KTM Duke 390 vs RC 390, what should I go for?

By | September 2, 2014

About a week is left for the launch of KTM RC 390. About a year is gone since the launch of the Duke 390. The Duke changed our motorcycle industry for the better, it gave us ridiculous power at an even ridiculous price tag. Clubbed with revolutionary features like standard ABS, mind-numbingly informative console, and super-sticky Metzeler rubber, it took other bike manufacturers by their balls and forced them to change.

Now KTM is at it again. The RC 390 is touted to be an awesome track tool, a Daytona for poor people if you will. I personally love those dual projector headlights! But a lot of people are confused with the Duke 390 vs RC 390 question. This decision would totally depend on your riding style, but here are some pointers that should help you decide what to choose between these two. 

Duke 390 vs RC 390: Touring

The KTM Duke 390 isn’t marketed as a tourer, but this insane pocket rocket just doesn’t want to stop! I have ridden it 21000 kms in 9 months, people have taken it to Ladakh, and everyone is in awe of its touring abilities. Apart from the puny fuel tank, the Duke is an unstoppable mile muncher, highways are where it belongs, not crowded city streets. However, the upcoming RC 390 will not be that awesome a machine as far as touring goes, and here’s why:

  • RC 390 has an even smaller fuel tank (10 liters), so even more irritating fuel stops
  • It has a very sporty riding position, which may not be comfortable for everyone over long distances
  • The front suspension travel on the RC is just 125mm, a full 25mm less than the Duke. This will put additional stress on the rims, which do not have a reputation for strength
  • The rear seat on the RC 390 is just too damn high, and too damn small! I am not certain if normal saddlebag/tailbag systems would fit it easily, which will be a big issue for long rides
  • The RC will most likely be priced at a premium of about 35000 rupees over the Duke. Touring is a costly passion, and with so many disadvantages of the RC over the Duke, it might be a better idea to go for the naked bike and buy good riding gear with the money saved!

So as far as tourers like me are concerned, better to stick with the Duke. This also answers the question some Duke owners have, that should they move on to the RC. Well, I don’t think it’s a good idea, unless you are a track guy. Let’s discuss why the RC will be an awesome machine on a circuit.

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Duke 390 vs RC 390: Track

I have been lucky enough to ride my 390 at the Buddh International Circuit. It was a scary awesome experience, but I believe the RC will give her owners an even better time! The RC 390 is very track focussed, it’s easy to tell that by just looking at it! There are already racing events happening on this machine, and here are a few reasons why:

  • The steering angle has been reduced from 66.5 degrees on the Duke to 65 degrees on the RC. This will make the RC even more flickable than the Duke! Kinda hard to believe though
  • The foetal riding position is completely race inspired. Clip-on handlebars, rear-set footpegs and tiny seat are all tell-tale signs of its love for the track
  • The wheelbase has also been reduced by 27mm as compared to the Duke, which should again help with improving the bike’s dynamics over corners
  • RC 390 has 8.5mm more ground clearance than the Duke. It might not look much on paper, but when you are trying to lean in as much as possible without grinding on your footpeg, every millimetre counts!
  • The fully faired, aerodynamic design is meant to cut through air as quickly as possible. Even though the RC is 8kgs heavier than the Duke, it is expected to have a better top speed due to the streamlined profile

As far as track fun goes, I think the RC will be one hell of a machine. I won’t be surprised if superbike owners get an RC 390 just to have unadulterated fun on the track, and also to save their big machines from big damage! Hopefully, we’ll have some racing events based on the RC as well, would be fun for sure!

Duke 390 vs RC 390: Street

Duke 390 is categorised as a street bike, but it is the farthest thing possible from it. Sure it looks the part, but the heavy clutch, tall gears and wide handlebars aren’t the best things to have in crowded city traffic. The RC on the other hand, should be slightly better at handling our streets as compared to the Duke, and here’s why:

  • The RC has dual projector headlamps (55/65w) with DRLs, which should be really helpful during those night rides and on our dark and dingy streets
  • The RC 390 definitely looks better than the Duke, we Indians are suckers for faired bikes anyways. Out on the streets, it’ll be an eye grabber for sure, even more than the Duke
  • The ultra slim profile of the bike will make it awesome for filtering through traffic. No one can stop you from reaching the front row at a red light now!

Duke 390 vs RC 390: Verdict

All in all, the RC would also be one hell of a machine. If you are a city rider, or someone who loves the track, the RC will be a dream come true for you. It has everything that any decent rider can expect, and then some! However, it may not be the best buy if you are tourer. You’ll not only be in a lot of physical pain, but the tension of broken rims and sheared fairings will be a lot of metal pain as well. But then again, weirder things have happened! The guy that I went to Ladakh with rode an R15 all over that terrain, so yeah, don’t be surprised to see an RC with big number on the odo. I am staying with my trusty Duke for now, let’s see what the future brings in!

