2020 KTM 390 Adventure | Road Test Review

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
The new-for-2020 KTM 390 Adventure is a lot of bike for the money, with off-road ready WP suspension, traction control, cornering ABS and a spunky single-cylinder engine. Photos by Mark Tuttle.

“Who woulda thunk it,” as my dad would say. A KTM adventure bike that costs less and makes more power than a Kawasaki KLR650, has fuel injection, electronic rider aids and weighs nearly 50 fewer pounds to boot? What mythical beast is this? It’s the 2020 KTM 390 Adventure, and it’s no myth. In fact I’ve spent the last few days on one, cruising the urban streets, farm roads and mountain highways near my home (taking a rain check on the hard core off-road stuff in these unusual times — see our “To Ride, or Not to Ride…?” editorial here).

With a base price of just $6,199, the new 390 Adventure is a lot of bike for the money, with an impressive list of standard features that make it a serious threat to value-oriented Japanese competitors like the Honda CB500X and Kawasaki Versys-X 300, as well as BMW’s G 310 GS. Adjustable front and rear WP suspension, a full-color TFT display, lean-angle sensitive traction control and Bosch 2-channel cornering ABS are all standard, with a quickshifter offered as an option.

Read our Tour Test Review of the KTM 790 Adventure here.

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2020 KTM 390 Adventure
Five-inch TFT display can be hard to read at a glance, but contains lots of useful info including fuel consumption data and range to empty.

Powering the 390 Adventure is the same 373cc, 4-valve, DOHC, liquid-cooled single used in the popular RC 390 and 390 Duke sport bikes, which generated 44 horsepower at 8,800 rpm and 27 lb-ft of torque at 7,000 rpm when we last put it on the Jett Tuning dyno — that’s nearly as much as the Honda CB500X’s larger parallel twin. It’s fitted with a gear-driven counterbalancer to tame the worst of the vibes, although we noticed a fair amount in the grips and the cleated footpegs (rubber inserts are included but were removed from our test bike). Passing at freeway speeds, especially on hills, requires either a little patience or a downshift, but the 390 cruises at the SoCal traffic standard of 75 mph without complaint. The feisty single is mated to a 6-speed gearbox fitted with a slipper clutch and, in the case of our test bike, KTM’s excellent up/down Quickshifter+.

Up front is a 43mm WP Apex USD fork with 6.7 inches of travel and adjustable compression and rebound damping; in the back is a WP Apex shock with 7 inches of travel and adjustable spring preload and rebound damping. Brakes are BYBRE, Brembo’s Indian subsidiary, with a 4-piston radial caliper gripping a single 320mm disc up front and a single-piston floating caliper/230mm disc combo in the rear.

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
The 390 Adventure comes standard with Bosch 9.1MP cornering ABS, which includes an off-road mode that disables ABS to the rear wheel. MTC (traction control) has only two modes, on and off.

Jenny’s Gear
Helmet: Arai XD4
Jacket: Klim Artemis
Pants: Klim Altitude
Boots: Sidi Adventure Gore-Tex

Bosch 9.1MP cornering ABS has two settings: on and off-road, which disables it in back (it cannot be completely disabled). Lean-angle sensitive MTC (traction control), on the other hand, is either on or off (there are no special modes) and can be changed on the fly, although you’ll have to hold a button on the left switchgear and release the throttle for several seconds to do so. Off-road enthusiasts take note: the MTC will revert to the on position when you shut the bike off using the ignition key, but as far as we can tell it stays off if you only use the kill switch. Like its larger siblings, the 390 Adventure includes a 12V power socket as standard, located front and center underneath the TFT display, so mounting a phone for use as a GPS or just keeping it charged in a strap-on tank bag atop the plastic fuel tank is easy.

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2020 KTM 390 Adventure
Cast wheels are designed to fit tubeless tires, simplifying road- or trailside repairs. Brakes are quite good for a bike in this price range.

With its 19-inch front/17-inch rear cast wheels, 70/30 Continental TKC 70 tires, plastic skid plate (augmented with metal in front of and below the exhaust pipe), and modest suspension travel and ground clearance (we measured seven inches), straight off the showroom floor the 390 Adventure is best suited to gravel and fire roads. While the WP suspension is stiff enough to perform well on smooth, sporty rides and soaks up gnarly pavement and rough dirt roads, I would want to keep extended rocky encounters to a minimum. On the plus side, bikes for the U.S. market come standard with tipover bars that protect the sides of the engine and radiator. Spoon on some knobbier tires, bolt on KTM’s accessory aluminum skid plate and you’re ready for some hard-core adventure.

