2022 KTM RC 390 Review [11 Fast Facts From the Street + Track]

The Austrian lightweight sportbike philosophy differs from its class competitors in one core area—performance. The KTM RC 390 is often seen as the tip-of-the-spear in the low-displacement sport segment with its beefier suspension, sportier radial brake setup, aggressive riding position, and zesty single-cylinder engine.

2022 KTM RC 390 Review: Price

Big things are happening to KTM’s little supersport, and the heavily updated 2022 KTM RC 390 is taking things to new heights, thanks to class-leading premium features and sport-oriented upgrades. A three-axis IMU brings lean-angle-detecting traction control and ABS to the lightweight category for the first time. Meanwhile, adjustable WP Apex suspension set a new standard for the competition. All those goodies are paired to a revised and lightened chassis, along with fresh styling resulting in a more-spacious race-focused rider triangle and more.

We couldn’t wait any longer to test the new RC 390, so we procured a pre-production model from KTM. We spent a full-day wailing around the tight 1.6-mile course that is Southern California’s technical Streets of Willow and spent plenty of time on the road to hit you with the Fast Facts.

  1. The 373cc single-cylinder engine powering the 2022 KTM RC 390 is a people pleaser. Packing a respectable 44 horsepower and 27 ft-lbs of torque, this vibrant thumper has the personality of a Jack Russell Terrier—a tenacious little ankle-biter that thrives on being pushed and plays with the big dogs when put in the right hands. Linear power delivery makes cracking the whip as fun and unintimidating as possible, teaching riders of any skill level to utilize every ounce of power and carry momentum. There’s more than enough puff for darting around traffic and roll-on power above 55 mph, but this single-cylinder thrives in the upper regions of the powerband, always flirting with the hard-hitting rev-limiter.

2022 KTM RC 390 Review: Track Day Motorcycle

  1. A new airbox and exhaust, plus revised fuel mapping, make up the core engine updates. Don’t think KTM engineers were resting on their laurels and let this mill get through without tweaks. Tougher Euro 5 emissions led to a 40 percent larger airbox, snazzy new exhaust, and fuel map that have helped this thumper retain its might—it gained a sniff of torque, if we’re going to split hairs. The ride-by-wire throttle response is remarkably crisp and clean.

  1. The six-speed gearbox can now be equipped with an optional $180 up/down quickshifter. Quickshifters are unheard of in this class, let alone bi-directional units. The upshift is clean, while the downshift could use some smoothing, specifically when pushing. When in the perpetually high-rpm environment of the track, one must shift with authority. Otherwise, you might experience eye-widening false-neutrals during acceleration or deceleration. Turning off the quickshifter and doing things the old-fashioned way alleviated the problem, but I’d also note that resorting to those techniques makes a rider more focused on getting the shift done. However, those issues only seem to appear at the track and are a non-issue on the street. Perhaps this issue can be addressed before the final production models arrive on showroom floors.

2022 KTM RC 390 Review: MSRP

  1. A three-axis IMU brings cornering ABS and traction control to the lightweight segment for the first time. KTM tuned the RC’s rider aids with performance in mind, seeing as the single-mode traction control never intervened prematurely at the track, only stepping in over gravel during a street ride. Road and Supermoto ABS are available, with Supermoto disabling ABS in the rear only, as is tradition for the Austrians. In either case, the smoothness and lack of intervention will satisfy expert riders and add a safety net for those working on their trail braking skills.

  1. New ergonomics and bodywork add comfort when at pace. The new bodywork was designed with the help of computational fluid dynamics to improve aerodynamics for both man and machine— my 5-foot-10-inch tall chassis fits behind the bubble nicely. Overall, the 2022 KTM RC 390 feels larger and has proportions closer to a full-fledged supersports, with a fair bit of credit going to the larger 3.6-gallon fuel tank offering more real estate for bracing. The 10mm-adjustable clip-on handlebars and new 32.3-inch high textured seat keep you promote a suitably sporty riding position. Rubber-mounted rearsets mask engine vibrations and are mounted on the lower side for comfort, which pays dividends on the street. If the track were my focus, I might opt for the adjustable rearsets in the KTM PowerParts catalog for more clearance when at extreme lean.

