2014 KTM RC390 Review – lightweight and track-ready -RM27,500


Supersports is one of the popular bike category for so long. The category exudes speed and performance. This has been to the factor that supersports styling is the style used in professional racing namely in MotoGP and WSBK.
The particular supersports from KTM, the RC390, embodies the statement of speed and performance really well. It got all the packages to be a great supersports bike. Great chassis, great engine, high performance and of course great design.

KTM RC390 is an interesting bike in terms of design. When I see the concept first by KTM, it looks very sharp and carry the silhoutte of the KTM RC250GP which is being used in Moto3 racing series. What’s even better is that, the concept has been taken into the production with minimal changes in the overall design. It is still sharp, and most important, it is different than the rest of the supersports in its category. The iconic double front headlamp with double J LED fairing light is distinguishable from far to be a KTM. The rear lights also very interesting with a strong presence of the red light bar. This has to be one of my favourite rear light design so far. It looks different, creative and feels like it is designed by someone who knows bikes and love it very much. 
Everywhere you look at this RC390, it always looking good. Looking at the side, shows you the nice orange Trellis frame. Looking of the front, shows you the sharp and radical headlight and windshield assembly. Looking at the back, of course, shows you the nice LED brake light cluster.

There is also the rear seat that hides as the rear cover. Well played KTM.


6,000RPM is where the action start
The power of this RC390 comes from the usual single cylinder with 373.2cc liquid-cooled engine. Starting the engine gives you the harsh ramble, iconic of KTM engine. It vibrates and asks you to quickly ride it and rev it. Bore and stroke measures at 89mm x 60mm showing that this engine is a oversquare engine with larger bore than the stroke. A particular characteristic of this kind of oversquare engine is the ability to be rev high. As per testing, the RC390 comes to life after hitting the 6,000RPM and beyond. After starting the engine and learning the character of the engine, you’ll always want to keep the RPM counter above 6,000.

Gear shifts is accurate on the RC390 and very easy to initiate and this makes the bike easy to work by our command. One character of the transmission setup that I can felt here is that the bike have a high engine braking ability. Much harder than the Duke 390. This can good or bad depending on your preference. The hard engine braking gives you more control of the speed for corner entry, but you need to learn on how to predict the corner entry speed as the engine braking works.
The exhaust note is a little on the soft side with the creative mid-mounted muffler and sometimes, you hear more of the engine than the exhaust. This can be fixed with KTM Power Parts Akrapovic Slip-on muffler.

Big brakes, big shocks
Size does matter in braking and suspension. Knowing this, KTM has bring out the best from their stable; 43mm WP Upside Down front suspension and 300mm 4-piston front brake caliper. The 43mm WP USD suspension is the same size as the 1195cc RC8R suspension. Having the bigger size front suspension minimise the fatigue (fade) of the suspension when used for an extended duration of riding. Of course, it absorb well the bump and pot hole on the road, but what is more important that this setup enables it to eat the corners like hot knife through a butter. Easy, relaxed and predictable.
The combination of the big brakes and big shocks makes it one of the best handling bike for this category. Taking corners is effortless and very predictable. You can feel confident on it and really feel the sharp handling of this bike. The 300mm brakes works very well and being fitted with 4-piston radially mounted caliper, you can stop the bike with maximum confidence and minimal effort. It just great.


Riding position
Comparing this RC390 to its sibling, Duke 390, the RC390 sits lower and your hand will reach further for the handle. This is expected from a supersports bike. On my experience, the first 30 minutes makes my back and arm a little bit in pain since the riding position is almost to racing style. After trying to adjust the riding position with few changes, the ride is fun. In fact, I was asked whether I want to use the Duke 390 for a 400km ride but no, I still want the enjoyment of premium supersports offered by the RC390. For me, the fun and enjoyment rewards is far bigger than the not-so-comfortable riding. You buy this because you want to enjoy the performance, not to be comfortable, right? Anyway, it is up to you whether you prefer the comfortable naked Duke 390 or the sportier RC390.

This is by far, the lightest, premium-packed and funnest >400cc 4-stroke supersports bike I’ve ever tried. Looks good, feels good and performs well. Top speed? 175km/h.

2014 KTM RC390 price is RM27,500 (basic)

Co-founder of Bikes Republic and a motoring journalist by night. He is a self described enthusiasts with a passion for speed but instead rides a Harley and a J300. A man of contradictions, he is just as passionate about time off in the quiets as he is about trail braking into turn one at Sepang Circuit on two or four wheels.

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