2016 KTM 390 Duke Test | In The City
When it comes to putting $5k on the table for a new bike, the choices are pretty good, but there’s really only one truly special street motorcycle in that price range—the 2016 KTM 390 Duke. With many of the styling cues of the amazing KTM 1290 Super Duke R, the 390 Duke gets the job of thrilling the rider done at less than third of the cost and displacement.
Certainly, it’s a different kind of fun on the 390 Duke than on its big brother. Consider the 390 Duke to be strictly an urban guerrilla, taking you through city streets quickly, efficiently, and with lots of excitement.
There are two things you want to know immediately about the 390 Duke to get an idea of how to approach the bike. It puts out 44 horsepower and weighs just 306 pounds (claimed dry—figure about 340 wet). That is a recipe for a good time in any city environment.
The added KTM PowerParts are the engine guards ($200) and aluminum handguards ($150). I probably don’t have to tell you how confidence-inspiring those PowerParts are when doing battle with trucks and automobiles in tight quarters. If someone’s mirror gets in the way, you don’t have to worry about the clutch or brake lever being inadvertently actuated, and the engine guards will save the bike should it hit the pavement in an unplanned manner.
Turn on the KTM 390 Duke and the cheap-looking LCD dashboard comes to life with a message I don’t need to read twice—Ready To Race >>. With the exception of the large mph readout (the most important piece of info on the dash), all the markings and numbers are tiny and difficult to read when riding—especially at night. The LCD tach is of limited use, but there’s a flashing red shift light that comes on at about 7000 rpm to tell you to go up a cog soon.
Although the 390 Duke is a thumper, the 26 ft/lbs torque peak at 7250 rpm is not overwhelming. This makes threading through traffic less stressful, as there is enough power, though not too much. If you are on the freeway or an open stretch of boulevard, revving the motor is the way to go if speed is your goal.
The power output is a bit odd for such an over-square motor. You’d think it would rev to the moon like KTM’s dirt bikes—the KTM 350 SX-F spins up to 13,400 rpm—but that is not the case with the 390 Duke. In fact, the horsepower peak at 9500 rpm matches the intrusion of the soft rev limiter. So, you have 44 horses, but the rev limiter almost always accompanies hitting that peak. For maximum acceleration, pay heed to the shift light.
Ergonomics also help in the 390 Duke’s behavior. It’s a compact bike, but not awkwardly so for my 5’ 10” frame. I certainly feel like I’m sitting on the front wheel, and the rear wheel isn’t far behind. Still, the KTM PowerParts Ergo Seat that sits 3/4-inch higher than stock isn’t a bad idea for riders with a 32-inch inseam or longer. For shorter riders, KTM PowerParts offers a lowering kit that drops the seat down an inch. Personalization is a good thing.
In addition to dive-bombing through traffic at will, the 390 Duke is also willing to go on the freeway when necessary. The short flyscreen makes a tiny difference, but you’re definitely in the windblast. Freeway jaunts will preferably be short, but the power and stability is there to make the urban freeways totally accessible.
The braking (by Bybre, a Brembo subsidiary), WP suspension (no damping adjustments), and handling are on duty, and the Metzeler Sportec M5 Interact tires are more than up to the job. Still, you will want to stick to the tightest of roads if you want to keep your riding partners on larger-displacement machines in sight. Direction changes are, as you’d expect, instantaneous and fully intuitive.
The big problem is the relatively low rev ceiling. When making time in the twisties, you will either be shifting constantly, or hammering the rev limiter consistently. I suspect the 9500 rpm limit is there to keep the maintenance intervals manageable for the 375cc DOHC motor.
Invite your canyon-strafing friends for an in-town run, and they’ll be jealous.
The 2016 KTM 390 Duke is an amazing urban motorcycle at an attractive price; it’s strange that the city isn’t buzzing with them. Of course, now that you know the secret to metropolitan moto-nirvana, all you have to do is cut loose with $5000 and you can own the town.
Location photography by Kelly Callan
Studio photograph by H. Mitterbauer
- Helmet: Fly Racing Luxx Camo Red
- Jacket: Axo Aria Mesh WP
- Gloves: Axo ST-X
- Pants: Drayko Drift
- Boots: Sidi Traffic 2 Air USA
2016 KTM 390 Duke Specs
|Liquid-cooled DOHC single
|Bore x stroke
|89 x 60mm
|44 horsepower @ 9500 rpm
|26 ft/lbs @ 7250 rpm
|Semi Dry Sump
|Bosch EFI w/ 46mm throttle body
|Electric / 12V 8Ah
|PASC Slipper clutch
|Tapered aluminum, 26/22mm
|Inverted 43mm WP forks
|Suspension travel f/r
|Disc; 300/230 mm
|Bosch 9MB Two Channel
|Cast aluminum; 3.00 x 17" / 4.00 x 17"
|Metzeler Sportec M5
|Tire sizes f-r
|110/70 ZR 17 - 150/60 ZR 17"
|53.82 inches (± 0.39 inches)
|KTM 390 Duke Price MSRP:
2016 KTM 390 Duke Photo Gallery