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LB's KTM Dave Checks Out The KTM 390 Launch

By: | Published 10 June 2013, 12:20 | Views: 6,081 | tags: ktm, 390, single, commuter, motorcycle, reviews, launch, new, novices, fun
Europe’s best selling bike manufacturer KTM (having overtaken BMW last year by selling over 110,000 units worldwide) chose Buckinghamshire to launch their new addition to the Duke family, the 390.

Inevitably it was a perfect spring day – wet, cold and greasy. Perfect because this is a single cylinder KTM, not a sportsbike. These machines are not easily frightened. Not even the little ones.

Taking the apparently diminutive 390 out on the damp tarmac, first impressions are of a friendly and stable ride.

In the tradition of this orange family the wide bars provide a fairly upright position allowing you to feel like you are astride something far more substantial, which breeds trust and confidence.

On the Road

Once the tyres and bike are warmed up and we are testing the national limits through the Buckinghamshire countryside you quickly realise that the 390 has plenty more to offer than mere confidence building. I was a little blinkered on my ride here because I was expecting a nicely made, well balanced and stylish bike but one for beginners. Yes, it’s friendly and easy to ride, which newer riders will find appealing, but more experienced pilots will find there is plenty to entertain too.

Keep the little 390 single in the right gear and this agile bike will have you dancing into 3 point territory with ease. The poise and sharp handling means it goes where you look, and keeping up with the ‘big boys’ on the 600’s on anything but a pure speed ride will be simple and very entertaining.

The perky single cylinder engine sounds and feels like a much larger motor. The power is accessible and easy to use with an uncharacteristic (for this engine type) smoothness. You always know it has but one cylinder, but that realisation is never a disappointment – it is just a difference.

In town playing with the traffic and the light chassis comes into its own, allowing swift changes in direction and immaculate low speed manners for filtering and parking. The gear box is slick and combined with the torque of the engine town riding can be done with the minimum of gear changes.  Keeping it in the right gear is important for high speed countryside riding but in town it matters less. Cruising at 30mph in 5th gear is possible for the more frugal, although 4th gear would provide better acceleration. An hour’s commute on this will leave you with a smile and be a welcome part of the day.

Cornering is precise thanks to the well damped WP forks (a very high grade, traditionally off-road orientated brand) and confidence builds quickly despite the off-putting road conditions.  

The 390 is based on the same frame as its smaller siblings, the 125 and 200, so this is a small and very light bike. It may only weight 150kg wet, but sat on it there is plenty of space to allow the taller rider plenty of leg room thanks to a clever tank shape.

Features and Quality

As with all KTM’s, component quality is generally high with WP suspension and Bybre (By Brembo, geddit?) brakes which also feature Bosch ABS. Despite a couple of exceptions included to keep costs low, build quality is up to the usual high KTM standard. Fit and finish is on par with much more expensive machines and fine details abound. The clocks are comprehensive and easy to read though I prefer an analogue rev counter over the small LCD version here, but that’s a personal thing. The bike is to be made in India by partner firm Bajaj, but all the bikes bound for Europe will stop off back in Mattighofen (KTM’s main factory) for quality checks before making their way to dealers.


Overall this 390 provides plenty to look at, to gather admiring gazes when parked up even amongst machines costing twice the price. At this price point it is simply outstandingly beautiful.

At £4495 the 390 is only £500 more than the 200 and should be a contender for anyone looking for a midsized naked bike with class or indeed those lucky enough to be looking for a second bike to take on the commuting duties.  If you are taking the new restricted A1 test then this a perfect machine. KTM will perform the minor power reductions to comply with the new rules for free (if ordered at time of machine purchase).


  • Great value for what you get
  • Easy to ride
  • Great manners in town
  • Very entertaining when you ring its neck
  • High quality components


  • Twin discs on the front would better match the bikes potential,
  • I don’t like the Rev counter, and adjustable levers would be nice, but beyond that, not much.

Editor's Comment

The 390 marks a move into a new sector by the Austrian manufacturer, and they plan to make this a worldwide best seller, aimed squarely at the developing Asian markets, yet neatly fitting in, almost perfectly, to the new UK licence restrictions, but I have a feeling that its appeal will be far wider, and it deserves to be.  KTM have produced a high quality, well spec’d machine at a very low price that dishes out more smiles per mile than you should expect from a bike of this kind. 

Don’t let the on-paper size of this bike put you off, go try one, you’ll probably like it.

For all the specifications etc check out the 390 Duke's page here.  

Review by Dave Agnew (KTM_Dave) 

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LV | 14 June 2013, 23:38
What about vibrations while riding this bike at speeds above 60 mph ? How does this compare with the conventional heavier bikes made by Honda or Suzuki in the same cc class ? Gas mileage ?

KTM D | 10 July 2013, 12:34
Despite being a single, this bike cannot be characterised as vibey at all, remarkable smooth considering.

The bike feels as light as it is really, in comparison I would liken it in feel to more like the 125 offerings but with 400cc performance. really very nimble, precise and easy.

Gas mileage was impossible to measure given the length of the test, however KTM's singles have recorded quite fantastic MPG figures, the 690 getting better mileage than Hondas NC700 which is renowned as being very frugal. One could assume therefore that the mileage figures should be equally impressive for the 390. KTM are yet to release any specifics.
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