KTM RC390 likely to be launched in India at Auto Expo
As KTM CEO Stefan Pierer had revealed a long time ago, the second line of motorcycles from the Bajaj-KTM tie-up are nearly here. Unless you've been buried under a rock for the past two months, you already know that they are to be called the RC series, which ties them neatly as the smaller siblings to the range topper, the unique RC8.
The first of the RCs to hit the roads will be the RC390, and though KTM revealed the RC200 as well as the RC125 at the EICMA show, it chose not to show a single production model as stock, instead displaying heavily customised models of all the three.
As expected the RCs share the same underlying platform as the Dukes with intense powertrain and frame sharing going on. So the engine is same as the one we know from the 390 Duke. An oversquare 373cc single with four-valve DOHC, liquid-cooling and Bosch fuel injection. The engine uses a balancer shaft to quell vibration while a 3-way catalytic convertor keeps it emissions friendly.
What we learnt is that the gearbox (with its vertically stacked shafts) and gearing is the same, and KTM continues with the same primary sprocket as well. However, the rear sprocket it smaller in size which gives the RC390 roughly 10kmph more flat out. However, the bike does weigh (147kg) a bit more than the 390 Duke thanks to the fairing - it manages to meet the European A2 license power-to-weight ratio norms without a restrictor like the 390 Duke - so the actual on-road performance remains to be seen. Will the RC390 be faster flat out? Yes. That is certain. Will it be quicker than the Duke in acceleration terms? This is unlikely, but we will have to test this out.
Holding the bike together is the same trellis frame again, with the 43mm upside down forks and the rear monoshoock. In keeping with its sportier nature and role, KTM have reduced the front suspension travel from 150mm (Duke) to 125mm while keeping the rear travel the same at 150mm. We also expect to find stiffer damping to control chassis behaviour in high-speed cornering on the RC though there is no official word on this yet. The 300mm front disc with ABS is specified and it wears Metzeler tyres as well.
What is new, of course, is the visual aspect of the RC thanks to the fairing. In the flesh, it wraps tightly around the compact and light powertrain while clear deflectors give the rider some extra protection without bulking up the front of the fairing. The dark, twin lamp look with the short beak is neat and distinctive to look at and is a dramatic new face for the machine. We also liked the slightly bulkier lower half of the fairing that ends with the exhaust tip neatly integrated into the fairing on the right of the motorcycle. Build quality should be good though we only saw the prototypes dolled up for the show rather than full-on production spec machines. The one disappointment we have is that KTM are persisting in making these bikes run 10-litre tanks which shortens the range to an annoying 220-250km between fuel stops.
Like the 390 Duke, the RC390 will also be sold in all KTM markets we are given to understand with the Indian sales likely to kick start in February, most probably at the Auto Expo in Delhi. As we have said before, we are expecting Bajaj to raise the prices to cover the cost of the fairing and given our current obsession with faired machines, and the delicious combination of small size and big power, the RC390, at an expected price of Rs 2.2-2.4 lakh ex-showroom should prove extremely popular.
The RC200 uses simpler graphics to distinguish itself from the RC390 and also claims 1PS more from its motor than the 200 Duke. It will come with MRF tyres and not Metzelers and the KTM model information also makes no mention of ABS although that will eventually be standard once the EU norms requires all motorcycles to have ABS as standard equipment. The RC200 shares, tyres and ABS, aside the same chassis spec and equipment as the RC390 - expect the shorter front fork travel and stiffer damping on this as well.
The RC125 is the baby of the RC series and while it will probably be extremely popular in Europe, we are not expecting to see this 15PS RC in India. Again it shares the engine and frame with the Duke, but with the shorter fork travel and stiffer damping as the other RCs.
Wasn't there a RC250 as well?
KTM CEO Stefan Pierer did mention the fourth of the small RCs, the 250 in an interview to an American Magazine. The production racer, called the RC250R is not directly linked to the RC250, we understand, but is a derivative of the Duke 200-390 platform that sits in a motorsport friendly engine displacement class. Since that interview, however, the RC 250 has not been discussed or heard of. In India, KTM can manage to sell the RC250 or the RC200 but both will be a challenge, unless the RC250 turns out to be a full-on high-spec, 390-price rivalling special with top-flight equipment or something like that.
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