For a manufacturer who has been relatively late to the road bike market, KTM has done a brilliant job of setting the cat among the pigeons against the established leaders of the pack in every category they have entered.
It would be fair to say that, with the R1C25, RC200 and RC390, KTM might not have invented the baby sports bike market, but they moved it along by a huge margin. Often copied, but rarely bettered, the RC range has always offered sports bike ability and looks in beginner friendly packages.
For 2022, things are about to get even better as the RC125 and RC390 have been on the receiving end of an extensive raft of improvements that have taken them back to the top of the class.
The new bikes are not only re-styled with current MotoGP thinking in mind, they have also lost a huge amount of weight and, despite Euro5 emission legislation, have lost none of the horses from the engine, while increasing torque slightly due to a new airbox design.
The first thing you notice are the looks. New, sharp-edged styling mirrors the MotoGP bikes and is aerodynamically more efficient. These are truly litre-superbikes in miniature, something that is disguised so well that, from a distance, you are not sure if you are looking at a learner-friendly small bike or a full-on superbike. It’s only the single disc on the front wheel that gives the game away.
Every panel has been redesigned, with the aim of increasing overall size to not only improve appearance but also to optimise aerodynamics at higher top speeds. Another by-product is improved wind and weather protection, using a combination of inner and outer body panels to direct airflow away from the rider.
Because of this redesign, the riding position is now more contoured to the body of the rider, with improved knee room against the narrower petrol tank which, in turn, allows for easier rider movement when the going gets twisty.
For those who like to work on their own bikes, the bodywork is now affixed by new fasteners and clips to aid removal and re-fitting.
But the looks hide the really important features. The chassis is all-new, offering better dynamics and more stiffness. Not only that, but it is lighter than the outgoing model by 1.5kg. And, talking of weight, the wheels have lost an incredible combined 3.4kg, while the ByBre brake calipers are lighter by almost a kilogram between them.
The suspension is completely new. WP APEX upside-down forks are fitted to the RC390 and are fully adjustable for compression and rebound – one function per fork leg! The RC125 gets WP APEX forks with a factory-specified sporty setting and a new WP APEX rear shock.
If that wasn’t enough, the electronics will have your eyes popping out. The RC390 is, simply, the most sophisticated small-displacement motorcycle on the market today. Sporting rider aids are normally found only on much larger bikes, the RC390 features Supermoto ABS (rear ABS switched off, front ABS working in conjunction with rear-wheel lift control to prevent the front ABS chiming in too soon), lean-angle sensitive Cornering ABS and Cornering Traction control and an optional Quickshifter.
The new TFT dash controls all this electronic trickery and is now fully connectible with your phone.
What this all adds up to is a pair of the most desirable baby sports bikes ever. Brilliant not only for beginners but possessing enough talent for even the most experienced riders. The new models will be in KTM showrooms from March 2022. The only question is: can we wait that long?