2015 KTM 390 Duke

Editor Score: 92.0%
Engine 19.0/20
Suspension/Handling 13.5/15
Transmission/Clutch 9.0/10
Brakes 9.5/10
Ergonomics/Comfort 8.5/10
Appearance/Quality 9.5/10
Desirability 9.0/10
Value 10/10
Overall Score92/100

After years of manufacturers serving the high end of the motorcycle market, we’re happy to acknowledge the OEMs for finally devoting engineering resources to the entry-level sporty-bike crowd. Honda’s CBR250R upped the class ante a few years ago, forcing Kawasaki to upgrade its Ninja 250 into a Ninja 300, which then begat the CBR300R and its CB300F naked/standard stablemate.

Then came KTM’s RC390 sportbike, which is on its way to hitting American shores. It, like the Hondas, uses a single-cylinder engine, but the 373cc KTM powerplant is a significant 87cc larger. Also like the Hondas, KTM’s RC390 has a naked version, the 390 Duke.

2015 KTM RC390 First Ride Review

2015 KTM RC390 Video Review

The 390 Duke has been previously available in other markets, but it wasn’t until last week that we were able to throw a leg over the playful and peppy roadster when we joined KTM in Thailand for its Duke It event. After a couple of days of seat time, including a few racetrack sessions, I believe the little Duke – along with its RC390 brother – has the potential to be a healthy shot in the arm of the junior-level sportbike class.

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Most of what was said about the RC390 also applies to the Duke 390, as both share engines, chassis and braking components. Dukes in other markets also include 125cc and 200cc versions, but the 373cc version tested here is the smallest of the Duke line in America, joining the 690 Duke and 1290 Super Duke R, the latter earning our prestigious 2014 Motorcycle of the Year award.

A little Duke-on-Duke action. Stylin’ on a budget.

A little Duke-on-Duke action. Stylin’ on a budget.

Like the RC390, the Duke sibling is built in India by Bajaj, which owns a 49% stake in the Austrian parent company. Don’t think the lil’ Duke lacks technology. Its fuel-injected engine is blessed with a forged aluminum piston sliding in a Nikasil liner and employs DLC-coated finger followers for its twin-cam valvetrain. Said to weigh just 79 lbs., the mill uses an oversquare 89mm x 60mm bore and stroke and is able to spin up just past 10,000 rpm.

Robotically welded tubular-steel trellis frame, 43mm inverted fork, aluminum swingarm, and standard antilock brakes with radially mounted front caliper. Not what’s usually expected from a bike with a modest $4,999 MSRP.

Robotically welded tubular-steel trellis frame, 43mm inverted fork, aluminum swingarm, and standard antilock brakes with radially mounted front caliper. Not what’s usually expected from a bike with a modest $4,999 MSRP.

In practice, the feisty Single feels stronger than expected, boasting a relatively deep well of power. Low-rpm poke is more robust than the 286cc Hondas or 296cc Kawasaki, alleviating requirements to rev it up just to keep pace with traffic. When speed is required, the diminutive mill has a step up in power after 6500 revs, with peak torque of 25.8 lb-ft. said to arrive at 7250 rpm. Horsepower, rated at the crankshaft (not the rear wheel), peaks with 43 ponies at 9500 rpm. It’s enough to comfortably cruise at 80 mph, with a counterbalancer (and rubber-covered footpegs) keeping engine vibrations from being objectionable.

2013 KTM 690 Duke Review + Video

Indeed, there’s enough power on tap to hit 100 mph, as evidenced when flogging the 390 Duke on the 1.7-mile Bonanza Speedway circuit. Although the Duke isn’t really intended for racetrack use, it, like most good sporty roadsters, proves to be an entertaining mount when given the spurs. Remember, the Duke is a very close relation to the RC390, with the key differences a lack of a fairing and a more relaxed rake angle.

The 390 Duke is super narrow between a rider’s knees. Above the headlight is an ultra-mini windscreen that is more style than substance. KTM’s Power Parts catalog offers a larger one.

The 390 Duke is super narrow between a rider’s knees. Above the headlight is an ultra-mini windscreen that is more style than substance. KTM’s Power Parts catalog offers a larger one.

However, the 25.0-degree rake and its 100mm of trail don’t feel lazy in any way, as the 306-lb (claimed dry) Dukeresponds immediately to a shove on its tapered aluminum handlebar. Kudos to KTM for a few refinements to the Duke platform for 2015, including new handgrips and a reduction in the amount of rotation the twistgrip requires to hit full throttle: from 88 degrees to 77. Other updates include a generator with a higher output and slightly thicker seat foam.

