Some readers have asked us what we were thinking when we put the little KTM 390 Adventure in our South Dakota shoout with the Aprilia Tuareg 660, the Ducati DesertX, and the BMW 1250 GS. We were saying that Adventure bikes don’t need to be big to have fun on all terrains. Significantly lighter than the other bikes in the shootout, the 390 has a lot of things going for it. The 390 Adventure has been a good seller for KTM, and we’ve really enjoyed it every time we have one in our hands. So, what makes the KTM 390 Adventure so special?
Touring on motorcycles has always been fraught with variables, and adventure touring, with its off-road excursions, only increases them – exponentially. We’d been planning a trip to South Dakota to ride the Black Hills’ extensive road and trail system and were scheduled to hit them on the first day of the season. We weren’t going to let a little thing, like a week of rain prior to our arrival, dampen our enthusiasm. So, we were surprised when the trails were mostly dry and not muddy, with the exception of occasional mud puddles that ranged from a couple of inches to a foot – or more – in depth. With the opaque nature of the puddles, we had no choice but to venture through them blindly. What could possibly go wrong?
The Duke 390 has almost owned this class since its 2015 introduction, with a brief interruption by the new Ninja 400 Kawasaki two years ago. So it was nice of KTM to make it easy for us to mix things up a bit this year, by giving birth to the KTM 390 Adventure. It, of course, makes use of that same amazingly ingratiating little 373 cc Single-cylinder as the Duke but places it in an all-new ADV-style housing, adventuring being all the rage lately.
Yeah, well, maybe it is kind of a ridiculous comparison, but who went on a nice day-long adventure ride while you were locked down? Ryan Adams and I did, that’s who. Really it’s not even that ridiculous. The KTM 790 Adventure R sells for around $13,500; the 390 Adventure’s less than half that at $6,200. Ryan came back from the 790’s launch in Morocco last year calling it the best adventure bike in the world. Then it won a three-bike comparo starring Eric Bostrom…
I don’t know why I assumed the new baby KTM 390 Adventure would be more of a milquetoast little beginner bike, like most of the other wannabe ADV bikes in its class, but I kind of did. It’s nothing of the sort. We’ve seen the photos (and maybe I failed to read the words), but in the flesh at KTM’s Murrieta, California, HQ, I was a little surprised. Say, this mini-Adventure looks like a full-size ADV bike, not a kiddie toy. Personally, I’d prefer something a bit lower, but as it turns out, looks can be deceiving. Though the 390 looks a lot like the acclaimed new 790 Adventure, it is way lighter.
Back in March we MOronic soothsayers gazed into our crystal ball and prophesied the coming of a KTM Adventure model powered by the same 373cc Single found in the 390 Duke. With spy photos of a diminutive Adventure-looking model from KTM now in our possession comes confirmation the price of our glass sphere was money well-spent.