We’ve got the first ride on the small Adventure.
Insiders say the Austrians had been coaxing their friends in Pune, India to make a small-capacity ADV, something that tied in with all their Dakar wins, but partners at Bajaj weren’t sold on the idea.
The one thing you cannot accuse Bajaj of is not having a finger on the pulse of the buyer – eight years ago there was no market for adventure bikes and Bajaj knew the realities of investing in this sort of thing, back then.
And then came the small Dukes and RCs, establishing KTM as not just Europe’s number one bike manufacturer but India’s largest selling premium manufacturer. Bajaj’s foresight also made India KTM’s largest market in the world. And now that ADVs are growing out of the very tiny niche they’ve been comfortably in for the longest time, Bajaj has green-lighted the bike we’ve all been waiting for. The KTM 390 Adventure is here.
This is the bike that promises to set the premise for the next ten years, maybe even laying the ground work for the 790 Adventure to eventually make it to the far flung corners of the Indian market. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let me take you to 19 Degree North, one of the most challenging off-road parks in our neck of the woods, before hitting regular roads to bring you our very first impressions of this motorcycle.
Big Boy’s Toy
Just like the Dukes, the 390 Adventure is clearly inspired by its elder and more experienced siblings including the ones that have won the Dakar rally for 18 years in a row.
The sheer size of the 390 Adventure makes you feel like you’re riding a proper ADV and none of the small-capacity ADVs can boast of such a feat. Right from the start it never felt like a makeshift or minor ADV and when I finally got to jump on to the saddle, it instantly made me feel like I was riding a proper mid-weight motorcycle with purpose.
The seat height is quite tall at 855mm but fret not; the suspension has enough sag so as to allow you to get your feet on the ground after you sit on the wide and plush seat. The cockpit is snazzy too and never does it feel like a budget bike.
We have always loved the TFT-cluster on the 390 Duke but the Adventure takes it a step ahead, too. You now get navigation as standard (works with the KTM My Ride app on the App and Google Play Store). That’s not all the whizz and the bang of this bike, not by a long chalk; there’s a bi-directional quickshifter, IMU-based cornering ABS and traction control, extendable windshield (by up to 40mm), full-sized serrated pegs, Metzeler Tourance tyres (also seen on the Tiger 800 XRs and BMW G310GS) and top-spec WP Apex long-travel suspension (170mm front, 177mm rear). KTM has also plonked two fans in front of the radiator to cool down better in off-road riding conditions.
What’s been carried over is the same liquid-cooled, 373.2cc, high-compression motor in an identical tune, tightly tucked into the trellis that also gets a detachable rear subframe.
The riding position is slightly canted forward and the pegs are mid-set. The commanding seating position is great for riding while seated, but standing? Nope. A disappointment for sure. There are no tank recesses to hold onto and the handlebar is low as well, at least for my height (I’m 6′ tall). And as we began the ride and hit the gravel, the engine showed its typical Katoom trait. Lack of lowdown grunt means the clutch takes a hit and you need to keep the engine above 4,000rpm to keep it moving.
But keep it over that 4000rpm mark and power slides are child’s play. During our test ride though, the traction control was acting up and had a mind of its own, which led to a lot of falls (this issue will be sorted with software updates says KTM), but what really impressed me is the way the chassis tackled level-3 trails like riding up a dried-up waterfall!
Our bonafide mountain man Vijay Parmar tells me that the trail is meant for 450cc dirt bikes and I believe him. But the 390 Adventure managed to sail through it all, owing to its lightweight and well-balanced chassis. Nowhere did it bottom out or scrape, and nothing broke (not even after some big crashes). Not many ADVs would be as robust.
From the rough and tumble of the off-road trails it was time to get out and onto the roads, where the KTM really shines.
And boy oh boy, it is good! There’s a reason why 390 Duke owners have been playing around with the bike’s suspension and fitting aftermarket windshields – because it is great for long rides. The 390 Adventure gets all of this, and more.
It’s so very potent on the highway and even up the mountain twisties you’ll be able to easily keep up with those bigger-engined ADVs. I can stick my neck out and say that in real world conditions, it’ll even keep up with some mid-weight nakeds and lead the pack over potholed B-roads.
The motor is stupendous and it’s a joy to skim through the creamy torque delivery. The top-end is super aggressive as we already have already sampled on the Duke but the quickshifter adds to the overall experience, making it enjoyable to ride it at high speeds.
The counterbalancer works great and there are barely any vibes to be felt even when you’re close to the limiter (about 10,500rpm). The riding position is extremely comfortable and just about perfect for long-distance riding and, I believe, it will be a joy to go touring on this one.
The ride and handling as we expect from a KTM is the icing on the cake. Despite the additional weight and long wheelbase, the agility is surreal! The handling is better than the Duke even, making for a machine that is super enjoyable in corners. The grip from the Tourance tyres is ample and the faster you go, the better they get. The chassis is a proper chatterbox as we expect from a KTM. I dare say; it feels like a baby Multistrada – our favourite big ADV for the road.
The KTM 390 Adventure will cost £5,499 and will be available in March, KTM dealers are taking orders for this bike now.