Also new for the 390 Duke is a slipper clutch added to its light-shifting six-speed transmission, although it wasn’t on the bike I rode in Thailand. This is another nice refinement from the Mattighofen men, and an upgrade lesser OEMs would neglect until a more significant model update was made.

Comprehensive instrumentation includes easy-to-read digital speedo and a gear-position indicator, fuel economy info, a fuel gauge, temperature levels, and a programmable shift light. The tiny numerals on the tiny bar-graph tach frustrate.

Comprehensive instrumentation includes easy-to-read digital speedo and a gear-position indicator, fuel economy info, a fuel gauge, temperature levels, and a programmable shift light. The tiny numerals on the tiny bar-graph tach frustrate.

The Duke’s racetrack limits are set mostly by footpeg clearance, scraping pavement earlier than the RC390’s higher footrests. Pirelli Diablo Rosso ll tires are an unexpectedly premium addition to an entry-level bike.

Also fairly premium is the Duke’s brake package, which consists of a four-piston radial-mount caliper biting on a 300mm rotor up front. The calipers are engineered by Brembo and are manufactured in India by ByBre. A two-channel ABS system from Bosch is standard equipment, as are braided-steel brake lines. While the binders aren’t up to the standards set by Brembo’s latest high-end units, the ByBre combo is about as good as it gets at this price. ABS intervention occurs only at a fairly high threshold, and the system can be switched off if desired.

WP Suspension, a KTM subsidiary, provides the stout 43mm fork and preload-adjustable monoshock. There’s a generous 5.9 inches of travel at either end to soak up bumps found in First through Third worlds. It’s a nice compromise of compliance and control at a budget price.

Former Grand Prix racer Jeremy McWilliams aboard a 690 Duke tries in vain to get around Duke on a 390 Duke. Well, a Duke can dream...

Former Grand Prix racer Jeremy McWilliams aboard a 690 Duke tries in vain to get around Duke on a 390 Duke. Well, a Duke can dream…


If you haven’t noticed by now, I’ve become a big fan of this little KTM. It’s difficult to imagine a better sporty bike for a beginning rider. Its cool factor is higher than anything else in its class, and its sporting potential offers considerable headroom for rider development.

Complaints are few and relatively minor. Its front brake lever isn’t adjustable for reach but should be to fit hands of various sizes. Its suspension might be overwhelmed by plus-size Americans. Its clutch pull is a little heavy, but I’d say it’s a good trade-off for the ability to pull second-gear clutch wheelies!

The 390 Duke is the bike I wish was available when I was shopping for my first streetbike. It looks trick, it’s versatile, and it’s fun to ride on street or track. At less than $5k, it’s as fine a moto value as there is. I’d love it even if it didn’t have a terrific name!

030415-2015-ktm-390-duke-_MAR2609 (2)

+ Highs

  • High style at budget price
  • Class torque-monster
  • Unparalleled value
– Sighs

