The KTM Duke 390 is a really fun little bike that has both the looks and the performance to put a smile on your face. But the main question is, should you take it touring or not? Before I go ahead and do a review of the 390 Duke as a tourer, you should know that I have had this bike for a while now. I write from experience that covers over 12,000 km.
This is not a standard review of the KTM Duke 390. It is also not an argument for or against the KTM 390 Adventure due to come out soon. It is an investigation into its ability as a travel companion. To that end, I will not throw numbers at you. I will, instead, share with you my thoughts on what makes it a good tourer and what does not.
Why is the KTM Duke 390 a good tourer?
- There is a lot of power that its 373cc engine provides, so it is comfortable on the road, even at high speeds.
- It’s too much fun when the road gets twisty because of all that power from the engine and the grip from the tyres.
- The tyres are rather long-lasting. I have done 12,000 km on the same set that I got when I bought the bike, and the KTM guys say it still has life left. If you anticipate bad/no road situations, change the tyres first.
- Since the tyres are tubeless, fixing a puncture isn’t very difficult.
- It has an upright seating position, so it’s not too stressful on the back.
- It is also incredibly well balanced and controls its weight well. This means that if you load it up properly, you won’t feel any reduction in the bike’s ‘flickability’.
- It has been built well, so it is not prone to breaking down. I have only ever had one breakdown. The cooling fan failed just as I reached Bangalore while coming back from Dandeli.
- As compared to the old 390, the seat is broader, so it doesn’t give you a sore bottom.
- The ride-by-wire throttle doesn’t fatigue the wrist too much.
- It doesn’t vibrate any more than is needed, which means you don’t get tired too fast.
- The price is just right, because even if the 390 Adventure is launched, it would cost a bit more than this. So, at this price, you get more than most other bikes in the segment.
- KTM has an EXCELLENT service network, making it easy to find a service station in most towns and cities.
- You can subscribe to Orange Assist, a breakdown service offered by KTM for Rs. 800 a year.
Why is it not suited to touring?
- The very first thing is that the Duke 390 is a street racer, it’s not designed to tour.
- The power that makes it fun also saps the mileage. You can safely go only about 250 km between fill-ups.
- The power makes it a little annoying in the first and second gears in start-stop traffic. Though, to be honest, this is an issue in the city as well.
- Even if you can use the power, it must be said that the fuel tank is too small at 13.5 litres.
- The headlight leaves a bit to be desired when it comes to dark highways at night.
- The tyres are great for the road but not so great if the road ends, and it gets wet. You’ll lose grip fast.
- The rims are alloy and will make you nervous if you hit a pothole at higher speeds. Touring bikes should have spoked wheels.
- Since it wasn’t designed to be a tourer, it doesn’t have luggage racks, which means that you don’t have too many places to hook up the bungee cords.
- Most of the tank bags will not fit the tank because of the elevation. I ended up getting the smallest one sold by Rynox because it came with magnets that held fast.
- The footpegs are further back since it is a racer. This means the bend at the knee can be a bit uncomfortable after some time.
- The bash plate under the engine is plastic and will need to be replaced with a more robust metal one.
- There is no radiator guard so one will have to be installed to ensure stray pebbles on the highway don’t puncture it.
- Even though you have Orange Assist offering recovery services, if it’s a small matter, 95% of the mechanics won’t be able to help. This is because the bike is rather complicated in construction and electronics. One wrong move and something else could go completely wrong.
Is there an alternative to the KTM 390 Duke?
Honestly speaking, looking at the choices that exist in the market, I wouldn’t want one. I’m not a fan of the Kawasaki Versys (and it’s in another segment anyway). The Royal Enfield series is not my favourite because of the build quality, and the equivalent BMW 310 GS is just too expensive to be justified.
If there really was an alternative, I would say that it would be the Royal Enfield Himalayan since it was meant to be rugged from day 1. But the launch of that bike was such a disaster that I’m still sceptical about it. Full disclosure though, I have looked for problems with the new Himalayan, and it seems that the old issues are gone. Most of the things I come across are a result of time, riding conditions,and wear and tear.
So, should you buy the KTM 390 Duke if you plan on riding long distances? From the points I’ve mentioned, it would appear to be a 50-50 argument. The short answer would be YES, but the long answer would be ‘conditions apply’.
What I mean by saying conditions apply is, the bike is not designed for touring so if that is what you want to do more, get a tourer or wait for the 390 Adventure. If you want range, then don’t go for this bike unless you plan on carrying extra fuel everywhere.
However, if you already have one and want to start going for long rides, don’t worry about a thing. The bike can handle it, and you don’t need to look for a purpose-built option.