2017 KTM Duke 390 Review

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2017 has been an exciting year for the motorcycle industry. As the Indian premium motorcycling segment expands itself, the Austrian Racing Giant, Bajaj’s sister concern, KTM India launched the upgraded Duke 390, the Duke 250 and the new Duke 200 on Feb 23 in Mumbai. The 2017 model of Duke 390 is not just a upgrade, it is a new bike, a complete transformation in riding experience, with cushioned, butter-smooth engine operations, that delivers a linear and more controlled experience of high speed motorcycling…something never experienced at the price at which KTM offers it. And…and.. and…It costs just Rs. 30,000/- more than the Duke 2016 model.

About the Company:

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KTM expands its hands to grab the premium motorcycling segment in India, a niche sector, growing exponentially with KTM riding the wave. The premium sports segment has expanded at a rate of 20% CAGR, while the motorcycle, only the geared bikes industry has grown just by 2.4% CAGR. KTM claims to have a 80% market volume share in the premium motorcycle segment for the year 2017, as KTM India is just steps away from reaching the figure of manufacturing 40,000 KTM bikes in a year. It is India’s fastest growing sports motorcycle manufacturer with volumes growing at 48% CAGR since 2013, when they started off with just 7700 bikes. So, why do we say that the new Duke 390 is different from the earlier model?

For the sake of those ‘always in a hurry’ souls, the new Duke now comes with a split trellis frame type chassis, side mounted exhaust, all LED headlight, new TFT instrument control with mobile integration, new improvised seats, new fuel tank, new grab rail for pillion, EURO IV compliant engine, Riding modes, side-slung exhaust, ride by wire, new body graphics and… long list right..?! To actually understand how this translates, KTM invited us to Chakan and the Bajaj plant, and gave us the keys to the new Duke 390. What else do you need?? Well, 7-8 free laps on the 3 km race track is what we needed, and we got. We rode it on track, on tarmac, on cement patches, trying to get a feel of the might of the 390. As we hit the track, I was busy trying to tame the beast within me, my imagination, as well as under me, at the same time. I managed to clock a top speed of 165 kmph in a km long straight patch. Amazingly fast….! Talking of how it translates, we share our experience with the Austrian beast.

Looks:

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The new Duke 390 is inspired from KTM’s flagship Duke model, the Super Duke 1290. The new Duke certainly stands out in the crowd, with its flagship Orange colour. The new fuel tank, now is designed to provide better grip to the rider, it certainly increases the confidence while riding. The tank now looks sharp and bulky, giving the Duke a masculine and pumped-up look. The 20-unit LED head lamp is something never seen before, and it surely adds to the aggressive look of the bike. This headlight comes with a AHO (Always Headlight On) system, which is then fused to a DRL light. Form and function are beautifully integrated in the Duke 390. This lighting setup combines optimal illumination of the near field with maximum light output. The seat is now extended forward, hugging the tank, providing better comfort to the rider. The tail piece looks stylish and sturdy, with a LED tail lamp above this number plate holder cum mud-guard. The Orange-White coloured twin trellis frame chassis, gives the Duke a design aspect, not to be seen ever in India, making it more stylish and hotter than ever.

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The seats on the new Duke have been upgraded, with softer foam material being used to make both the rider and pillion seat more comfortably. Also, the new rider seat now ends forward with the tank, allowing the rider better comfort even on long rides. The overall designing of the bike looks premium and complete. The fibre body is covered with modern and stylish graphics, adding to the overall look of the bike. The tank of the bike and the real seat under-panel carry the branding of ‘390’, differentiating and clearly communicating to the onlooker, what his eyes are on. The Duke 390 looks like the bike of the future, with its TFT console, certainly creating a new benchmark in user experience. As you rev the engine, the display bars start changing colours, changing from blue to red as you go up the power band. The Duke 390 now comes with a side-slung bulky canister exhaust that adds to the overall looks and the styling of the performance bike.

