2017 KTM 390 Duke First Ride Review


The past few weeks have been very exciting. It all started with the 2017 KTM RC range, followed by the all-new KTM 250 Duke and 2017 200 Duke, all of which we rode at Bajaj Auto’s Chakan facility. The Austrian bike maker then was clearly keeping the best for last and that is the 2017 KTM 390 Duke. The motorcycle that really brought affordable performance to the masses, the new 390 Duke witnesses a generation change and rightly so, a plethora of upgrades and perks have been added in the process. Before we delve deeper into what the new 390 Duke is all about, let us tell you one thing – if you liked the current version, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke will make you love it even more. Read on to find out why.

Check out the 2017 KTM 390 Duke image gallery here.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

The 2017 390 Duke has been designed by KTM’s in-house firm – KISKA

How Does It Look?

If ‘dressed to kill’ has an automotive equivalent, it is the 2017 KTM 390 Duke. I loved the way the older generation KTM Duke looked like and this one only wins me over for the second time. It’s made to look like a baby KTM 1290 Super Duke R and that works perfectly. More so, since the philosophy remains the same on both motorcycles – hooligan power cocooned into a naked body. The minimal bodywork is fantastic and most of the styling is concentrated on the fuel tank. The tank is, in fact, larger at 13.5 litres making for better range and is now made of metal instead of plastic. I really like the fact that KTM has added more layers to the colour scheme while keeping everything orange. The extended fenders on the tank look sharp, but the orange monotony is broken by the gloss black finish, while the new rear sub-frame and rear panels are now finished in white. The alloy wheels remain orange but now get a black stripe.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

The 2017 390 Duke LED Headlight comprises of 20 LEDs

Of all that’s changed, the new LED headlamp cluster grabs the most attention. It also differentiates the new 390 with the 250 Duke that carries over the styling from its older sibling. The all-LED unit looks fantastic with the boomerang-shaped DRLs while the headlamp cluster is divided into six parts, and can be controlled differently using the instrument console (more on that later). The LED tail light looks equally sharp and is now more in-line with that on the RC models. Other upgrades include the new handguards on the 390 Duke, wider mirrors, and of course, the side mounted exhaust, which comes courtesy of the stringent Euro 4 emission norms.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

2017 KTM 390 Duke LCD Instrument Console

Riding Position, Instrumentation and Features

The previous generation KTM 390 Duke was aggressive in its riding posture and this one is no different. The 2017 edition feels a tad bit more aggressive as you continue to sit upright on the naked Austrian with your arms falling onto the handlebar. The foot pegs are now further rear set than the previous model. That is possibly due to the slightly shorter wheelbase at 1357 mm, 10 mm shorter than the older version. The seats for both rider and pillion are now wider and more contoured than the outgoing model and very, very comfortable. Another major change is the taller seat height on the 2017 390 Duke at 830 mm. The difference is a good 30 mm higher from the previous version and is most evident once you take to the saddle. That being said, the new Duke will be appreciated by taller riders a lot and the bike offers more legroom as well. You also get adjustable levers that we first saw on the 2017 KTM RC 390.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

2017 KTM 390 Duke Switchgear

The party piece on the 2017 390 Duke is the new instrument console. In a segment first, the bike gets a TFT LCD instrument cluster making it the only motorcycle in the sub-500 cc space to actually feature one. Now, this system has been largely identified with bigger bikes like the new Triumph Street Triple or the Ducati Multistrada. The colour screen is a treat to look at and the interface is fairly simple to use but will need some fidgeting with. The numbers and icons are well placed and the font size even increases when you ride harder. In fact, the backlight goes dark once you are past 8000 rpm and that’s interesting to see from the corner of your eye. The console tells you everything including speed, time, distance, real-time fuel efficiency, distance to empty and even the health of your battery. You can switch between DRLs and AHO, where the DRLs are switched off and the headlight permanently runs on low beam; or control ABS settings switching between – Off (Not Recommended and illegal in a few countries), On and Super Motard (Front only). The warning sign also tells you everything that’s wrong with your bike. You can even change languages, units, time and date settings among other bits on the instrument console. The console is controlled by the new set of switches on the left handle, in place of the low and high beam options. The backlit switchgear is of impeccable quality and looks very upmarket too.

You also get the option of pairing your smartphone to the instrument console using Bluetooth. The console will tell you about incoming calls and even display SMS’ on screen. In fact, you can even control music settings once your phone is paired. We would have also liked if KTM would’ve introduced navigation on the Duke using phone pairing. Getting greedy, are we? Or perhaps KTM is saving that feature for the 390 Adventure when it arrives sometime in 2019.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

The new 390 has matured in performance and sounds better too

How Does It Ride?

