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Old 19th December 2013, 12:05   #1
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Default The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

I needed a new motorcycle. Was getting pissed each time a Discover 150 would whizz past me, when I was riding my Enfield 500. Going too fast on a Enfield 500 has two problems, one is the engine life that reduces equally fast and there is no stopping power. I've had to do two partial engine rebuilds on my 500 in a span of two years cause my daily speeds were in the range of three digits. Even a partial engine rebuild would cost about 10k each time and then you have the scheduled service intervals which is something like 2k every 3 months or so, depending on the miles you clock. There is a joy to riding Enfields and that's keeping the engine in the sweet spot. As long as you don't take it anywhere near its limits, you are good. This is not a motorcycle built for sustained high speed. The engine design is not suited for high rpm. I realized this much later into ownership. When I set out to buy an Enfield 500, I thought 100-110 kmph of sustained speeds would be possible. It is but the engine is stressed and not happy here. 90-95kmph sounds about alright for the 500. The occasional blast to top whack should do no harm as well.

This new motorcycle will have multiple roles. Trips to work and back, to the market on the weekend and some touring ability. Fast and cheap to buy will be great. The Honda CBR250 was perfect. It is a Honda so nothing can possibly go wrong. The only problem is Honda's get boring too soon. Not to be compared, however, I had a used first generation Honda Unicorn. I loved the bike for its perfect mechanicals and bomb proof reliability. It was not as efficient as they claim and I blame that on my riding style. 35Kmpl was unheard off on my Honda. I could ride it at its maximum speed till it hinted at seizing, slow down for a few minutes and then get back to maximum speed. It never gave up. It went on and on and on. Serviced it when it felt like it needed one and that's it. Nothing ever fell apart. The bike had excellent handling too. It got to a point where all the legendary reliability got too boring. I had to let it go and sold it to a colleague. I will admit that the CBR is the easier bike to live with and does a better job with regard to my requirements.

What after the CBR? I could look at a ZMR but that is again a Honda. Never really thought about the KTM even though I had read everywhere that it is a budget two wheel missile. My General Manager bought a used Duke 200 and I took it a spin. Fired up the engine, got a feel of the clutch and throttle in the short exit lane out of the IT campus parking and then cracked the throttle wide open. I guess it was under 5 seconds and I was staring at 70kmph. Wow. I took a good 20km spin. In the entire duration of the ride, my right hand was constantly whacking open the throttle in every gear. I saw 120kmph for sure and it got there really fast. The bike was surely not comfortable and it was running really hot. It is impossible to tour on one of these. However; the acceleration of the Duke got to me and this is what I now wanted. Screw those market trips, I need a fast motorcycle and that's it.

Bajaj launched the KTM Duke 390 much faster than I expected. Bajaj are pretty good at these things. There is only one company right now listening to the performance biking community and that's Bajaj. On the day the bike was announced for sale, I prepared myself for a long line of folks at the showroom. I was told they will be open at 8am so I got to Indiranagar KTM at 730. There was no large gathering of folks. I was number sixteen in the register. Paid up and was told about the 3 month wait. It was good. I did not expect the 3 month wait though, going by the past on how the Duke 200 deliveries went. I made two calls in the duration of the wait and then just forgot about it. On day 100 and it was a Saturday, I got a call to take delivery. I settled all payments and the bike was with me on October 10. Child hood pal tharian (handle) rode the bike back home. I was down with a medical condition so could not ride for a good two months. Tharian took the bike for a spin over the weekends. Some miles got added and all I could do was stare at it in pain. December 07 was the first time I got on the bike and took it for a spin. It was not good. The chain tension was off, the clutch was not adjusted to my liking, noisy gear shift, the seat felt too hard and overall feel of the bike was not to my satisfaction. With less than 500km on the odo, I had to be careful with the engine speed too. I hit the highway and settled down to a speed of about 100kmph. I had a colleague with me who also bought a 390. He waited for just a week to get his bike. We rode till Kolar. Not a long ride in any sense of it. My limits were reached due to my medical condition. I was still not happy with the overall feel of the bike. I took it in to the heart of the city and it got worse. The heat from the engine was worrying and so was the hard seat.

