The new KTM RC390 remains one of the shining contenders in today’s market’s search for small displacement sportsmanship. With a growing stream of new riders getting the fever and veteran bikers looking for an agile confidence booster, the RC390’s complete package is compelling against the competition.
The RC390 is the sport version of the Duke 390. The Duke has become a favorite among practical riders and has been repeatedly praised for the amount of fun stuffed into a small package. The 390’s legacy speaks of accessibility to beginners, budget friendliness, and multirole purpose within city commuting and touge twisting alike. The RC390 is similar in philosophical and performance aspects, but vastly different in others. Similar to the Duke, the signature tubular space frame and tangerine trellis are carried over, as are KTM’s edgy and tactical design lines. They are both powered by the same 373cc liquid-cooled thumper of an engine, making a claimed 44whp. The RC390’s power plant is mated to a 6-speed transmission. Going through the gears is accomplished with a mechanically-actuated wet multi-disc clutch.
Albeit rocking just one cylinder, the RC390’s engine displacement is the largest out of the other entry-level sport bikes at present (CBR300R, Ninja 300R, and R3). Like the others, except for the R3, the RC390 comes with ABS. It is not an option; it comes standard. This testifies on behalf of KTM’s insistence on engineering, performance, and safety. Bosch’s two-channel 9MB ABS collaborates with a 300mm Brembo disc up front. Braking power from the rear is taken care of by a set of 230mm discs.
The riding stance is aggressive, even somewhat surprisingly. The RC390’s track readiness and cup racer ambition are inherent. Its 820mm (32.3in) seat height provides added ergonomics to taller riders, subtracting a bit from the shorter in stature. Clip-on handlebars steer with homing purpose over the 43mm inverted telescopic front forks. Front suspension travels 125mm while the rear monoshock does at 150mm. 17in lightweight cast allow wheels fit with Metzelers—110mm up front and 150mm out back.
KTM’s headquarters and think tank in Austria have been manufacturing their bikes in India making them affordable to a wider range of riders. Their smaller displacement motorcycles have been made available to a truly global reach. KTMs are touring Europe, tearing up the Americas, and are weaving through traffic in Asia. These lighter and smaller bikes are great for novice familiarization, but can actually be first choices for riders of all levels in developing countries plagued by rough roads and stop-go gridlocks.
It’s handy to note that where there are speed humps and uneven terrain in proximity, the KTM’s ground clearance receives a thumbs-up. The Ninja 300R rolls the lowest at 140mm (5.5in) and the CBR300R clears at 145mm (5.7in). The R3 rises at 160mm (6.3in), but the RC390 trumps by a margin at 178.5mm (7in). For speed-itchy citizens—especially in developing countries—such characteristics can be key within an urban environment. Narrowness, lightness, and responsiveness are favored by practical buyers looking for that versatile marriage between weekend war machine and daily grinder. Many of them aspire towards the look and performance of sport bikes, but are hesitant to sacrifice ease of urban use. The RC390 caters to that type of individual as much as to the budding racer or canyon carver. The tall seat height, single-cylinder, racing position, cornering capability, and motorsport fairing… All together successfully bring that supermono feel to the street.