Sometimes I just can’t believe KTM supplies the Metzeler Sportec M5 tires as default with the 390. A set of those costs around 16000 bucks (if you’re lucky), which is like 10% of the entire bike’s cost! These tires are rated safe for speeds of around 250 kmph, something the Duke can NEVER achieve no matter what you do. It’s just nuts.
Anyways, the bad thing about the Metzies is that they wear out quick. A careful and smooth rider like me couldn’t use the rear for more than 17k and the front more than 25k kms, although a friend of mine named Shreyas Shetty did manage to pull out 22,000 kms from his rear Metz somehow. A hooligan friend of mine ate through the rear in less than 10,000 kms. It’s a brilliant rubber, no doubt about it, but it has its limitations:
- Cost: Metz pair costs roughly twice the cost of a Michelin or Pirelli pair.
- Off-road usability: The M5 is a great tire for the track, road, and rain. But anything else, especially gravel and slush, and you’ve got trouble.
- Life: Like I’ve said before, being a soft-compound tire oriented for track usage, this rubber doesn’t last long at all. The bigger problem is that once it finishes, grip levels become dangerously low. It behaves like a MotoGP tire, its life ends very abruptly.
So what to do once you are done with the Metz? This is probably the question that I hear the most online, and it’s a little bit complicated to answer. Everybody has different requirements, based on which you have to decide what tire to choose. There are 3 different type of usage patterns, most people have a combination of 2 or 3 out of these:
- Tourer: Somebody like me who needs long life and all-round ability. I don’t really care if my lean angle is not as good as Marquez, I don’t care for chicken strips, I need the rear tire to last at least 25,000 and the front at least 30,000 kms, I need the rear tire to not fishtail wildly on the smallest patch of gravel or mud.
- Track junkie: These are the people who do track days very often, so tire longevity is expendable as long as it helps them go quicker. They also don’t really care about dirt riding grip, it’s all about corner speed and lean angle.
- City rider: Basically just ambling around the city, never using anything higher than 3rd gear. You don’t need anything special for this, MRFs or Ralcos costing less than 5k would do the job equally well as Michelins and Pirellis costing 20k.
OK, now that you understand the issues with the Metz and the types of riders that determines their rubber choice, let’s make things a little more confusing and add the front and rear tire choices into the picture. Many people believe in this myth that I don’t really understand the logic behind:
When you change your tires, you should change the complete set.
Well, why the fuck should I? Front tires generally last much much longer than the rear ones, why should you change a perfectly good piece of rubber just because some other unrelated piece of rubber is worn out? People do weird shit sometimes I tell ya.
Anyways, the important thing here to understand is that there’s a difference between the roles and responsibilities of the front and the rear tires. Front is for steering, rear is for putting the power down. Rear tire loosing grip and fishtailing is OK, even fun sometimes! Front tire loosing grip means instant fall. Overall, front tire is much more important to a safe riding experience as compared to the rear, although that doesn’t mean you should ignore it completely.
So, now that your brains are completely scrambled, here’s my recommendations for the best tire for KTM Duke 390. I’ve done around 35,000 kms on my Duke till now, and have changed the rear once and the front twice (long story). I’ve also seen others ride with different tire combinations and noted down their experiences. So here it goes.
Best rear tire for the KTM Duke 390:
1. Michelin Pilot Street Radial 140/70:
Fantastic, amazing, better than the Metz in EVERY WAY. I got this tire for about 6000 bucks from Babloo Motors, Vashi, and have used it the last 17,000 odd kilometers. It provides as much grip as the Metz on the road, and much better in wet/slush/gravel situations. The best part is its life, even after using it for more kilometers than what my Metz lasted, the tire still looks good as new, with treads deep enough to last another 10,000 kms.
