After the resounding success of the Pulsar generation, Bajaj (having acquired a major stake in Austrian-manufacturer KTM) upped the game of affordable performance-motorcycling in India with the launch of the KTM Duke series – the Duke 390 being the most powerful naked motorcycle available in India from the KTM stable.
Having owned a Duke 390 for about 4 months now – here is my ownership experience which is mainly to help you guys to decide if this is/isn’t the motorcycle you wanna live with.
I found the riding to be manageable (Courtesy: wide handlebars + a close-ratio gearing on the first 3 gears) UNTIL I rode the Duke 200 – Such a delight to putter around the city traffic (closed-ratio gearbox + a more-at-ease engine) made all the difference.
Pillion Comfort – Doesn’t exist
This is an ‘out-and-out’ rider’s motorcycle – the pillion grab-rail is useless against the ferocious power + the tight/narrow seat makes things a far cry for the pillion.
I don’t know – The ABS on the Duke 390 is confusing at times – it kicks-in when you don’t want, doesn’t when you actually want – weird…
The highways showcase an entire different side of this motorcycle – such a delight to ride, those gearshifts at 7,000 rpm are so liberating , the right amount of power to entice the senses and not to scare the living daylights out of the rider!!
Riding in the twisties, the foot-pegs scrape the tarmac as opposed to the under cowls (unlike in the RC series).
Couple of them in the market (Doughnuts + saddle bags + seat/tail –pack etc) – I personally use the Kriega US-series, that worked like a charm on my R1.
A good 200 to 220 kms for a full-tank (the highest I pushed too was up-to 257 kms which I don’t recommend at all) – which is reasonable and a welcome/mandatory break for the rider from the aggressive riding that requires high levels of concentration.
Things I love on the Duke 390:
- Intoxicating Mill – my goodness!! The power band is so crisp and in the right places – the usable rev range from 3,000 to 8,000 rpm is absolutely brilliant
- Metzeler Tires – They channelize with brilliance all the hoot from the engine onto the tarmac – in-fact I rode a friend’s 390 that had Michelins and clearly – 40% of this motorcycle’s character comes from the Metzelers (take them off and you have a hooligan that’s tough to keep on the road) – Expensive, but I can never imagine any other tire that would do the job
- USD Front Suspension – USD from WP, cant ask for more on a 2 lakh motorcycle!! – just love the way the suspension behaves under braking
Such a bummer:
- Snatchy Throttle with blind spots (especially between 3 to 4k rpm – its so annoying when you downshift and hit this rpm band, the motorcycle goes all jerky)
- Jarring Plastic Noise/Vibrations from the tank and headlight/display console
- Pathetic Mirrors (Riding jacket +pillion limits the complete visibility) rendering them useless
- Rain-Water Spills on the backpack in-spite of the hugger
- It just doesn’t start/crank sometimes (noticed this especially at a traffic light with an empty road in the horizon :P)
Having said all this – the Duke 390 brings up a ‘smile every-time I crack the throttle open‘ without the hassles of expensive spares or their availability or steep cost of ownership or the lack of premium fuel (unlike the bigger capacity versions) and that encapsulates what this motorcycle was built for – AN EASY-ON-THE-POCKET ROCKET!!