Our country loves motorcycles , India is the country with the most registered motorcycles in the world, over half the households of India own a 2-wheeler and over 40% of Indians use two wheelers as their daily commute, so best believe there’s a fat chunk of them that want to have an adrenaline filled ride while on the saddle, luckily our market is Jam-Packed with affordable entry level performance bikes, of which the pioneer of the segment is this, the KTM Duke. 11 years in and 4 generations deep the KTM community has become a cult of its own. After all these years, and after so much competition hot on the dukes tail, has Ktm done enough to stay at the top of the sales charts ? Let’s find out !
For many years, the Duke was a no-brainer choice for the enthusiast that needed an entry level performance motorcycle. When it launched in 2012 it had little to no competition, sitting perfectly in between the more affordable commuter class bikes and the proper imported performance bikes , but lately it’s got its market cut out by the likes of TVS, Triumph, BMW, Royal Enfield, Zontes, Keeway Motors and so many more! Given that every manufacturer is dipping their fingers in KTMs pie, it has never been more imperative for KTM to prove that the Duke is the top dog in the segment, but have they done enough?
It’s a well known fact that the KTM Duke 390 has always been at the cusp of tech in the segment, and this new generation is no different! Let’s start from the brand new 5-Inch TFT screen, the previous gen had Bluetooth and smartphone connectivity now it also comes with turn by turn navigation and music controls. The bike also comes with 3 ride-modes: rain track and street, but now with an added launch control feature! And just like the previous gen the bike comes with a slipper clutch and quick shifter setup and cornering abs with Supermoto mode , but it doesn’t just end at software .
When it comes to design Elements the new Duke looks exactly like it’s elder brother, the Superduke, with aggressive panels on the side of the tank with an open air duct, new LED lights up front and a new split seat setup that showcases the newly designed rear subframe. Speaking of which, the frame of the new Duke is brand new, with revised geometry to accommodate for an off-centre mounted rear suspension setup, this made space for a larger air box and made the seat height drop to a more approachable 800mm, new rear strut means a new swing arm, which gave space for a better exhaust setup
Overall the new Duke looks the part, with aggressive lines in every inch of the bike, it definitely looks like a scalpel that has been sharpened to cut through your local B-roads. But that’s not the last of what’s new in the duke.
Step over the saddle and the new seats take you by surprise, with extra padding and a slimmer side profile, the new Duke is going to be a much better companion on long rides,
Apart from comfort over the saddle, the bike promises to be comfortable on the move too, with a new 43mm WP apex open-cartridge USD up front and a rebound and preload adjustable shock at the rear, the Duke can be set up from full-on canyon carver to plush mile muncher in a couple of seconds! This is good and all, but this isn’t the biggest differentiator between the old and new Duke, the new Duke comes with a brand-new engine!
After a very long 11 years, KTM have finally brought major changes to the block, and when I say changes, I mean the entire block is new! The new block is now bigger, a 399cc single-cylinder called the LC4c. It isn’t just a bored out duke block, it comes with an improved cylinder head and is mated to a new gearbox, it pushes 44bhp now which is 3 more bhp and it is BS6 stage 2 compliant. The LC4c promises to be smoother and more powerful from a lighter block.
The duke 390 feels at home on the track, and there is no denying that KTM is the G.O.A.T on track in its specific segment, but through the generations , KTMs have been getting softer, tamer and all in all more approachable to less hardcore riders, which can be a bother to some, but an amateur rider like myself can benefit from this newfound tameness, the new duke is more sure footed and forgiving , making it a delight to ride in a spirited manner even for an amateur! The bike feels effortless between right-left transitions thanks to the revised chassis and the new seats provide fantastic leverage while tipping hard too! Braking duties are handled by 320mm discs with four-piston, radial-mounted callipers that provide fantastic bite and even the abs modes are setup In such a way that isn’t intrusive in any mode , working only when it is completely necessary. The cornering abs and traction control module also provides a great cushion of support while pushing the bike to its limits, correcting your throttle and brake inputs perfectly to make you feel like you’re a riding god! What is a let down is the choice of tyres on offer, the option of Michelins we saw on the bikes on sale abroad and when this bike was being tested are sadly not what you get in India, you get a set of Metzeler Sportec M5s which run out of performance before the bike in my opinion, which is a slight bummer but nothing stopping you from buying better rubber if your skills are above the potential of these tyres.
We were very impressed with how slick the new box is, the previous quick shifter felt clunky under pressure but this new one feels smooth and works like clockwork, the brakes
The Duke’s new frame compliments the highly adjustable suspension, allowing you to set up the bike according to your body type and riding style. This also allows the rider to set the bike up to whatever conditions he wants to ride on.
the new Duke 390 comes with reworked ergonomics, the seat height is now 20mm shorter and the handlebar is positioned closer to your torso, giving the rider a sense of being ‘in’ the bike rather than ‘on’ the bike. Thigh support from the newly designed tank is adequately sufficient, your legs sit a little further forward than the previous gen making it a bit more relaxed and less committed. The handlebars in my opinion were in the perfect spot; not too narrow, not too wide, comfy yet precise.
On the move, the bike feels extremely refined. this new LC4c 399cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder revs up all the way to 10,000 rpm. What was most impressive, was how the bike delivered its power in a spirited yet linear manner from as low as 2,000 rpm but felt like an absolute missile if you play around with the upper limit. vibrations are minimal for a single-cylinder bike, except of course at the very limit of the top end.
All in all, KTM set out to make the New-Gen Duke 390 into something that fits in with their international lineup. and that is apparent when you consider how it is designed, how it comes with so much tech and adjustability and also how it performs; a smooth bike capable of putting a smile even on a seasoned rider’s face. The Duke has always been the benchmark of performance in the Indian market, and this 3rd generation sets the bar even higher in the entry-level performance motorcycle segment. We are thoroughly impressed with the new KTM Duke 390 and would recommend one to any budding rider who plans to hone their skills on the weekends, with fantastic handling dynamics and a suite of rider aids to keep you upright.
For more info: watch our 2024 KTM Duke 390 Road & Track Test !!!