover, yes sir the Adventure 390 is for you.
    Ready to Relax, yes sir the CC 390 is for you.
    Not Ready yet? Go home and peel off an Orange son.

    The KTM – Bajaj partnership was a masterstroke. Building small capacity quality high performance affordable motorcycles have launched KTM into an orbit other manufacturers will find difficult to match. This could have been done by Ducati, BMW or any of the big four Japs, but no, a relatively small Austrian company riding piggy-back on an Indian motorcycle giant steals the show. And it all started with the KTM 200 back in Dec 2011. That knocked the socks off all the other manufacturers who were probably wondering in their board rooms – what the hell just happened? The Honda CBR250r is a great bike. So is the Yamaha YZF-R15. But how can you compare these with an affordable but very high quality high performance machine. It is just not possible without planning and foresight. Everyone else is just too late and I am not quite sure what are they waiting for?

    Anyways, it seems only Oranges are invited to this party for now and so let the juice flow…

    xBhp was invited by Bajaj to ride the RC390 and the RC200 (the latter having its moment of glory stolen as everyone was so much in love with the 44 horses possessed by the 390!). So let’s start with the obvious…

    Looks: Hot, hot, hot!

    It is not easy to make something look different and beautiful today where there are plethora of options, yet KTM has wisely borrowed just enough lines from the RC8 1190 while dropping the debatably weird front and choosing to go with the new and relatively fresh horizontal dual projector setup. The profile of the bike hits the right spot, the proportions dead right and it looks like a big sports bike. The front and rear is however a different story. The bike is pretty sleek, measuring 748mm at its widest (Ducati Panigale is 810 mm in comparison), if you look orthogonally from the rear. However, move just a bit to get a rear three-quarter view and it will blow your mind with its sizeable fairing surface area and the under-belly exhaust blending beautifully down below. The triangular exhaust end complements the rest of the angular lines on the bike.

    There is no shortage of clever design trickery on the bike. From the neatly integrated turn indicators on the mirror to the transparent fairing cowl/windscreen that does its job without making the bike look big. I would have preferred the bike to actually look bigger; hence a part of the windscreen could have been dark to accentuate that.

    The starkest component of the bike would be its orange steel Trellis frame which gives it a very purposeful and different look.

    Another great job by KTM on the RC390 is the rear seat which actually closely imitates a plastic cowl, seamlessly integrating with the bike’s plastic under-tail. However it is a proper soft seat with grab bars tucked away on the sides.

    The bike will also come across as being a little too steep once you sit on it with an aggressive riding position, but people who know its purpose will not complain.

    So as far as the looks are concerned, I think it is the most beautiful bike made in India today. Something that I said in 2003, when the Hero Honda Karizma was first launched.

    I wish I had something like this in my college days; it would have been a blast to pose on! However, those were the days when Hero Honda CBZ was the hottest bike in town. The youngsters (not that I am old!) today must realize how fortunate they are!

    Feels: Great!

    There are many instances where bikes look great but something doesn’t feel right once you make the connect which happens when you sit on the saddle and bend forward to grab those handlebars. The RC390 knows how to make friends. I was instantly in a position that though is a typical sports-bike crouch, was still not too uncomfortable but felt ‘race ready’. If you like tanks as big as the Hyosung GT250 which you can practically sleep on, then look elsewhere. This one’s slim and trim in all aspects except for those heavy-muscled horses raring for a gallop. I suspect that even riders above 6 feet will be at home on the bike (I stand at some 5 feet 10 inches or so barefoot).

    The ergonomics are decent and there is nothing out of reach. You have enough space to move yourself back and push against the stepped-up seat to give you a nice crouch on the straights to slipstream behind other riders or go WOT to warp speeds. And it ‘feels’ very light because it is light! At 147 kg dry, it feels as if you can literally lift the bike up single-handed! This translates into quick manoeuvrability of course, but the design ensures there is enough down-force and stability even at the speeds reaching 170 kmph plus (and probably more once we start seeing the mods coming in).

    So there you have it, it looks good and it feels great! But does it really go?