Delivery day...
The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1030947_r.jpg


The bike was well past service time so I decided to get this done before my next ride out of town. Scheduling service was a bit of a task as they had run out of oil for about a week. When the oil did arrive, I gave the bike to Khivraj in Domlur. I am satisfied with the quality of service. Its their billing that needs to be faster. It took them half an hour to generate a bill and that's with just two folks waiting to get theirs. First service cost Rs. 1900. The idea of heading out for a ride straight out of service had also crossed my mind and the long wait was annoying. Collected the bike and the first thing that I noticed was the much improved gear shift action. Headed home, put on my riding jacket and gloves and hit the road with no idea where I was going. This was at 1pm. Every motorcycle ride has to include some train spotting so I decided, while on the move, lets go to Gooty. Lots of movement out here, especially freight behind diesels. I completely forgot (ridden here before) how far Gooty was and leaving at 1pm with the plan of returning home before sunset was not going to happen. I set out from home and a massive traffic jam was the first thing that hit me as soon as I got to ring road leading to hebbal. What to do? No giving up on the ride for sure. I went back tracking and hit the Hyderabad highway via the route white fielders use to reach the airport. This turned out to be a far more enjoyable exit out of Bangalore. The stretch between old madras road and Devanahalli town is a little back road with some nice corners. With the bike out of service and some 600km clocked on the odo, I felt it should be safe to crack open the throttle. I've never owned a fast motorcycle. My only experience of riding something fast was some 8 years ago and it was the Honda VFR400Z. An awesome motorcycle from the 90s. I've read the reports and various claims on the KTM Duke 390 performance numbers. Knowing this is good, experiencing it is something else. I took it easy on the throttle till I hit the little back road. On the back road, I whacked open the throttle and went through the gears really fast. I doubt if I crossed 7000rpm. Within this rpm range, the bike crossed the ton really fast. Faster than anything I have ever experienced. Speed comes up really fast on this motorcycle. If you are not careful, you will crash into the vehicle in front. Once I got the hang of the throttle response, there was no looking back. After every speed breaker was cleared, it was wide open throttle. I was enjoying this. What sealed the deal with the now incredible gearbox. I never missed a shift either way and no funny noises from the gearbox. It was perfect. Blipping the throttle to come down the gears was even nicer and that's the way to do it, all the time. The bike loves this. This a bike that needs to be thrashed. It is in its element only when you do this. There were times I would not go beyond fourth gear as I had built more than enough speed and did not want the engine to relax in a higher gear.

Some pictures from my Penukonda ride...

The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040035_r.jpg

The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040037_r.jpg

The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040038_r.jpg

The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040039_r.jpg

The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040040_r.jpg

The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040041_r.jpg


Corners? I love corners but have yet to gain confidence with the Duke. Leaning into a corner is easy with this motorcycle. The chassis and suspension balance are built to take corners at speed. The riding position is so different that coming from an Enfield, it feels a little nervous. Braking is A+. I did experience ABS kicking in quite often. Had a scare on the highway when the usual uncle and aunty on their tvs 50 decided to dart across the highway. They did see me coming but had no clue of the speed I was approaching them. My legs were off the pegs anticipating a fall cause it surely looked liked I was rear ending them. If it were not for the ABS, I would have fallen or not stopped fast enough for sure. The bike stopped with the headlamp coming inches away to the saree of the lady sitting on the Tvs. As usual, the old uncle had to abuse me for my speed and what was about to happen. I did not say anything cause talking to these looney heads is not going to make them understand anything.

