Versus: Honda CBR500R vs KTM Duke 390

Sensible parallel twin or berserko pocket-sized single? It's a choice many A2 licence holders will be pondering. We can help.

Posted: 21 October 2013
by Visordown
Seconds out round one

THEY'RE two very different answers to the same question. One is a raucous mini naked bike, the other a sporty fully-faired all-rounder. Both are on target for A2 licence licence restrictions. Only £400 separates them in price. Which deserves your cash?

Reasons to buy CBR500R

Reasons to buy Duke 200

  • At 47bhp, it’s bang on the power limit for A2 licence holders.
  • It's a riot. It shares the same small chassis as the Duke 125 but goes like a full-size motorcycle, power-wheelying in first.
  • At £5,099 on the road, it’s one of the cheapest middle-weight bikes you can buy.
  • It's one of the cheapest bikes over 125cc you can buy, around £400 less than the CBR500R with on-the-road charges.
  • Being a Honda, you can hope for a high level of reliability and build-quality.
  • It’s light and handles well, begging you to through it around.
  • It’s comfortable, with fairing and a fairly upright riding position.
  • It's so close to the A2 power-to-weight ratio limit that KTM have had to restrict it by 1.5bhp.
  • It’s the official bike of the European Junior Cup championship for 14-to-19-year-olds.
  • It cuts through traffic like butter, with a narrow profile and mirrors that stick out no further than the bars.
  • It handles well and can be pushed hard, with decent brakes and suspension. ABS is standard.
  • It’s fairly fuel efficient, managing 58.9 mpg in Visordown tests.
  • It’s very fuel efficient, managing 67.4mpg in Visordown tests, giving a theoretical 232-mile range from the 15.7 litre tank.
  • ABS is standard.
  • There’s a pleasing, torquey response from the parallel twin engine.
  • It's relatively well-equipped, with dash information including journey-time, average speed and fuel-range on reserve.

Price: £5,099 OTR
Capacity: 471cc
Power: 47bhp
Weight: 194kg kerb
Seat height: 790mm

Price:  £4,500 plus OTR
Capacity: 372.2cc
Power:  43bhp (41.5bhp for A2)
Weight:  139kg dry
Seat height: 800mm

Our choice: CBR500R

If this comparison were called ‘CBR500R vs Duke 390 for clearing the cobwebs and having a blast to your local bike meet,’ the KTM would be the winner, no question.

But we’re looking for the one that’s best at doing everything people do on bikes, including commuting and motorway work. While the Duke would be more fun for an afternoon, we think the CBR would be easier to live with long-term.

It’s not just the lack of fairing that limits Duke’s usefulness for long distances. Doing just over 100 miles on a tank before the fuel warning comes on could get annoying.

Although CBR is about £400 more expensive than the Duke, you’d make some money back from the CBR’s superior fuel economy.

The Duke’s small dimensions are all good fun, and great for slicing through traffic, but the novelty could wear off. It feels literally a bit like a toy, whereas the CBR500R is more of a full-size motorcycle. 

While the Duke feels like it out-accelerates the CBR, the Honda’s extra 5.5bhp is likely to close the gap as speeds rise.

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Discuss this story

A more appropriate comparison would be with the CB500F.

Posted: 21/10/2013 at 18:59

Surprising that you as a reader have to suggest that, right?

Posted: 23/10/2013 at 12:34

What's the gearing like on the KTM ? I can't believe that a lighter 375 single is more thirsty than a heavier 475 twin. They must have geared the KTM to make it feel "lively" ?

Posted: 24/10/2013 at 05:22

I have owned a KTM Duke 390 for over a month. I have used it for commuting. My commute includes 15 miles of fun country roads, 5 miles of motorway and 10 miles of city traffic. The bike has returned between 71mpg and 87mpg, on average I would say 80mpg. The 71mpg figure was after a very spirited ride rather than a commuter pace ride. My main bike is a Suzuki GSX-R750k7 and compared to that the little KTM is slow, but it is so much fun that the 750 has not seen outside the shed since the KTM arrived. Frog.

Posted: 16/11/2013 at 12:32

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