First Ride

First ride: 2017 KTM 390 Duke

KTM 125 and 390 Duke first ride reviews

THE 390 DUKE is the same size and shape as the 125 but the 390’s additional power makes it feel like a little missile in comparison to its smallest sibling.

The sharp, punchy Euro4 compliant 373.2cc single-cylinder engine punts out 44hp and its 32.45lb/ft torque provides enough power to swiftly dispatch most city traffic, no doubt helped by the fact that peak power and torque are both available lower down the rev range.  There’s also plenty available for a fast road ride and about 100mph on the clocks. Factor in the sweet fueling and crisp response from the new ride-by-wire throttle and it’s a motor that’s hard to fault and definitely one of the most exciting engines to have in your corner while on an A2 restriction.

With the engine singing between 6,000 and 10,000rpm, the 390 Duke makes eager progress and is at its perkiest. It’s immense fun and once on some twisty mountain roads, the 390 really comes alive; because it’s not crazy fast, it can be ridden hard and linking together a series of bends becomes about corner speed, selecting the right gear and making sure you do everything right (the slipper clutch helps here too). Or you can choose to do it wrong – turn on supermoto ABS mode and you can throw out any attempt at neat riding as you deliberately lock up the rear into every corner.

I’m certain the braking power on offer from radial four-piston Bybre front caliper and 20mm larger front disc has improved compared to the previous 390 Duke. I always felt like I had enough power at my disposal – even when things were getting brisk. However, even though they have enough power, it could begin to feel dead as you squeeze the adjustable lever ever closer to the bar.

The suspension feel you get from the 390 is a touch firmer than 125. The previous 390 suffered from a shock that sagged a lot under the rider’s weight but the 2017 bike is free from such a problem. In fact, the new WP suspension is supportive at both ends and responds well when the 390 Duke is being pushed.

As with the 125, the 390 handles with lightness and ease. It’s massive fun to hurl into flowing corners and lever round technical little turns in the road. The firmer suspension makes it feel more precise and eager compared to the 125. Of course, the new sportier ride position helps here too – the new bars put you a little more in touch with the front wheel, and the rearsets are set slightly higher and further back but the 390 Duke never feels intimidating. For the most part, it’s comfy too but the seat is definitely on the firm side. And while I'm complaining... the grips on the 390 (and the 125 for that matter) feel cheap because they're too plasticky.

The new 2017 KTM 390 Duke is an excellent step on from the previous model - it looks superb and the small changes to its engine, suspension, brakes and geometry come together to create one of the most exciting A2 bikes out there, and one of the most fun bikes I've ridden in a while.

Model tested: KTM 390 Duke

Price: £4,599

Engine: 373.2cc single-cylinder four-stroke

Power: 44hp at 9,000rpm

Torque: 32.45lb/ft at 7,000rpm

Frame: Steel trellis

Suspension: Front – 43mm WP USD fork / Rear – WP shock

Brakes: Front – Four-piston radially-mounted Bybre caliper, 320mm disc / Rear – Single-piston floating caliper, 230mm disc

Seat height: 830mm

Fuel capacity: 13.4 litres

Weight: 149kg dry

Colours: Orange with orange frame and wheels, white

Availability: Mid-April

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