Light on its feet. The 390 might be more high-strung than most motorcycles meant to be taken off-road, but, once you get the hang of it, it’s actually exploitable. With the index finger of your left hand covering the clutch to keep the bike from stalling, one does eventually learn to tap into the 390’s power reserve, then be it to take on a steep incline, get out of a rut, or spin it around in a tight spot. And, of course, to jump obstacles with, be it logs or rocks, because well, it’s fun.
Easy to walk with. One of the many things I have learnt about riding off-road is that sometimes, you can’t ride at all. Instead, one must ‘walk-the-bike’ because it is just the easier or safer thing to do. A few things matter here. One, the footpegs shouldn’t foul with your shins which is a function of positioning and design. The 390 ADV has that covered. Two, the handlebar height from the ground should be such that it doesn’t make the rider reach for them or stoop over. For my height - 5’9 in riding boots - and for those who are a couple of inches short or tall, the 390 feels alright. Finally, the clutch. It has to be both light and progressive so one doesn’t have to bank of the throttle to keep the bike moving at snail’s pace. And we had no complaints here either.
Switchable options. On the road, I most certainly liked the ABS working on both the wheels. It’s the difference between me coming to a stop the right way up, or going down in a dramatic slide when I call on the brakes in an emergency. But off-road, it’s a little different. It’s more about slow speeds and controlled slides. Even though I would like the option to turn the ABS off on both wheels, I am also more than happy to have the option of turning just the rear ABS off. The 390 gives me that option, which helps when coming down a slippery slope, or if I want to indulge in some theatrics. Speaking of theatrics, also having the option to switch off traction controls means I can pull small, unnecessary slides for a laugh. And of course, one also needs this electronic nanny switched off to make any and all jumps.
Well-balanced. The last thing one needs off the road is a bike that feels cumbersome because its weight sits in the wrong place. Low is good. As is a little front bias. The 390 has that. Which means, when riding slowly over narrow trails, through closely stacked trees, or a rock and rut minefield, it’s not only easy to steer the bike at slow speeds, it’s also easy to keep it upright, and ride it standing up.
Great for flat trails. Slow, technical trails aren’t where the 390 ADV shines, to be honest. Yes, it has the balance, but its engine’s character makes such proceedings a bit challenging. Show it a faster, hard-packed trail though, and the motorcycle comes into its own. Its well-damped suspension flattens all but the deepest of potholes. It skims over small bumps and ditches as if they were almost non-existent. And, even though you can feel its front and rear sliding around, it happens in a relatively slow and controlled manner, which doesn’t let panic set in.