KTM 390 ADV: Are you not entertained?



What the fuck is wrong with people.

For years, the entire Indian motorcycling scene could be described as one giant circle jerk, with the media being the most violent in their rubbings.

The imaginary object of their desire, was the KTM 390 Adventure.

Every fucking week there would be a “scoop” about the 390 adv launching, or not launching, depending on whether the writer wet his bed that morning or not.

Every “spyshot” was visually raped to climax, pointless fantasies were shaped into meaningless “renderings”, the never ending orgy of bullshit just kept getting louder.

And now that the 390 has finally launched, the same people can’t stop complaining.

You can read the reviews yourself, but the general area where the tears start flowing is the off-road part.

Apparently, ladies and gentlemen, the 390 “Adventure” is really only a 390 “Tourer”. You may now gasp audibly with surprise.

Mr. Mody of Autocar describes the problem in the most self-evident way:

Overall, the 390 ADV will get you through whatever you point it at, but it’s clear that this is no enduro motorcycle. 

After you’ve wondered about the level of critical thinking and deductive skills required to make that conclusion, a genuine question you may pose would be “Who the fuck said it was an enduro motorcycle?”.

But, before you can find an answer to such questions of immense cosmic relevance, your mind wanders to Overdrive, where Mr. Chatterjee makes this godlike observation:

KTM is offering a ground clearance of 200mm with a front/rear suspension travel of 170mm/177mm. This, however, does not mean that you can hop around like a typical KTM 450 Rally rider.

What does a typical KTM 450 Rally rider hop around like? Unfortunately, the universe will not exist long enough to answer such unfathomable questions. But then again, his next line seems to imply that the only difference between a 390 Adv, and a 450 Rally, is adjustable suspension, so maybe it’s not something we should give much of a shit about after all.

These are just a few random examples that I came across, and by far not the most annoying. Both these articles go on to praise the bike for what it is, a marvel of capitalist and technological efficiency, getting us unimaginable electronic and mechanical goodies at dirt cheap prices.

But why these big media houses always have this psychological compulsion to sprinkle random disconnected negatives in an otherwise sparkling review?

Let’s ignore that existential question for the moment, because the thing of importance really here is, WHY do people feel that the KTM 390 Adv is not good enough off-road, at least not good enough to justify the “Adventure” name?

To answer that question, one must ask “What the hell is an Adventure motorcycle?”.

An Adventure motorcycle is a figment of marketing imagination, it doesn’t mean anything, or more precisely, it means different things to different people.

Traditionally, an Adv bike is thought to be a cross between a tourer and an off-roader, so something like an Africa Twin, that can do highways and trails, probably something RTW planners drool about. But that’s not an official definition, because there’s no official definition.

People like Ed March have done gnarly RTW trips on C90s, others have done them on cycles, and unicycles.

Adventure is a state of mind, not a category of motorcycles.

Slapping “Adventure” on something does not make it do anything special, it just means that the bike is probably not as bad off-road as a Goldwing, and not as good on-road as a Goldwing.

That’s a broad definition, one that could swallow almost anything on 2 wheels, including a Goldwing.

This idiotic naming system is also why a “streebike” like a Duke 390 is one of the worst things you’d want under you in a city street.

Just because North Korea calls itself the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea doesn’t mean you should judge it on democratic principles.

Which is why it’s so annoying to watch these Insta influenzas say that the KTM 390 Adv is only a Tourer, because an Adv should be better off-road.

What does that really mean?

It means that I’m not skilled enough to stay on this bike for more than 7 centimeters while doing mild trail riding, therefore it is an abomination that is unworthy of the Adventure tag.

I took my Duke 390 everywhere, did some crazy off-road sections on it, and the only things I wanted in a 390 Adv were:

a. More ground clearance
b. More suspension travel

The 390 Adv gives you that, and so much more. You get ride by wire, cornering ABS, AND Traction Control at sub-4 lacs for a sub-180 kg bike. Look at what options are available in India, look at the maintenance costs of KTM bikes, and ask yourself, why am I being such a little wanker?

If you want to have fun with motorcycles, there are really only 3 things you can do:

1. Track riding
2. Touring
3. Trail/off-roading

The 390 Adv can do 2 of those 3. It can tour far better than the Duke as everyone seems to agree, and it can go off-road far better than you will ever be capable of.

Look at what people who know what they’re doing can do.

To complain that a lightweight, powerful bike with expensive electronics is not fun off the road, is a monumentally stupid thing to say.

“But what about spoked wheels?”

For fuck’s sake, like Tushar Burman said:

There are only 30 of you in the country that can actually use the added durability of spokes.

The only thing I’d add there, is that I don’t think there are even 30.

One of the most enjoyable things I did with my Duke 390 was look around for lakes near me, travel to them, and then try to either cross them or circumnavigate them, depending on the water level. It got me into so much trouble, especially since I did all that on Michelin street tires, but those are some of my best memories on two wheels, being stuck in muddy waters, sliding the rear but going nowhere, smashing the engine and still getting lucky.

I would’ve been so much happier with the 390 Adv.

What is the purpose of buying a motorcycle in India? To be able to travel fast and fun. Was the 390 Duke capable of doing that? Yes. Will the 390 Adventure do it better? Hell yes. That’s the entire argument inside my brain, it doesn’t have to be any more complicated.

Stop your whining, the 390 Adv is the closest thing we’ve got to a stree-legal dirtbike right now. Use it, develop your skills, enjoy the freedom of exploration it brings.

Who knows, maybe you’ll even be good at it.

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  1. Bharath

    Love your post. Can’t agree more about some of the so-called expert auto journalists complaining about the bike rather accepting their lack of skills.
    Good to see that you are back.

  2. Fakenewsnetwork

    You are on advrider.com now.

  3. Adam Coles

    Do you mean to tell me that in a country of over one billion citizens and countless miles of dirt roads, that nobody sells a decent dualsport or dirtbike that can be plated? Is it illegal to street tag a 300exc? Is it a pollution thing? Seems a bit rich in a country full of stinky two-stroke powered taxi-trikes clogging congested city streets like a horde of giant farting bumblebees

    1. AK

      That’s the gist of it yeah, and I’m not sure why it is so. Only streetlegal “dirtbike” you can buy in india is a hero xpulse, 200cc 18hp. That’s the end of the list.

  4. sud

    On the money! Also own Duke 390 have the same views. I just laughed my ass off when EXPERTs said non-adjustable front suspension and tyres are not good enough for off-roads. I mean first of all KTM should be blamed for selecting these losers and second, how the fuck can u say no to ride another round of a bike which you can thrash without worrying about repairs. Unimaginable. Kudos for the review…absolutely spot on.

    1. sud

      Also, when people start complaining about Metz as a reason they can’t ride, is a clear sign that they know nothing and full of shit.