Ride Review: KTM 390 Duke

It’s no secret that the lightweight motorcycle war is entering a new and intense phase.  Recent entries to the fray are Kawasaki, with their parallel twin Versys-X 300, the Honda CRF 250 Rally and the BMW G 310 R. KTM’s 390 Duke has undergone a total remake to stave off the new threat.

The 390 Duke has been totally restyled. It is now the spitting image of the bigger members of the Duke clan, like as in “Honey I shrunk the Duke!” It has the split LED Angry Bird headlight of its larger siblings as well as a multi colour TFT display complete with smartphone link. Ubercool!

The tank has grown to 13.4 L, which when allied to decent fuel consumption, results in a decent fuel range of around 330+ kays. The seat is stepped with the rider perch wide and flat. My 6’ plus frame felt really comfortable aboard the 390. Short riders might find the front of the seat a little wide with their feet down when stopped. I had no such hassles. With its angular sharp modern look and orange frame and wheels, gunmetal motor, and white sub-frame and black and white tank and radiator shrouds, the Duke is a looker. The exhaust has a neat end can exiting on the right of the bike.

Suspension is by WP and on a bike in this class, beyond reproach. The rear shock is adjustable for preload and overall damping is good. The ABS equipped single Brembo discs, back and front, are bigger than on the old model and excellent both in feel and power.

Hit the starter button and the twin cam 6 speed single fires up instantly. The fuel injection is really good. No flat spots or fluffing. Crack the throttle after easing out the light action clutch and the 390 astounds with its performance. This little beastie hauls! Torquey with decent top end hit, the Duke is huge fun to ride. Should have known KTM doesn’t do boring.

The handling is superb. Light and endowed with a short wheelbase, the little katoom turns intuitively. It is so quick steering that you think it will be nervous at high speed or through long sweeps, but no, stable and planted everywhere. This is a lovely bike!

The KTM 390 Duke not only looks the part, it is the part. It is fast enough to be properly entertaining on a twisty road, and agile enough to scythe through traffic effortlessly. Open the throttle and the bike responds instantly. As the Americans say, “there is no substitute for cubes”. The 390 Duke has an almost 25% advantage in engine capacity over its rivals. This makes a significant difference in real world performance.

How KTM managed to upgrade this bike so significantly and keep the price at just under R70k, only they will know. What I know after spending a few days riding it is that it offers huge bang for the buck. The battle line in the lightweight class is drawn and I think they’ve used orange paint!

As usual, there is a huge range of accessories available for the 390 Duke. If you go onto their website you can configure the bike using a nifty application that gives you a 360 degree impression of how the bike would look after adding your desired parts.

For more information visit: www.ktm.com/za


1-cylinder, 4-stroke engine
Displacement 373.2 cm³
Bore x Stroke 89 x 60 mm
Power in KW 32 kW
Electric starter
Lubrication Wet sump
Primary Drive 30:80
Secondary Gear Ratio 15:45
Primary Drive 30:80
Cooling Liquid cooled
Clutch PASC™ antihopping clutch, mechanically operated
Frame Design Steel trellis frame, powder coated
Front Suspension WP upside-down Ø 43 mm
Rear Suspension WP monoshock
Suspension Travel (front) 142 mm
Suspension Travel (rear) 150 mm
Front Brake Four-piston radial fixed calliper, brake disc
Rear Brake Single-piston floating calliper, brake disc
Front Brake Disc Diameter 320 mm
Rear Brake Disc Diameter 230 mm
ABS Bosch 9MB two-channel ABS
Chain X-Ring 5/8 x 1/4″
Steering Head Angle 66 °
Wheelbase 1357 ± 15.5 mm
Ground Clearance 185 mm
Seat Height 830 mm
Tank Capacity (approx.) 13.4 l
Dry Weight 149 kg

My name is Dave Cilliers. I consider cars as four wheeled shopping baskets and only worth using as a last resort! For years bikes have been my primary transport. Racing, touring, commuting or just kicking up dust on African tracks, I have owned over 270 motorcycles and ridden millions of kilometres. I am happiest when sharing my passion for motorcycles with like minded people whilst traversing Africa in search of adventure.