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
Plastic shrouds extend past either side of the radiator, which has the added protection of tip-over bars (standard on bikes sold in the U.S. market). Skid plate is plastic, with a metal reinforcement around the exhaust pipe.

For a bike of such modest size, power and entry-level pretensions, we were somewhat surprised by the height of the 390 Adventure’s seat. On paper it’s not so bad, listed at 33.6 inches, but the seat is hard and fairly flat, with sharp edges that make it difficult to get your feet on the ground. It narrows a bit toward the front, but at that point it also slopes up and gets even taller. Even with my 34-inch inseam, if I’m wearing stiff ADV-style boots I’m on my tiptoes at a stop, and forget about backing up even the slightest of inclines while seated on the bike. Fortunately the 390 is a featherweight, tipping the scales at just 387 pounds fully fueled, adding confidence to one-footed stops and making it easy to push around. And there’s another upshot: the long reach from seat to footpegs leads to a relaxed bend in the knees and makes standing up for off-road riding a cinch.

Elemental protection from the short, non-adjustable windscreen isn’t bad, although I definitely experienced some windblast, especially at freeway speeds, on my upper chest, shoulders and helmet. Ergonomics are smaller-frame-friendly (well, apart from that tall seat), with a short reach across the 3.8-gallon tank to the handlebar and its backlit switchgear. At 5 feet, 9 inches, I found the handlebar to be too low for stand-up riding, requiring a pronounced forward lean; a bar riser would be on my must-have list. 

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
A tall seat and low handlebar make for a slightly sporty riding position when seated, and requires a forward lean when standing.

Romping through a set of corners is a joy, with the 390 exhibiting a taut, stable character that might surprise those who expect less from a small, “entry level” motorcycle. Brakes are above average for a bike in this price range, with solid bite and good feedback in front, though the back feels a bit wooden initially. Combined with a stiff chassis and firm but compliant suspension, this is a truly fun to ride machine, and those riders who pick up a 390 Adventure with no aspirations of ever touching dirt, perhaps drawn primarily to the upright, commanding “ADV” riding position, can look forward to miles of curvy smiles. The bike responds best to a firm hand, especially off idle; too gentle with the throttle and the fueling cuts out, threatening a stall — possibly the price paid for Euro 5 certification on such a high-strung motor. Once underway it still prefers to be wrung out a bit, and doesn’t respond with much below about 4,000 rpm; keep it north of that and you’ll have a ball. It’s also worth noting that even with a heavy throttle hand, fuel economy averaged 53 mpg, for an estimated range of 202 miles. 

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
Mud puddles are hard to resist! The 390 Adventure is small and lightweight enough to be accessible and non-threatening even to novice dirt riders.

KTM already has a laundry list of accessories for its 390 Adventure, including a slip-on Akrapovič silencer that shaves off another 2.2 pounds, Ergo rider and passenger seats, hard and soft side bags and more. A centerstand, unfortunately, is not on the list. Other than that, though, it wouldn’t take much to turn the 390 Adventure into a capable on- or off-road adventurer, and even in stock form it’s a fantastic commuter that’s ready for just about anything.

2020 KTM 390 Adventure
2020 KTM 390 Adventure.

2020 KTM 390 Adventure Specs

Base Price: $6,199
Price as Tested: $6,559 (Quickshifter+)
Warranty: 2 yrs., 24,000 Miles
Website: ktm.com

Engine

Type: Liquid-cooled single
Displacement: 373cc
Bore x Stroke: 89.0 x 60.0mm
Compression Ratio: 12.6:1
Valve Train: DOHC, 4 valves per cyl.
Valve Insp. Interval: 9,300 miles
Fuel Delivery: Bosch EFI w/ 46mm throttle body
Lubrication System: Wet sump, 1.8-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated wet slipper clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain

Electrical

Ignition: Bosch EMS
Charging Output: 230 watts max.
Battery: 12V 11.2Ah

Chassis

Frame: Steel trellis, cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 56.3 in.
Rake/Trail: 26.5 degrees/3.9 in.
Seat Height: 33.6 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm USD fork, adj. for compression & rebound damping, 6.7-in. travel
Rear: Single shock, adj. for spring preload & rebound damping, 7.0-in. travel
Brakes, Front: Single 320mm disc w/ 4-piston radial-mount caliper & ABS
Rear: Single 230mm disc w/ 1-piston floating caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Cast, 2.50 x 19 in.
Rear: Cast, 3.50 x 17 in.
Tires, Front: 100/90-19
Rear: 130/80-17
Wet Weight: 387 lbs. (as tested)
Load Capacity: 440 lbs. (as tested)
GVWR: 827 lbs.

