KTM RC390 Review

Author: Roland Brown Posted: 04 Sep 2014

Sweet-handling RC390

Most sports bikes fit into a familiar capacity class such as 750, 600 or 125cc, but the RC390 is designed for a different type of category. With its maximum output of 44bhp and its 147kg dry weight figure, KTM’s sporty single just sneaks under the limits of power, weight and power-to-weight ratio for the A2 licence class.

Even the naked 390 Duke that shares the RC’s 375cc engine has to be restricted by a couple of horsepower for A2 riders, because its power-to-weight ratio is fractionally too high. But the fully-faired RC’s few kilos of extra weight mean it just makes the cut as standard.

Not that you have to be a novice to enjoy the RC390, which is a cracking little bike that anyone could have fun on. Any 19 year old riders who get their hands one are going to be blown away because the KTM combines rider-friendly, 100mph performance with light weight, agile handling and a decent level of practicality too.

It looks good enough to grace any teenager’s bedroom wall, with typically aggressive lines all the way from the beaky fairing nose, with its pair of small headlights, to the tip of the similarly sharp seat unit. This looks like a solo seat but cleverly the rear bit is actually a pillion perch, made from a blend of rubber and foam, and with hand-holds below.

Agressive beaky fairing noseClever pillion perch

The dohc, four-valve motor is identical to the Duke unit right down to the airbox and gearing. The exhaust is basically unchanged too but it’s neatly hidden in the belly-pan of the fairing whose white finish differentiates this bike from the visually similar, recently released RC125.

Chassis layout is much like the smaller RC’s too, differing from the Duke in that the tubular steel frame has slightly sharper steering geometry and a shorter wheelbase. The 43mm WP usd forks have 125mm of travel instead of 150 but there’s an unchanged 150mm at the rear.

Lower bars and more rearset footrests mean the riding position is more sporty, and the seat is 20mm higher at 820mm. Despite being very tall I wasn’t particularly cramped. There’s not too much of a reach to the bars, and the RC’s light weight and slimness mean it should be very manoeuvrable for most riders.

Our man tests the RC390's sporty capabilities

It’s respectably quick and a blast to ride, too. Throttle response is very gentle, almost a bit flat at low revs, with not much doing until about 5000rpm. But the single pulls harder above that figure, and equally importantly if feels happy to rev. It stays smooth, thanks to the balancer shaft, until the change-up light on the compact dash flashes at about 9000rpm.

That made caning the RC on country roads in central Italy an riot of flat-out acceleration and frequent gear-changes. It was impressively docile and rider-friendly in town, and even handled a short stretch of autostrada effortlessly. It put just over 100mph on its digital speedo with a few more mph to come, so is good for a genuine ton.

Handy on track and road, the smart RC390 is lot of bike for £4,999

Handling was excellent: light, responsive and very stable in bends, helped by the basic rigidity of the steel-tube frame and aluminium swing-arm. The initially softly sprung rear end can feel slightly vague at times. But the non-adjustable shock damping is good, and the generous travel doubtless contributed to the thin seat still being reasonably comfortable after several hours’ riding.

Even on the Modena track I was very impressed by the non-adjustable forks. And by the shock, too, once I’d added a couple of turns of preload to suit my height and weight. As with the 390 Duke, I found the front brake blend of single 300mm disc and four-pot radial Bybre (Brembo’s subsidiary in India, where the RC is built) caliper adequate but not great.

Bybre is a subsidiary of Brembo. The RC390 has a single 300mm disc.Info-laden dashboard is a little old-school

But the stopper pulled the bike up sharply if given a firm squeeze, and incorporates ABS that worked well even on the track, so it’s hard to complain. And I’ve also no complaints about the slim Metzeler M5 tyres, which gripped well even on track although that didn’t prevent a couple of riders sliding off at slow speed.

In fact it’s hard to complain much about anything on a bike that looks this good, goes this well and delivers this much entertainment — while giving over 50mpg and costing just £4999. This much two-wheeled style, speed and entertainment plus change from five grand has got to be one of the bargains of the year.




 44bhp @ 9500rpm

 Dry weight


 Seat height





Photos: Alessio Barbanti & Marco Campelli