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Head to Head - KTM 390 Adventure vs Honda CB500X - on and off-road

We pitch two A2-compatible adventure bikes against each other in an on and off-road head to head to review

KTM Vs Honda

THE world of A2 licence friendly adventure bikes is a growing sector that pretty much every manufacturer wants to be a part of.

Two of the most famous exponents of this burgeoning market are Honda and the Austrian adventurists KTM. Both have ruled the roost in the off-road motorcycle game, and are now turning their focus to more cost-effective mud-pluggers

In this video, we take a look at both of these bikes, the Honda CB500X and the KTM 390 Adventure.

Head to head video review - Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 Adventure

Honda vs KTM | Honda CB500X vs KTM 390 Adventure | Visordown.com

Engine

Despite the 390 being considerably smaller in size than the Honda, it actually doesn’t give that much away in terms of power and torque. With 44bhp on tap, the peppy little single from KTM succeeds in being accessible and exciting, with a revvy character that is often not seen in a single-cylinder configuration.

The Honda makes a bang-on-the-limit 46.9bhp from its parallel twin-cylinder engine. It is a smoother and more refined unit at low speed, although it can get a little vibey at motorway pace. The Honda we tested last year also suffered somewhat from a slightly snatchy throttle, although that is something you can dial out with some adjustment.

One area where the KTM stands out from the Honda is in the engine electronics. The 390 boasts a host of systems normally only seen on mid to large capacity adventure bikes. It’s got IMU-controlled cornering ABS, switchable traction control, and a dedicated off-road riding mode… On this front at least the KTM has the Honda beaten.

Suspension and handling            

With both bikes aiming for all-around on and off-road ability, long-travel suspension is the order of the day. The Honda boasts telescopic forks with pre-load adjustment and a rear mono-shock with five-stage pre-load adjustment.

On stock settings, the Honda is very plush, almost too soft, although it does help when riding on rutted trails. The 19” front wheel is a decent compromise of on and off-road handling, although the pseudo adventure tyres will be the first element to find their limit.

The CB500X is light and slim, with a roomy cockpit and nice lower body ergonomics that make the transition from sitting to standing very easy indeed.

The KTM is a much more focused machine, with an emphasis on being the best off-road motorcycle this side of a muddy puddle. The suspension plays a big part in this and is provided by WP. It features compression and rebound damping adjustment and a massive 170mm of travel. This, coupled with aggressively designed continental TKC20 tyres, makes the 390 a very formidable bike to throw around on the dirt, with all of KTM’s expertise in the field shining through.

Away from the trails, the two bikes make excellent day-to-day motorcycles, with comfortable and upright riding positions allowing a great view of the road ahead. The set on the KTM is notably firmed than that of the Honda, although it's not what I’d call uncomfortable. As I mentioned earlier in the video, the Honda does get a little buzzy at motorway speeds, something that’d likely be cured with that addition of some aftermarket hand grips.

The Honda does feature a more substantial fairing and windscreen, something that made it noticeably easier to cower behind when the weather turned nasty. The non-adjustable screen does a decent job of shielding your upper body, with just your shoulders poking out from behind the bubble.

The KTM’s Dakar-style front end looks more aggressive and purposeful, but it does lose out on the weather protection front. It also features an adjustable screen that requires an Allen key to operate – frustrating to say the least!

If you’re looking to cover some big miles between fill-ups, the Honda is a bike that is hard to ignore, with well over 300-miles locked within its 17.7 litre tank. The KTM is not far behind though, with at least 270-miles on the cards thanks to over 80mpg and a 14.5 litre capacity.

Verdict

If you are looking for a true adventure motorcycle that falls within the A2 limit, the KTM 390 Adventure is the bike you should be stumping for. At £5,499 it features the kind of technology and detailing not see this side of a £10,000 adventure machine, although the single-mindedness may put some people off. In truth, it really shouldn’t. Yes, the KTM is a very capable motorcycle for trail riding, but that doesn’t come at the expense of everyday on-road use. It’s just as happy plodding along a dual carriageway as it is hammering along a green lane or trail. For me, that’s what makes it our winner in this head to head.