KTM had a big task at hand on new 390 Duke to meet Euro 4 emission norms without having to compromise on power or performance. The result has been the addition of ride-by-wire, E-VAP system; a larger catalytic converter (thus warranting the side mounted exhaust) and an increase in weight by 9 kg. The new 390 Duke continues to use the same 373.2 cc single-cylinder motor that I am happy to say performs even better. Power output remains the same making 43 bhp at 9000 rpm, while torque is up by 2 Nm at 37 Nm available at 7000 rpm. Most noticeably, the motor is a lot more refined and certainly sounds way better with a heavier bass. There is also a difference in vibrations on the new 390. You do feel lesser vibes being passed on to the foot pegs or handlebar, even close to the redline. The ride-by-wire system has played an important role in this by improving the fueling on the engine making it eco-friendly and slightly more fuel efficient as well. It also opens rooms for adding riding modes in the future, something we are certainly thinking KTM would be exploring for the next update.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

The top speed is close to 170 kmph

The outlaw-ish performance still remains the 390’s forte, and thankfully there are no changes there. Speeds rise at the flick of your wrist and you can see 0-100 kmph coming up in no time, but that’s just the third gear and you still have a lot of room to play around with. The motor finds its sweet spot just a shade after 6000 rpm all the way till 9000 rpm, but give it a flat tarmac and the engine will pull well after the 10,000 rpm mark. That’s also when the instrument console goes dark and speeds in excess of 150 kmph feel easily attainable.

The 2017 KTM 390 Duke is an enthusiastic bike and loves being pushed to the redline. Unlike the older version, we did feel the overall cooling was far better on the new model and something that most new Duke owners will be happy about. That said, a run on actual roads will be a test for the same. Coming to the 6-speed transmission, the unit is precise and you even have the power assisted slipper clutch (introduced on the 2016 edition) that makes the clutch action easier while making aggressive downshifts more controlled avoiding rear wheel lock.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

The 2017 390 Duke benefits from a sophisticated suspension setup

Handling and Braking

KTM folks told us that the intention was to remain five years ahead of the competition and that can be seen in terms of the equipment level. The suspension setup has seen a major revamp. You now get the more sophisticated open cartridge upside down (USD) 43 mm front forks that offer a more supple ride quality without compromising on the handling of the bike. The rear too gets a new monoshock suspension setup with individual chambers for oil and gas. The ride quality is improved significantly on the bike and you can feel the new suspension absorbing undulations with ease. There are lesser thumps and thuds going up to the rider and that is a welcome change. The open cartridge also opens room for an adjustable front suspension using dials on top, something seen on bigger motorcycles till now. That, however, is still some time away.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

The Metzelers perform well and are now more durable too

The new KTM 390 Duke uses a revised Trellis frame, the unit uses the same geometry as the older one but is now split into two parts. The good thing is the bike’s agility remains in familiar territory and you now benefit from an even larger ground clearance of 185 mm up from 170 mm, courtesy of the side mounted exhaust. So, better lean angles without having to worry about scraping the underbelly. The handling is also complemented by the Metzeler Sporter M5 tyres. The tyres are same as the older version, but with a slightly different compound which has brought down the speed rating to H at 210 kmph. But, the new ones will last you longer than the W rated ones with a life span of around 13,500 km.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

The 2017 KTM 390 Duke gets a bigger front brake assembly

Another space where KTM has made stark improvement on the 2017 390 Duke is the braking performance. The 300 mm front disc has been swapped for a larger 320 mm disc along with a new front brake assembly. The result is a much sharper bite than the previous generation model while the progression is felt more strongly this time. The 230 mm rear disc brake remains the same and both units do a much better job of bringing the bike to a halt. There is, of course, the new and upgraded Bosch sourced dual-channel ABS system. The system works well and is always reassuring to have it on all motorcycles, irrespective of the displacement.

2017 ktm 390 duke review first ride

The 2017 390 Duke is around ₹ 20,000 more expensive than the older version


I’ll be honest, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke was a bike I was eagerly looking forward to riding, ever since it debuted at EICMA last year. It promised so many changes beyond the usual upgrades and I am happy to say that it has lived up to all that hype. With the list of changes, the new KTM 390 Duke is also now pricier than the previous version. At ₹ 2.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi), the new 390 Duke is a good ₹ 20,000 over the older version. But is it worth the upgrade? Well, the answer is an absolute yes. While the specs may look similar on paper, the bike offers a lot more for the price with a tonne of new features being segment first. It looks fantastic, has a certain character of its own and gives you a bike that is same as its global version.

When we rode the 2017 RC 390 last month, we told you to wait for the new Dukes if you were looking for a more extensive upgrade. The 2017 KTM 390 Duke turns out to be worth the wait and something you can put your money on. I know I would!