  • Tiny tachometer
  • Plasticky intake moan
  • Unavailable when I was a kid
KTM 390
Honda CB300F Honda CB500F Kawasaki Ninja 300 Suzuki DRZ400SM
MSRP $4,999 $4,399 $5,799 $4,999 $7,189
Engine Capacity 373.3cc 286cc 471cc 296cc 398cc
Engine Type Liquid-cooled, DOHC, single-cylinder, four-stroke, 4 valves per cylinder Liquid-cooled, DOHC, single-cylinder, four-stroke, 4 valves per cylinder Liquid-cooled, DOHC, parallel-Twin, four-stroke, 4 valves per cylinder Liquid-cooled, DOHC, parallel-Twin, four-stroke, 4 valves per cylinder Liquid-cooled, DOHC, single-cylinder, four-stroke, 4 valves per cylinder
Bore x Stroke 89.0mm x 60.0mm 76.0mm x 63.0mm 67.0mm x 66.8mm 62.0mm x 49.0mm 90.0mm x 62.6mm
Compression Ratio 12.5:1 10.7:1 10.7:1 10.6:1 11.3:1
Horsepower 43 (claimed) 26 (est) 43 34 34.7
Torque 25.8 (claimed) 17.8 (est) 29 18 25.9
Fuel System Electronic Fuel Injection PGM-Fi, 38mm throttle body PGM-FI, two 34mm throttle bodies Electronic Fuel Injection Single Mikuni BSR36 carburettor
Transmission 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed 6-speed 5-speed
Final Drive Chain Chain Chain Chain Chain
Frame Steel trellis Steel Steel Steel Steel
Front Suspension WP 43mm inverted fork. 5.9 in travel 37mm conventional fork. 4.65 in. travel 41mm fork; 4.3 in. travel 37mm conventional fork. 4.7 in travel Showa inverted fork. Adjustable for rebound and compression
Rear Suspension WP shock. Preload adjustable. 5.9 in travel Pro-link single shock, preload adjustable, 4.07 in travel Pro-Link single shock. Preload adjustable. 4.7 in travel Single shock. Preload adjustable. 5.2 in travel Showa monoshock. Fully adjustable with high- and low-speed compression adjustment
Front Brakes Single 300mm disc. 4-piston, radial-mount caliper Single 296mm disc. Twin-piston caliper Single 320mm wave disc. Two-piston caliper Single 290mm wave disc. Two-piston caliper Single 300mm disc. Two-piston caliper
Rear Brakes Single 230mm disc. Single-piston caliper Single 220mm disc. Single-piston caliper Single 240mm wave disc. Single-piston caliper Single 220mm wave disc. Two-piston caliper Single 245mm disc. Single-piston caliper
ABS Standard N/A +$500 +$100 N/A
Front Tire 110/70-17 110/70-17 120/70-17 110/70-17 120/70-17 tube
Rear Tire 150/60-17 140/70-17 160/60-17 140/70-17 140/70-17 tube
Seat Height 31.5 in 30.7 in 30.9 in 30.9 in 35.0 in
Wheelbase 53.8 in 54.3 in 55.5 in 55.3 in 57.5 in
Rake/Trail 25.0 deg/3.9 in 25.3 deg/3.9 in 25.5 deg/4.1 in 27.0 deg/3.7 in NA
Curb Weight 345 (claimed) 351 (claimed) 418 (claimed) 379.3 (claimed) 321 (claimed)
Fuel Capacity 2.9 gal 3.4 gal 4.1 gal 4.5 gal 2.6 gal

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KTM Communities

  • Craig Hoffman

    Oh man. Sounds like the makings of a really sweet dual sport motor. If KTM decided to go that route, there would no longer be any reason to buy a WR250R, and Yamaha gets pretty good money for those. I also can’t believe the MSRP on the DRZ 400 is almost $7,200. That is a sick joke. It also makes a superior KTM competitor financially viable.

    The dual sport world needs a shot in the arm. KTM makes truly awesome street legal dirt bikes in the form of the 350 and 500 EXC, but the market wants a dual sport that is off road capable with relaxed maintenance intervals that does not cost 10K. This powerplant sounds like a great basis for such a bike. KTM has the 690R enduro. How about a 390R?

    • Reid

      I’m with you all the way.

    • Steve C

      Yup. Lets see a dual sport version.

    • Josh

      Recent news says they are making a 390 adventure!

  • Old MOron

    So when Jezza is on your tail, do they wave the blue flag at you?
    Did he follow everyone around for photo ops?
    Oh well, sure sounds like a cool bike.

    • Kevin Duke

      Jezza is now a test rider for KTM, so he was a real gentleman. Cool guy, too.

      • Old MOron

        I recall he made some good videos about developing the Super Duke. I’m surprised you didn’t review that bike, yourself. Could’ve been quite the MOronic article: Two Duper Dukes!

  • JMDonald

    I wish this was available in the mid-seventies.

  • Mark Vizcarra

    I hope this model doesn’t burn oil Like the 690s

  • 306 pounds! That weighs as much as 3 Kevin Dukes.

    • Buzz

      I don’t care who you are, that was funny.

  • Have they improved the fueling to clear out that flat spot noted in a couple RC390 reviews?

    Minor qualm though. I fear this thing is now my #1. Very cool.

    • Kevin Duke

      Still has a noticeable step in its powerband, but it’s not a big issue IMO. Looking forward to getting it on a dyno.

  • Shashank

    I’ve been hearing about this bike for more than a year, was almost ready to buy it in 2014, but it was never brought stateside by KTM. Do we have an official launch date from KTM for the US market?

    • Kevin Duke

      The Dukes are on their way to dealers as we speak. The RC390 might be a little longer..

