Coming Off An Update Last Year, It Is Better Than Ever

The value of indoctrination is not lost on KTM, evidenced by the fact that they’ve updated and generally spruced up their entry-level unit, the 390 Duke for 2017, and those improvements carry straight over into the 2018 season. New upside-down stems float the front end along with larger, more powerful brakes to help manage the energy from the 44-horsepower engine and 328-pound dry weight. Ride-by-wire tech makes an appearance for a bit of tech you normally don’t see at this price point. Add to this a fresh new look and you have a recipe for success, or so KTM hopes. Let’s dive in and see what else the Austrian bike maker has in store for us.

Continue reading for my review of the KTM 390 Duke.

  • 2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
  • Year:
    2017- 2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    373 cc
  • Price:
    5449
  • Price:

KTM 390 Duke Design

2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
- image 779294
The second-littlest Duke borrows from its big brother, the 1290 Super Duke R, in the looks department for even more of that angular aggression associated with the family line.

The second-littlest Duke borrows from its big brother, the 1290 Super Duke R, in the looks department for even more of that angular aggression associated with the family line. It starts out straightaway at the vertically divided headlight housing with an almost cowcatcher-like angle on the leading face. That angle is mirrored in the front edge of the cheek fairings with an almost right angle at the tumbledown on the backside of the new, 3.5-gallon fuel tank to resolve some of that visual tension created by the “backslash” leading edges.

A bolt-up subframe elevates the pillion for a bit of a nose-down attitude and a butt-retainer for the pilot to help you deal with the fact that the little engine really has something to give, and will stretch your arms if you get too twisty with it. Most of the innards are visible, as it should be on a [naked5317], but the dearth of body panels ultimately incorporates the Trellis frame and subframe into the overall panache. Again, as it should do.

Now, it’s common enough to run with a tucked-away taillight, but KTM takes it to the Nth degree with a clear housing over split-and-tiered LED emitters that compliment the headlight arrangement. The “glass” forms the terminus of the tail where it tapers down to a clear, aerodynamic point. Off the bottom of the subframe springs the skinniest of standoffs — can’t even call it a mudguard — that mounts the license plate and whisker-mount turn signals. The upswept exhaust mimics the angle of the tail section to finish off the bike just like it starts. As ever, the 390 exudes a race-tastic vibe that exemplifies the naked sportbike genre, even if its looks may be a skosh extreme for some buyers. One thing I think everyone will appreciate is the TFT screen with its easy-to-read display, even in adverse lighting conditions.

KTM 390 Duke Chassis

2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
- image 779297
Steering geometry, 17-inch wheels and a compact wheelbase give the “Baby Duke” some wonderful handling and cornering characteristics.

Since the body panels, or lack thereof, leave so little to the imagination, nearly the entire frame is visible from the 25-degree steering head down to the swingarm pivot and back up to the tip of the subframe. Were it not such a polished product, it could definitely channel some serious “Mad Max” vibes with so much industrial-style structure on display. Still, the Spartan appointments make a statement of their own; form follows function.

A pair of 17-inch rims round out the rolling chassis and finish the steering geometry with 3.7 inches of trail and a 53.4-inch wheelbase, and this gives the “Baby Duke” some wonderful handling/cornering characteristics. WP suspension components make an appearance at both ends with new 43 mm usd forks up front and a coil-over monoshock out back. Only the rear shock comes with any adjustability with the obligatory spring preload — unsurprising at this price point — and you can count on a generous 5.6/5.9 inches of travel at the front and rear, respectively.

Brake power got buffed with a 320 mm disc up front and a four-piston, radial-mount caliper to match. Out back, the 230 mm disc and single-pot caliper take care of business with a switchable, Bosch 9.1 MP ABS feature that can be turned off altogether or used in moto mode that prevents slip at the front wheel only. Cast aluminum rims do their part to keep unsprung weight down with a 110/70 to lead the way and a 150/60 to bring up the rear.

Frame: Steel Trellis Frame, Powder Coated
Steering Head Angle: 65 °
Front Suspension/ Travel: Wp Upside-Down Ø 43 mm/ 5.6 inches
Rear Suspension/ Travel: Wp Monoshock/ 5.9 inches
Front Brake: 320 mm, Four-Piston Radial Fixed Calliper, Brake Disc
Rear Brake: 230 mm, Single-Piston Floating Calliper, Brake Disc
ABS: Bosch 9mp Two-Channel Abs (incl. Supermoto Mode, Diesengageable)

KTM 390 Duke Drivetrain

2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
- image 779298
The engine delivers user-friendly and predictable power that first-time riders will find manageable without becoming boring.

A water-cooled thumper drives the fun with a 373.2 cc displacement that looks suspiciously similar to the engine in the new Vitpilen 401 from Husqvarna. Oh wait, that’s right, Husky falls under the KTM umbrella so of course it’s the same engine. The barrel measures out at 89 mm with a 60 mm stroke and sizzlin’ hot 12.6-to-1 compression ratio for 44 ponies at the top end and 27 pound-feet of grunt for solid holeshots.

Ride-by-Wire technology provides the link between the pilot and the Bosch EMS, which in turn controls induction via the Bosch EFI in the 46 mm throttle body. Granted, it’s not an overwhelmingly delicious electronics suite, but typical for the target buyer and price point. Like the Super Duke R, the Baby Duke runs a four-valve head with dual over-head cams and carbon-coated cam followers to time the poppets.