Performance

Fuel Capacity: 3.8 gals., last 0.4-gal. warning light on
MPG: 91 AKI min. 53 mpg avg.
Estimated Range: 202 miles
Indicated RPM at 60 MPH: 5,200

29 COMMENTS

      • I am getting 430 Km per tank of gas ( 270 miles ) on average riding taking it easy can get better. I am 5’9″ with a 33″ inseam and can flat foot bough feet no problem just put them in front of the foot rest, or behind. I am waiting for a up grade bash plate form KTM before hitting single track but on very rough dirt and gravel roads it dose great , did put Dunlop TrailMax Mission tires on it, even with my 33/46 liter GIVI trekker hard bags still getting 3.3 liters per 100 Km ( 71.3 miles per gallon US ) 271 miles per tank of gas or 436 Kilometers .

  1. Great review. Looks like a suitably quirky and capable dual purpose bike ideal for exploring the back lanes . Question is, how will it stack up against the mighty Himalayan? It’s way down on power and way up on weight, but I think theHim’s character and torque might swing it for me.

    • there is a video on the KTM 390 Adventure and the Himalayan, doing off road and the KTM is the winner, they are putting these bikes though much more than most people would ever try. I would go with the upgrade on the bash plate by KTM, to do hard off road, and remember to go slow it is not a 790 .

    • I own both. Two very different bikes. The Himalayan is the more comfortable, take it easy, and smell the roses ride for exploring off the beaten path. Much more bottom end torque. Just love the way that engine will just tractor it’s way over or through anything like it’s not even breaking a sweat. It also has a lower seat height which is very confidence inspiring when the going gets tough off-road. I’ll take it places I won’t even consider going on the KTM. On the flip side, the Adventure is the better road bike if sportier handling and higher speeds are your thing. It is WAY quicker than you’d think a 373cc bike should be. It’s also nimble and light, and has more high tech doodads like BT connectivity, traction control, a really nice TFT display, with lots of bells and whistles like shift light, dual trip meters, etc. The Himalayan is much more simple and far simpler to work on. I do all my own bike work.
      Adjusting the valves on the Himalayan is a doodle. Just getting TO the head on the KTM is a NIGHTMARE!. They are both very nice in their own way. Just depends on your mood. They are similar in some ways but different enough for me to justify owning both.

  2. Agreed that it’s just to tall, for me anyway! 33.6 for a starter ADV bike? The Honda CB500X sits at 32.7, and that’s about as tall as I’d want. Even the 790 Adventure in the low position is 32.7 I believe. Sorry KTM.

  3. Very comparable to my DR650. I guess when we’re no longer able to buy those this is what the future of riding will look like.

    • With that tall perch and only 230 watts max output, it wouldn’t be much of an explorer for me, especially with insufficient power for aux lights and any heated gear. Bummer

  4. Is this bike powerfu enough for someone 6’3” and 235 lbs? I just want it for camping and exploring nearby trails, thanks.

  5. It’s sad. I’m not sure if I can ride it well because I’m short(5’6″) . Do you think a versys would look better on me? Thanks.

    • Hi Ilkwon,

      The KTM 390 Adventure is reasonably tall, however, it’s very narrow compared to any other motorcycle in its class. Plenty of riders of your height ride taller ADV machines, so I do think it’s a workable situation. For reference, the Versys 650 is 0.5-inch shorter but has a slightly wider chassis. I would suggest heading over to your dealer and throwing a leg over each bike, seeing what works best for you.

      Take care!
      – Nic

    • Not sure if you’ll ever see this, but I own one and am 5’6″, and its pretty tall. I have experience with dirt bikes, so I handle it alright, but that is pretty much my only complaint.

  6. Germany has to appreciate not every one is 9 feet tall with 40 in inseams. Would sell a ton more KTM and BMW adventure bikes if they lowered the ride. There is not even a lowering kit for this bike available in North America whereas for the Honda there is one that will drop the set height down nearly 2 inches. No “new” rider feels comfy on a bike whereas all that is keeping it up is to balance on your toes. Does not install confidence. Great, great bike with one major flaw….seat height.

    I rode both the 390 and the Honda 500x bought the Honda, not necessarily because it was a better bike (both are quality rides) but because “it fits” if you are under 6ft and with less than 33 inseams I highly recommend the CB 500 x

  7. Hello, if the bike makes 230 watts max, how many watts does the stock bike require to operate? I want to know how much I have left over for accessories like heated gear and additional lighting.
    Thanks, Steven

  8. Hello, I did look there first and all over the web with no luck. To be fair, I actually ride a 2020Husqvarna Svartpilen 401.
    (same engine and frame. Even has KTM manufacturing stickers on it). No luck so far. Thanks

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