Duke 390 User Review: Experience From Former Duke 200 Rider

Sushant has submitted this review in our Ownership Review Contest No 13, ensuring himself an assured prize. The contest also offers a chance to win Riding Jacket, Helmet and more…Here are all the details.

Hello people, I hope this helps everyone know how it feels like to buy the Duke 390. When I was making this decision, I read a few blogs and articles which really helped me. The fact that these reviews were easy enough to understand and did not delve too deeply into the specifications is what made reading them so enjoyable and enriching. So here is my attempt at making it easier for anyone who wants to consider this bike.

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Let me start out by making something clear: I am not an ardent biker. I am not part of any biking group and nor do I own any biking gear or equipment other than my bike and my helmet. Actually, I would describe myself as a biking enthusiast rather than the term “biker” which implies a level of commitment and involvement which I must say I have not attained yet.

So I will avoid entering the jungle of tech-specs and statistics, and just write down what it felt like, the “intangibles” if you will, which I think matter the most (just my personal opinion). I have owned a Pulsar 150, an Avenger 220, a KTM Duke 200 and now the Duke 390, so I have ridden at least 5000 kilometres on all of my former bikes and am in a position to compare them with the 390. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to the actual review of the bike, in which I will describe my entire experience right from the time I purchased the bike to my first trip on it to Lavasa, and then an individual spec break-down.

So, here we go…

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The waiting period:

I decided to upgrade from the Duke 200 and made an enquiry with the KTM dealers, I was told that the 390 does NOT have a waiting period, which surprised me quite a bit. So thankfully, I got the bike on the day I made the full payment, which is a HUGE plus point in favour of KTM and especially the Duke 390.

I got my bike within 2 hours of my payment. Another thing that was a bit different that I got to choose my own bike from among 5 bikes in the warehouse. I know this doesn’t make a difference either way, but it was a special touch, which allowed me to form a connection with my Duke even before I had ridden it.

First ride home and initial impressions:

The first time I started my bike, I was a bit surprised by the loudness of the engine growl! I had read in many reviews that the engine sound is a letdown, but personally, I think it is miles better than the 200 but sounds much more ‘assured’. The seat height is 10 cm lower than the smaller Duke and the foot-pegs are further back, so the riding position feels a bit more comfortable, but that is a personal choice.

The clutch is harder than most bikes, and the accelerator is zippy. The seat is very comfortable for me, and seems a bit broader than the 200. As always, the pillion gets the very short end of the stick and trust me, a rollercoaster ride would be safer! I rode the bike around for about 20 kilometres just to get a feel of the engine and the brakes, and then I headed home for the pooja.

Daily riding:

I hate the word commute and everything that it implies. I ride to and from my workplace to my home. I try and take as many different routes as possible to not make this a monotonous routine. My impressions about the 390’s suitability for daily riding are mostly favourable. First, let’s just take the mileage out of the equation; if you care about mileage this is not the bike for you (though 26kmpl is not bad for this engine capacity).

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If you somehow manage to avoid bumber-to-bumper traffic congestion, I think this machine does a fine job of handling anything you can throw at it. The acceleration helps you leave the rest of the pack chasing when starting from a traffic signal and that alone ensures you at least a small stretch of mostly empty road to flex your engine strength. And the ABS is a boon just in case some whack-job decides to come in your way.

DISCLAIMER: I obviously do not advise or condone going beyond 60 km/h in the city. So at this speed, braking is sharp and responsive and you can feel the ABS kicking in through your brake paddle. This is a zippy bike, and weaving in-and-out of traffic was never easier, and never so much fun! If you enjoy riding a bike (and don’t see it as just a means of transport), this bike can give you more thrills than any other bike just by its manoeuvrability and zippiness.

First long ride:

My first long ride on my Duke 390 was a trip to Lavasa, a destination near Pune. For the most part, the road is smooth and the traffic is minimal. Add to that the inviting curves of the ghats and that makes it one of the best biking routes in the vicinity. Right off the bat, the best aspect of riding this bike has to be the cornering. The Metzeler tyres are a dream and the best description is can give you is that they seem to be glued to the ground. As I have said before, I am not a biker in the true sense of the word, yet.

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None of my earlier bikes had given me the confidence for cornering so low and at such speeds. The tyres, coupled with the brakes and engine power, allow even an amateur rider to execute beautiful corners. Needless to say, I rode up and down the whole ghat section twice, that’s how fun it was. On straight roads, overtaking was a breeze.

Even Audis and BMWs were no match for the 390’s acceleration, and reaching the hitherto hallowed mark of 100 is not even that big of a deal on this bike. On a side note, one of the biggest smiles in my life appeared on my face when I outstripped a group of Enfield riders on the way back. They certainly did not expect the “tiny” monster to just zoom past the entire group with a twist of the wrist.

I digress, so, let’s head on; the suspension is on the stiffer side, but that was to be expected and on the whole, its advantages outweigh the disadvantages. The suspension can handle small bumps but big holes are a nightmare. You will have to stand on the foot-pegs if you want to ensure that your spine remains intact.

