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KTM RC390 | All you need to know about the all-new beast on the track

When the KTM RC390 was first launched in India in 2014, it was something of a revelation (and revolution). Never had Indian biking enthusiasts had access to a supersports motorcycle that was this capable and, crucially, affordable – you had to shell out a great deal of money to buy an imported supersports machine otherwise. The 2023 model is the most comprehensive overhaul that the RC390 has had, with the design, chassis, engine, and features all seeing changes.

July 28, 2022 / 11:45 AM IST
When the KTM RC390 was first launched in India in 2014, it was something of a revelation (and revolution). Never had Indian biking enthusiasts had access to a supersports motorcycle that was this capable and, crucially, affordable – you had to shell out a great deal of money to buy an imported supersports machine otherwise. The RC390, like all bikes, had some faults, but in terms of its performance/handling-to-price ratio, it was well-nigh untouchable – in the right hands, it could outperform bigger and more powerful bikes on a racetrack and on the road and justifiably became an instant hit. Over the years, it’s been through a few iterations and updates – slipper clutch, a more eco-friendly engine, ride-by-wire, and so on - and the latest one is what we’ll be dealing with here. (Image: KTM India)
When the KTM RC390 was first launched in India in 2014, it was something of a revelation (and revolution). Never had Indian biking enthusiasts access to a super sports motorcycle that was this capable and, crucially, affordable – you had to shell out a great deal of money to buy an imported super sports machine otherwise. The RC390, like all bikes, had some faults, but in terms of its performance/handling-to-price ratio, it was well-nigh untouchable – in the right hands, it could outperform bigger and more powerful bikes on a racetrack and on the road and justifiably became an instant hit. Over the years, it’s been through a few iterations and updates – slipper clutch, a more eco-friendly engine, ride-by-wire, and so on - and the latest one is what we’ll be dealing with here. (Image: KTM India)
The 2023 model is the most comprehensive overhaul that the RC390 has had, with the design, chassis, engine, and features all seeing changes. On the looks front, the bike now closely resembles its stablemates, the RC125 and RC200, and has taken on a less aggressive character which... well, could go either way in terms of public appreciation. On the one hand, it still looks sporty but in a more understated way, and on the other, it does look like it’s less angry all the time, which is something existing fans of the bike may not like. I quite like it, however – it has more presence and looks great in the new blue and orange colour scheme that’s available as an option. It also looks bigger because of the larger fuel tank, the two-section fairing, and its re-worked face. KTM says this bike is more aerodynamic than the previous model, too. Build quality is par for the course – the paint finish looks good and the panels and switchgear all look and feel pretty sturdy. (Image: KTM India)
The 2023 model is the most comprehensive overhaul that the RC390 has had, with the design, chassis, engine, and features all seeing changes. On the looks front, the bike now closely resembles its stablemates, the RC125 and RC200, and has taken on a less aggressive character which... well, could go either way in terms of public appreciation. On the one hand, it still looks sporty but in a more understated way, and on the other, it does look like it’s less angry all the time, which is something existing fans of the bike may not like. I quite like it, however – it has more presence and looks great in the new blue and orange colour scheme that’s available as an option. It also looks bigger because of the larger fuel tank, the two-section fairing, and its re-worked face. KTM says this bike is more aerodynamic than the previous model, too. Build quality is par for the course – the paint finish looks good and the panels and switchgear all look and feel pretty sturdy. (Image: KTM India)
The engine has gotten some pretty significant upgrades. The 373cc liquid-cooled single now makes 1 Nm more of torque, with 37 Nm (the power output is the same, at 43 bhp) and gets an air box that is 40 per cent bigger, along with a new engine mapping. The aim of these changes was to make the engine friendlier and more linear, with a smoother spread of torque. The powerplant is now attached to a split trellis frame like on the 390 Duke, rather than the older bike’s single-piece unit; the claimed benefits of this are a lighter, more rigid, and stiffer setup. The suspension is the same as before - WP inverted forks and a monoshock at the back – but its travel has been increased; the rear also gets rebound adjustability in addition to preload. The brakes are lighter but of the same size – 320mm up front and 230mm at the back – and the new 5-spoke alloy wheels are also lighter, with the overall weight saving being 1 kg for a kerb weight of 172 kg. (Image: KTM India)
The engine has received some pretty significant upgrades. The 373cc liquid-cooled single now makes 1 Nm more of torque, with 37 Nm (the power output is the same, at 43 bhp) and gets an air box that is 40 per cent bigger, along with a new engine mapping. The aim of these changes was to make the engine friendlier and more linear, with a smoother spread of torque. The powerplant is now attached to a split trellis frame like on the 390 Duke, rather than the older bike’s single-piece unit; the claimed benefits of this are a lighter, more rigid, and stiffer setup. The suspension is the same as before - WP inverted forks and a monoshock at the back – but its travel has been increased; the rear also gets rebound adjustability in addition to preload. The brakes are lighter but of the same size – 320mm up front and 230mm at the back – and the new 5-spoke alloy wheels are also lighter, with the overall weight saving being 1 kg for a kerb weight of 172 kg. (Image: KTM India)
What about the all-important features? Well, there are plenty of them, some of them pretty top-end. For example, there’s traction control (usually seen on bigger machines), a bi-directional quick shifter, and cornering ABS with two modes that is lean-sensitive. A new colour TFT screen (from the 390 Duke) is also present, along with new switches; you therefore get Bluetooth connectivity, automatic brightness adjustment, message and call notifications, and various screen themes, along with technical information about the traction control and ABS systems and of course regular information like speed, engine revs, gear indicator, fuel and so on. Speaking of fuel, the 13.7-litre tank now holds 4.2 litres more than its predecessor. (Image: KTM India)
