I recently took a 2016 KTM RC 390 from Delhi to Rohtak, Haryana to eat the largest paratha in the world. I’d wanted to get some more experience on a sports bike for a while now since I predominately ride upright adventure tourers like the Kawasaki Versys 650 or the Royal Enfield Himalayan.

KTM RC 390 Side On View. Photo by KTM.
The sexy KTM RC 390. Photo by KTM.

The RC 390 is the best value you can get in its price segment. In my opinion, it’s priced cheaper than it should be. It’s sold overseas for double the Indian price! But in the very price sensitive Indian market KTM have had to price it aggressively. Over the last few years, they have slightly increased its price with the addition of new and best in its class features such as a large TFT display with Bluetooth integration, ride-by-wire technology, and a slipper clutch. All this plus a peppy 373.2 cc engine producing 43 hp and a top speed of 167 kph for just 2.5 lakh INR ($3900 USD).

Let me break down the pros and cons of the KTM RC 390 in 10 simple points for you.

The Bad

  1. Vibrations. The foot pegs in the 2016 model vibrate even at lower speeds! It’s annoying. They simply shouldn’t vibrate like they do.
  2. The Heat. This bad boy heats up! It was so hot the glue holding my shoes together was melting. Wearing sturdy shoes and long pants or jeans eliminates the heat problem.
  3. Riding position. As soon as I began riding, I started getting sore wrists. I was hugging the tank with my legs and keeping my wrists straight, but it didn’t help. It was really uncomfortable when riding in stop-start Indian traffic. Once out of the city and on the motorway the problem went away as I remained stationary on the bike.
  4. Useless mirrors. The mirrors just aren’t wide enough. You’ll end up seeing your arms and elbows in the mirror and not much else. A little bump in the road also has the ability to totally move the position of the mirror too. I’m told this has been fixed in the 2017 model.
  5. The suspension. Put simply, it’s stiff on the road. It’s a hard ride on bumpy and pothole filled Indian roads. You’ll be bouncing off your seat if you go over any of these too fast. When the road is good, however, it’s a pleasure to ride.
Me and the 2016 KTM RC 390 on NH9 between Rohtak and Delhi. Photo © Karl Rock.
Me and the 2016 KTM RC 390 on NH9 between Rohtak and Delhi. Photo © Karl Rock.

The Good

  1. It’s fast! 0-100 kph in 5.5 seconds fast. The motor in this bike is a demon. It never feels like it was struggling, although I only tested it up to 140 kph.
  2. It’s a pleasure to ride. This bike feels great to ride. The levers are positioned perfectly, the gear box is smooth, and the acceleration is very responsive.
  3. It turns heads. It’s a sexy bike. While I’m not a fan of orange and would prefer a less flashy colour, everyone else seems to love it as I noticed when people stopped me on the street to say “nice bike!”
  4. Quality build. The RC 390 is sturdy bike, unlike other Indian manufactured bikes. All RC 390s are made in India and then exported for sale around the world, so what you have is world-class quality at an affordable price (in India). Other companies like Royal Enfield make further improvements to their export models and leave locals with a cheaper and inferior product, but not KTM.
  5. Value for money. As mentioned above the 2017 model is feature packed! You can’t find a bike for similar features in this price bracket.

It’s a KTM Duke 390 for me

Overall the RC 390 is a fantastic bike for on-track or countries with good roads. For Indian roads, it’s simply an uncomfortable ride, especially for short trips. I’ll be sticking with adventure bikes such as the RC’s brother the Duke 390. The Duke is nearly exactly the same as the RC 390 except with the exception of a higher ground clearance and upright riding position. Its upright seating position takes the stress of your wrists and makes for a more comfortable ride overall in all situations.

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