BSVI KTM 390 Duke first ride review
After the 200 Duke, I was all warmed up for something with a little more power, and it was my lucky day. The new BSVI 390 Duke was up next for me. The bike makes a very strong case for itself under the three lakh rupee range. Now it has gone through the strict BSVI conversion, and the question was if it still had the swing. I got my fair share of time with the new 2020 KTM 390 Duke on the track at Chakan and here is what I feel about the bike.
Does it look different?
Now, we all know how attractive and sharp the 390 Duke looked and if it ain't broke why fix it? Right! The only thing to do is to improve the existing and working design, which is exactly what KTM did in terms of looks. The bike gets two new colour schemes (Silver Metallic and Ceramic white) along with fresh body decals. Silver metallic is my favourite, it is subtle and at the same time stylish enough to retain the dominating road presence of the KTM 390 Duke.
It looks much sexier in the new colours than the outgoing model, on the other hand, a couple of changes with the accessories, shrouds, indicators or even the mirrors would have been better. These small alterations do not make much of a difference individually, but as a whole it makes the bike look different.
Overall the bike looks fresh and feels new too, more on that up ahead. Few design changes would have freshened up the bike even further. It still has the TFT display with the KTM orange colour at the centre as the rev counter, which reminds me of the Blades of Chaos that Kratos uses to unleash wrath on his enemies from the game God of War. It looks very sexy and the interface is now much more responsive.
What has changed?
The all-new KTM 390 Duke gets a drastic change in character and riding dynamics, enough to leave me pleasantly surprised. I am not talking about the new BSVI engine, because the power output still remains the same but, what I am yapping about is the bi-directional quickshifter.
A slight reminder why the KTM 390 is called the corner rocket is because it comes with an arsenal that has ride-by-wire, assist-slipper clutch, riding modes, supermoto mode and a chassis that is meant for poised and rapid turns. Now throw in a bi-directional quickshifter and what do we get? We often hear the phrase "could it get any better?" Well, the corner rocket is now a corner torpedo missile.
The KTM 390 experiences negligible power loss during gear shifts, thanks to the new bi-directional quickshifter. This is a feature that we have only seen on litre-class motorbikes, so it ups the game for the KTM 390 and creates a new benchmark for bikes under the three lakh rupee price range.
Right from the get-go, it aches to do triple digits and since the bike weighs only 163kgs and pushes a power of 43.5PS and a 37Nm of torque, the manic power to weight ratio leaves you enthralled. Not only is it effective on the tracks and corners but now manoeuvring through traffic on this mean machine should be easier than ever. Shift on the go and blip the throttle, overtaking vehicles done!. The bike that I was riding had some issues with the quickshifter, it felt jerky and slotting in the gears felt difficult. I hope that's a one-off case and it gets ironed out soon.
The brakes and suspension work fine on the track, but to see what they are actually capable of has to wait until we get it on the roads for a full road test. The weight of the bike has increased by four kilos and the ground clearance has decreased by 24 mm making it 155 mm. Courtesy of that goes to the bigger catalytic converter. The additional weight is negligible and it fades away while you ride the bike. Since the ground clearance is lesser, you might want to be a little careful with potholes and rough patches.
Riding and Handling
The bike is potent and once you start the engine you can feel it, in spite of the BSVI norms and the additional four kilos of weight, the bike still manages to keep you engaged. If you are a newbie then this one will blow your mind right away and if you are seasoned, the KTM 390 Duke will push your boundaries while it allows you to push its own limits. Cornering comes as second nature on the 390 Duke. It is as agile as it is fast.
Leaning from left to right is as quick as you exit a corner on the 390 Duke, while you are at the apex just blip the throttle and the instant torque will take care of the rest. There is power across the rev band which makes the bike exciting and a bit dangerous at the same time. A power surge can be caused at a flick of the wrist, you don't even have to shift down. If the quickshifter works then you can shift down while you enter the corner without losing power.
That is not something that I experienced on the bike, but even without it the bike is fast enough to keep you engaged. I saw 147kmph on the TFT instrument cluster while braking on the approaching corner after the back straight. At a longer back straight the bike would easily go above 160kmph and stay there without complaint. The engine heating was one of the problems of the 390 Duke, but this one did not heat up for me to notice. Even after my back to back laps, the bike was ready to go for more without baking my knees and shin.
The KTM 390 Duke takes on the likes of Yamaha YZF R3, BMW G 310 R, Honda CB300R and Benelli TNT 300 to name a few. It has been a bang for the buck and still is one of the best buys when it comes to a performance naked under the three lakh rupee price bracket. The bike now gets two new colours, new decals and along with that a bi-directional quick shifter which has been featured for the first time in this class. All these updates cost Rs 4,716 more than the outgoing bike's Rs 2.48 lakh and this covers the new BSVI engine as well, which in my opinion is a steal. And that is if they fix the bugs with the bi-directional quick shifter.