The KTM RC 390 was initially introduced in India in 2014, and it quickly gained popularity because to its track-ready performance and premium components.
Then KTM continued to make modest changes, such as adding a slipper clutch, a ride-by-wire throttle, new colour options, and a cleaner engine. But it soon became apparent that it had outlived its usefulness, and a thorough revamp had been long overdue. With the debut of the 2022 RC 390 in India, KTM has finally addressed this issue.
Almost everything about it has been altered to make it more adaptable, from the design and features to the chassis and engine. Have these adjustments played a role in making it more desirable in that case? That’s what we set out to discover when we took the new RC 390 for a spin around Bajaj’s Chakan test track before getting a chance to try it out in the real world.
With the exception of the new paint schemes, the new design of the motorcycle is identical to the 2022 RC 200 and RC 125. Its most recent incarnation has ditched the sharpness of its predecessor in favour of a more mature and conservative appearance.
A wider front fascia, a two-part fairing, and a larger fuel tank give the motorbike a more expensive appearance. It also looks extremely well with the two new dual-tone colour options. According to KTM, this design is also more aerodynamically efficient, with improved wind deflection and air channelling.
The construction quality is average, if not exceptional. The paint quality is excellent, especially on the matte-finish fuel tank. Except for tiny uneven panel gaps around the fairing, the plastic panels feel solid and neatly put together. The quality of the switchgear and the tactility of the switches leave little cause for complaint.
As I previously stated, practically every aspect of the RC has been changed in order to make it more of an all-arounder. Starting with the engine, the 373cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder mill receives a 40% larger airbox, updated engine mapping, and a 1Nm torque boost, all of which are designed to improve torque distribution and rideability. While the torque output is now 37Nm, the power output remains at 42.9bhp.
The remapped engine is attached to a split-type trellis frame, rather than a single-piece unit like its predecessor. This arrangement, according to KTM, is lighter, stiffer, and more rigid. You also receive new five-spoke alloy wheels that are lower in weight than the chassis.
WP Apex inverted front forks and rear monoshock remain the suspension setup, but travel has been increased, damping characteristics have been changed, and the rear now features rebound adjustable in addition to preload. While the disc brakes remain the same size – 320mm in front and 230mm in back – they are also lighter. As a result, the overall kerb weight has decreased by 1 kilogramme to 172 kilogrammes.
Now it’s time to get down to business on the feature front. KTM has equipped it with high-end electronics that are typically found on much larger motorcycles. A traction control system, two-mode lean-sensitive cornering ABS, and a bi-directional fast shifter are all included.
All of these capabilities may be monitored and tweaked using the new full-color TFT display and switchgear. The console is notable for being the same as the 390 Duke, which features Bluetooth connectivity for smartphone pairing, several theme settings, automatic brightness adjustment, call and message notifications, and displays a wealth of data. Finally, the gasoline tank is 4.2 litres larger than the previous RC generation, with a capacity of 13.7 litres.
The ergonomics are identical to the RC200, just like the design. The 824mm seat height is fairly high, and getting onboard could be difficult if you’re lower than my 5’11” stature. I could practically flat foot once seated, with my heels slightly above the ground.
The riding stance is now more aggressive, as befitting a supersport, but not as committed as the previous model. To get to the pegs, you crouch a little to reach the clip-ons with your knees appropriately folded. When you want to go all out, there’s plenty of room in the back to tuck in. Track fans will appreciate the fact that the clip-ons can be lowered by 10mm. Because of its 172kg kerb weight, pushing the bike about is simple.
Now for the performance: off the line, the bike accelerates quickly and smoothly, with a sense of urgency. After 6,000rpm, the motor really comes to life, and it keeps accelerating hard until it reaches its redline of 10,000rpm. Unlike the previous generation, however, there is no abrupt burst of torque anywhere in the rpm range, and overall performance is linear.
My bad gear selections around corners were forgiven with a smooth pull thanks to the improved mid-range oomph. Although I was unable to test the peak speed, the speedo on the main straight of the course read 165 kilometres per hour. And it was here that the new fairing design actually showed, diverting the wind and allowing it to pass right through my helmet.
The clutch is really light, and the gearbox is a smooth-shifting six-speed that runs without a hitch. Likewise, the quick shifter! While the clutchless downshifts are flawless, the upshifts occasionally misbehave, particularly at 8,000-9,000 rpm. Even the upshifts were smooth for the most part, notably between 3,000 and 8,000 rpm.
The new chassis has a very communicative feel to it and bestows the bike with extreme accuracy. Tipping into corners is easier and more progressive than ever before, and maintaining the right line is just as simple. Then, with small steering adjustments, it flicks from side to side without being unnervingly tippy to scare you away.
The Metzeler tyres, on the other hand, left me craving more grip. While they provide adequate grip through long sweeping turns, the tyres seemed squirmy around abrupt bends and at high lean angles, and didn’t inspire much confidence.
Meanwhile, the revised suspension arrangement aids cornering efficiency by smoothly absorbing mid-corner undulations and preventing the bike from becoming unsettled.
Even under strong braking, the front dive was not frightening, resulting in a seamless transition into turns. Furthermore, every time I slammed on the brakes hard before a bend, the front brakes provided a lot of stopping force with a crisp bite and appropriate progression. Furthermore, even after several laps around the course, the brakes did not fade.
After a 30-minute ride around Bajaj’s test track on the 2022 KTM RC 390, I was beaming from ear to ear. It has practically all of the elements necessary to be a lot of fun on a track.
When you’re pushing it, the chassis is quite communicative, the brakes bite, and the suspension holds up admirably. The engine’s alterations have stripped it of its thug-like personality, but it’s far from boring.
The engine runs smoother, has a wider torque distribution across the rpm range, and is easier to control. The addition of a rapid shifter only adds to the excitement. Experienced corner-carvers, on the other hand, may be disappointed by the W-rated Metzeler tyres’ lack of traction around the edges.
With a starting price of Rs 3.14 lakh (ex-showroom), the 2018 RC 390 is not overly pricey, especially given the full package it offers. A smaller price tag, on the other hand, would have increased its desirability. Now, stay tuned for our thorough road test review to discover out how it feels to live with and tour on in the real world.
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