Excellent For New Riders; Loved By Experienced Motorcyclists
The KTM 390 Duke is lightweight and simple to drive; it provides the necessary torque to make driving on city streets enjoyable and safe. Yes, it is an aggressive-looking naked bike, and you will hear over and over at BBM that 600cc Super Sport bikes are not good beginner bikes, but this is the kind of choice to check out if performance is your jam. Simply put, riding this machine is a lot of fun for everyone—novice or expert. Quite literally your dollars turn into miles of smiles.
The KTM 390 Duke Hides Many Surprises
In North America, many tend to view bikes with less than 750cc as boring, or only good for a beginner. Oh, how wrong that thinking is when directed at the 390 Duke. Last updated in 2017, the 390 Duke benefits from high-end features such as throttle-by-wire, switchable ABS, a slipper clutch, a full-color TFT instrument panel, and LED lighting. Tech like this is rarely seen on lower displacement bikes, and it certainly is a surprising find to have all of them at this price level.
The counterbalanced, liquid-cooled, DOHC, four-valve, 373cc single engine is smooth and powerful, producing 44 horsepower at 8,800 rpm and 27 lb-ft of torque at 7,000 rpm at the rear wheel. Power delivery seems to build rapidly in the higher rpm range; I wouldn’t call it peaky, but the fun zone is over 6000 rpm. It is relaxed down low, making speed slogs in traffic a non-issue thanks to that 27 lb-ft of torque.
KTM’s high-quality bikes (especially their dirt bikes) have taught them a thing or two about creating a solid clutch. The 390 Duke has a smooth slipper clutch, which helps with occasionally shaky downshifts and rear wheel chatter during hard deceleration. With two fingers, it is lightweight and easy to control. The single-side exhaust is light and tucked down close to the center of gravity. These small details all go a long way to keeping the Duke nimble, and it sounds good and angry under a full twist of the wrist.
At this point, you may be wondering “why all the hype for this bike?” It is true that other bikes also have great engines and some cool tech, but the 390 Duke is honestly in another category when it comes to handling. The tubular-steel trellis frame holds a very light upside-down WP front fork, and a progressive 150mm rear spring hides the preload adjustable shock. KTM has been able to get the 390 Duke down to just 328 lbs dry weight.
The street performance will have you hunting for the next corner, and if you choose to hit the track, it rewards you more the harder you push it. Aggressive Metzler rubber over light 17” alloy wheels provides high levels of grip, and the 320mm front and 230mm read disc brakes have ABS to bring everything to a halt. The total package is just very dialed-in, far more so than the $5800 price tag would have you expect.
Getting a leg over the 32.3” high seat is a bit of a swing, but once settled in, the cockpit is a comfy place. The 3.5-gallon steel fuel tank is well-formed for the knees and helps the riding position be comfortable. The handlebars and controls are all easy to adjust, but the star of it all is the 5.25” multi-color TFT display. It will self-adjust to the lighting condition and delivers all the relevant info in a clean manner. On the left-hand control is an illuminated menu switch for navigating the display and finding goodies like Supermoto mode.
Bottom line: Light as a feather, powerful, and packed with state-of-the-art technology, it guarantees a thrilling ride, whether you’re fighting your way through the urban jungle or carving your name into a forest of bends.
Reasons to buy the 390 Duke:
Great engine with more power than usual beginner bikes
Can pass on the freeway and small enough to split lanes easily
A fun bike and great for the track
Reasons not to buy the 390 Duke:
Not good for rough roads
Not the best for 2-up riding on the highway
Production Run & Notable Model-Year Changes
Production Run & Model Generations
The KTM 390 Duke has been in production since 2015 (2013 for other parts of the globe). 2017saw the only notable update to the KTM 390 Duke.
The front brake disc was increased from 300 mm to 320 mm. The headlight was redesigned and converted to LED. The display became a color TFT panel with phone pairing capability. Seat height was increased from 800 mm (31.5 in) to 830 mm (32.7 in), and the wheelbase was decreased by 10 mm. The brake and clutch levers were also made manually adjustable. The throttle now uses a ride-by-wire system and the tank was updated from 11 to 13.5 L (2.9 to 3.6 US gal).
For 2017, KTM added throttle-by-wire and a new side-mount exhaust to improve throttle response, lower emissions, and provide a small boost in claimed engine output (horsepower is up from 43 to 44 and torque is up from 26 to 27 lb-ft). The fuel tank was updated from 11 to 13.5 L (2.9 to 3.5 US gal).
In 2018 the 390 Duke met Euro 5 emission standards.
The styling is true to the KTM Duke family
5.25″ multicolor TFT display
Larger fuel tank
Small power and torque increase
New side mount exhaust
Larger front brake disk, 320mm from 300mm
Selectable ABS modes
Owners Reviews of the KTM 390 Duke
Press & Magazines
2015 KTM 390 Duke Review
“The KTM 390 Duke is a beginner’s bike, but it’s not a bike for all beginners. It’s aimed at riders who like its wild, alternative style and loud orange paint. Riders who understand its performance and what it means for the bike. It’s for folks who are planning to keep it around for more than one season, because there is a little bit more bike to grow into.”
“The KTM 390 Duke has been entertaining us with its unequaled balance of style, performance and value since we first took the terrific little funster for a spin in 2015, and it rightfully earned its place as Best Entry-Level Motorcycle in our annual MOBO awards.”
Handling – It is a corner carving boss, making many higher spec bikes feel less than.
Affordability – At under $6,000 out the door for a brand new 390 Duke, new riders can get a great beginner bike that will not leave them bored after 1 year.
How it looks – Going Naked isn’t for everyone, but that’s kinda the point, right?
Tech – Throttle-by-wire, selectable ABS, TFT display, slipper clutch, LED lighting, the bike is pretty loaded with Tech.
What I Don’t Like
Fan – The radiator fan is a bit noisy and kicks on a lot to keep the single cylinder cooled off.
The Bottom Line
Even though this bike encourages you to be a bit of a hooligan, it really is set up perfectly for new riders. It doesn’t have excessive plastic fairings so it will be able to survive a drop much better than something fully faired. The way that the engine delivers power is also predictable and gives you practice shifting through the gears.
The low weight of the machine feels less intimidating to most new riders, but nothing feels cheap. The fact that a 390 Duke is capable of such high levels of performance when really pushed also means that a new rider has plenty of room to grow their skills without getting bored.
KTM 390 Duke Competition
If you’re looking at a 390 Duke, you may also want to check out these other bikes: