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KTM 390 Adventure: First Ride Review

27 January 2020, 05:00 PM Vikrant Singh

Introduction

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

This is the KTM390 Adventure. Yes, the same motorcycle which we all thought was just a figment of our imagination. And, for good reason. After all, despite all the speculations and spy shots over the years, and KTM itself announcing its launch in 2018, it was still nowhere on the launch cart. 

But now it is here priced at Rs 2.99 lakhs, ex-showroom in Delhi, which puts its on-road, all-inclusive price at around Rs 3.60 lakhs. So yes, it is costlier than the 410cc Royal Enfield Himalayan and the 200cc Hero Xpulse. But given the tech, the lineage, and the performance it packs in – and the BMW G310 GS’ price – we feel it’s quite well priced.

The Hardware

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

So, what makes up the 390 ADV? For starters, it uses the same engine and gearbox setup as the 390 Duke. Needless to say, it continues to produce 44 horses and 37Nm of peak torque from the Duke.The one big difference between the Duke and ADV, however, is the use of two cooling fans on the latter instead of one in the Duke. It helps the Adventure run cooler, for sure. 

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

The chassis, meanwhile, is similar to the Duke as well; at least the front cradle is. But, of course, it gets a new rear sub-frame, and the steering head angle has also been changed to a lazier degree.  

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior
KTM 390 Adventure

KTM 390 Adventure

  • Displacement373 cc
  • Mileage - Owner Reported28 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)42.3 bhp
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 3,14,348

The suspension from WP is new. It’s not adjustable like the one on the bike showcased at EICMA, but there is a good amount of travel nonetheless – 170mm at the front and 177mm at the rear to be precise. It also has completely different damping characteristics  The wheels are new too – 19 inch for the front and 17 inch at the rear. And these are shod with on/off spec Metzeler tyres similar to the BMW 310 GS.

The Features

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

Now, if the 390 ADV’s hardware didn’t impress you, its long feature list will. It gets proper serrated off-road friendly footpegs. The hand levers – brake and clutch – are reach-adjustable. 

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

It gets plastic but sturdy handguards. There’s a 12-volt power socket. And, the motorcycle gets a full-colour TFT instrumentation which is your gateway to all things tasty. One can select riding modes, dig deeper into trip info, access different themes for the display, and connect the smartphone via Bluetooth for turn-by-turn direction display. And did we mention the 390 ADV is a festival of electronics? Well, it is!  

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

It gets ride-by-wire throttle, and riding modes – road and off-road. Additionally, it gets Cornering ABS and Traction Control (TC), with the latter being lean-sensitive as well. And, there’s a bi-directional quickshifter! Plus, the rider can choose to switch off TC via the TFT screen and toggle switches located on the left switchgear for some hooning action.  

The Ride

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

Before we ride, let’s talk seating ergos. The 390 ADV’s seat height at 855mm is higher than both the Xpulse and the Himalayan. And that meant, with my height of 5’9, I couldn’t place both my feet firmly on the ground.  

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

But once you start rolling, the seating triangle feels spot on. With the wide but close handlebar, the long and firm seat, and footpegs which are pretty neutral in their positioning, it’s clear the ADV has been designed for comfort. And the ergos are pretty good for standing up and riding as well. At least for my height.  

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

And since we spent 90 per cent of our time riding the 390 offroad, let’s start there.  The 390 ADV has a light and precise throttle which thankfully isn’t snappy. And that’s half the battle when riding off-road. To add, the clutch is light, the brakes are progressive, and that 19-inch front seemed quite at home tackling sand, gravel, and rocks as well.   What’s more, since it is so easy to hold the bike with your legs, it allows the front to ride the dirt without folding. This also makes the bike easy to ride slowly over trails and make tight turns.  Now we initially rode the bike with the Traction Control switched on. And it wasn’t one of our smartest ideas. The TC on the 390 is more of the on-off variety. So when it detects slip, it gives you nothing even though your throttle is completely dialled up. And then out of the blue, without warning, the power just comes back on with vengeance. It totally destroys your rhythm and momentum.

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

Switch the TC off, and unless you find yourself tackling some slippery, steep, rock-strewn climb, the 390 ADV feels fantastic. You can get its rear to slide at will. It will take jumps and land with poise all day long. It will go over bumps, track through ruts and even manage the odd river crossing without bother.  However, it runs the Duke’s high strung engine at the end of the day. This essentially means there’s very little usable low down torque. And even the mid-range isn’t great enough to just allow you to slip the clutch and keep your momentum over obstacles.

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

And with all that power coming in at high revs, one has to be very good with the throttle to prevent an unrecoverable slide and land face down on dirt. And that slippery, steep, rock-strewn climb we spoke about earlier... that presents the 390 ADV with a big challenge as well courtesy the nature of the engine’s power delivery character.  

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

But, here’s the good thing about the 390 ADV – it is a hardy motorcycle. So nothing really breaks. You can drop it and then just pick it up – which by the way is easy to do – and get going with bother.   On the road, the 390 ADV, just like the Duke, is fast and happy. It handles decently well too. And the on/off-road tyres didn’t feel inadequate in any way. Braking is strong too.   If anything, we would have liked the ride to be a bit suppler but that could also be because of the high preload the bike was running. And we would have liked the engine to be less noisy and vibey. 

Our Take

KTM 390 Adventure Exterior

Is the 390 ADV then THE adventure bike to buy if you are limited by your wallet? Well, yes and no.  It works off-road – it can handle dirt, gravel, rocks, jumps, slides, and if you have enough momentum, the steep climbs too. But, it doesn’t have that low-end grunt you expect in an off-road centric bike. So, you do need to constantly work the engine, which can get tiring. And therefore, it’s a yes and a no.  On the road, even though we didn’t spend too much time on the bike, first impressions are good. It is fast, it handles well, and the braking is spot on. But the ride isn’t all that comfy. And that engine is both noisy and a bit vibey. So again, a yes and a no. But overall, if you have the money, you like the bike and what it stands for, we’d say buy it. The pros do clearly outweigh the cons. 

Photography by Kapil Angane

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