      • johnhender

        The RC390s arrived First at the place i preordered my duke 390. The guy who came in before me bought 2 of them. I pick up my duke friday . the dealer said he could sell everyone he can get his hands on

  • mugwump

    Do the “race” upgrades for the RC include an adjustable front suspension?

  • frankfan42

    I’d love to see a comparo test between the KTM and the Ninja and little Honda.

  • James Stewart

    Jesus! I’m only one that’s getting loud obnoxious audio of the R1 video review when I click on the KTM 390 review?!? Blows stealth mode if you’re at work -THANKS

  • I’m a female motorcycle rider. looking for spring motorcycle companions to ride out . Let’s meet and chat with datingsiteforbikers.webs.com

  • Reid

    More power, less weight, great price. Yes. I would love to see this “390” line expand to include a dual sport (not a mini adv), as others have said. I would absolutely buy such a thing. I’m no MXer, but a fine small bike with more, shall we say, realistic, service intervals and decent poke would do just right to beat around on the farm.

  • jon

    Sounds like a sweet bike!! Quite a bit less than the fine Suzuki DRZ400, but also with the 6th gear DRZ owners have whined about not having. At 61, and having ridden since I was 8, I never thought I might consider a KTM. I did like the 690 (or whatever the engine size was) Duke. This little Duke could do everythung I need to do where I live (big island of Hawaii near Hilo). No freeways here. We do have a dealer, but they are in Mona. I don’t think I’d want to do the shim adjusted valves (assuming tnat’s what this bike has). No problem doing screw type, but I’d haul this bike over the volcanoes to Kona and let the dealer do that.

    But, I also admire the Honda CB300F a lot.

  • kenneth_moore

    Mr.Duke strikes again! First the CB1100, now he’s got me convinced this’ll be a perfect starter bike for my son. He was hung up on a Ninja 250/300, but I convinced him all that plastic would be a bitch if he dropped it.

    Unfortunately the local dealer doesn’t have any in stock yet. He says it’ll be “real soon now.”

    • Kevin Duke

      Did ya pull the trigger on it?

      • kenneth_moore

        We’re close. The kid gets is unrestricted drivers license next month. Then he has to take the MSF class and get his M/C endorsement. Then we can get the bike. Which I will abscond with, leaving him the keys to the Mini!

        This is assuming we can find one. I figured by now they’d be available new or used, but at the moment I’m not finding any listed online. We may have to order one and wait.

  • frankfan42

    How does Suzuki justify the high pricing on their 400SM? Tooling had to be paid for LONG ago. What would be very, very cool is if KTM does a light dual sport. Heck, there are a lot of us who would love this. All the bike you need, none of what you don’t.

    • Kevin Duke

      Ha! Not quite! I could’ve described that better as an annoying resonance of plastic/nylon materials when the throttle plates are fully open. It sounds decidedly unglamorous and cheap.

      • frankfan42

        XD, thanks Kevin.

      • Mister X

        If it’s a harmonic, a little spray on undercoating on the outside of the air box might dampen it.

    • Norman Anderson

      According to KTM’s CEO that dual sport(adventure) version will be available in 2016…..

      • frankfan42

        Wow, that’s great news. Thank you for sharing that. This might well be a bike worth waiting for.

  • Norman Anderson

    Kevin, I currently ride a Ninja 300 and have found it to be incredible fun. My question: is the Duke 390 physically smaller than the Ninja? I am 6’1″ and weigh 190. The ergos on the Kawi are pretty good for me but smaller would be a problem. I also don’t want to look like I am riding a smaller bike considering my size…

    • Kevin Duke

      There were a few journalists at the event who were about your size, and I didn’t hear complaints from them about the Duke’s riding position. If you’re truly interested in the Duke, I’d recommend trying it on at a dealer to see how it suits you personally.

      • Norman Anderson

        Kevin, thanks for getting back. I went ahead and placed a deposit with my friendly KTM dealer..will have the opportunity to ride the Duke as well as the RC390 before I decide. Thanks for your excellent and inciteful review!

  • Rodrick R. Rigden

    Has anyone actually seen one in a dealership yet? Or the RC? I’ve been in a fervor trying to get on for my “Ol’ Lady” for months now. I’m about to say sod it and buy a CB300X at this point. COME ON KTM!!!! they have been available in other places for ages. spring is here and I’m tired of looking at pictures of the damn thing.

