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2017 KTM RC390 Track Ride Review

28 January 2017, 08:39 AM Vikrant Singh

What is it?

This is the first major update for the sharp, slim and tempting KTM RC390. The obvious change on the new bike is the new colour scheme; it's still black and white but it now gets an extra splattering of orange. The new-for-2017 RC390 also gets a new belly pan courtesy an all-new exhaust system. The underbelly exhaust gives way to an aluminium end can, which may not be to everyone's taste, but personally, I think it looks fine. It makes the 390 sound better too, especially at full clip. The new RC390 also gets adjustable levers for both clutch and brake.

Other changes include a softer seat; a contact-less starter button that just requires one press to get the bike fired up instead of keeping the button pressed till the bike actually fires up; wider rear view mirrors, which certainly work better than before; and a plastic flap behind the rear monoshock to protect it against muck.

There are some significant technical changes as well. For better upkeep of the wiring system, the 390 now uses a CANBUS, the throttle is ride-by-wire, the front disc is larger (320mm instead of 300mm) with revised braking ancillaries like the master cylinder and pistons, and the new RC390 gets slightly inferior Metzelers both front and back. The latter are now H rated instead of W meaning they are cheaper and longer lasting but these are also only rated to 210kmph and not 240kmph as the W. The tyre compound is different too.

How does it ride?

The changes on the 2017 KTM RC390 have made it heavier. Not that you can tell, not when you are moving it around at snail's pace or while parking. Sure, the steering at standstill is still a little heavy but that comes with the supersports design brief. Get moving and the new RC390 is as light, as sharp and as invigorating to ride as the previous edition. It's still a slim bike and the seating ergonomics - with the low set handlebar, upswept tail and, the high and rearset footpegs - still aren’t commute or touring friendly. 

KTM RC 390 [2020]

KTM RC 390 [2020]

  • Displacement373 cc
  • Mileage - Owner Reported26 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)42.9 bhp
  • Kerb Weight172 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 2,78,285

Good thing then we are at Bajaj's test track at Chakan. It's a narrow, technical track that requires patience and many laps to get it right. Not with the new RC390 though. The larger front disc brake setup helps the bike shed speed with tremendous power and feel. It lets you lean on it hard and with confidence, telling you exactly how much grip you have left before the ABS kicks in. In fact the RC390's front end - under trail braking or otherwise - drops into corners with the lightest of push to the handlebar feeling natural, confident and grippy at the same time. It doesn't lose any of its deftness and composure even when leaned over. No matter how hard you push it, with the glued-in front and the mildly supple chassis, one knows exactly how much grip is available. Add to it the loads of cornering clearance the RC390 comes standard with and one can tip the bike quicker and deeper into corners. It's one of those bikes that can make you an instant cornering star. We did find the bike weaving a bit when leaned over, but nothing that turning up the rear preload didn't solve. As for the H rated tyres, it's only when we rolled on the gas a little too aggressively when completely leaned over did these squirm. But, it never felt as if they would let go. 

The throttle, as mentioned earlier, is now ride-by-wire. It also requires lesser turns to hit the stop. Together, this has resulted in crisper response and less jerky on/off transition for the throttle. And though nothing has changed in the engine - it's still a liquid cooled, single cylinder, fuel injected, 43bhp motor - courtesy the new end can, the new RC390 sounds smoother and more purposeful. Not to mention, the engine retains its rev-happy nature and its ability to hit the limiter in a jiffy. The slipper clutch works wonderfully too. The only time the rear fishtails under quick downshifts is when you drop down all the way to first.

Anything else I should know?

The 2017 KTM RC390 doesn't get any of the fancy bits from the yet-to-be-launched 390 Duke; no TFT screen, no smart phone tethering, no LED headlamps, and no easy-to-navigate menu button either. What this also means is that this, the new RC390, might actually be cheaper than the 2017 390 Duke when the latter is launched. 

As for living with the bike on a daily basis, since we rode the bike only on the track, it's difficult to comment on the bike's ride. But, given that the suspension hasn't changed on the new RC and that the older bike was terrible at handling road joints and road ripples, the new RC390 should be pretty uncomfortable as well. Maybe a little less thanks to the softer seat, but we will only know for sure once we ride it in the real world.

Should I buy one?

If you must have a supersport whether you want it to hone your riding skill at a track or simply to hoon around at your favourite set of twisties, the old RC390 never really had an equal, it was the default bike to go to especially if budgets were a constraint. The new-for-2017 KTM RC390, the price increase notwithstanding, is still 'the' budget supersports to have. Not only is it easier to start now, it brakes with more surety, has a nicer throttle response, and it sounds better too. Plus, there's the softer seat, which should make the new RC a less of a torture machine as an everyday ride.

Where does it fit in?

There are a number of supersport options available in the upto 400cc class. There's the good looking and refined Kawasaki Ninja 300 and the extremely friendly and agreeable Yamaha R3. But, for what these offer, these are as pricey as a cup of tea in a five star. One can also look at the Honda CBR250R which costs around the same as the RC, but the Honda is no match for the KTM be it in a straight line or around a set of corners. The RC390 then remains the sharpest, slimmest, most tempting buy in this class.

Photography by Sanchit Arora

Gear Check

1-Arai Axces-II helmet: The entry-level Arai helmet one can officially buy in India. It is great on fit, quality, safety, comfort and even visibility. Price: Rs 48,000

2-Sena 20S Bluetooth set: Sena’s top of the line 20S is a one-stop solution for all one’s music and communication needs. It is expensive but I love it. Price: Rs 20,000 

3-Icon Pursuit jacket: Almost like a tank top in length, the Pursuit works best when zipped to riding pants. It’s genuine leather with lots of ventilation. Price: Rs 16,000

4-Ixon RS Circuit HP gloves: Not the best full-glautlet gloves I have used but the Ixons do a fair job be it comfort or protection. Price: Rs 8,000 

5-Joe Rockets Speedmaster pants: These aren’t in production anymore, but I have had them for years and they still great even today! Price: NA

6- TCX S-Speed boots: Not exactly track focused, but the S-Speed still work well on both track and street. Not the best to spend a day in, though. Price: Rs 19,500