    Performance on the track

    The only other bike closest to this segment which I have ridden on track is the Ninja 250R. And that was an amazing bike, one that inspired great confidence in the corners and the braking was phenomenal, even without ABS.

    So how does the RC390 fare? The Bajaj Chakan track is 3.2 kms long with a long straight of 1.2 kms and a series of quick consecutive turns. The tarmac is decent with bit of gravel and dust on the sides more often than not. These were the conditions that the RC390 was ridden in. They proved to be sufficient to get an idea of what it might be capable of on a full-fledged track like the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) near Delhi. I have seen people do wonders with the Duke 390 on it, so this will be quite something do deal with, even if it is being ridden along with 600s, provided the rider is good.

    The acceleration is decent and it will make anyone more than happy, provided they are upgrading from a machine like the Ninja 250R or the CBR250r. If you think you will be happy on this as a secondary machine to your Fireblade 1000RR just because it is cheaper to drop and take on the edge, then you will be deeply disappointed. People often make this mistake. You will never get that power. However, this can be a great machine to learn on how to take corners flat out without worrying about too much power at the exit. It has got all the ergonomics and character of a 1000RR race bike without the unusable power. Plus 17 lacs vs. 2 lacs is not even an argument! This bike screams: First tame me and then think of a 600, and then a 1000! Its affordable good-looking practicality in metal, plastic and rubber.

    According to me the perfect garage would be to have a naked like the Yamaha FZ1 for close-quarter urban riding, an adventure bike like the Triumph 800 for touring and the RC390 for the track. A good rider on the RC390 on BIC can probably do something like 2.30. In comparison, Gurvinder from Delhi often clocks 2.05 on his Kawasaki ZX10R on his fast days at the same venue.

    The bike is very flickable, but not so much as to cause sudden entries into corners and throw you off guard. While the ByBre (By Brembo) 300 mm brakes
    is adequate, the feel and feed-back is not as good as the Ninja 250R, but the ABS works very well indeed and the icing on the cake is that it can be switched off by pressing down on a button next to the digital display.

    Lots of components are derivatives of the Duke 390 including the chassis which is tweaked to be sportier. The wheelbase is shortened to 1340 mm (from 1367 mm on the Duke 390) and the steering rake is reduced by 1.5 degrees, all for those cat-like responses to the steering inputs.

    Hard leans are supported by the Metzeler M5s (110 /70-17 up front and 150/60-17 in the rear). For serious track riding you may want to opt for the stickier Metzeler Sportec M7 RR tyres, which I suspect won’t be available officially in India.

    The engine is wonderful at 9000 rpm producing 44 Hp. With 35 Nm of torque (compared to say 15 Nm in Yamaha R15) it will be good for city rides and touring as well I presume.

    There have been a few instances of Duke 390 getting overheated, especially in the summers, however they seem to have been sorted out in the recent production runs. Hope KTM have a permanent fix on this setup, more so since this one is fully faired.

    I managed to touch a top speed of 173kmph with a GoPro on my head and a not so comfortable helmet. I suspect 180 kmph on the speedo should not be too unrealistic on a properly run-in bike and a 1.5 kms straight.

    Some people might also be concerned about the vibrations from the bike; it being a single cylinder their concerns are not entirely unfounded. However I am happy to report that the vibrations did not make it into my conscious field - i.e. I did not feel them substantially enough to be noticed, probably more because there’s a lot more to do at 3-digit speeds than worry about some vibrations! If it crops up in the long run and after a few thousand kms of bumpy rides on the test track we call Indian roads, then that would be another matter.

    KTM 390 CUP: The real use of the bike

    The RC390 is being used for the ADAC Junior Cup which is organized in Germany since the past 21 years, primarily to promote young talent in motorcycle racing. Till last year ADAC was using a 125CC two stroke single cylinder with a super-tuned 35 Hp engine. Since 2014 it has switched to the KTM RC390, which is called the KTM RC390 CUP edition. This is a testimony to how good and perfectly timed this bike is for the world.

    This also shows that it is high time for India to start something seriously in racing. We are currently around one plus billion people and have no one to represent us at the international stage in racing. This is VERY SAD to me. Bikes like the RC390 will hopefully be used the correct way and not only for posing and street racing.