Many people have asked me if the 140 section does anything to the ABS, no it doesn’t. I haven’t felt anything wrong while riding from Mumbai to Bhutan and back over every possible type of terrain imaginable. The Michelin in fact has slightly higher profile, which I think really helped in saving my rear wheel from breaking when I went over a stone at over 140 kmph, not to mention the fact that it’s still working well even after going through hell!
2. Pirelli Sport Demon 140/70:
Costs about the same as the Michelin, does everything about the same as well. The only weak point of the Pirelli is its life. The Pirelli feels like slightly softer compound than the Michelin, which means it doesn’t last as long. It will still take you more distance than the Metz obviously, at much lesser cost per kilometer, but I personally would prefer the Michelin.
3. Ceat Vertigo 130/80:
This is a knobby tire useful for only specialized situations, like Ladakh. Cost is really cheap at around 2500 bucks, and I think you’ll have to do an insane amount of burnouts to get rid of this rubber. Don’t expect to corner like the Metz on this tire, it’s just meant to take you to places where the Metz can’t. I won’t recommend it for normal road/touring usage, just put it on when the shit’s really gonna hit the fan.
4. Metzler Sportec M5 150/60:
Even though it’s costly and gets destroyed in the blink of an eye, the Metz is still an awesome choice, especially if you like tracks. I did a track day at the Buddh circuit with it, and no matter what I tried I just couldn’t break traction. I rode from Mumbai all the way till Delhi to race on the track, and then even took the bike into remote corners of Himachal. That’s when I really understood how weak the Metz becomes once you take it off the road. If you like the track, don’t tour much, and are OK with cost of around 9,000 bucks, go for it.
Best front tire for the KTM Duke 390:
1. Metzeler Sportec M5 110/70:
It’s just the best! Front tire grip is really really important, and the Metz does an awesome job there. It performs more or less at par with other tires in moderate slush or gravel, and the good thing is the front can easily last 25k kilometers if you’re nice to it. There was a period when I had the Metz at front and the Michelin at rear, and I felt invincible! Costs around 7,000 bucks though, so much higher cost per kilometer.
2. MRF ReVZ-C 110/70:
This is the same tire that is provided on the Duke 200, and I got to use it by accident, a literal accident. When I blew out my front tire on the way to Kota, I had to get a new rubber. The shops there hadn’t even heard of Michelin or Pirelli, so on went the MRF. I’ve now used it for more than 15000 kms, and I love it! This tire costs a mere 2200 bucks, and even during the hard cornering of Bhutan I never felt it slipping or sliding. Extreme value for money, awesome for city or touring.
3. Pirelli Sport Demon 110/70:
This is the tire I changed to after my Metz front wore out. Cost me 4000 bucks at RevZ, but I was unfortunately able to use it only for about 1000 kms before a stone opened a 10 inch hole into it. It’s a very nice tire too, looks great and performs well. A friend of mine used it all over Bhutan and probably had the most cornering fun from all of us! It’s a good all-round tire, fit for track usage as well.
4. Michelin Pilot Street Radial 110/70:
I haven’t used it personally, but a friend of mine did, and as expected this is also great value for money. Not much different from the Pirelli, it looks good and should last a fair bit of distance before dying out. Cost is similar to the Pirelli, so it’ll again be a great choice for any riding conditions!
5. Ceat Vertigo 100/90:
This is again useful only for extreme road conditions. Don’t expect the same levels of grip as the Metz or the Pirelli or even the MRF once you get back on the road. It looks really fiesty, will obviously have a very long life, and has a higher profile which will definitely help your wheels. Costs a measly 2000 bucks!
One thing that you have to understand is that it’s all in your head. Tire grip is mostly psychological. Even if you have the Metz, you will rarely ever use it to 100% capacity. For everyday situations, even the cheapest tires would work well, because you’ll see the difference only when you push yourself and the bike to limits, something that you shouldn’t really be doing if you want to live.
These recommendations can be used for the KTM RC390 as well, with the exception that touring doesn’t really come into the picture with that thing. Let me know if you have something to add!