KTM's RC 390 sportsbike is to be launched in India on September 9. Leading up to that, KTM organised the international media preview ride in Modena, Italy. And as luck would have it, after nearly two weeks of sunshine, the dawn of our ride on the KTM RC 390 turned out to be a cloudy day with wet roads. Here's how the KTM RC 390 feels in what we are going to use it in - less than perfect conditions.
Sitting at dinner the night before the ride, someone from KTM remarked that the Austrian company never intended to make motorcycles that were all things to everyone. That they preferred as a rule to make motorcycles that did one specific thing rather well. And that they were not afraid to sacrifice other things in the search for that purity of purpose.
This focus is obvious about half an hour into the ride. Because the KTM's new clip-on bars are low and while they're excellent at feeding you with information about what the road underneath your wheels feels like, it isn't great for riding a long time in the committed riding position.
But as we headed into the hills above Modena, Maranello and Fiorano, I realised that the setup is extremely sporty and that makes shooting through the mountain corners as hard as you dare very easy because you can feel more of the road than I remember from the Duke 390.
The turn-in is quicker but very calm and what impresses is that the chassis has a sort of settled calm to it which should make the RC 390 a phenomenal motorcycle in the hands of riders of all levels of skill. The European suspension setup is quite stiff but not rock hard and over some of the broken roads we rode - lots of cracks and some undulations - the suspension didn't feel jarringly hard or annoyingly sporty. It absorbs things well. But the stiffness also means that the chassis does not pitch quite as much as, for example, the 390 Duke when you're braking hard and then getting hard on the throttle. The suspension movements are smaller and that makes the RC feel both more controlled and more controllable than the 390 Duke.
The engine also feels like this. There is no lack of power, of course, and ridden on its own, you will not be able to tell the difference in performance that eight extra kilograms of weight make. It's plenty quick and sounds a little bit nicer than the 390 (maybe that's just me) and all of that jazz. But you do notice that the acceleration feels a lot more controlled and settled than in the Duke 390. It doesn't quite explode off the line like the naked bike but that allows it to feel like something you can ride at a track while thinking about how you're riding and what you could do.
The upshot is that the RC 390 is as fast, more or less, as the Duke 390. It's a more committed motorcycle in feel and engineering and if you like your bikes like that, you will love the RC. In both the engine and chassis departments, it's a calmer motorcycle which means you will probably be able to extract more chassis performance in the corners or at a track because the motorcycle isn't running wild.
The Indian launch of the RC 390, as you know, is on September 9, 2014 and we are expecting to see a price roughly Rs 25,000 above the 390 Duke. I believe India is about to receive the hardest core affordable sportsbike it has seen so far and RC 390 owners are in for a rocking ride. Just remember that it works best at the track and you must, absolutely must, make the time to take your RC there and ride it as hard as you dare. You will not be left wanting, I promise.
Stay tuned for a second story on how the RC 390 is at the track once I finish riding the bike at the Autodromo di Monza, a short 2km circuit based in the eponymous town.
Shumi has also ridden the KTM RC 390's lesser powered sibling, the RC 200. Click here for the first ride review.
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