Engine:

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The 2017 KTM Duke 390 comes home with the same 373cc liquid-cooled engine carried forward from the 2016 model, but it has been tweaked. The new body design now allows the same mill to churn out 44 BHP at 9000 RPM of power and 37 Nm at 7000 RPM of torque, which is 2 Nm addition to the 2016 Duke specs. Moreover, peak power and torque figures now are achieved at a lower RPM than before, allowing the Duke to deliver more power when required, even in the lower RPM range. The upgraded engine now is Euro IV compliant, fused to a side slung canister exhaust added to clear emission norms. The new exhaust setup grants the Duke a masculine and bassy exhaust note, adding to the sporty feel of the bike. The engine surely now feel smooth and refined, than the previous setup, with transmission working butter-smooth. The new bike uses the same 6-speed gearbox from the earlier model, mated to a multi-plate wet clutch system. All the engine operations now feel cushioned, and soft, with no vibrations felt at all RPMs. From a 0-100 kmph test, it hardly took us 5.5 seconds to cross triple digits. In the top speed test, we managed to touch 165 kmph in a km long straight patch, before entering a tight left corner. To my surprise, I still had around 1k RPM of power-band left, and was running at 9500 RPM. The Duke cuts off at 10500 RPM, surely this 1k rpm would have allowed us to cross 173-175 kmph easily. Making this one way faster than the earlier Duke. The engine also comes equipped with a Bosch EMS system for engine management and slipper clutch technology, carried forward from the earlier model. The slipper clutch now performs smoother than ever, and allows gear-shifts, up as well as down, anytime, anywhere.

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The engine is fueled by a EFI, controlled with a Ride by wire system. This is another upgrade from the previous model; KTM has managed to replace the accelerator cable with a sensor and motor system, making the power delivery crispier and linear. The power delivery is linear now, delivering controlled power as you twist the throttle, unlike the earlier model, that would pop wheelies, and give the rider sudden jerks at quick throttle movements. The Duke certainly has evolved and now positions itself as a more mature, controlled and agile performance motorcycle. The tank of the new bike has been modified, and now comes with a metal tank with a 13.5 litre capacity, giving it more range for long highway rides, which was what most of the touring community has been complaining about. The company claims a mileage of 30 kmpl, but we expect around 20+ kmpl in daily city usage.

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People had been always complaining of engine heating up, and the hot air from the vents directly toasting the rider’s legs. On this end too, KTM has successfully upgraded the Duke 390, with the engine now cool even after aggressive riding, and the air vents have been re-directed to pass out the hot air, such that they don’t cause discomfort to the rider. Even after 20 minutes of track riding and testing all its limits, the bike’s engine did not feel like a tandoor when we hit the pits. We could not feel the heat, but surely hear the radiator fan, that now performs efficiently to control the heating problem and effectively manages to direct the hot air away.

Chassis and Suspension:

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This 373cc power mill is now mounted to a twin trellis frame chassis. They have simply fused the rear end of the chassis, to the front end, in a attempt to concentrate mass in the centre, increasing its stability. The chassis now comes coloured in Orange and white, adding to the racer styling and looks of the bike. The new chassis allows the Duke to be stable; feels anchored even on high speed corners, even at as high as 120+ kmph, increasing the rider’s confidence and ability to corner exponentially. On the front end, KTM now uses a new stiffer WP-upside-down 43mm forks, with a travel of 142mm. This adds to the stability aspect of the bike, allowing better control and response from the front wheel.

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The rear suspension setup is carried forward from the earlier Duke, that comes with a 6-setting adjustable suspension setup, having a travel of 150mm. The setup has been made stiffer, for better stability and control, though we doubt the off-road and bad-road capabilities of the new Duke. The stiffer front end, and a relatively softer rear end allows the bike to take those hairpin corners and dips easily, with confidence. This surely is the best track bike in India, but the ride quality will go for a toss and comfort of the rider should be compromised as the road conditions go bad. We shall leave that here, for one needs to decide their own comfort level and requirements.