    There are a few changes to the bike to make it the CUP edition, for example:

    Extra parts not needed in a race like blinkers etc. are removed. Power is downgraded to ~40 Bhp, the underbelly exhaust replaced by a Titanium Exhaust system and the bike gets kitted with the KTM Powerparts for the RC390 road version. KTM claims that in this setup the bike can reach speeds of up to 190 Kmph which I find a little hard to believe since I topped out at 174 or so myself at the Chakan track in Pune, but it’s not impossible. The gear shift pattern can also be altered easily aiding turns, especially extreme right hand leans. Fork and suspension struts were modified which are now entirely adjustable with regard to spring preload and damping. Even the front brake pads were adjusted to the permanently higher loads while racing by extending the diameter from 280 to 320 mm. The footrest system is further relocated to the back, hand levers (foldable and adjustable), lever hoop guards left and right and the knee slider can be found in the KTM PowerParts range.

    Special stress has also been given to the fact that the CUP bike can take a decent amount of crashes without getting substantially damaged, so that’s good news for track junkies.

    Instead of the Metzeler Sportec M5 that are fitted on the road RC390, the CUP version is fitted with Metzeler Sportec M7 RR tyres, that are also available for purchase for the average consumer.

    In fact as late as August, British Superbike bosses were in talks with KTM UK about introducing a 1-make series next season with the RC390.

    So everyone is recognizing the potential that is there in the bike, but will India use it how it is supposed to be? We shall see. Fingers crossed there.

    KTM RC200

    In all the hullaballoo about the RC390, let’s not forget the younger (and no less capable sibling) – the RC 200. I had a ride around the track and managed a 1.52 minutes lap, record according to Bajaj officials is 1.44 on the RC200 on the Chakan facility. The bike looks almost the same, but the tyres are MRF and not METZELER.

    This is another great moment for Indian motorcyclists as they get more options to choose from. But the real thing is whether the bike will be actually be used to actually hone racing talent in India or it will end up just being another misfit (tourer)!

    The KTM RC 390 is produced in India and it gives the company the opportunity to price it extremely competitively as compared to the rest of the world as we found out.

    This is how the KTM RC390 stacks up against the competition -

    The KTM RC200 in comparison with the competition -

    Join xBhp On

  • #2
    re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

    Superb! Awesome review , I really liked that orange squash part
    Last edited by itsmevini123; 10-11-2014, 04:21 PM.
    KTM RC390 - Current
    Yamaha R15 v2 - Sold
    Hero Hunk - Sold
    An IT Engineer by profession and a rider by soul.

    Delhi to Sach Pass -
    Delhi to Mana -
    Delhi to Munsyari -
    Spiti circuit -



    • #3
      re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

      Now THAT is what we call a review. Breathtakingly beautiful pictures too. Thanks Sunny sir and MG


      • #4
        re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

        I have no complaints from RC390 at this cost. But at the costs it sells in other countries it would have been another story. I was blown away by the overall package at this price and power is adequately enough for growing power hungry newer generation of bikers
        || My Doc says bhp is directly proportional to testosterone. I want more I want more .............. ||

        2003 Bajaj Caliber 115 (SOLD)
        2009 TVS Apache RTR 160
        2012 TVS Apache RTR 180 (SOLD)
        2013 Yamaha R15 V2.0 SE (SOLD)
        2015 Yamaha Ray Z
        2016 KTM RC390
        2016 Triumph Street Triple


        • #5
          re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

          amazing review....


          • #6
            re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

            My query : Has Akrapovic made an exhaust particularly for the RC390 ?

            My interest here, is to know which top brand is going to provide an after-market full system exhaust for the RC390.

            Because factory exhaust note will be impossible to ride with after using a LeoVince FFE on my R15.

            No bike has had much of my interest since R15 came.. Untill now atleast.. This Orange monster is too sexy and tempting.

            Lovely review Sunny G.
            Last edited by DeepMahal; 10-11-2014, 07:31 PM.
            An Engine has valves, your heart has valves. Case closed. My Facebook


            • #7
              re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

              Nice review! I LOLd on the orange squashing part.
              Where do you guys think would the R25 fit in? How will it stack up against the RC390?


