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Why I love the KTM 390 Adventure, but won’t buy it: Opinion

23 October 2021, 01:30 PM Suvil Susvirkar
Why I love the KTM 390 Adventure, but won’t buy it: Opinion

It’s been a while since I upgraded my garage. The previous update came in 2012 when I emptied my bank account to purchase the KTM 200 Duke. The nine-year younger version of me had an absolute blast with the motorcycle, and even today, this KTM makes me appreciate my decision. But I’ve grown older and have added a few injuries as I aged. The latest one came in December 2020 when a decade-long lower-back injury was triggered by an incorrect form in the gym and further amplified by the road conditions of our beloved financial capital, Mumbai.

With the injury appearing to be in the rear-view mirror, I was adamant about buying a new motorcycle – something that will either replace the 200 Duke, or share the garage with it. The Royal Enfield Himalayan proved to be a perfect companion for road trips but the lack of power didn’t really make it a very tempting option. The KTM 250 Adventure seemed promising too, however, I really wanted a motorcycle that can cruise at 120kmph all day long without a lot of stress on the engine.

The KTM 390 Adventure, then, sounded like the perfect option. But before calculating the finances, I asked Vikrant for his opinion about the motorcycle and, more importantly, should I purchase it. He made it very clear that the firm suspension setup may not suit my recovering lower back, and that I should consider taking Elsa, his long term 390 Adventure, for a proper ride before putting down a cheque.

Right Rear Three Quarter

The long weekend seemed like a perfect time to take the 390 Adventure for a spin. Hesitantly, I decided to take it to Nashik for the weekend, and test how it feels over a variety of conditions that the route had to offer. The nearly 400km road trip (spread over two days) brought surprising revelations, and the stiff suspension was the least of my concerns. Before we go further, let me add a disclaimer that this is not a review. The views expressed here are my personal opinions based on a long weekend ride with the KTM 390 Adventure. Many existing owners may disagree.

Let me start by telling you why I am going to miss seeing this motorcycle in my garage. First up is the styling. I would stick my head out and say that the 390 Adventure is among the most visually appealing motorcycles in the sub-500cc segment (India or worldwide). I would take every opportunity to look at the motorcycle, including quick glances from the window, just to admire it. Then there’s the feature list that is beyond its competition, and even better than several motorcycles that compete in a segment above the 390 Adventure. Thus, it’s with a heavy heart that I have to skip this motorcycle (at least for now).

Why I would not buy it? The KTM 390 Adventure shares its engine with the 390 Duke and the RC390 in nearly the exact state of tune, and that’s where problems began for me. The motor likes to stay in the higher rev range, and fast riders would appreciate the feedback. I, however, am set in my own ways. Thus, while I enjoy riding fast, I also like to take it slow occasionally. Thus, a motorcycle should also work at lower speeds, for when there’s a passenger on board or when you just want to cruise without really wanting to break any speed records.

Right Front Three Quarter

Unfortunately, the KTM 390 Adventure did not agree with the latter part, and it felt uncomfortable staying under the 4,000rpm mark. Unlike the 790 series, where the Duke and the Adventure carry a completely different persona when it comes to engine tuning, the 390s do not. What KTM should’ve done is chopped a few BHPs from the top-end for an improved low and mid-range power delivery. This would’ve made the 390 Adventure friendlier for low-speed cruising. The gear ratios, too, need a proper revision, as they feel too short for an adventure-style motorcycle, and you’d constantly keep going through different cogs.

Similar to the engine, the suspension, too, is tuned for spirited riding. Thus, it feels absolutely at home when riding hard over bad surfaces. Just stand on the footpegs, and the KTM would effortlessly tackle bad roads with utmost ease. Things, however, get harsh when riding at a leisurely pace, and the suspension feels too hard at low speeds. It would make a lot more sense if I had another motorcycle with a laidback character or a car that I could take along when I am accompanied by a passenger. But having this as the only motorcycle in my garage did not make a strong case.

Before the lower back injury, I spent nearly eight hours (from Mumbai to Ganpatipule) on the saddle of the Royal Enfield Himalayan during my coastal trip, and didn’t feel very tired. The relatively short ride from Mumbai to Nashik, however, felt taxing as I tried to keep up with the KTM 390 Adventure’s enthusiastic nature. And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the clear sign that the Austrian tourer isn’t my cup of tea. I did push the motorcycle on the way back home, the way (as Vikrant suggested) it is supposed to be used and it was fantastic, to say the least. But I really cannot imagine doing it every single time I go for a ride. It’s made for fast riders, people who want a motorcycle that will keep up with their pace, and I, unfortunately, am not one of those, at least not all the time.

While I may not purchase the 390 Adventure (once again, at least for now), what I would’ve liked to see is a base model that did not get as many electronics as the existing model. Maybe KTM should consider bifurcating the 390 Adventure in two variants – base and R. This would do two things. First, it would make the motorcycle more affordable and allow a wider range of buyers to purchase the 390 Adventure. Buyers who can afford the R variant can shell out extra bucks while others can settle for a relatively lower-spec, budget-friendly 390 Adventure. Secondly, it would also bridge the gap between the 250 Adventure and the 390 Adventure and compete more aggressively against the BMW G 310 GS.

I would love to hear KTM India’s views on this.

KTM 390 Adventure

KTM 390 Adventure

  • Displacement373 cc
  • Mileage - Owner Reported28 kmpl
  • Max Power(bhp)42.3 bhp
  • Kerb Weight163 kg
  • ;

Avg. Ex-showroom price

₹ 3,28,532

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