Trip to Goa on a KTM 390 Duke
These are the silly days. I say so because quitting a well-paying job (who am I kidding, there is nothing like that) and blowing a sizeable chunk of one's savings on a motorcycle isn't something that smart people do. What is sillier, though, is hopping onto the saddle of the brand new motorcycle and heading off to Goa; right when the Konkan monsoon is at its best and the roads at their worst. But then not everyone is born to apply for patents. Some are just happy wringing the throttle of a motorcycle. And I, as it must be evident by now, fall into the latter class.
So when I got my very own KTM 390 Duke delivered, I wasted no time in hitting the road. Honestly, the original destination was to be Hampi. A quick chat with a friend there told me it was a bad idea as the rains had played havoc and most roads were out of service. Next was Coorg, but the rain gods weren't too kind there either. Staying in Pune means one is spoilt for choices when it comes to picking riding destinations. But having somewhat exploited the 390's mountain carving abilities during the media launch in Austria, I was now eager to discover its highway potential. From the mounting of the luggage to its manners as a long distance mount. So perhaps the best option was Goa!
Once decided, I quickly got to business with readying all the gear and luggage. It was a rather short trip so I could afford to travel light and just took along the Rynox Optimus tank bag, which doubles as tail pack locking under the pillion seat, and a Joe Rocket Manta XL tank bag for the camera equipment. All eager to just load up and leave, I realised I had lost the tail pack straps of the Rynox bag. So now I was left with two loaded magnetic tank bags, but no place to put them onto the motorcycle thanks to the all-plastic tank. So I went back to the tried and tested bungee cord and the cargo net luggage tie-downs to get the job done. While the rather small Manta XL comfortably went onto the tank, there was not much place to tie the Rynox luggage on the rear seat. So my only real option was to hook up the bungee cords onto the pillion rider foot pegs and onto the rear indicator stays. Yes! Lesson learned get luggage compatible with your motorcycle, especially in the case of the compact motorcycles like the Dukes.
The only real option was to hook up the bungee cords onto the pillion rider foot pegs and onto the rear indicator stays
All loaded and fuelled-up, I started way early into the day to avoid the horrendous Pune traffic and got to the NH4 as quickly as I could. A mid-week ride meant the congestion on the Pune-Bangalore highway was absent and I got plenty of open stretches to use those 43.5 horses. Slotted in sixth, the tachometer indicating 6500rpm and the speedometer showing an impressive 110kmph, the motor sang loud and clear. it fed me a sense of pride that comes with the sudden realisation that I am just a little over halfway in the revband and there is still a lot more revs available to play with, on demand. Quite like realising it's the end of the month and you are still left with half your salary. Only difference, the latter is a figment of my imagination.
Once I got used to the hard saddle on the bike, it is easy to notice how calm and composed the 390 Duke feels in its behaviour and temperament, especially when compared to the tantrum throwing, angst ridden teen - the 200 Duke. And this matured temperament does a world of good to the 390 Duke's touring capabilities. The power is always handy, the 39Nm of torque is well spread out through the gears and a gentle twist of the throttle in sixth gear at 100kmph will take you to 140kmph effortlessly, making overtakes and swift passes a breeze on our highways.
Ahead of Satara the road got a lot better and there onwards it was effortless cruising. I could have touched the 390's top speed if I chose to. But most of the time was spent in the 100-120kmph band, and the only annoying bit in this wonderful setting was the wind-blast. All is fine till about 110kmph, but above that the wind flowing off the front visor really strained my neck. The open roads ahead of Kolhapur towards Nipani were a good opportunity to see how bad it could get, and well, it wasn't very nice closer to the top speed (on my return, I immediately placed an order for the bigger windscreen from the KTM Powerparts catalogue for the 390 Duke).
Almost halfway into the ride, I crossed Kolhapur and was forced to stop for refueling just before the Nipani turn off towards Goa via Amboli. On a single tank which holds 11 litres of petrol, including one litre of reserve fuel, the 390 Duke had diligently covered 250-odd kilometres, returning an efficiency of 26-27kmpl even though for most part of the ride the speedometer flashed triple digit numbers.
At steady three-digit speeds, the KTM even managed to return nearly 30kmpl!
For a 375cc single-cylinder machine that is full of energy like its downed a stack of RedBulls, the 390 Duke is fairly frugal if ridden well. But keeping it in the redline for most part of the ride or its habitual one-wheel riding demands isn't going to help much with regards to efficiency.
But riding it in a higher gear on the highway does magic to its appetite, and if cruised at in the 80-100kmph band in sixth gear, I am certain the efficiency will get even better, and it might even dole out a plus 30kmpl figure. But we shall find that out some other time. For this ride was all about fast mile-mulching and getting to know the 390's manners and moods on Indian highways.
And fast it was, for I admit that the NH4 stretch has never been as much fun as it was astride the 390 Duke. So when the time came to leave the highway and take the turn off towards Goa, I wasn't exactly happy. But then the scenic Amboli Ghat greeted me and the comfort of the highway was quickly replaced by the allure of going corner-carving on the mountain road.
The Amboli road to Goa is an OVERDRIVE favourite including fast highways and a brilliant ghat section over a day-long ride
Foggy and wet, the road in Amboli was a bit treacherous but perfect to try the Metzeler Sportec M5 Interact rubber, which is said to have superb wet weather performance. And they sure did impress more than any other tyre on a motorcycle in this class. Precise in feel and feedback, the Metzelers never felt like they are running out of breath and took everything the road threw at them without any complaints. And during the occasional hard braking moments, the tyres kept up exceptionally well with the Bosch 9M ABS, which, I must say, does a brilliant job and will help save a lot of mishaps on our highways and roads.
The KTM takes a breather at a highway shop
Down the Amboli Ghats, about 100km away from Goa, the scenic back roads enveloped in monsoon greenery threw some bumpy sections at me, but the 390 Duke dealt with them fairly well unless I refused to roll off the gas. At which point, she warned me with a small yet significant tank slapper. Soon, thereafter, I reached the newly made section, which bypasses Sawantwadi to reach Goa; an arrow-stretch road with minimal traffic, and a 390 Duke under me. Less said, the better. Of course that did hurt the fuel efficiency quite a bit, and while I had estimated I would reach Goa in the second tankful, the reserve light went on just as I entered North Goa and the efficiency indicator of the 390 Duke showed 24kmpl. But a lot of this also has to do with the spirited riding in Amboli and on the aforementioned bypass.
Parked by the side of a café, I sat and did a quick mental check on all the motorcycles I have ridden on this particular road to Goa. Some of them were blisteringly fast on the highway, they struggled and crawled on the broken and bumpy roads. Some were nice, soft and cushy on the highway tempting me to head to Bangalore instead of Goa but they did not excite on the fast ride to Amboli or even during my weekend rides to nearby twisties. But this middleweight monster somehow managed to do all of it, and do it better than most of them.
I did miss having proper luggage mounting options and I had to stop and remove the cargo net every time I had to take photos. And the wind in the hair was too much at speed. Also many people could not fathom how a 200 Duke had suddenly gotten so quick just with a new paintjob, until I told them it was the three-ninety. But on most crucial counts as a sports tourer, the KTM 390 Duke trumps its rivals by a sizable margin and at its price tag it's a steal for anyone who wants to go sports touring in India on a budget.
Pictures by Varad More
Read our road test of the 390 Duke here
Starts Rs 2,52,928
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