              • #8
                re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

                Fantastic stuff for a first impression review. I'm not sure why the Daytona 675R is in the picture though. :/
                CRAP Blog


                • #9
                  re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

                  Awesome review.....nice snaps too. Loved it...especially the pic where the rider is abput to squash the orange.

                  Sent from my Xperia SP

                  TVS-SUZUKI Max 100 (2000-2006)
                  TVS Star City (2006-2015)
                  Yamaha FZ-S (2010-Present)
                  KTM Duke 200 (2016-Present)


                  • #10
                    re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

                    cool review!
                    just one question why not give the true wet weight for the bikes which were released by bajaj at the launch
                    the 390 is around 166 kilos ready to ride.

                    ps- im still waiting for the bike to get delivered to me.

                    Sent from my XT1033 using xBhp Connect mobile app


                    • #11
                      re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

                      I test rode the RC390, the mirrors can't be adjusted beyond a very limited range and so were effectively useless. For a 6'2" person it's not too comfortable either as I got the feel of doing push-ups while riding, the handlebar grips felt very far apart. Seat's damn hard. Plus one can't lug the bike in have to shift down to first if the bike slows to ~ 30kmph or lesser.

                      After getting back to my pulsar I was feeling like I've gotten on a TBTS w.r.t riding position and it became so much easier to live with in traffic.
                      200 | 300 | 1200 BOXER


                      • #12
                        re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

                        Superrrrr review....


                        • #13
                          re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

                          Awesome review I like that orange squash while cornering . looking forward to buy this bike
                          Kudos to ktm

                          Sent from my XT1033 using xBhp Connect mobile app
                          I can put any Signatures :P


                          • #14
                            re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

                            From my experience with both the Dukes, each of these have their own character...
                            The Duke 200 being a city tool, and the Duke 390 trying to be an all rounder but compromising on the city level low end torque in the process. But none of these are demerits.

                            Hopefully the RCs will also maintain their difference and specialty each. I do hope the 390 has its limiter extended, because the twin cylinder bikes would be at an advantage otherwise. Miss the shift at max power point, the limiter kicks in most of the time in the Duke 390. Its not a big demerit though. And the red shifting light helps too.

                            I also had a personal interaction with the RC at Ajmer KTM. Following are my observations:

                            1. The idle rpm is rock stable anytime. It goes slightly up and down in the Duke sometimes...

                            2. The riding position is definitely more sporty than Duke 390. Will remind you of the R15 for sure...

                            3. The beam was better visible in the evening, compared to the Duke 390's headlight.. It could also mean the spread is narrower.

                            4. The rear seat is really SEXY! In person, you will love it!

                            5. Same headlight setup as most twin-light bikes: One headlight is dipper, another is high beam. And when set to high beam, both lights light up.

                            6. Bike for some reason, screamed "small". Maybe it was just my perception or whatever....

                            7. Yes, RC390 too heats up after a ride. Tolerable though.

                            8. Console is the same little display.... On a racetrack, making a perfect 9500 rpm shift will give you sweat, specially seeing how it lurges towards redline! Same as the Duke!

                            9. Mirrors reminded me of Pulsar 220. Yes, useless RVMs. They had only Horizontal movement to fold them inside... No vertical movement at all! And to make use of them to see traffic, you have to crouch in further than normal riding position, which you can do once in a while.

                            I could've chosen to ride it, but I am more interested in the Duke 690 when it comes. So, I didn't ask for a test ride. BTW Ajmer is just going to get the first batch of RC's, which is a good news for prospective buyers.

                            @Sunny : Bro, amazing pics! And that orange crushing pic.... it is amazing timing & overall what a pic!
                            Although, its contradictory, since in the review, you're basically saying that the Orange "in question", is going to crush its competition...
                            Last edited by Samarth 619; 10-11-2014, 10:51 PM.
                            Brotherhood, Rules, Freedom. Xbhp.
                            Indian riding = Alertness, Anticipation and Adjustment.


                            • #15
                              re: KTM RC 390 Reviewed!

                              finally, the only best review came out
                              Humotogineer | *keep calm and ride on*