Thursday, August 4, 2016

KTM Duke 390 - First Ride Of The Uncrashable.

Less is more, much more.
He's been trying to get me to ride the 390 for ages. I'm a bit busy. 
He said its cornering speed is unreal and fast guys on ZX636R's and GSXR1000's are getting left behind (miles behind). Yeah, but I'm working on the GSX. 
He finally convinced me to ride all of the Yamaha MT range. Ok, now I'm in the mood.



I haven't come back from a ride shaking for a while. That was fun, a hell of a lot of fun. 

What's it all about Alfie?
Let's start with the basics, it's a 2015 KTM 390 with ABS. It weighs in at 139kg wet. It's small and is LAMS approved (low power to weight ratio, suitable for new riders in Australia). I think it's making around 45BHP.

On Mike's particular bike, the WP suspension has been professionally serviced and set up for him, it now sits slightly higher than stock. The rear tyre has been changed from a 150/60R17 to a race-style 140/70R17 which also adds slightly to the height. He's fitted Triumph Speed Triple bars to it, and it looks and feels spot-on.

The brakes are Bybre, which are Indian-made and owned by Brembo, and you get a single disc front and rear. Job jobbed.

Corner speed.
Bragging rights in the pub have always been about the biggest engines, the most horsepower and the top speeds. You used to hear the youngsters telling you how fast their NS125R would go now it's unrestricted and has four different power bands in all gears. "I've seen 150mph on the clock, it's actually faster than a Moto3 bike!"

Of course it is.

This bike is lightweight and has corner speed, but the problem is no one will believe you — until they see it in action. In a straight line it will have no chance against a big bike, period. But if you put in a few corners, the big bikes might not even see you again to use their advantage on those straights.

Mike keeps telling me, "Whatever speed you'd normally go in at, add 10-15 k's." It's one thing hearing it, totally another when you're dabbling on someone else's bike. Then he has the cheek to ask for some chalk to mark the tyres so he can see how far I'm leaning!



READY TO RACE >> I was born ready.


The Roadtest.
My first sit on the bike was like, "Wow, perfect height, it weighs nothing and my knees fit nicely into the tank." 

The clutch lever is so light it feels like it isn't connected; I punch first gear and off we go. Nothing to write home about as I get used to it, just a typical four-stroke single, but once you start to open it up she gets a real move on. Very torquey, and it overtakes cars really easy. I thought it might struggle as the speeds got higher, but it flies past quickly. 

The brakes are just right, as opposed to hitting a brick wall, but I still find myself scrubbing off way too much speed into every bend. You find yourself opening the throttle for a split second more because you know you've gone in too slowly. It takes a bit of getting used to this, must go faster!
Getting it over is a revelation after a big bike, it just drops into corners. My right foot hits the floor much sooner than I anticipated, and getting your knee down is a cinch. Maybe the pegs are slightly low, maybe I just need to move my feet further back. With a bit more time in the seat you'd work it out.

I shouldn't say it, but this bike feels like you could do stupid things and still not crash. There you are, it's uncrashable. If this is how good small bikes are nowadays, what more can I say?


One quick mountain blast later and it's pretty much right over to the edge. Dunlop Alpha 13's are nice and sticky, just what you need to get maximum throttle at maximum lean (allegedly).


That's pretty even between front and rear tyres too. The bottoms of the forks look so spindly, which they are, but more than capable for the size of the little Duke.


In looks alone, bikes like the Ninja 300 and the little Duke ooze quality, they don't look like they've been built to a budget at all; and the 390 weighs in quite a bit lighter than all its competitors — it's race ready alright!

Illuminated switches so you know where everything is at night. That's the first time I've seen that. Top work KTM!


No doubts here, that's a good looking bike.






That is 375cc's of Austrian goodness right there, and the ABS modulator is tucked away right above the cylinder head, just under the headstock. 



Conclusion.
You can get off a bike like this and actually feel like you've been riding it, not just sitting onboard and hoping for the best. Every slight movement you make gets a direct response from the chassis. And you can pull the throttle to the stop for longer than is normally possible — you forget how that feels on big bikes — it's nice. You're a racer in your own backyard.

After riding big bikes for so long, I absolutely loved this thing. I need a lotto win.

Next up, the big brother 690...