Route followed to Penukonda: https://www.google.co.in/maps/previe...!1e1!2b1&fid=0

Out on the four lane Hyderabad highway, I realized one thing, maintaining high speed is no problem at all for the bike. You won't survive for too long though. I rode non stop from home to Penukonda. This is as far as I could go as I wanted to get back home before sunset. Gooty was still a good 100km+. I was maintaining 110-120kmph, not more. I felt it was fast enough and safe. The problem with this speed is the wind blast. Its too much. Though I did the 150km non stop, it was tiring and very loud inside the lid. The bike was absolutely fine. Engine temperature was well within safe limits. The bikes fuel consumption felt okay, no precise fuel calculations done so far. Fuel capacity is not. I rode a couple of km after Penukonda, took a u turn at the point the rail line to Sri Satya Sai Prashanti Niliayam goes under the highway, and headed back. Another 20km and I was down to the last two tiny bars on fuel. Not much of a range is it? I've come to understand that you have a shade over 3l left with those two tiny bars lit. This is good for about 60km, worst case scenario. It should pose no problem on a freeway, not good when you are on back roads.

Filling gas is a bit of a problem too if the pump attendant is not careful. I had one over spill and was shitting bricks as to where to fuel would fall. On closing in on tank capacity, I tell the attendant to slow down to avoid over flow.

On reaching home, I was tired. I was standing up at every traffic light as the hard seat was uncomfortable after a couple of hours of continuous riding. It gets uncomfortable pretty quick. Some folks may find this okay, I am not.

Lets get one thing straight on the Duke 390. It is not a tourer. You are better off with a CBR or ZMR if touring is a priority. The Enfield's still rule as far as touring goes. You won't be very fast on a Enfield and that is something you have to live with. The KTM is more at home as a back road motorcycle where speeds are inconsistent and where you constantly shuffle between gears. The hills will be another place where this KTM will shine and keep the rider entertained. The Duke is all about riding solo, fast and hard. The fun element comes only when you do this. There is no denying that for the kind of performance you get and what you are paying, you need to put aside some aspects the bike isn't built for.

My next ride was the very next morning. This time, I plotted out a route and what a route it was. I had never done it before. Took a guess that the roads would be fine and it was. This was an all out back road ride. Here's the route.

https://www.google.co.in/maps/previe...!1e1!2b1&fid=0

I had company for this ride. Another Duke 390. We set out at 630am. It was very cold and visibility was poor. The first two hours of the ride was boring as speeds were under 70kmph. As a result of poor visibility, I missed the turn off to Sidlaghatta, where the back roads start. A couple of hours in to the ride and after visibility improved, it was time to open up the throttle and we were flat out where ever we could. On a road like this, it is impossible to ride this bike slow. I also realised that the gear shift action is slicker when you are higher up on engine speed. The gearbox does not like being worked under 4000rpm. I clearly recall that 6th on the Duke 200 still made the bike feel buzzy. Not so on the Duke 390. The engine feels very relaxed. On the subject of the engine, this thing is mad. It revs up so fast. I have no doubt on KTM's numbers to the ton. I am sure most of us have seen how a fire cracker rocket takes off. That is exactly how the Duke 390 accelerates. It's brutally quick. You cannot afford to loose focus when you ride this thing hard. On this ride, I did miss noticing some speed humps, my brake co ordination was not good leading to the ABS working over time on the rear wheel. It also felt as if ABS was kicking in too early. The braking felt inadequate. It would have been better had I pulled the anchors together than over depend on the rear. Feed back from the rear brake pedal felt poor. It felt as if I was not hitting the pedal hard enough, ABS kicks in and its not a pleasant feel on the pedal. I would like to hear other Duke owners take on the rear brakes. Our ride was a pleasant one. The few corners on the route did allow to explore the bike a little more. Cornering confidence is still some way off.


We stopped a few times for a route check on google maps. Pulling over also meant a lot of folks coming up to check the bike. They don't mean anything bad. What they do not understand is what they can touch and what they should not. Some things that they do not know about are extremely hot so a "map check" had to be done real quick. Many were impressed with the bike being cooled by a radiator and the placement of the exhaust. For a change, a chap who came up to ask about fuel economy and cost felt it was good. I said 25kmpl and he nooded with an expression suggesting "that is good". Rare expression if you ask me.

