2020 KTM 390 Adventure review

2020 KTM 390 Adventure review
KTM 390 Adventure (Image: BBC TopGear India)

KTM’s first-ever adventure tourer in India is here. But is it as exciting as the brand’s road bikes?

Adventure touring motorcycles are pretty much the two-wheeled version of SUVs, no? I mean, today everyone wants an automobile that can be categorised as an ‘SUV’, irrespective of whether or not it can tackle off-tarmac excursions. Thankfully, that’s not the case with adventure touring motorcycles. They’ve risen to immense popularity in a very short timespan and every ADV in the country boasts credibility! Interestingly though, a lot of eyebrows were raised when KTM’s 390 Adventure was showcased with cast-alloy wheels. In fact, keyboard racers were quick to cry foul saying they didn’t expect Team Orange to do this. Well before the bike even came to India. More eyebrows went up when the India-spec bike was showcased with non-adjustable front forks. Seriously? We could waste an entire evening just discussing the exact setup we want on an India-spec ADV. We all know the basics required. But does it make sense to start booing a motorcycle down before it even hits the road? Whatever happened to the adage, proof of the pudding being in the eating? So I swung a leg over to see if the 390 Adventure can shake things up.

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At first glance it gives the appearance of being larger than just a 390. In fact, I’m certain the KTM will dwarf the Hero XPulse 200 or Royal Enfield Himalayan if parked alongside. You know what’s more interesting though? The KTM weighs just 177kg kerb, as compared to the 199kg Himalayan! Get the drift? Of course, my first rendezvous with the 390 Adventure, like many other journos, was at the India Bike Week in Goa when it was first showcased. And it did not look significantly smaller than the stunning-looking 790 Adventure parked nearby, especially with the identical looking, all-LED headlight. For that matter, in typical KTM fashion, the 390 Adventure isn’t the prettiest motorcycle around – no, KTM doesn’t do what Ducati does. What they do well is, make some of the most distinctive looking bikes.

And the design team at Mattighofen has made a habit of it. I don’t need to remind you of the transparent windscreen extensions and full-foam pillion perch-cum-rear cowls on the RC series, do I? Team Orange has given the 390 Adventure some unique design cues too, like the ‘split’ fairing, wherein the fuel tank gets extensions similar to streetbikes and the fairing gets side extensions too to look like a full-fairing. The side profile stays true to the adventure touring breed, thanks to the 19/17 inch wheel combo and the tall front end and handlebars. The pillion seat precedes a set of functional grab rails which also look rather nice, though I have to mention, the de rigueur saree guard made me roll my eyes. Can’t really blame the regulations though, can we?

I would have liked differently styled mirrors, though admittedly, the TFT display, also straight off the 390 Duke, is nice and offers turn-by-turn navigation now. That brings me to what is a bit of a downer, the windscreen adjustment . You cannot adjust the screen unless you have an allen key! I do like how the rubber footpeg tops can be taken off to reveal the ‘teeth’ of the metal pegs underneath and these offer ample grip to wet boots. Also, the gear lever end is spring-loaded so it doesn’t break off, lest you drop the bike on the side. Thoughtful! More importantly, the rider’s seat is supremely spacious and comfortable to sit on thanks to the new subframe, though at 855mm, shorter riders might find the seat a little too tall, me thinks.

Also, let’s acquaint ourselves with the motor. Or do we need to? It’s the same 373cc, liquid-cooled single pot mill we’ve all adored on the 390 Duke and RC390 for its zing, especially at the top. It’s in the exact same state of tune and also gets the same six-speed gearbox, now with a bi-directional quickshifter. That said, it’s the electronic nannies that really take the cake. The 390 Adventure is the first machine in its class and one of the only small capacity ones to be equipped with a six-axis IMU and resultantly, cornering traction control and cornering ABS. You can also switch TC off (of course, you will want to, on gravel, no?) while the off-road mode for ABS lessens intervention at the front and kills it at the back. Pretty neat.

ENGINE 373cc, liquid-cooled, single cylinder
POWER 43 bhp
PRICE 2.98 lakh (ex-showroom, India)