2024 KTM 390 Duke first ride review: Return of the hooligan?
Some motorcycles are just extremely special. Not only because they are exceptional performers, but also because of what they offer the rider and what they do for the industry by setting trends and pushing the competition. This in turn gives the buyer a lot more choice and choice is always great. The KTM 390 Duke is one such motorcycle. When it launched in 2013, it introduced us to a level of performance that was just unfathomable for the times. A hooligan was the best way to describe the bike and everyone loved it for that. Then came Gen-2 and with it stricter emission norms that would choke KTM into taking away all of that essence that made the bike so special. But with the Gen-3, 2024 KTM 390 Duke, KTM promises us that they have resurrected the hooligan.
2024 KTM 390 Duke design
The KTM 390 Duke has always been radically styled. Quirky, bright and sharp are some of the adjectives that would be used to describe the aesthetic of the bike. The 390 and in turn, the 250 and 125 Dukes have always been styling derivatives of the OG 1290 Super Duke. But for Gen-3, the design, in my opinion, feels closer to that of the Super Duke than ever before. The whole look is fresh, starting with a more substantial, aggressive front end. The headlight, while still a split piece unit, gets a new design, with a sharper cowl that wraps around and forms the DRL. To either side of the illuminator are these new pointy shrouds that extend from the now larger 15-litre fuel tank. The wheels are also new and use a hollowed-out hub design like on the RC 200 and RC 390. This design also means that the disc brake is mounted on the rim spokes directly rather than on the hub. Pan the camera to the side view and you’re greeted by a chiselled, muscular almost ‘cheetah on the prowl’ stance. I think this is because of the higher tank and sculpted seats. The rear seat sits on a new aluminium subframe, one that looks a lot nicer than on the Gen-2 bike.
The next notable design feature on the side profile is the lack of a side slung exhaust, because, for 2024 the bike finally returns to the underbelly exhaust format. Another thing that is bound to catch your attention is the off-set monoshock which is a result of a larger airbox. That certainly adds to the Super Duke vibe that this bike gives off. At the rear, you see the same lighter wheel design and also a new tail section with a ‘T’ style tail light. On the orange bike that we rode, the rider seat is finished in a bright shade of orange, which is not something I’m particularly fond of. If I were to put my money on one, I’d much rather get the blue one. In terms of build quality, the 2024 390 Duke feels solid and a good step up over the outgoing model.
2024 KTM 390 Duke engine and performance
The new 390 Duke is powered by what KTM calls an all-new engine. I’m no engineer and can’t verify if the engine is all-new or just heavily modified but there are a lot of new numbers to talk about. Starting with the displacement. It has gone up from 372cc to 399cc, and even the stroke figure has gone up. That along with a larger air box like the RC 200 and 390 means that the 390 Duke makes more power and torque as well. 44.4bhp at 8500rpm and 39Nm at 6500rpm (up from 43bhp and 37Nm) are the headline figures. Apart from these changes, KTM has also tuned the engine such that it makes 80 per cent of its power and torque a whole 1000rpm earlier. While 1000rpm might not sound like a lot on paper, out in the real world, the bike feels a lot more tractable and willing to stay in a higher gear at lower revs than before. Coming to the performance, let me put you out of your misery by saying that this lives up to all the expectations we had. It’s snappy, quick, very responsive and communicative. You’re greeted by an exhaust note that is throaty and almost sounds like a parallel twin when riding and it certainly sounds better than the Gen-2 390 Duke.
Once you get over the exhaust note, you grip the bars to a nice and weighty throttle, one that is very easy to modulate. The 390 Duke now also gets riding modes – Rain, Street and Track. Rain mode restricts power and courtesy of the ride-by-wire system, softens the throttle response to allow for a safer ride in the wet and it works as advertised. Street and Track mode have the same power delivery characteristics but Track mode unlocks launch control and gets a bespoke display, showing only data essential to a rider when on a race track. Things like a lap timer, number of laps and so on. In these two modes, the engine becomes really lively and one that you can have a lot of fun with. Even get into trouble with. While not as wild, with the 2024 390 Duke, KTM has managed to bring back a lot of the essence that made the BS3 Duke so special, while meeting the rather stringent emission norms. The bump in power is certainly apparent and the fact that it makes more power and torque earlier on in the rev range makes it more usable for the daily as well. Refinement levels are great and the bike does have some vibrations here and there especially when you roll off the throttle. But some of that I’m willing to chalk up as character. A reminder that you’re on an enthusiast-focused ICE machine. The clutch action, courtesy of the slipper clutch is very light but precise at the same time. Even the bi-directional quickshifter works very well, especially at higher rpms. At lower rpms, it can feel a little clunky but you can always use the clutch and slot in a gear on the slick and tactile gearbox.
