2022 KTM RC390 – Performance made easy

The RC390 took the Indian market by storm when its covers came off in 2014. At an astounding price of around 2 lakh rupees ex-showroom, it was a steal. It had all the ingredients of a track-spec bike with bits like the headlights, mirror and indicators present to make it road legal. The RC390 was light, nimble and brutal in delivering its power. Its sheer rawness made everyone go crazy for the bike. 

Its success was further helped by its competition or lack thereof. You had the likes of the Ninja 300 (Overpriced and painful to maintain), CBR250R (cheaper but lacked the punch in the gut), Yamaha R3 (expensive) and maybe a few naked in the segment. The RC390 was a wake-up call for everything in that segment and re-wrote the rulebook of a Value-for-money product. All these years it did receive minor updates to get along with the Indian norms but nothing major was done to the bike. That was until they launched this 2022 RC390. 

Thanks to KTM India being considerate, I got the chance to test the 2022 RC390 on their Chakan Test track and boy oh boy, this bike blew the pants off me. Not because it makes any more power than the older gen RC or that it looks like a moto3 bike from the sides, It’s purely because this new RC390 is much easier to handle, easier to ride and more importantly, so much easier to ride fast.

This new 390 seemed really interesting to me because KTM had given the RC390 all the power it ever needed right from its inception. There’s no point in making more power. This time, they’ve given it slightly more torque(1 Nm more) but instead of searching for more power and torque what KTM have done is they’ve made the bike lighter and improved the chassis and that is a massive transformation from the old bike.

Chassis and Dynamics

The wheels are considerably lighter, saving around a total of 1.5 kgs and the rotors are new and light which again saves around a kilo. These reduce the unsprung mass of the bike. The chassis is new and is now more rigid and has a bolt-on subframe. The improvement in its handling characteristics can be really felt. The front feels light but is very accurate, the bike communicates with you, it tells you where the wheels are and it also lets you know when the rear starts sliding out a bit. 

The Braking components are new and they work perfectly well. With adjustable levers, the feedback is now a lot better. The suspension of this RC390 is kind of a grey area for me because it gets a new WP Apex unit but they are Non-Adjustable, unlike the models you get abroad. What it gets is 10mm more travel up front and about 14mm more travel in the rear. What this does is that it makes the bike more bearable and comfortable especially on the Indian roads.

On the track for an everyday rider like me, it felt enough for the first few laps. Once I got used to the bike and track, the suspension felt too soft for me when I started going faster. Same with the tyres, which are H-rated but W-rated tires are what you need when you plan to use the full potential of the bike.

Electronics 

The electronics on offer here are brand new and they work when needed. Under hard braking, you’ll feel it work. The traction control here makes sure you don’t spin the rear unnecessarily. Supermoto mode is still there and that’s good. The bi-directional quick-shifter works great post 5-6000 rpm. The TFT display is a new addition and a much-needed one.

Looks and aerodynamics

The RC390 has received the same updates as the RC200, looking more like a Moto 3 bike from the sides. The headlight grows on you over time. There are sharp lines but they don’t scream out loud like the older gen’s faring. Thanks to the new subframe, you get new seats and tagged along with higher clip-ons, it’s a recipe for a ride more comfortable than the one on the previous gen bike. The seats are nicely cushioned and wide in the rear and narrow at the tank which also helps in putting down your leg in stop-and-go traffic. Pillion seats are decently comfortable too. 

Ultimately the rework has done its charm and it shows, that the new KTM RC390 is more comfortable to ride and more importantly very easy to ride fast if ridden right. If you decide to go track, you can lower the Clip-ons, set the abs on supermoto mode and enjoy this bike. 

KTM has fine-tuned its craft ever since the RC was first launched in India and has worked on all the nitpicks and refined them. That is why it is also a lot more expensive than when it was launched at 3.8 lakh rupees. Then again there are new components, IMU-based electronics, TFT display, lighter wheels, bigger tank and the list goes on.  With no competition in the market except for the Ninja 400 which was recently launched, the RC390 is the ideal pick even now as it’s more refined, most equipped and the easiest bike to learn to go fast.

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Kiran Rao

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