Bikes 30 Jun 2017

Review: 2017 KTM RC 390 test rides the 2017 KTM RC 390.

Words: Paul McCann

For 2017 the RC 390 has undergone some important updates to maintain its competitive edge in the highly-contested sub-400cc supersport class. The biggest change is the addition of a Ride by Wire throttle system, which represents a first for in the LAMS category and proves that the RC390 is here to stay.

This new technology brings the 373.2cc four stroke engine in line with strict new Euro 4 emissions requirements and you can expect other manufacturers to follow suit as the requirements for cleaner and more efficient engines become more stringent.

Source: Supplied.

So how does it change the feel of the throttle response? Well, there’s now a noticeably crisper and more precise feeling when you twist the throttle tube when compared to the outgoing cable-operated system. The old system wasn’t actually wasn’t that bad, but this lightning fast connection between the throttle and the remapped ECU also allows more predictable power delivery, which is a plus for new players.

The single-cylinder motor generates solid mumbo for its size with claimed peak torque and power figures of 35Nm at 7250rpm and 32kW at 9500rpm. The top-end bias makes it incredibly fun to ride hard and there’s little doubt that this entry-level motorcycle is going to win fans from those who enjoy punting around a track. Nonetheless, after a half a day of riding it through some top coastal roads around Southern Sydney, I’m also inclined to believe that those who are accustomed to much larger and more powerful steeds will also see the RC 390’s value.

On the previous model I was a little critical of the front brake units and their tendency to heat up and become vague under heavy use. This observation seems to have been addressed by KTM with a larger 320mm disc to complement the capable ABS-equipped ByBre radial mount calliper, although it’s difficult to tell without closed circuit testing. The Bosch ABS system retains the functionality to be switched off (a plus in my book), and this year’s model benefits from newly fitted adjustable clutch and brake levers that make it easier to set the RC 390 up for different riders.

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The feel and ergonomics of the RC 390, combined with the 147kg dry weight, make it an easy bike to ride around town and the raised height of the clip-ons actually make it pretty comfortable for long stints in the saddle too. Unfortunately the small 10 litre fuel capacity is likely to hinder the range of travel for road riders, so that’s something to consider if you plan on clocking up the miles. Nonetheless, the bike’s edgy styling turns heads on the street and the thumping beat of the motor also has charm.

The thin tank profile provides the perfect surface for gripping on with your thighs and therefore encourages good riding habits, but the seat does feel like it’s set up in such a way that you’re forced forward when braking which can be draining. A set of tank grips would make inroads into correcting this, and I’d thoroughly recommend them anyway if you do plan on doing a lot of fast road riding or track work which is precisely where the RC 390 excels.

The windscreen forms a protective cover on the nose cone and remains unchanged for 2017 and, despite its short stature, is very effective at reducing most wind buffeting when you tuck in a little. Graphics are completely new for 2017 and at first glance (with a bit of imagination) you could be forgiven for assuming you were staring right at a Moto3 racer. The striking paint job fits well with the steep rake (23.5 degrees), short trail (88mm) and compressed wheelbase (1340 +/- 15mm) that give the RC 390 its agile qualities.

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KTM have also stiffened up the one-piece steel trellis frame and sub-frame unit to ensure that it holds its edge when pushed to the limit. The non-adjustable 43mm WP fork is well suited to road use and while the rear shock is adjustable for pre-load, it would benefit from being stiffened up if you plan to scratch or track day more than commute.

The sharp beak, bug eyes and batty-looking rear vision mirrors add to the bike’s unique look. Turn signals up front are perched on the stems of some oversized rear vision mirrors, but the flickering front indicators are not really that visible. The tail light and diamond shaped blinkers attached to the rear fender hold more than a hint of the RC 8’s styling and the foam-covered pillion seat doubles as the rear seat cowl to maintain those clean racing lines.

Rubber-lined footpegs are comfortable to use and help to off-set vibration and the Metzeler Sportec M5 hoops fitted standard are more than adequate to deal with road-going conditions. In the event of slick wet conditions the chance of rear lock ups during back-shifting has been mitigated by the addition of a slipper-clutch which is a welcome addition.

Source: Supplied.

There’s also a host of optional factory accessories on hand to turn your RC 390 into a track weapon such as the Akrapovic slip on muffler, rear paddock stands, racing fuel caps and 520 chain/sprocket conversion kit, all of which can be purchased online through the KTM PowerParts catalogue.

The RC 390 is designed in Austria but manufactured in India, although with this latest model you’d never know it. The whine of the thermo fan kicking in to keep the engine cool is a tad annoying, but with such a high compression ratio (12.5:1) this highly-tuned single cylinder engine is likely to be getting a work out most of the time, so a little pre-emptive protection isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The performance, handling and finish show no signs of compromise and this learner-legal supersport offers plenty of bang for your buck at $6495 plus ORC. In fact, I’m sure there are many experienced riders out there who are going to invest in this little rocket with a view to slashing their tyre budget because this Moto3 replica is certainly very near ‘Ready to Race’.

Vital specifications

Engine type: Single-cylinder, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valves
Capacity: 373.2cc
Transmission: Six-speed
Power: 32kW at 9000rpm
Torque: 35Nm at 7250rpm
Dry weight: 147kg
Seat height: 820mm
Fuel capacity: 10L
Colours: Orange or White
Price: $6495 (+ORC)
Warranty: Two-year, unlimited kilometres
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