KTM Duke 390: the heart-breaker



A few years ago, I nonchalantly walked into a showroom and bought a nugget-sized, moped-sounding, unassuming motorcycle – the KTM 390 (no points for guessing). A few years hence, I reckon I learnt most of whatever I understand/know of riding has been on this pocket-rocket. In a lot of ways it was the bike that encouraged me to venture into a lot of untouched facets of riding that would have otherwise remained under the wraps while I gloriously munched miles on motorbikes that appreciated only one form of riding, we called it ‘cruising’. I often wish what-if I had someone who would have directed me to the path of wholesome motorcycling instead of letting me enter into an arrogant moto-enthusiasts’ club, shunning anything or anyone dealing with scrapping knees or curving corners. In due time it dawned on me that my pretentious arrogance originated as a defense mechanism to address an innate conflict between ‘all I want to do’ with the motorcycles in my garage and ‘all they couldn’t do’.


FB_IMG_1459521225127About 40,000 km on the KTM390, I don’t see myself going back to anything that I may miss about my earlier motorcycles of choice (on whom I would have collectively clocked 120K+ kilometers). It is important to state at the onset that I’m in no way dismissing any particular type of motorcycle – The KTM Duke 390 has been equally temperamental pitched against any other bike and has given me enough and more technological and mechanical troubles. (I have had 3Xengine seizures on the KTM– the last time I had to re-build her engine from scratch, by saying from scratch – I mean really from scratch – even the crank-case had to be replaced, I literally have a new bike right now  after almost 3 years of purchase).


A 373cc, 43 bhp, under 150kg single cyl set-up is nothing less than any motorcyclist’s wet-dream. The spec-sheet was hard to beat (even today), not to forget the components it came laden with – ABS, upside down forks, trellis frame and the list takes off. A true beginner to mid-segment sports bike (that too at an unbeatable price-point). I used her as a street-fighter to cut through traffic and also as an able tourer with a few mods.



Has she ever let me down? Oh yes! She did, many a time over – but the width of my grin out-scored the numerous break-downs, against the times she didn’t get erratic. I shifted gears from an (almost over-weight, lazy) highway-cruiser to a twisty (ghats) monger. I began to select roads/routes that would inspire a harder ride than the destinations itself. I was inspired to lean into corners like each were my last – but with certain conviction. I learnt to let go – yet with control.



3 years of bad-times out-shadowed by great times – It’s time to upgrade. Upgrade to a bigger capacity motorcycle which encourages further motorcycling-education. The buck stops here! My search for an effective upgrade has been rough to say the least – Getting a close-to-liter class bike has never seemed ideal in our conditions, as much of the available power shall (practically) never get fondled with.


The requirement at this point is of a motorcycle that never shies away for a spin – short or long – or even a lil longer, a little knee-scrapping track action & the odd unpredictable highway speed run. Maybe I seek versatility (thinking-aloud) but why do I smell a certain compromise in whichever direction I look. 200kg+ motorcycles in our city conditions is somewhat impractical –  add to which all of them have a knack of heating real quick. Apprehensions mount further with the increasing horror-stories regarding after-market service and parts. Is it that difficult to find a bike that accentuates riding and not so much of the peripherals?


R & D:

After 16 test rides, watching a billion reviews on probable options (even the unavailable ones), I have never been so frustrated & stressed at the same time. I have imagined it to be a smooth transition considering more and more brands started to anchor in the subcontinent. Do I seek too much?



She entered my life – scared the hell out of me & made me learn new things – made me fall in love with her – and now she is warning me to stop expecting & hinting me to move-on. With no hard feelings we are coming to terms with a (almost) mutual decision – as I try to find a probable proposition for future.

Unfortunately, I realize now that she had incessantly sculpted my riding-construct, makes it even harder for me to adapt to anything that’s available. Refinement is great – but madness brings excitement and what’s there to ride without the thrill.


Photographs from various rides
By long-time ride-partner & photographer Mervyn Titus

Published by motokraftdiaries

Motokraft Diaries is an extension to two-wheel love. I derive satisfaction by developing and executing concepts which remain wrapped in the mist of dreams. Travels and travel stories, revelations and all that comes along with moto-travels, friends - new ones and the retarded ones, food, roads & routes, all of it ... compressed into one blog .. off and on ...

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