Power flows through a six-speed transmission with a slipper clutch to couple it to engine power. The slipper clutch is a nice feature for this bike as its anti-hopping feature will improve bike stability during the kind of aggressive downshifts that only inexperience can produce, plus it can help extend the life of your rear tire, ya’ know, as long as you stay out of the burnout contests. All-in-all, the engine delivers user-friendly and predictable power that first-time riders will find manageable without becoming boring, though to be fair, you will get to wanting a bigger powerplant eventually.

Engine: Liquid Cooled, 1-Cylinder, 4-Stroke Engine
Displacement: 373.2 cc
Bore x Stroke: 89 mm x 60 mm
Power: 43 hp
Torque: 27.3 lb-ft
Starter: Electric Starter
Lubrication: Wet Sump
Transmission: 6-Speed
Clutch: Pasc™ Antihopping Clutch, Mechanically Operated
EMS: Bosch Ems

KTM 390 Duke Pricing

2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
- image 779289
White and orange or orange and white; either way, it'll run you a couple of bills more than last year.

Last year, the 390 Duke rolled for $5,299, but it looks like the sticker was boosted by a couple of bills this year with a $5,449 MSRP in U.S. dealerships. The color choice was expanded from simply orange-and-white to include a clearly more nuanced white-and-orange paint scheme. What can I say? Them KTM guys like their orange paint. A lot.

Colors: White, Orange
Price: $5,449

KTM 390 Duke Competitors

2019 Honda CB300R
- image 777219
2017 - 2018 KTM 390 Duke
- image 778070
It might be the difference between price and performance for these two.

There aren’t as many entry-level naked bikes as one could hope for, but Honda had my Huckleberry in the form of next year’s CB300R. Sure, they call it a “Sport Roadster,” but it looks like an entry-level naked to me. Right off the bat you’ll notice that Honda was careful to not cover up too much with the body panels for that wonderfully naked look that wears a tiny chin fairing like a goatee. Inverted forks, blackout paint and a horizontally divided, round headlight can lead off with some serious cool factor that, if I’m honest, doesn’t try quite as hard as the KTM to look race-worthy. It really comes off looking like the cleaner, and more mature, of the two.

Suspension is similar to the KTM in that while it’s not quite pure-D vanilla (the usd configuration is worth something), it provides no sexy adjustments or ride-quality tweaks. Honda’s brakes are smaller with only a 296 mm disc up front and a 220 out back, but it offers the Combined-Brake/ABS feature that is a sidegrade from KTM’s safety net.

The Red Riders slip a bit in the engine department with only 286 cc on board. Predictably, this limits power a bit with only 30 ponies and 20 pounds o’ grunt on tap versus 44/27 from the KTM. Price covers some of this differential with a $4,949 sticker that barely slips in under the Duke’s tag, but I don’t know if the savings are worth the lost performance.

He Said

“In the end, I feel like folks who like the looks of the KTM will go that route, and everyone else will go another; price and power be damned. I have found that folks either really love it, or really hate it, with little middle ground. As for myself, I’d rather be seen on the Honda. Bet you never thought I’d say that!”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “I thought this ride was amazingly smooth. I was expecting less and would have been happy with less, so wasn’t it a surprise when there was virtually no vibration in the handlebar and pegs. It’s easy to see why they tapped this engine for the Vitpilen. The suspension is plush, but not squishy. It’s rather nice, nicer perhaps than some more expensive bikes. Overall, it is a nice entry-level bike, a good commuter, and maybe something to have in the garage to kick around on when the mood strikes."

KTM 390 Duke Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Liquid Cooled, 1-Cylinder, 4-Stroke Engine
Displacement: 373.2 cc
Bore x Stroke: 89 mm x 60 mm
Power: 43 hp
Torque: 27.3 lb-ft
Starter: Electric Starter
Lubrication: Wet Sump
Transmission: 6-Speed
Primary Drive: 30:80
Secondary Gear Ratio: 15:45
Clutch: Pasc™ Antihopping Clutch, Mechanically Operated
EMS: Bosch Ems
Chassis:
Frame: Steel Trellis Frame, Powder Coated
Steering Head Angle: 65 °
Front Suspension/ Travel: Wp Upside-Down Ø 43 mm/ 5.6 inches
Rear Suspension/ Travel: Wp Monoshock/ 5.9 inches
Front Brake: 320 mm, Four-Piston Radial Fixed Calliper, Brake Disc
Rear Brake: 230 mm, Single-Piston Floating Calliper, Brake Disc
ABS: Bosch 9mp Two-Channel Abs (incl. Supermoto Mode, Diesengageable)
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 X 1/4"
Dimensions & Capacities:
Wheelbase: 53.4 inches ± 0.6 inch
Ground Clearance: 7.3 inches
Seat Height: 32.7 inches
Tank Capacity (approx.): 3.5 gallons
Dry Weight: 328.5 pounds
Details:
Colors: White, Orange
Price: $5,449

References

Honda CB300R

2019 Honda CB300R
- image 777208

See our review of the Honda CB300R.

KTM 1290 Super Duke R

2015 - 2017 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R ABS Wallpaper quality
- image 726340

See our review of the KTM 1290 Super Duke R.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 401

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- image 778032

See our review of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: powersports.honda.com, husqvarna.com, ktm.com, photographer credits: R. Schedl

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