2024 KTM 390 Duke chassis, ride and handling
The Gen-3 390 Duke gets a comprehensive do-over in the chassis department as well. The main trellis frame has a new aluminium subframe and this setup hangs off of new WP Apex forks which for the first time, are adjustable. You get 5 clicks of compression and rebound adjustability on the USDs which now offer 150mm of travel. The monoshock gets five clicks of rebound adjustability and 10 clicks of preload adjustment. The best part is that this suspension setup is stock and not a PowerPart. The ride quality on the bike is surprisingly good. On the firmer side, this setup manages to offer a fairly plush ride, one that does prioritise handling but not at the cost of comfort. And in any case, you can tailor the characteristics to your liking, within reason and having that option is ace.
The rest of the chassis setup is sharper than ever. With the lighter wheels and the taut frame, you can change directions on a dime, in an almost telepathic manner. It’s quick to turn in but never jittery. You feel in control throughout. Even the Metzeler Sportec M5 H-Rated tyres that we didn’t like so much on the RC felt enough on this. It is only the veteran riders who will benefit from a change in rubber. Out on the Chakan test track, the bike felt absolutely stable, even on the bumpy sections and was composed even when tipping the bike into the faster near triple-digit speed corners. Out on the road, the new, closer-to-supermoto ergonomics felt comfortable. The only real complaint I had was on track where someone of my size would find it a little hard to tuck in and push back into the seat comfortably when tackling the longer straights. Speaking of ergonomics, the new Duke now has a shorter 800mm seat height which can be raised back to 820mm with a quick PowerPart placement under the seat. The narrow inseam means that it is easier to flatfoot and even shorter riders will feel secure on the bike. Braking performance with the 320mm disc, sintered pads and radial calliper upfront was solid and offered more than enough bite and feedback. At 168kg wet, the new 390 Duke weighs 4kg less than the outgoing Duke. 2 of those 4 kilograms are a reduction in unsprung mass (wheels) which aids in making a sharp bike sharper still.
2024 KTM 390 Duke features
The new Duke is also packed to the brim with features. You get a new 5-inch colour TFT screen. This is now encased under smartphone-like glass making it easier and clearer to read despite the sunlight overhead. This new screen also gets a new UI, which is very easy to use courtesy of the new, chunky switchgear. These are backlit, very intuitive and easy to use even with gloves thanks to the ergonomic design. In terms of new features, you have cornering traction control, cornering ABS, launch control as a part of the Track mode, ride modes, a speed limiter and your usual smartphone connectivity which enables navigation and media/call controls. You also have a neatly integrated USB-C charging port tucked behind the cluster.
2024 KTM 390 Duke verdict
The 2024 KTM 390 Duke is a proper generational update and it certainly seems like a bike that has taken a huge leap forward over the outgoing generation. It gets more power and a different state of tune which makes the bike that much more usable. A new chassis setup by way of a new frame, wheels and adjustable suspension. All of which does a very good job of enunciating the Duke’s newfound sporty characteristics. The new electronics aid in making the 390 Duke more versatile and then there's the new styling which in my opinion makes it the best looking 390 Duke so far. I know by this point you might feel like I am biased, but the bike is genuinely that good. Especially when you consider that the extra feature set over the Gen-2 390 Duke comes for just Rs 13,000 extra. At Rs 3.10 lakh ex-showroom, the 2024 390 Duke offers great value for money and should certainly be high on your consideration list if a versatile and sporty sub-500cc naked is what you’re in the market for.