Brakes and Tyres:

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Ok, so we know how fast the Duke 390 can go, but how about it’s stopping power? It is very important for a performance motorcycle to have a performance braking system. Like the earlier model, the Duke comes equipped with 9.1MB Dual channel ABS for controlled braking experience. On the front end, the Duke sports a 320mm disc fused to a 4-pot Bybre brake calliper. On the rear, it gets the same 230mm disc with a single pot Bybre calliper as the 2016 model. The rims on the new Duke are upgraded, and the hub has been made beefier. This is done to provide better strength to the wheels, to bear high speed impacts with potholes.

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The new bike uses the same super-soft compound Metzelers, which have proved their worth and capabilities in the past 3-4 years. On the front end is a 110/70-17 spec tyre, while on the rear is the 150/60-17 spec Metzelers. These super-soft tyres are the force that keep the bike anchored, offer stability and high speeds and also offer optimum braking performance. Even in emergency and panic braking, the Duke does not leave its ground.

Dimensions:

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The new Duke weighs a good 10 kg heavier than the earlier model, and now weighs 155 kg when dry. The ergonomics have now changed, offering better comfort to the rider. The long extended seats and the newly designed tank allow the rider to have a good grip and control on this beast. The saddle height now stands at 830mm, which is a good 30mm more than the previous models, which might become a concern for people with short height. Adding to the the touring aspects of the bike, the ground clearance has been increased to 185mm, which is a additional 15mm of clearance. Also, the new split chassis design has cut short the wheelbase to 1357mm, which is a good 10mm short from the previous one. This decrease in the wheelbase makes the Duke swift and agile, allowing you to turn and twist in tight city traffic situations. Also, this decrease in the wheelbase grants it a shorter turning radius, making it more practical.

Features:

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The Duke comes with a first of its kind TFT screen display, clearly leaving the earlier bike miles away in terms of features. An absolute first in class, the 390 boasts of a multicolour display that presents all relevant data in a clear, uncluttered way. The console has 7 warning lights; with ABS, Neutral light, EFI and signal light warnings on the left and low oil indicator, warning sign and high beam indicator on the right. The screen is divided into 2 parts, left and right. The navigation to this system is aided with a 4-button switch; on the left hand side of the handle bar, replacing the upper-dipper switch on the previous models. A new 3-way headlight switch now comes installed where the pass-light was in the previous versions, a first of it’s kind again. This TFT comes with an illumination sensor, which senses the conditions, and automatically illuminates the screen accordingly. In a dark room, you could see the background turning dark, and as you step out in the light, the screen illuminates and becomes bright, bright enough for the rider to clearly read and understand information.

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Talking about the TFT screen, the screen is divided into 2 parts, the left part is the information cluster, and the right hand side houses the speedometer, odo-meter, fuel gauge and the engine heat gauge. The information cluster is fully customizable, and the rider can choose from 8 different inputs he wants to see. The 4-way navigation setup comes with 2 shortcut buttons, which can be again customized by the rider as per his choice. There is a wide variety of choices available for the rider to choose and decide what information he wants to see. For better details, go through the videos linked below. Making the Duke more practical and alluring is the mobile integration that it offers. KTM has developed ‘KTM-MY RIDE’ app which can be used to connect the mobile device with the bike’s TFT, allowing the rider to accept/decline and make calls, in addition to that, this App also allows the rider to control the music player and choose their favourite music on the go.

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Another premium feature with the new Duke 390 is a 3 mode ABS system. Unlike the earlier option of ABS ON/OFF, KTM has added the SuperMoto mode as a offering, which simply turns off the ABS on the rear wheel only, providing the same ABS-supported feedback from the front end. Overall, KTM Duke 390 has the technology of the future, and this TFT screen integration is what makes this moreover mouth watering. Priced at Rs. 2,25,000/-, the Duke 390 is surely a steal deal, with all these premium features packed into it. There is no other manufacturer close to KTM that has a offering this advanced, powerful, feature-packed, yet easy to tame and control in such a price range. We are surely buying one, how about you?

2017 KTM Duke 390 Photo Gallery:

2017 KTM Duke 390 Video Playlist:

Words by Sooraj Sawant
Pics by Kaustubh Thengodkar

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