KTM RC 390
KTM has a rich history in road racing. The Austrian manufacturer used to compete successfully in the 125cc and 250cc classes for MotoGP but withdrew, in 2008 and 2010 respectively, to focus on the Red Bull Rookies Cup, which nurtures ambitious and talented teenagers who contest the 14-race series on the KTM RC125 – a machine based on the one ridden by Mika Kallio and Marc Marquez in the 125cc class of MotoGP. With KTM set to rejoin MotoGP in 2017 as a factory team, it looks like KTM is again ready to be part of the highest level of bike racing in the world. The KTM RC200 and RC390, which proudly wear the KTM RACEREADY slogan, were designed and developed at KTM HQ in Mattighofen, Austria but are manufactured in the company’s Indian facilities, which has kept cost down. Riding on the success of the Duke, KTM has decided that the KTM RC390 can take on the current crop of competitors, such as the Kawasaki Ninja 300 and Honda CBR250.
Appearance wise, the first thing that you’re going to notice is that exposed steel trellis frame, powder-coated in orange, which screams KTM. The paintwork is similarly loud, with its black, white and orange livery and the head cowl and headlights are a departure from the usual fairing-integrated style, giving the bike a distinct look. This may not sit well with some people, and just like the styling of its far-bigger brother, the RC8, it’s either love it or hate it. I actually like it, simply because it’s a bold statement compared to the generic stylings of today’s modern sport bikes. Another defining trait is the bike’s pillion seat, which looks like a single seater cowl at a glance. Indeed, that’s where the genius of the designers lies.
The shape and style looks precisely like that of an aerodynamic cowl, but sit on it and you’ll find that it is a rather comfy synthetic “cushion”. Build quality is excellent, with all the panels fitting well together and panel gaps kept to a bare minimum.
To start off, a surprising piece of equipment is the fully-digital instrumentation. Simple touches like the “Ready To Race!” slogan when you first insert the key fob into the ignition to start up the bike can make your day and the display is so packed with features that its competitors in the same class have instrumentations that look basic.
On a machine that has to operate in a very price-conscious segment of the market, I have to applaud KTM for the amount of effort here. A gear position indicator, clear fuel and temperature readouts, programmable shift light, fully functional trip computer complete with instant economy and distance to empty are all clearly visible under the integrated bar style tachometer.
The RC siblings also have aggressive riding positions, thanks to slightly lower handlebars, rear-set footrests and a taller seat. This racey setup sets it apart from its class peers which were built with commuting in mind. KTM’s in-house WP suspension takes care of dampening, with the front upside-down telescopic fork which delivers 125mm of wheel travel and a rear WP shock absorber with 150mm of wheel travel more than adequate for twisty roads and occasional track days.
As for the brakes, they are pretty much “race-ready”. 4-piston Bybres – a Brembo-engineered piece manufactured in India at the front and a single-pot at the rear take care of stopping power. They are paired with 300mm and 230mm rotors respectively and come with steel-braided hoses which provide ample stopping force when required. One additional feature that the RC390 has over its little brother is ABS, which the RC200 does not come with, and the unit allows you to disengage it when taking it to the race track.
My thoughts on the KTM RC390. As with any vehicle, there’s bound to be some hooliganism involved, and this is no exception. The KTM RC 390 is propelled by a 1-cylinder 4-stroke water-cooled engine with a displacement of 373.2cc. The engine delivers a maximum power of 43 hp and is mated on a 6-speed, claw-shifted transmission. Knowing that it’s based on the same DOHC fuelinjected 373.2cc 4-stroke single-cylinder derived from the Duke 390, I knew just how capable that engine could be because there’s plenty of power from that lone cylinder. Nonetheless, “power-testing” it with the throttle pinned hard open, the surge of power that urges me forward is one of a confident might, but not such that it feels like it’s uncontrollable. In fact, it’s extremely manageable, with a certain wave of predictability that won’t get you into unwanted trouble.
To put it simply, this thing is as rider-friendly as it gets. One gripe with the engine is that it hates anything below 3,000 rpm, reminding you that there is a more-than-available torque range for use. That being said, however, there is so much low-end torque that you never have to shift down to accelerate out of that “deadzone” but can instantly pin the throttle and watch it fly through the rev counter, especially when you’re trying to zip through traffic.