2017 KTM 390 Duke | First Ride Review

2017 KTM 390 Duke action
Updated for 2017, the KTM 390 Duke looks better, handles better, makes more power, goes farther on a tank of gas and more. (Photos by Sebas Romero & Marco Campelli)

The light, frisky 390 Duke, which debuted for 2015 and has been updated for 2017, is KTM’s first truly global model. It’s the only bike in the company’s lineup that can be purchased in every market where KTM has dealers. Designed at KTM’s Mattighofen, Austria, headquarters and built in India by Bajaj, the 390 Duke may be considered “entry level” in the U.S. due to its size and price ($5,299, up from $4,999), but it’s anything but “cheap.” It has modern features such as throttle-by-wire, switchable ABS, a slipper clutch, a full-color TFT instrument panel and LED lighting that are lacking on bikes costing thousands of dollars more.

2017 KTM 390 Duke LED headlight
With trademark angular styling by Kiska, the 2017 KTM 390 Duke takes after its big brother (1290 Super Duke R) with a split LED headlight. The bar-end lever protectors are accessories.

When we reviewed the 2015 KTM 390 Duke, we were impressed by the smoothness and power of its counterbalanced, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve, 373cc single, which cranked out 43 horsepower at 8,800 rpm and 26 lb-ft of torque at 7,000 rpm at the rear wheel on Jett Tuning’s dyno. For 2017, KTM added throttle-by-wire and a new side-mount exhaust to improve throttle response, lower emissions and provide a small boost in claimed engine output (horsepower is up from 43 to 44 and torque is up from 26 to 27 lb-ft). Our 2015 test bike was a fuel sipper, yielding 59 mpg from its 2.8-gallon tank. The new bike holds 3.5 gallons for more range and the tank is now made of steel—good news for fans of magnetic tank bags.

Read our 2015 KTM 390 Duke road test review

2017 KTM 390 Duke action
With sharper steering geometry, revised suspension and upgrade brakes, the KTM 390 Duke carves around corners with ease, and it’s 22-pound increase in weight isn’t really noticeable.

KTM restyled the 390 to look more like its updated-for-2017 big brother, the 1290 Super Duke R, with a split LED headlight surrounded by a glowing white LED position light, revised bodywork and a new bolt-on tubular-steel trellis subframe. A more thickly padded seat is wider at the back and narrower at the front, but it’s also taller—32.7 inches, 1.2 inches taller than the old seat—a questionable move for a bike aimed at smaller and newer riders. The seating position is also more aggressive, with the handlebar moved up and forward and the footpegs moved up and back. And since there’s a wide range of hand sizes around the globe, both the clutch and brake levers are now adjustable.

2017 KTM 390 Duke engine
The KTM 390 Duke’s 373cc single gets throttle-by-wire, a larger airbox and a new exhaust, boosting power, improving throttle response and lowering emissions.

The 390 Duke’s tubular-steel trellis frame was tweaked slightly to shorten the wheelbase from 53.8 to 53.4 inches and reduce trail from 3.9 to 3.7 inches, changes that quicken the steering on what was already a nimble, easy-to-toss-around machine. Offsetting some of the 390’s newfound agility is a big jump in mass. Claimed dry weight is up 22 pounds (from 306 to 328), and since our fully fueled 2015 test bike weighed 340 pounds, the 2017 model should be around 365. The ‘lil Duke is still light in the grand scheme of things, but a taller seat and more weight are steps in the wrong direction in this segment.

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Lingotto Turin Italy 1928
The KTM 390 Duke press launch was based at the Lingotto building in Turin, Italy, which was a Fiat car factory from 1923 to 1982 and has a rooftop test track. This image is from its heyday in 1928. (Stock photo)

Since the 390 Duke will be ridden primarily in urban areas all over the world, KTM hosted a global press lunch in Turin, an industrial city in northwestern Italy. Our base of operations was the Lingotto building, a massive, five-story structure that was a manufacturing facility for Fiat automobiles from 1923 to 1982. It has since been converted into a multi-purpose complex housing a hotel, concert hall, conference center, university and office space. When cars were built at Lingotto, raw materials arrived at ground level and the assembly line progressed up through each floor of the building, with finished cars emerging onto a rooftop test track with banked curves on opposite ends of the long, rectangular building.

KTM 390 Duke Lingotto spiral ramp
Spiraling down the multi-story ramp at Lingotto on the KTM 390 Duke. The Metzeler Sportec M5 tires provided good grip.

After riding up and down a spiral ramp for photos at one end of Lingotto, we had a chance to make a few passes on one of the test track’s banked curves, which is paved with light-colored bricks and looks smooth but is surprisingly bumpy. The 390 Duke’s revised suspension, with progressive springs front and rear, a new, lighter open-cartridge design for the 43mm, non-adjustable upside-down fork and separate oil/gas chambers in the preload-adjustable rear shock, handled the irregular track surface capably even with my 200 pounds in the saddle.

