The 390 Adventure in finally here! But has it been worth the wait?
ADVs are a rage. Slowly and steadily, the market has grown fond of what could be the ideal bikes for India. It all began with the Royal Enfield Himalayan that showed a lot of promise, but reliability issues and the lethargic engine worked against it. Next door to the Austrians, BMW Motorrad had already begun developing the G 310 GS and following a similar Bajaj-KTM model had partnered with TVS to build it in India. However when Motorrad finally started selling the baby GS in India, the shockingly high sticker price meant as many 310s are sold in a year as KTMs in a month. And finally there’s the newly crowned Indian Motorcycle of the Year, the Hero Xpulse. A brilliant chassis is what won it the IMOTY gong but the underpowered engine means when you’re out of the dirt roads this is more suited to commuting than adventure touring.
And now here’s the KTM 390 Adventure that fills the void. It promises to rule the next decade and maybe even do the ground work for the 790 Adventure, which will be launched later this year. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let me take you to 19 Degree North, one of the most challenging off-road parks in our neck of the woods, before hitting regular roads to bring you our first impressions.
The sheer size of the 390 Adventure will make you feel like you are riding a proper ADV and none of the small-capacity ADVs can boast of such a feat. When I finally jumped into the saddle, it made me feel like I was riding a proper mid-weight. The seat height is quite tall at 855mm but fret not; the suspension has enough sag so as to allow you to get your feet on the ground after you sit on the wide and plush seat. The cockpit is snazzy too and never does it feel like a budget bike. We have always loved the TFT-cluster on the 390 Duke but the Adventure takes it a step ahead. You now get navigation as standard (works with the KTM My Ride app for Rs 599 on the App and Google Play Store). That’s not it; there’s a bi-directional quickshifter, IMU-based cornering ABS and traction control, extendable windshield (by upto 40mm), full-sized serrated pegs, Metzeler Tourance tyres (also seen on the Tiger 800 XRs and G 310 GS) and top-spec WP Apex long-travel suspension (170:177mm, front/rear), though the India-spec forks aren’t adjustable. KTM has also plonked in two fans for the radiator to cool down better in off-road riding conditions.
What’s been carried over is the same liquid-cooled, 373.2cc, high-compression motor in an identical tune, tightly tucked into the trellis that also gets a detachable rear subframe. The riding position is slightly canted forward and the pegs are mid-set. The commanding seating position is great for riding while seated, but standing? Nope. A disappointment for sure. There are no tank recesses to hold onto and the handlebar is low as well, at least for my height (6feet tall). And as we began the ride and hit the gravel, the engine showed its typical Katoom trait. Lack of lowdown grunt means the clutch takes a hit and you need to keep the engine above 4,000rpm to keep it moving. The traction control was acting up at the first ride, which led to a lot of us falling (will be sorted with software updates says KTM), but what really impressed me is the way the chassis tackled level-3 trails, riding up a dried up waterfall! Our columnist and bonafide mountain man Vijay Parmar tells me that the trail is meant for 450cc dirt bikes and I believe him. Limited time meant we had to get out of there and onto the roads, where the KTM really shines.
There’s a reason why 390 Duke owners have been playing around with the bike’s suspension and plonking on windshields – because it is great for long rides. The 390 Adventure gets all of this, and more. It’s so very potent on the highway and even up the mountain twisties you’ll be able to easily keep up with those big-burly ADVs. The motor is stupendous and it’s a joy to skim through the creamy torque delivery. The top-end is super aggressive as we already have already sampled on the Duke but the quickshifter adds to the overall experience, making it enjoyable to ride it at high speeds.
The counterbalancer works great and there are barely any vibes to be felt even when you’re close to the limiter (about 10,500rpm). The ride and handling as we expect from a KTM is the icing on the cake. Despite the additional weight and long wheelbase, the agility is surreal! The handling is better than the Duke even, making for a machine that is super enjoyable in corners. The grip from Tourance is ample and the faster you go, the better they get. The chassis is a proper chatterbox as we expect from a KTM.
The ideal bike for India?
What is an ideal motorcycle for India? To me it is one that can do it all – cruise effortlessly on the Golden Quadrilateral, keep you comfortable on crowded city streets, take on the potholed B-roads, get your knee down at the MMRT and make you feel at home at Bigrock Dirtpark. Lastly, it must be able to take you to Ladakh along with your luggage and get you back home in the fastest way possible. The 390 Adventure does all that. It may be lacking the ideal ADV essentials for some which includes spoke wheels and a beak but after having ridden it on Level-3 trails, I can assure you that you you’re not missing on anything, except for the fact that it lacks outright torque in the low-range. Which other bike can boast of such a long list of features at such an affordable price (Rs 2.99 lakh). KTM has done it again!