What about the all-important features? Well, there are plenty of them, some of them pretty top-end. For example, there’s traction control (usually seen on bigger machines), a bi-directional quick shifter, and cornering ABS with two modes that is lean-sensitive. A new colour TFT screen (from the 390 Duke) is also present, along with new switches; you therefore get Bluetooth connectivity, automatic brightness adjustment, message and call notifications, and various screen themes, along with technical information about the traction control and ABS systems and of course regular information like speed, engine revs, gear indicator, fuel and so on. Speaking of fuel, the 13.7-litre tank now holds 4.2 litres more than its predecessor. (Image: KTM India)
This is a tall machine, with a seat height of 824mm, so it’s not the easiest to swing a leg over unless you’re reasonably tall. The riding position is sporty and aggressive because of the bike’s nature, but less so than the older bike. It’s possible to maintain a reasonably comfortable crouch while riding normally, and if you want to go into full race mode, there’s room in the seat to do so, and you can grip the tank easily with your knees (the clip-on handlebars can also be lowered by 10mm. (Image: KTM India)
This is a tall machine, with a seat height of 824mm, so it’s not the easiest to swing a leg over unless you’re reasonably tall. The riding position is sporty and aggressive because of the bike’s nature, but less so than the older bike. It’s possible to maintain a reasonably comfortable crouch while riding normally, and if you want to go into full race mode, there’s room in the seat to do so, and you can grip the tank easily with your knees (the clip-on handlebars can also be lowered by 10mm. (Image: KTM India)
Down to the important stuff now – the way it performs. True to its ‘looks fast standing still nature’, the RC390 absolutely slingshots off its line when you dump the clutch and wring open the throttle. It rockets to 60 kph in under 3 seconds and to 100 kph in just over 7 seconds, which is mighty quick – and entertaining. The engine’s tractable nature shows immediately, with the bike pulling relentlessly to its 10,000 rpm redline like it’s late for a crucial meeting. There are no dips and surges in the rev range (unlike the older bike), and its linear nature is a huge plus point; the RC390 is now much more forgiving in nature as well, and handles early or late gear shifts smoothly. A long enough road will let you see a top speed of just over 160 kph, which is more than anyone really needs; the new fairing does an excellent job of deflecting wind over you as you crouch, too. The super-light clutch and the fantastic quick-shifting 6-speed gearbox make the overall experience that much more memorable. (Image: KTM India)
Down to the important stuff now - the way it performs. True to its ‘looks fast standing still nature’, the RC390 absolutely slingshots off its line when you dump the clutch and wring open the throttle. It rockets to 60 kph in under 3 seconds and to 100 kph in just over 7 seconds, which is mighty quick – and entertaining. The engine’s tractable nature shows immediately, with the bike pulling relentlessly to its 10,000 rpm redline like it’s late for a crucial meeting. There are no dips and surges in the rev range (unlike the older bike), and its linear nature is a huge plus point; the RC390 is now much more forgiving in nature as well, and handles early or late gear shifts smoothly. A long enough road will let you see a top speed of just over 160 kph, which is more than anyone really needs; the new fairing does an excellent job of deflecting wind over you as you crouch, too. The super-light clutch and the fantastic quick-shifting 6-speed gearbox make the overall experience that much more memorable. (Image: KTM India)
The chassis is an improvement upon the older one, which is saying a lot because that one was razor sharp to begin with. This one is even more scalpel-like while also being friendlier, so you feel totally at ease when you’re blasting through a series of corners and leaning the bike over as far you dare (I confess that I’m not exactly a MotoGP racer); the bike holds its line so precisely that you don’t think twice before flicking it around. The suspension now feels plusher, and it absorbs bumps better, thus making the bike feel very well planted. The brakes are fantastic, with a very sharp bite, and go a long way towards making the RC390 a top-notch supersports bike. The only drawback is the fact that the Metzeler tyres seem better suited for more sweeping corners than a series of quick, tight ones; I suspect that most riders who do track days will abandon the stock tyres for a set of more high-performance ones. (Image: KTM India)
The chassis is an improvement upon the older one, which is saying a lot because that one was razor sharp to begin with. This one is even more scalpel-like while also being friendlier, so you feel totally at ease when you’re blasting through a series of corners and leaning the bike over as far you dare (I confess that I’m not exactly a MotoGP racer); the bike holds its line so precisely that you don’t think twice before flicking it around. The suspension now feels plusher, and it absorbs bumps better, thus making the bike feel very well planted. The brakes are fantastic, with a very sharp bite, and go a long way towards making the RC390 a top-notch super sports bike. The only drawback is the fact that the Metzeler tyres seem better suited for more sweeping corners than a series of quick, tight ones; I suspect that most riders who do track days will abandon the stock tyres for a set of more high-performance ones. (Image: KTM India)
All told, the new RC390 is a significant improvement over the older model. It’s simultaneously more performance-oriented and more comfortable and friendly to ride, with a brilliant new chassis, suspension and engine; I much prefer the new one’s smoother, more linear nature to the older one’s frenetic character. At Rs 3.14 lakh (ex-showroom), it’s absolutely unbeatable value for money if you want a bike that can be quite easily ridden on your commute as well as at a race track. (Image: KTM India)
All told, the new RC390 is a significant improvement over the older model. It’s simultaneously more performance-oriented and more comfortable and friendly to ride, with a brilliant new chassis, suspension and engine; I much prefer the new one’s smoother, more linear nature to the older one’s frenetic character. At Rs 3.14 lakh (ex-showroom), it’s absolutely unbeatable value for money if you want a bike that can be quite easily ridden on your commute as well as at a race track. (Image: KTM India)
Rana Chaudhury is a writer passionate about automobiles.
first published: Jul 28, 2022 11:45 am
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