It's no secret that the KTM 390 Duke is one of the bestselling sportsbikes in the country. It came at a time when the Indian market had finally woken up to the idea of a performance-oriented motorcycle, and the Duke 390 packed in a lot for the money it asked. What that resulted in is instant success for KTM.
2017 KTM 390 Duke
The kind of price to performance ratio that the Duke offered was and still is unparalleled. The 373.2cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder motor produces 44PS (the highest in this group) while weighing 145kg only. That kind of power to weight ratio lets the bike sprint from 0-60kmph in 2.7 seconds only. If that wasn't enough to give the competition sleepless nights, KTM recently unveiled the 2017 390 Duke at EICMA 2016 in Milan, Italy. The new machine looks sharper and more radical than its predecessor and packs in a host of features that have certainly raised the bar.
Besides the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401, it is the only bike in this category to feature ride-by-wire. It allows precise throttle inputs and smoother on-off transitions.
KTM 390 Duke
The full-colour TFT dash is another highlight which is sure to lure buyers. For 2017, the 390 Duke gets a bigger 320mm disc brake upfront. The revised styling also means the seat is far more accommodating than before, despite the fuel tank capacity going up to 13.4 litres. The bike also gets new open cartridge WP forks, adjustable levers and an LED headlight. There's the option of tethering a smartphone to the TFT dash, via the optional KTM My-Ride feature. The power, performance and equipment make the 390 Duke a killer deal in this company.
But if you are not the one who likes the flavour of a fast, hyper active motorcycle, there's the Yamaha YZF-R3. Its liquid-cooled, parallel-twin motor develops 42PS (a couple of horses down on the Duke), and in our experience it's a brilliant motor. It is the quickest motorcycle to cross the 60kmph barrier and holds the record for the highest top speed in this group. We've yet to test the new 390 Duke and the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401, and we will update the table below if they are faster than the Yamaha.
The R3 for India, unfortunately, does not get ABS, and the stock MRF tyres are simply not up to the task of matching the performance that's available from the motor or the chassis. It is also the most expensive motorcycle here, and if you are specifically looking for a twin-cylinder motorcycle with a performance to keep up with the Duke, the R3 makes a strong case for itself.
2017 Suzuki GSX-250R
The other twin-cylinder motorcycle in this group is the new Suzuki GSX-250R. The 2017 model was unveiled at EICMA recently, and the bike is more of a sporty commuter than the sportier R3. The motor too makes the least power in this group, at 24.7PS, highlighting its calm nature. As a beginner's bike, the Suzuki GSX-250R packs in strong credentials. What remains to be seen is whether Suzuki India will go ahead and launch the bike.
Twin-cylinder motorcycles are pricier than single-cylinder bikes (the price advantage that the 390 Duke enjoys is massive). Since they are brought to the country via CKD route, it's quite difficult to price them competitively or at par with the high-displacement singles. Also, the 390 Duke is made in India, which explains the VFM that the bike brings to the table. Keeping these things in mind, it's still too early to say if Suzuki would get the GSX-250R to India. The Inazuma 250 was a lesson learnt in that aspect.
Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
Which brings us to the two most quirky motorcycles in this company, the Mahindra Mojo and the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401. The latter uses the same underpinnings of the 390 Duke; however, Husqvarna describes it as a simple and progressive street motorcycle. The production version is similar to the concept that was showcased earlier, and we really like the way it looks. Its mechanical bits are identical to the 390 Duke, and we expect a slightly more premium pricing to the KTM.
The Mahindra Mojo is the other unusual motorcycle, both in terms of its looks as well as what it wants to be. Mahindra pegs the bike as a cruiser, and we know for sure that the bike's 295cc, liquid-cooled, single-cylinder engine fits the demand. It is smooth, refined and one of the strong points of the bike. Its raked-out front end does take some time getting used to, as does the 1,465mm wheelbase, which is the longest here. But once past that, the Mojo is quite a capable motorcycle. At 165kg (dry) it is heavy, but again, as we said, it's only a small matter of getting used to.
Each of these motorcycles has a unique flavour that sets them apart in the sub-500cc segment. While we wait to road test the new bikes and compare them with the established competition, here's a specification sheet to show you how these motorcycles stack up against one another on paper.