The other option is to slow down and accelerate again, which, though not an ideal solution is easier to pull-off thanks to the engine and the Bybre brakes. The last section of the twisties that ends at the Lavasa entrance gate is one of the most demanding parts of this trip, for both, the rider and the engine. But to my immense delight, never did the bike fall short of power, even on the 2nd and 3rd gears. So, the only problem I had on this ride was that it got over so soon!

Now on to the individual part reviews:

Appearance:

There is just something about the angular and sharp appearance of the 390 (shared with its baby sibling) that takes my breath away every time I see it. It is a bit loud and extravagant looking, yes, but it feels like rather than demanding attention, it commands it. The orange trellis frame, tyres and chain guards along with the white tank are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally loved the splashes of orange, which is in KTM’s DNA.

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I removed the handle guards, saree guard (even the name makes me twitch with revulsion!) and tyre hugger that come with the bike because I prefer a more naked and brawler look. But again, that’s everyone’s personal choice and I prefer my 390 this way.
The only downside is that the wiring is visible in some places, somehow giving the bike a messy look. Also the protruding front number-plate is an eye-sore.

Engine and tech specs:

The most incredible part about the engine is its weight. The fact that it displaces 373.2 cc and 44 hp with an approximate of 36 kg! The most important numbers are: 0 to 60 km/h in under 3 seconds and 0 to 100 in about 6! This is a marvel of technology and gives the Duke 390 a huge advantage over its competition.

As you can see, this is cutting edge technology and KTM have spared no effort in making this engine into the beast that it is. This low weight engine and the ultra light weight chassis have contributed in keeping this bike’s total dry weight to 139 kgs.

The ground clearance is more than enough to handle Indian roads though the stiff suspension could have been softer. The brakes handle anything you can throw at them, even on gravelly roads. The short turning radius helps this bike handle through traffic like a hot knife through butter. The tall gearing ratios ensure that you can ride stably at a relaxed pace if you want to.

The 390 does not always feel strained like the 200. While riding the 200, you were either accelerating or decelerating; there was not really a mid-range, which resulted in manic riding. This option of cruising at above 110 km/h is a boon for tourers. The only drawback in the bike design is the fuel tank capacity, which is nothing to write home about at only 11 litres, which gives a tank range of about 250 km. Tourers will find that there is no place other than the indicator lights to attach their luggage, and magnetic tank bags are not possible due to the fibre body. I would recommend the Viaterra claw-bag for serious tourers.

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Now on to another negative point, the pillion seat. The less said about this, the better. There is absolutely no plus point for the 390 pillion. It is way more dangerous than the 200 because of the 390’s wild pick-up. The grip-bars are useless to say the least and the only option to counter the monstrous pick-up is for the pillion to grab onto you and lean forward as much as possible, which is NOT a comfortable position. So if you are going for long rides with a pillion, breaks at 30 minute intervals are a MUST.

At high speeds, watch out for the wind blast. It is brutal! I’ve heard that the PowerParts wind shield will reduce the intensity of the blast, which would improve the high-speed experience significantly.

Riding the bike in city traffic can be a hassle, especially since like a litre-bike the Duke 390 engine tends to knock at lower RPM ranges. But with enough experience and skill, I have no doubt that people will be able to avoid this knocking.

Where there is fire, there is smoke, and with a 44 horsepower engine, there is bound to be some heat. The only problem is that the heat is expelled by the radiator fan directly onto the rider’s legs! Trust me, you can feel this heat even through denims. It’s still bearable since we are in the winter months, but with the summer coming, it’s going to be a challenge.

Conclusions:

This bike is not for the faint-hearted, that’s for sure. Nor will it please most Indian people with its fuel efficiency (Although, 25-28 is a pretty good deal for this much power). But this is the most thrilling bike I have ever ridden. If there is any part of you that wants to know how it would feel like to own a high-performance bike, the Duke 390 is the way to go.

Especially considering the tremendous amount of bang-for-buck and low ownership costs (compared with other bikes in this engine category), and the fact that the Duke 200 costs 1,55,000 on road, which is just 50,000 lower than the 390 with which you get the Metzeler tyres, ABS, and twice the power, there is absolutely no other bike that can challenge the performance of this orange beast in this price range.

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So , I hope this article will help potential buyers decide whether to go for the Duke 390 or not, but I for one am extremely happy that I took the plunge. The 390 is an upgrade in every sense of the word from the Duke 200. So a big thank you to the people over at KTM, Bajaj, Brembo and Metzeler! Take a bow, you’ve earned it!

Here is a summary of the Pros and Cons as a quick recap of the article:

Pros:

  • Engine capacity, performance, tyres, ABS, acceleration
  • Quite a looker, street-friendly, zippy
  • High fuel efficiency for this engine category
  • Frankly, the most value for money I have ever had

Cons:

  • Nightmare for the pillion (other than wives and girlfriends)
  • Fuel efficiency still too low for mass appeal.
  • Heat dissipation and wind blast issues, also a squeaky tiny horn.

Also Check Out: KTM Duke Aftermarket Mods & Upgrades

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