  • Casey Piland

    This bike looks and sounds great. So I bought on for my wife.Went to pick it up from the dealership and before we got 6 miles down the road a low oil pressure error came on and it started to smell funky. We turned around went back to the dealership and they said they can’t figure out what is wrong. Might be the oil pump or a sensor but they won’t know until tuesday (saturday today). They have to call the manufacturer and get help. We waited two weeks for the bike to finally get here and now we have to wait longer. I hope its not serious and we can get on the road soon. Lost a beautiful weekend to ride. My wife is super bummed out!!

    • Kevin Duke

      That bites! Let us know how it turned out.

  • Norman Anderson

    Hey Kevin, new question for you….In your review you mention the 2015 upgrades that I assumed would show up in the US. These include a slipper clutch, thicker foam seat and higher output generator. With the first deliveries just coming in now in the last few weeks it does not look like any of these changes are actually included. Do you know of an explanation for that?

    • Kevin Duke

      You sure about this? KTM tells me the American Dukes have the slipper clutches. For an as-yet-unknown reason, the RC390 does not. The Duke has a 230-watt generator; my U.S. rep didn’t know what the previous generator’s specs.

      • Norman Anderson

        Kevin, no, now I am not so sure. Found one guy who has taken delivery in the US who is sure his Duke390 has the slipper clutch and other improvements as discussed. I would think the slipper clutch would be discussed in the Owners Manual but unfortunately the first deliveries are occurring without a printed or on-line 2015 US manual. I have yet to see or ride the 390 as, so far, none have arrived at dealers in Oregon.

  • Mark Z

    strange how the US is only getting this bike now. Has been on sale well over a year now here in Oz

  • Biju PF

    Earlier ktm duke 390 engine lubricated by using pressurised lubrication technology by 2 rotor pumps……now 2015 engine is only by wet sump…….this is not a major change ???????? how it will affect the engine performance ???? kindly explain……


    I’ve been riding street bikes for 40 years. I’m not an entry level rider. I own an Aprilia SL750 Shiver. I bought a 390 Duke because I like light motorcycles. It’s an absolute blast to ride! I like to ride the mountain roads of California – the kind that separate the men from the motorcycles. The little Duke kicks ass on the tight stuff.

  • Ozzy Mick

    Thanks for an inciteful report, Kevin. I’ve been following the comments, and the enthusiasm displayed by you and others has been infectious. I’m late with this comment because it’s now time for me to consider a lighter bike. I’ve been riding a big, bad Suzi Bandit 1200 for the last 7 years. Been great fun except when I drop it at walking pace. I’ve managed to do this almost every time I’ve ridden it. The weight just gets to me! So I’m now ready to swap it for a lighter bike.
    The KTM Duke sounds perfect, but so far reports/comments have been based on short blasts close to home, or commuting, and riding solo. I have a couple of questions:
    1. How will it perform with a pillion (say 150 lbs) on board? I’m about 160 lbs.
    2. How will it perform on long distance trips, say 250 miles per day, every day, for a week?
    Also, what are the service intervals?
    Any feedback from anyone will be much appreciated!

    • Kevin Duke

      1. Tough question, as what’s adequate for one rider might not be for another. Way more torque and accessible power than anything else in its class. The 390, like any bike in this class, would enjoy a stiffer suspension if loaded with 310 lbs.
      2. I’d be fine doing 250/day. Tall riders not as much.

      Service intervals are at 4,700 miles. Valve adjustments are required at 9,300 miles.

      Super fun; cool, too!

      • Kevin Duke
      • Ozzy Mick

        Hey, thanks for that Kevin, I know how busy you must be and for you to respond months after your test of the little Duke is really appreciated. Your views are encouraging. BTW, what’s your weight and height? You may be wondering why I don’t take one for a test ride? I’m in China at the MOment and haven’t even SEEN a 390, let alone sit on one or ride one. It’ll be the first thing I do when I get back to Oz!

        • Kevin Duke

          I take the time because I really care that our readers get the best info to help judge what bikes will suit them. I’m 5’8″ and 145 lbs. Another journalist I traveled with during the two days of riding at the launch, including one full day touring Thailand, is 6-feet and weighs maybe 220, and he says he was quite comfy on it. Hope that helps! Also, please check out my Duke’s Den editorial that will be posted on Monday – it’s mostly about the lil’ Duke. And then there’s this: http://www.motorcycle.com/features/best-lightweight-entry-level-motorcycle-of-2015.html

  • GREG

    390 value for money…and everyone watch it on the road