  • Alpesh

    Hi.. sir,
    My self alpesh,
    Ktm duke 390 and Rc 390 has several problems like heating issue, engine issues, rims issue, hard suspension, no back seat comfort, poor build quality etc..
    Apart from power and pick up how it is better than RE CONTI GT?
    RE conti. GT has any issues apart from vibration, heavy weight?
    I am looking for nice bike under 3 lakhs. What i need in bike is good value for money, peace of mind, cost of ownership, nice look, good power and pick up, little bit better mileage etc..
    Can we take these bikes (RC 390 AND GT)on long rides? Approx 700 kms?
    You can also suggest me any bike apart from RC 390 AND CONTI GT.
    Waiting for your valuable reply.
    Thank you.

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Continental GT is probably the worst bike ever to do our roads. It’s none of the things you’re looking for.

      Duke 390 is all of them. RC390 is much more track focused, not meant for touring. You can try the Mojo, even the Benelli 300. Test ride all.

      • Alpesh

        Thank you for your help sir.

  • @ryan

    duke 390 best

  • Sudeshan Aarya

    Hi guys, I’m a student and I often go for long drive too.I travel 15-20kms a day.and m planning to buy a bike I hv selected 3 bikes can u suggest me the best please..
    1.KTM RC 200
    2.KTM RC 390
    3.KTM duke390
    (And m not worried about seating position comfortable n al anyone is ok )
    And plz suggest me the best

    • Akhil Kalsh

      RC200.

      • Sudeshan Aarya

        Hmmm thank you so much bro for the suggestion I will go for rc200..if u don’t mind can u plz tell me the reason y did u pick RC 200 and wat is the top speed of RC 200 after unlocking??

        • Akhil Kalsh

          RC200 is slower, so it’ll not be easy to kill yourself. Top speed is some 135, not sure of unlocking.

          • @ryan

            duke 390 have best performance….

          • Jaideep

            Savage af. Dayum.

  • Harsh Negandhi

    Hi Akhil..awesome detailing.

    I am confused between two bikes. (Pulsar RS 200 and Duke 390). I know i am comparing two bikes from complete two different categories. Let me explain 🙂

    here below are my priorities

    1 Safety topmost Priority , So ABS needs to be there – Duke 390 wins here hands down

    2. Need good pillion seat as my beloved will stick to my ass all the time – Pulsar RS 200 has better pillon, i suppose

    3. Looks. I am , like most indians have flair for full faired. and RS 200 looks delights me to the most.

    4. Build and finish quality – Duke hands down.

    5. Need for touring only and short city rides, – Here, both have the same capabilities , but duke wins due to outright power and acceleration.

    So my best option would be either SS400 which i am not sure when it will be launched.

    But can you tell me if you have experienced RS 200 before for touring

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Hey man. I’ve never ridden a RS200, and I personally think it looks ugly, too many lines.

      I always recommend Duke 390 to even reasonably experienced riders, but the Duke is a nightmare for pillion, simply can’t have them there.

      So if your gf will be riding with you often, the Duke simply isn’t an option for you, unless you are fine with a breakup/divorce.

      • Harsh Negandhi

        hahahaha..good one 🙂
        thanks for the info buddy

  • Parth Goyal

    Hey Nice article. I have always toured on an Enfield or Avenger. Taken them to Ladakh,Spiti and everywhere else. Now i feel like going for an Adventure Tourer or a similar kind of ride. My concerns with Duke 390 are :
    1. Will the small fuel tank create problems?
    2. Heard its not so stable on bad roads (like the one we encounter in Ladakh or Spiti) and because of its stiff suspension, it transmits all the shocks to your body ?

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Yes, small tank is a pain in the ass. You’ll need to carry extra fuel in case you are going to some remote place.

      It’s stable on bad roads, but suspension travel is not much, you will certainly not be comfy.

      Having said that, such bad roads will be less than 20% of all your riding, and the rest 80% is where that bike will excel.

  • Rajandran Kanan

    Hi Guys , can someone advise where in Chennai or Blangalore can I buy some accessories for my KTM 390 ie tail bag , boots , riding gears

    • Akhil Kalsh

      Bangalore check out Let’s Gear Up, HSR Layout, or Moto101 near Urvashi Theater. Not sure about Chennai mate.

  • sudhir

    I m a student nd i never go to tour. I travel 5km per day. Roads are quite good nd no any traffic. I m new to motorbike.Which one is perfect for me please bless me wid ur knowledge rc 200 or duke 200 or 390. I mean which is very fun to ride. And does rc feels comfortable in city for riding half n hour.Please guide me

    • Go for the RC200, it’ll be fun, will look good, and will not be too powerful like the 390.

  • Supreeth

    Awesome comparison between the two bro….. 🙂
    1. Im a total tourer and prefer taking my steed on the highways
    2. I ve heard that duke 390 heats up a lot while doing long rides to such an extent that it affects the riders legs.
    3. Low fuel efficiency and hence frequent fuel stops.