2017 KTM 690 Duke Lingotto rooftop track
Riding the KTM 390 Duke on one of the banked curves of Lingotto’s rooftop test track. The bricked surface is very bumpy and was a good place to test the new suspension.

Leaving Lingotto, we stormed the crowded streets of Turin, sliced our way through traffic on the autostrada and made our way into the foothills of the Alps, scurrying up a narrow, dirty, roughly paved farm road that challenged our skills and rewarded us with a postcard view of snowcapped mountains. Wringing out the 390 Duke is loads of fun and it requires little effort to steer, shift or stop. Speed is scrubbed off with a 4-piston opposed radial caliper up front (which squeezes a larger 320mm disc) and a 1-piston floating caliper out back, both made by Bybre, a Brembo subsidiary based in India. The 390 Duke’s switchable ABS now has two modes—Road and Supermoto (the latter turns off ABS at the rear wheel)—or it can be turned off.

KTM 390 Duke Dora Park Turin Italy
We rode the KTM 390 Duke around Dora Park in Turin, Italy, which is on the grounds of a former Fiat steelworks. (Photo by the author)

In all we put a little over 100 miles on the new 390 Duke. The revised ergonomics and new seat suited my tall, heavy frame just fine, and the improvements to the engine, handling, suspension, brakes, range and styling are well worth the $300 price increase. Icing on the cake is the new, 5.25-inch, full-color, customizable TFT (thin-film transistor) instrument panel, which can be connected to your smartphone via Bluetooth to control calls and music using the optional KTM My Ride feature. The added weight and taller seat didn’t bother me personally, but they may give smaller riders pause. What did bother me was the radiator fan, which is loud and ran constantly even though the temperature gauge was in the middle of the range; KTM says a fix is in the works.

2017 KTM 390 Duke Alps
After riding around the crowded streets of Turin, Italy, on the KTM 390 Duke, we climbed into the foothills of the Alps. (Photo by the author)

There are lots of options in the sub-500cc segment these days, but you’d be hard pressed to find this much bike for this little money elsewhere.

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2017 KTM 390 Duke beauty
The 2017 KTM 390 Duke is available in orange (shown) or white for $5,299.

2017 KTM 390 Duke Specs
Base Price: $5,299
Website: ktm.com
Engine Type: Liquid-cooled single, DOHC w/ 4 valves
Displacement: 373cc
Bore x Stroke: 89.0 x 60.0mm
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet slipper clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain
Wheelbase: 53.4 in.
Rake/Trail: 25 degrees/3.7 in.
Seat Height: 32.7 in.
Claimed Dry Weight: 328 lbs.
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gals., last 0.4 gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 PON min. / NA

Greg’s Gear
Helmet: HJC RPHA 11 Pro
Jacket: Spidi R/T
Pants: iXS Malaga
Boots: iXS Madox

KTM 390 Duke action
A frontal view of the KTM 390 Duke shows how lean and narrow the bike is, yet it isn’t cramped for a 6-foot-tall rider like me.
2017 KTM 690 Duke action
The KTM 390 Duke (and its 125 and 250 stablemates) will be pressed into urban duty around the world. It’s a modern, fully featured bike at a reasonable price.
2017 KTM 390 Duke TFT
New for 2017 on the KTM 390 Duke is a full-color TFT display that is packed with info, easy to read, customizable and has optional Bluetooth connectivity (KTM My Ride).
2017 KTM 390 Duke seat
The KTM 390 Duke has a new, bolt-on steel trellis subframe and a reshaped, more thickly padded seat. Comfort is up, but so is seat height.
2017 KTM 390 Duke wheel brake
The 2017 KTM 390 Duke’s 4-piston radial Bybre front caliper squeezes a larger 320mm disc, and the switchable ABS has two modes (Road and Supermoto).
Lingotto Turin Italy spiral ramp
One of the spiral ramps at the Lingotto Fiat factory in Turin, Italy, which was used to transport cars between floors and up to the rooftop test track. (Stock photo)

 

5 COMMENTS

  1. Reliability is KTM’s Achilles heal. Although the specs on their bikes look great, I seldom see a high mileage KTM. I have had conversations with many a KTM owner and the same thing always comes up…High Maintenance/Money.

  2. Have ridden just 300 miles on the new 390 here in the UK and I am very impressed. The bike handles extremely well due to low centre of gravity and light weight plus the white power dampers make for a surprisingly comfortable ride. Riding position and front end is pure Enduro which makes for a very involving experience. Front brake works well although rear feels pretty feeble with just a single pot caliper. Quality of build and materials is excellent – the old days of poor quality in India are clearly behind us with BMW trusting them also. The only disappointment is lumpy low speed running (below 3,500) which may be the result of KTM having to meet tough EU4 emission targets resulting in mapping being very lean – but have yet to see if other bikes are the same. It promises to be quick enough. Overall – very pleased and recommended.

  3. I really like the 2017 390 Duke.I will purchase one in September.The bbest small entry bike and small expert bike out there period.

  4. I really like the 2017 390 Duke.I will purchase one in September.The best small entry bike and small expert bike out there period.

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