Dear MOby,

I have a KTM Duke 390 and it is the only bike I use for everything. That includes, but is not limited to, touring, riding to buy groceries, and just riding around town. The problem I have is that at times I ride to destinations that don’t necessarily have tarred roads. Sometimes I have to ride on unpaved roads that have rocks on them. You can imagine how painful the ride is, but I can’t afford another bike for touring.

So the question is, is there an economical solution to fix my suspension?

Regards,
KK
Rockville


Your Duke’s suspension isn’t exactly plush and you wouldn’t expect it to be given the bike’s low price and its mission, but it’s really not so bad either. The only adjustment in the stock suspension is for spring preload at the rear, so make sure it’s not wound in too far for your weight.

Adjusting Motorcycle Suspension

Smoother suspension action can be had if you get a reputable tuning shop to revalve it for your weight and riding environment or upgrade it with aftermarket parts. If you’re really light, like less than 150 pounds, you could try softer springs, but then you might also open several new, expensive cans of worms.

Sometimes the simplest solution is the best one, Rockhopper, sometimes so simple as to be right under your nose, or butt, in this instance. The great Steve Anderson, the last EiC of Cycle magazine and a real-live engineer, once pointed out this not-so-obvious fact to me: The first component of any motorcycle suspension is its seat.

We’ve ridden a KTM or two equipped with KTM’s own comfort seats, and found them to be a truly worthy investment for long rides. As a matter of fact, we tested the one for your very bike here, where we wrote:

Another sore spot – literally – was the stock seat, which isn’t especially compliant and uses a plasticky cover. KTM’s PowerParts catalog provided relief in the form of the Ergo Seat, which uses much nicer material for its cover and plusher, thicker foam. It’s vastly more comfortable than the stocker and remained so even after nearly 200 miles in the saddle when I rode it out to Chuckwalla Valley Raceway for a trackday.

“Its 20mm of increased seat height certainly helped increase comfort in the legroom department for my 5-foot-11 chassis,” T-Rod lauds. “I wouldn’t hesitate to take it on a longer ride.”

KTM’s Ergo seat for your bike is KTM part number 902.07.940.100. It’s 20mm taller than the stock seat, packed with “technologically advanced components” like “3D structural mesh special foam with built-in tunnel form,” etc, and sells for about $130.

011617-ask-mo-saddlemen-tech-comfort-gel-pad

If that’s too rich, consider something like a Saddlemen Tech Comfort Gel Pad, a strap-on deal that comes in five different sizes and puts a layer of shock-absorbing gel between your fundament and your Duke. The size Medium sells for $85.

011617-ask-mo-airhawk-seat

A lot of riders swear by their AirHawk seats, which as the name implies, use an air suspension-based system to cushion your behind. You’ll have to measure your Duke to see what style/size will fit, but they’re around $110.

I bet you’ll find any of these three will be a huge improvement over your thinnish stock saddle, and there are a lot of other saddle makers out there too. Check forums for advice, but realize that no two butts are exactly alike.


Direct your motorcycle-related questions to AskMoAnything@motorcycle.com, though some say we’re better at non-motorcycle-related ones…

  • john phyyt

    When you ride don’t keep your wallet/phone or anything in your back pocket :

  • SRMark

    You might also try some bicycling pants.

  • Vrooom

    The seat on the Duke’s has never been great. That was true back on the old 620s, and is probably true on the 390 too. Aftermarket suspension would probably be your best bet, but that’s going to be super expensive, so reducing pre-load, the seat improvements mentioned here, and learning to stand on your pegs on dirt roads might be your best bet. .

  • Mark Vizcarra

    I would suggest lighter weight fork oil and go from there

  • Michael Mccormick

    I’d go with the Airhawk and drop the tire air pressure. Manufacturers often recommend pressure to account for a passenger. If you’re comfortable standing on the pegs that will help when hitting bumps and on unpaved roads

  • Starmag

    Why doesn’t the “comfort” seat come stock and the “hard as a 2×4” seat come as an option for masochists?

  • So Hungry

    For $180 I had a custom motorcycle shop add a 10mm gel insert. The difference is unbelievable. I wish I had known about this sooner. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4735f67a4c2a49ffa3cfdbf5ac270e00f79075d6f080d50d14f5b7417a60ca85.jpg

  • Jon Jones

    “The great Steve Anderson, the last EiC of Cycle magazine and a real-live engineer, once pointed out this not-so-obvious fact to me: The first component of any motorcycle suspension is its seat.”

    All too true. Although the suspension on my ’80 Suzuki GS1000GT is notso-hotso, that big mattress of a seat soaks up smaller bumps beautifully.

  • JMDonald

    I have always used the original OEM seats.