The rest of the ride went smooth. Mulbagal onwards to Bangalore is a 4 lane road that allows good speed. Once again, wind blast was a serious problem. On the last few stretches leading to home, if I was stuck at a traffic light, I ended up standing. My rear end could not take the hard seat no more. I have yet to face any hot engine starting issues. I do not wait for priming to complete when the engine is hot. This, I feel, will lead to a flood of fuel causing starting problems or a longer thumb of the electric starter. I would keep this bike away from the city cycle as much as possible. The engine does not like it and the heat is killing. No serious complaints on build quality. For the most part, this is a well made motorcycle. I do hear some creaking noises from some plastic panel, when I turn the handle bar from side to side. This sounds like some stressed bunch of wires causing flex in some plastic panel. I did not report it during first service as it did not sound like a serious problem. If you think I should flag it, let me know.

Some pictures from the round trip...

The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040047_r.jpg
The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040048_r.jpg
The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040052_r.jpg

Coming back to the original requirement of what my new motorcycle should be, the KTM does not do well on most of those requirements. That is because I forgot about something called fun motorcycling. This is what the Duke 390 is all about. I've never, ever been first off the traffic light dart. I am now. The crotch rocket rules:-)

Duke em...Nuke em...
The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390-p1040025_r.jpg

Last edited by sandeepmohan : 20th December 2013 at 22:34.
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Old 21st December 2013, 13:23   #2
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Motorbikes. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 21st December 2013, 15:00   #3
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

Congrats Sandeep. Nice write up too. As I had predicted more than 2 years ago, the KTMs are the best thing to have happened to the Bullet community.
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Old 21st December 2013, 15:05   #4
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

nice, honest feedback. For your riding style though, I can't help but feel the Bonneville would be a perfect fit..
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Old 21st December 2013, 17:07   #5
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

Bajaj Auto if you are reading this, my fervent prayer to you is, please give me an Avenger, with the Duke 390/or its replica engine. I hate the duke stunt biker/motocross body style and it doesn't suit my requirement for a long distance cruiser. I am sure you will have many more customers if you provide a range of bikes with this fantastic engine. More people will replace bullets with your bikes if you can give them the ability to cruise long miles all day, without the associated vibes aka bullet.
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Old 21st December 2013, 19:19   #6
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

The second Duke looks familiar!

Next ride should be a longer one mate.
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Old 21st December 2013, 23:53   #7
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

Congrats on your new ride sandeep, a crotch rocket like the duke 390 is definitely what I'll be spending my 1st couple lakhs on
Quote:
Originally Posted by sandeepmohan View Post
Coming back to the original requirement of what my new motorcycle should be, the KTM does not do well on most of those requirements. That is because I forgot about something called fun motorcycling.
Attachment 1180919
Got to agree with that buddy, when lots of fun suddenly gets into the picture, one's original intentions tend to go out the window
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Old 23rd December 2013, 12:27   #8
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GOod write up, dude. Enjoyed your decision making process!
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Old 23rd December 2013, 13:08   #9
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Smile Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

Sandeep,

Congratulations on the Duke, the bike looks one mean machine. The other day while strolling past the Bajaj Showroom, my son screamed looking at the Duke saying he is going to own this bike once he starts earning, put a smile across my face.

Pray what the fascination for posing on the rail cross overs?

Happy mile crunching and drive safely.
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Old 23rd December 2013, 13:17   #10
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

Congratulations!

I have to disagree on the 'Not a tourer' part. In stock form, maybe yes. But with a windscreen, the bike is as comfortable as anything else.

I just returned 2 days ago from a 2600K Trip down south. The MRA windscreen was the saving grace. You can maintain very good speeds all day long with the screen due to zero windblast on chest. Ofcourse the only problem is the pain down under. I found that if you took a 5min break for every 1hr of riding, it shouldn't really be a problem and a max of 11hrs is what you can do safely without it becoming sore for 2 days
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Old 23rd December 2013, 13:52   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrus_the_virus View Post
Congratulations!

