Alright, it’s Christmas time and here’s something special for you all, a comprehensive Duke 390 review, including 1st service experience and other little things. Before I begin, I would like to point out that I drove a Pulsar 150 before this for 5 years, so keep that in mind whenever I talk about the Duke 390 in comparison to other bikes. Also, I take my bike everywhere, office, grocery shopping, and rides of course, so the bike has been everywhere but off-roading, which would be extremely painful with the super hard suspension.
Duke 390 review: Good things
1. The power
I was completely blown away when I took the first test drive of the Duke 390, it accelerated like nothing I had ever driven before. The same power continues to surprise me even now. Even though I stayed below 7k RPM the whole 1000Kms, it felt more than adequate for my daily driving needs. I can do 120Kmph in 6th gear, without the RPM going above 7K, this means that there is still a long long way to go before the machine redlines, crazy!
The other day I was making a U turn on a broken patch of road, with lots of gravel and dust, and few kids on the side urged me to rev more (something that happens a lot, I think the orange color is to blame). So I revved and tried to speed up and whoa! The tail whipped like a flag! I was able to control the bike, so no harm done. But a sober reminder that this beast is capable of much more than you think.
The acceleration is completely insane too, even when you stay below 7K RPM. Before you know it, you are cruising over triple digits, and the bike wants to go even faster. Every overtaking move, no matter how stupid, always goes through. Many people have tried to race me, including a Fortuner, R15 and a Boxer, but I haven’t obliged anyone and don’t wish to. If you want to race me, let’s go to a track, then I will kick your butt with pleasure.
2. The looks
Most of my time nowadays is spent worrying about people who would swarm my bike once I park it anywhere. Be it office, market or even my apartment, everyone wants to put their smart ass on the seat and feel like Aamir Khan from Dhoom 3. I have been asked the most insane questions, like if KTM is a Chinese company, or what makes this bike cost 2 lacs, just the orange paint? Even as I am writing this Duke 390 review, I bet you at least 4 grown ass men are taking turns raping my bike’s seat, right now.
I love the way it looks. Even a close friend of mine who is a die hard fairing fan has now grown some love for naked bikes. The bike looks absolutely raw, a bit crazy, almost unfinished. The 160 rear tyre, 120 front one, wide handlebars and tiny indicators give it a wonderful personality, like a nude gentleman with 6 pack abs and anger issues.
The sound of both the Dukes, 200 as well as 390, is quite polarizing. Some people love it, some people feel like it’s a glorified autorickshaw. Personally, I love the way my Duke 390 sounds. It creates quite a lot of noise, even at idle, but not too much. The rev is a bit nervous before the 3K mark, almost like Bruce Banner ripping his clothes apart, but hasn’t become the Hulk yet.
To me, the bike sounds like the best parts of 2 and 4 strokes combined. It has that impatience of 2 strokes, and that smoothness of 4s. The fun becomes epic in tunnels, where the sound becomes heavy metal sweet. I may put in a K&N sometime in the future, but I am quite happy with the sound I am getting right now. This Duke 390 review is a commendation to the KTM engineers, who have made an underbelly exhaust sound better than a regular one!
4. The display
The display on Duke 390 is fantastic. You get the standard Odometer and Trip meters, the speed gauge and RPM. But then you get additional information like time (great for long rides), how much distance you can cover with the fuel (range), after how many kilometers is the next service, how long you have been driving and what is your average speed. I am sure I have missed one or two, there is just too much info out there!
All the numbers are easily readable. The display automatically lights up when you go into any dark area, like a tunnel. What I love about it the most is the refresh speed, it is instantaneous! On my Pulsar 150, the speed during acceleration read like 10, 14, 17, 23, 30, 38, 40. For the Duke, it is like 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20! It feels so urgent and accurate.
5. The control
With the standard ABS and Metzeler tires, this thing feels like it is glued to the asphalt. On sharp turns, where I would generally slow down, with the Duke 390 I can actually lean like Rossi and speed up! The suspension gives you immense feel and nothing feels impossible.
Braking is extremely efficient as well, not too hard but not too soft either. The bike sheds speed faster than it gains it! Weaving in and out of traffic has never been easier.
Yes the bike is awesome, but there are a few nagging things that cloud up this Duke 390 review. Let’s take a look.
1. Not easy for daily riding
The Duke 390, even though is a naked beast, feels very track focused. The bike doesn’t want to be below 4K RPM, it makes choking noises like Gollum. The clutch and gears are relatively hard. The turning radius is extremely shitty, even worse than the Avenger I guess. The mirrors are there just for show, if there was an elephant following you, all you would see would be clear blue skies and an inch of its butt, if you are lucky.
The passenger seat is meant strictly for babies and supermodels, anyone with an ass bigger than 28 inches will have his/her hip bones crushed by the grab rails. The suspension is harder than a pedophile’s boner, and you feel every little bump like you are on a bullock cart. In short, the Duke 390 needs tarmac better than a runway for it to be total fun.
2. The cheap stuff
The horn on this bike is a total disgrace, even worse than an Activa. When I am trying to overtake someone and I push the horn, they don’t move even an inch! In all probability, they feel like I am on some scooty.
The same goes for the headlight. Even though it is supposed to be a 55w bulb, it doesn’t feel like one, at all. Thank god the light isn’t fixed in a fairing, otherwise it would have been a nightmare to drive at night.
Quite unbelievably, the speed lever, brake, clutch, even the fuel tank lid is sourced directly from the Pulsars. So I have bought a 2lac bike, but when I am driving I feel like it’s still my Pulsar 150 beneath me! Not cool guys.
For this Duke 390 review, I personally checked each and every corner of the bike to find out parts that were not up to the mark. the hand guards are made of very cheap plastic, molded quite shabbily into place, but they differentiate the bike from Duke 200, so I have retained them as of now. They should be useful on long, cold rides.
3. Other complaints
You can’t even bring one plastic bag filed with candy on the Duke. There is no space below the seat, but even the handlebars are useless because of the hand guards. So if you ride out to grocery shop, remember to bring a shoulder bag.
This bike is too powerful to NOT have traction control. Seriously, people greatly underestimate how powerful the bike is, and that can lead to disasters.
The chain on this thing dries up and loosens every 300Kms, which is weird. Yes it is a half open chain, but even then nothing should happen before 500 odd kilometers.
Duke 390 review: Verdict
Sure there are certain items I don’t like about the bike, but as a package the Duke 390 is simply unbeatable. Every time I take it out for a ride, there is a gentle smile on my face, which turns to an evil grin as soon as I see a stretch of open road. Through this Duke 390 review, all I am trying to say is, thank you God!
I got my bike before the price was increased recently, and there are chances of another price hike next month. So if you want to go for the Duke 390, go for it quick! I just got the 1st service done today from Sreeram Bajaj, Thane. Awesome bunch of people, took about an hour to finish the whole thing up! Highly recommended. Total cost 2200, including a half empty bottle of Motul 7100, chain cleaning and lubrication, oil filter change and engine flushing. Not bad at all.