    Im still in a dilemma whether to go for duke 390 or can u suggest me any other bike based on my riding…. At present i ride a ZMR(completed 50K in touring), will RC be comfortable???
    Any other suggestion to upgrade my steed at a reasonable cost??

    • Supreeth

      i meant upgrade to a better bike…..

      • Yep, got it. Like I said, the Duke is the only upgrade for a reasonable price that I think will make some sense for your requirement!

        • Supreeth M S

          Thanks Akhil…. Apologies for late reply… Ill be booking D390 next week….. Just cant wait to tour on this rocket..:):)

        • Love Singh

          Hey bro!
          Plz help me out..!!
          I have Fz s now and I daily do updown of 50 kms from Delhi to Gurgaon via Mehrauli-Gurgaon Road which is a highway.
          My Fz s daily touched 100-110 but I feel fear on that and not feel so good while my friend has duke 200, he always enjoys a lot..

          Now I am going to buy RC 390, because I love its look and its power too.

          Has I choose a better bike? Plz tell me..

          And there is a last favour, my friend is suggesting me RC 200 , so which should I buy ?

          RC 390 or RC 200..??

          • Akhil Kalsh

            Go for the RC390, you get more power, ABS, and the chance to participate in supercheap Ktm track days with it. You’ll have to control yourself in the first few thousand kilometres though, the RC is far far faster than your FZ, very easy to kill yourself on one.

    • Hey man, RC is NOT a tourer, you just can’t do long distance on it. I have done a 7500 km ride on my Duke, so I will say it’s brilliant for long distance riding.

      Duke 390 doesn’t heat on long rides, it heats in city. If you keep chugging in second or third gear at low speeds, your legs will be fried. But you can do 140 all day long and it’ll be cooler than a beer bottle.

      For long distance riding, I don’t think there is anything else out there better than the Duke 390 as of now. The CBR250R ABS is awesome too, but it’s old and about to be replaced!

  • Mr John Asian

    Hi! First things first, i would like to thank this page for helping me to decide which one should i get (LOL), and i choose the………………….”DUKE!”, ’cause i’m a tourer guy (by the way, this is my first time i’ll drive a bike that i can finally say MINE! haha TOTALLY!!)………………………………..I love travelling! Going to some place that i’ve never been before!! I want a bike that can go anywhere (i not mean to go on offroad/trail or somewhere that is dirty and not safe) I want a bike that is great in any terrain that has a high suspension!! That’s all! Sorry, i’m bad in speaking english HAHAHA But i’m fluent in Speaking Filipino! why? cause i’m a Pilipino!! From the Philippines!!

    • Glad I could be of help John! The Duke will definitely take you places, it is one hell of a machine 🙂

  • ashwin

    I have a observation regarding RC 390 city handling, as its said in this article that its city handling will be better but i feel due to its lean on posture city handling will be painful as you accelerate and decelerate it will put lot of strain on wrists and shoulder, and if you dont intend to use its power than better have any other bike.

    plz correct me on this if i am wrong

    • I found that the riding position helped with city handling. It is uncomfortable to say the least, but you feel much more a part of the bike than just someone sitting on top of one. During braking, I found my balls being brutally pressed against the tank, but that was kinda expected.

      All in all, RC is a better bike than the Duke for city/track riding, but not at all for touring.

  • i went to the showroom to visit the rc and duke……IMHO the rc looks awesome compared to the duke
    CORRECTION : The rear seat in rc is high BUT its really comfortable and larger than duke….
    But i booked the duke 390…..but im still confused if selected the right bike …..will the duke absorb potholes better then rc??
    The only thing i hate about rc is the super lean position…

    • I believe so Dinesh, Duke is a better choice for touring, but if you are gonna do short stints within the city, RC is better.

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  • shantanu

    My brother is looking to buy a duke, If the price difference isn’t too great, he will probably buy the rc. Excellent article, I will refer this to my brother

  • ronn

    Nice review though…. bt still , i prefer the duke, n i knw u too, only duke owners knw dis , it’s feeling tht one get while riding 390 duke, the 1 tht we get when we ride rd350 … riding rc 390 wud be like ….’ ohh ! Just another back pain sport ride’. my thumbs up for duke 390

    • True, although surprisingly, some people don’t seem to find any problem touring on a sports bike! I’m staying with my Duke for sure 🙂

  • D390 – Touring, long highway rides.
    RC390 – Track days, City duties and short highway rides.

    • Sachin, ek I bike kaafi hai maintain karne ko! But yes, RC will awesome for non-tourers, the best deal out there for sure!

      • John Christo

        Bro , I travel a distance of 55kms approx everyday.. I want milage and power , though I dont drive more than a speed of 100-120 , so plz suggest me what to buy ? M confused :-/ rc 390 or naked 390 ?

        • Akhil Kalsh

          Naked 390 for sure.