390 Duke: KTM's baby beast
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Since the first KTM Duke arrived 23 years ago, the Duke name has stood for some of the best two-wheeled fun money can buy. But in 2017, it isn't the hero Super Duke R that brings the best bang for buck to the table.
Nope, for that, you can't go past the brand spanking new 390 Duke. It just may be one of the best buys on the market today, and there is no denying it is one of the best buys in the LAMS market.
Look at the specsheet and you'll note a few top-notch bits normally reserved for a hero bike in the range.
There's a TFT screen, wireless phone connectivity, switchable ABS with three settings (including off), and quality WP suspension. That's not a bad list of goodies to behold and something you would expect to put the 390 Duke at the high end of the LAMs price list.
However, the 2017 390 Duke won't set you back $10,000, not even $9000. All it takes to put this well spec'd learner in your garage is $7999.
Part of that miniscule price is down to the fact that, along with the smaller 125 and 200 Duke, the 390 is assembled in India in partnership with Bajaj Auto. That is a company that assembles everything from scooters to rickshaws in what is the world's largest motorcycle market.
The bikes are then reportedly shipped to Austria where they are given the tick of approval by KTM Head Office before being released into the wild all around the world. It's an effective, if convoluted system, but it ensures KTM has an incredibly appetising entry-level machine on offer.
It all starts with its heart, a 373.2cc DOHC single-cylinder that pumps out a healthy 32kW at its peak, yet can sip gas to the tune of 3.46 litres per 100km. The engine is a strong performer and, with the bike's low overall weight, means you can hustle it along.
The frame is new for 2017 and mirrors that of the big angry brother, the 1290 Super Duke R, aka "The Beast". Thankfully, as an entry-level machine, the 390 doesn't possess the same pants-wetting performance, and is a much more balanced machine for the day-to-day grind.
When it comes to riding the 390 Duke, my first thought as I mounted it was how compact it felt. Sure, it's not the smallest bike I've ridden this year, but it feels like a compact package. My knees were up high and locked into the tank, while the reach to the bars was close, but not too much so. As I rounded the first bend that characteristic KTM Duke dynamic of feeling like a supermoto machine appeared.
I soon clicked with the 390, and opening the ride by wire throttle saw the clear display flash red as the bike hit the pre-programmed factory shift light. With the bike still being "broken in", the shift light came in early in the rev range, seeing the shift light activate at 105km/h in top gear. However, once it has had its 1000km service the ability to alter the point at which the shift light comes in as activated and you can set it to a point that more suits you. The TFT screen is one of the biggest drawcards and it is just as good, if smaller, than the units found on top-tier KTMs.
When it comes to braking, the 390 possesses almost overkill levels of stopping power. Up front is a huge 320mm disc clamped by a 4-piston caliper and it provides more than enough force. Showcasing the core Duke values again, the Bosch ABS is switchable between three levels, including off and a cool "supermoto" mode.
It is an excellent bike for the market it is aimed at -- the learner rider who wants something with spunk.
Pros and Cons
2017 KTM 390 Duke
Price: $7999 + orc
Engine: 373.2cc DOHC single-cylinder
Pro: Spunky performer, great tech, incredible value for money,
Con: Cosy cockpit, riding style takes getting used to