I have to disagree on the 'Not a tourer' part. In stock form, maybe yes. But with a windscreen, the bike is as comfortable as anything else.

I just returned 2 days ago from a 2600K Trip down south. The MRA windscreen was the saving grace. You can maintain very good speeds all day long with the screen due to zero windblast on chest. Ofcourse the only problem is the pain down under. I found that if you took a 5min break for every 1hr of riding, it shouldn't really be a problem and a max of 11hrs is what you can do safely without it becoming sore for 2 days
Surprisingly, I dont have this issue with the seat. Probably because I am self 'butt'ressed!. The seat feels absolutely comfortable after any length of time. The hip-joint, though, is another matter. Pains after 90 minutes.

+1 on the MRA. Set it up properly & was able to do 145 kmph fairly comfortably. So, cruising at 100-120 all day is no big deal. If you can afford it, it is good!
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Old 23rd December 2013, 17:38   #12
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

Firstly, congrats on the best VFM performance bike available in India... we have all heard a lot about the metzeler tyres on duke 390... could you give us some insight on it?...
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Old 24th December 2013, 00:00   #13
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Congrats on the bike! A very nice and detailed write up as well. Enjoyed reading through it. Wishing you many more miles with the bike.

With regards to wind blast, you can try the Fazer windscreen. But if its you in one of the pics above, you seem to stand quite tall! so the Fazer screen might direct air to your helmet/neck as reported by some D390 owners which causes turbulence. MRA at 9k is another option which is customisable to direct the air away from you but very expensive compared to the Indian alternatives (Fazer, CBR etc)!!
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Old 25th December 2013, 10:23   #14
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Default Re: The Crotch Rocket - KTM Duke 390

Quote:
Originally Posted by d_himan View Post
For your riding style though, I can't help but feel the Bonneville would be a perfect fit..
You are spot on. Will look forward to a bonny some years down the line.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ghodlur View Post
Pray what the fascination for posing on the rail cross overs?
Instead of "Love Cars, Live Cars", its more "Love Trains, Live Trains" for me. I would have pursued the job if the perks were good. The little I have experienced, of what it is like to be in a Indian locomotive, its a hard life. What I really wanted was a locomotive standing right behind the motorcycle. Not really possible unless you make pals with the locomotive pilot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cyrus_the_virus View Post
I have to disagree on the 'Not a tourer' part. In stock form, maybe yes. But with a windscreen, the bike is as comfortable as anything else.
I forgot to elaborate on my idea of what "touring" should be. It is not about going fast alone. The motorcycle has to be comfortable over extended periods of riding, have room for luggage and should have decent accommodation for a pillion. The KTM does only the "fast" bit. The rest does not exist at all. I find the seat extremely hard. It feels like there is no padding at all. I agree with your idea on taking a really short break every hour or so. That will work.

If your windscreen idea was referring to fixing a Yamaha Fazer windscreen, I am not so sure if I want that. It looks completely out of place on this motorcycle. I may consider it after experiencing the benefits.

You sure have a beefier rear end than mine mayte.

Quote:
Originally Posted by vishnurohith View Post
we have all heard a lot about the metzeler tyres on duke 390... could you give us some insight on it?
Still too early to comment. I've yet to dip the bike really low to check cornering grip. The little I have done, the bike has held its line. It is a very confident feeling. No rains at this part of the year to check wet weather grip. Frankly; I am too scared to pull anything dangerous on a public road. Braking is very good if you gel both the front and rear brakes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by abhinav.s View Post
But if its you in one of the pics above, you seem to stand quite tall
Yes; I am on the taller side. I would like to experience the Fazer option before plonking nine big ones on a MRA product. Even if its the MRA, I want to experience it first hand. This will be difficult. My frame is perfect on a Royal Enfield. The KTM is a much smaller motorcycle.
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Old 25th December 2013, 10:31   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sandeepmohan View Post


Instead of "Love Cars, Live Cars", its more "Love Trains, Live Trains" for me. I would have pursued the job if the perks were good.
Same thing here, I make do with Microsoft train simulator 2013
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