The KTM Duke 390 had been one of the hottest and most anticipated launches of the year 2013. The reason being the edgy, dynamic styling, monstrous performance, and brakes that just refuse to let go.
Doing a road trip on the 390, is altogether an experience of its kind. With a 373 cc single cylinder liquid cooled engine that produces a whopping 44 bhp, this bike demands a bigger playground and a longer track to run on.
700 kilometres of one of the best roads to be found in the country, with another 100 kilometres of rough patches thrown in, provided for an ample 800 kilometres and an ideal long distance test run for this two-wheeled ferocity.
Covering long distances in the summer requires one to start early. Setting off at 8 am, I was able to make it through the morning traffic all the way across to the other end of the city, from where I live, in a matter of about half an hour. The 390’s insane acceleration and its brilliantly nimble handling, all thanks to the unmatched combination of the monstrous powerhouse, a light weight cross trellis frame, upside down forks, a somewhat stiff rear suspension and the stickiest of tyres allow for an effortless and agility driven commute through the city.
Once on the highway, it was difficult to judge which the bigger curve was – the one on my face, ends pointing upward, the one my wrist had made with the throttle, or the one I had just leaned into at a 120 km per hour. Well built and smooth roads are what every biker in the world craves for (well almost every) and they came as a blessing on the 390. One learns to appreciate and admire the immense power, and balance of the bike when they’re given a chance to truly do so. The 390 is more than at home on good roads and leaning into corners – really wide ones – or the ones that zig – zag a little and take you for a twistie is an exhilaration.
In no time at all, I had gone more than 200 kilometres and it was time to top up. With a sad fuel tank capacity at just 11 litres, long journeys on the 390 require multiple fuel stops as compared to other motorcycles. The mileage varies on a number of factors like the riding style, gear shift frequency, ride environment etc. Even then, for a 400 cc brute with the capabilities of the Duke, a city mileage of 20-23 kmpl and a highway dispense of 27-30kmpl are very decent figures.
When you get out of a metropolitan and go through the smaller and slightly less “exposed” parts of the country, you realise how important “reach” is. Every fuel stop was a conversation starter as the KTM Duke turned heads and pulled people towards it with no effort whatsoever. The brilliantly styled tank and body panels, the extremely loud and funky orange alloy wheels and trellis cage frame, along with the race inspired orange and white graphic scheme, simply prevent people from resisting the urge to come and see for themselves, this two-wheeled piece of Austrian art.
The next hundred kilometres were going to be tough both on me and the motorcycle because, the rear suspension is somewhat stiff and the effect that it causes the typical Indian roads – peppered with bumps and potholes – to have on both the bike and rider is best explained by comparing it to watching the same movie in 2D and then high definition 3D respectively. Where I might add that watching the movie would be fun, doing potholes on the 390 isn’t.
Once I was clear of the unfriendly terrain, speed was back up and we thundered on. With cruise speeds ranging from 120kmph to 130 kmph, which needless to say, the 390 attains with hardly any effort at all, and a top range of more than 160 (some claim to have done 180!), both me and the bike were more than game to keep at it for ages. On a flat stretch, I managed to pull the bike to 167kmph, and I daresay I hadn’t even gone all in.
Halfway through, and the straight seating position with the handlebars a tad closer than comfortable, caused my hands to fold at the elbows – probably because I’m taller, the stiff rear mono, and the otherwise comfortable seat, started taking their toll on my shoulders and upper back. Irrespective of the outside temperature, being a single cylinder causes the 390’s engine to heat up to quite an extent. Add to that the summer heat, and I would’ve nearly had my legs skinned had it not been for a pair of jeans playing firewall between them and the engine heat. The stops became slightly more frequent and two more fuel top ups, and four rest and stretch stops later, when I entered Indore, it was already seven.
Fed and watered and after a rather long pause of 2 hours, the ride onward was doubtlessly in the finer parts of the journey. With flawless four lane roads connecting the cities of Indore and Bhopal, even riding after sundown, and I mean doing over 100kmph is easy as pie, and delicious as many put together.
I entered the city of Bhopal at almost midnight, a sense of joy and accomplishment overcoming me and I smiled for the entire way back home.
The KTM Duke 390 is doubtlessly one of the most amazing motorcycles to have been launched in India. With the dynamic looks, nuclear performance, effortless handling, and irrespective of the downsides of any good deal, this bike priced at just a little over 2 lakhs, is not a good deal. It’s a steal!
I’m in love with mine, and all those who are in possession of this motorcycle would agree when I say that the KTM Duke 390 will be the pride and joy of anyone having stepped up to its ownership.