2022 KTM RC 390 Review: For Sale

  1. Chassis upgrades and unsprung weight make all the difference. A lot is going on with the new steel-trellis frame, which now boasts race-oriented features such as removable support brackets to fine-tune flex characteristics. A bolt-on subframe makes repairs and service much easier, and the kicker is a 3.3-pound weight saving. The redesigned 17-inch wheels and updated front rotor cleave off a whopping 7.5 pounds of unsprung weight—less rotating mass almost always means improved cornering and stopping abilities. That’s an important update because it offsets the few extra pounds that the new RC carries over the prior generation through a much-needed 1-gallon fuel capacity increase and a smattering of slick tech like the full-color TFT display and electronics. Sadly, KTM only cites a 342 dry weight for the US model. The Euro-spec 390 weighs in at 370 pounds with a full tank of gas.

  1. Handling is the highlight of the RC 390. Lightweight sportbikes are all about carrying corner speed and maintaining momentum. All of that is helped by the well-sorted trellis chassis that excellently communicates what’s going on underneath you. The RC whips into corners with a subtle hint of direction, zipping around any tight racetrack or canyon road with the agility of a hummingbird, all while holding its line and giving me the faith to rail into corners faster.

WP Suspension

  1. Adjustable WP Apex suspension sweetens the RC’s handling prospects. Adjustable suspension generally isn’t available on price-conscientious motorcycles in the lightweight class. Yet, the RC 390 boasts a beefy 43mm inverted fork with 30 clicks of compression and rebound damping adjustment. A WP shock provides spring-preload and rebound damping adjustment. Spring rates and damping are on the lighter side for the sake of compliance, helping it sort out big hits on the street without unsettling the chassis. What’s quite nifty is the appreciable adjustment range, allowing me to slow damping rates down and tighten things up nicely.

  1. Braking power takes a step forward. Returning to the fold is the same radial-mounted ByBre two-piston caliper and steel-braided brake line that has helped the RC 390 out-brake its competitors. This year, the 320mm rotor ditched its carrier and mounts directly to the wheel—reducing unsprung weight. Feel and power can be counted on to stop the RC on a dime, while the rear is excellent for correcting lines.

2022 KTM RC 390 Review: ByBre brakes

  1. Continental ContiRoad tires are mileage-minded. More than appropriate for road and canyon riding, the Continental ContiRoad sport-touring tires offer a great value through their rigid carcass construction and hard rubber compounds. Rest assured, you’ll get plenty of miles out of these hoops. We used these during our track day, and while the grip is there, the carcass stiffness doesn’t translate to communicative tires for aggressive riding. If the track is your second home, I would aim at sportier options.

  1. The 2022 KTM RC 390 raises the bar for the lightweight sportbike class. KTM went all-in on the RC 390’s strengths, giving us a roomier cockpit and a chassis that riders across the entire spectrum can exploit with glee. An impressively nimble handling and stout suspension are this motorcycle’s standout qualities. There is more to this story, as premium features such as cornering ABS and traction control represent a new goal for the RC competitors and simultaneously benefit riders when riding aggressively. Save for some quickshifting miscues that will hopefully be worked out, the RC 390 is wickedly fun at technical racetracks or twisty canyon roads—just as it always was, but it can do nearly all of it better.

Track photography by Casey Davis

Street photography by Don Williams

RIDING STYLES

Street

Track

  • Helmet: Arai Corsair-X
  • Suit: Alpinestars GP Tech V4 w/ Tech-Air
  • Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro R3
  • Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R

2022 KTM RC 390 Specs

ENGINE

  • Type: Single cylinder
  • Displacement: 373cc
  • Bore x stroke: 89 x 60mm
  • Maximum power: 43 horsepower
  • Engine management: Ride-by-wire w/ Bosch EMS
  • Lubrication: Wet sump
  • Transmission: 6-speed (+$180 for quickshifter [tested])
  • Clutch: Cable-actuated w/ assist and slipper functions
  • Final drive: 520 X-ring chain

CHASSIS

  • Frame: Chromoly trellis w/ powdercoating and bolt-on subframe
  • Front suspension: Damping-adjustable WP Apex 43mm fork
  • Rear suspension: Spring-preload and rebound-damping adjustable WP Apex shock
  • Wheels: Five-spoke
  • Tires: Continental ContiRoad
  • Front tire: 110/70 x 17
  • Rear tire: 150/60 x 17
  • Front brake: 320mm disc w/ radially mounted 4-piston ByBre caliper
  • Rear brake: 230mm disc w/ fixed single-piston ByBre caliper
  • ABS: Bosch 9.1MP Two Channel w/ Supermoto ABS

2022 KTM RC 390 Price: $5799 MSRP ($5979 as tested)

2022 KTM RC 390 Review Photo Gallery