MCN Fleet: What’s it like to upgrade to a 390 Duke?

Published: 02 September 2017

My long-term test bike is definitely one of the coolest looking 125s out there and riding it is a joy. I recently took the Duke to Silverstone to watch the MotoGP and its great low-speed balance and smooth power delivery, combined with a slick gearbox got me out of traffic jams at the end of the day with such ease.

Updated this year, getting an LED headlight, new exhaust, revised chassis, larger fuel tank, and stunning full-colour, Bluetooth-enabled TFT dash, it has everything I need.

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The only thing missing is power – my little KTM makes a learner-legal 15bhp and struggles when asked to go faster than 70mph. It’s hardly the bike’s fault though – it has to comply to the L-plate laws. But there is an alternative – the 390cc A2-licence-spec 44bhp version.

 

Right before I left Silverstone after the British MotoGP...

 

That’s almost three times the power in essentially the same bike and now, with a full licence I got the opportunity to try one. The 390 shares the same upgrades that came to the 125 this year but weighs 12kg more – thanks to a beefier motor, running gear and emissions kit. Going from the 125 to the 390 Duke, is exactly the kind of route KTM would like its customers to follow.

The power is obviously an incredible difference and you notice it as soon as you turn the throttle in any gear – compared to the 125 it just rockets forward and now feels like I can get to 70mph comfortably. I can keep up with traffic and even overtake with ease. It takes much more planning on the 125…

Now with more experience, the 125 gets to around 68mph in fifth gear and up to 73mph in sixth, especially when going downhill. However, if you hit even the slightest incline, the 125 drops down in mph in sixth, which is when you need to switch down to fifth, and switch to it fast.

The 390 has enough power not to worry about all that. It’ll do 100mph and also returns 69mpg. It’s everything you need.

It feels no heavier, higher or harder to ride than the 125 and the brakes are really responsive, too. At £4599, the 390 is just £500 more than the 125 but offers a huge amount more. After you pass your test, this is a great next step and if you already own a 125 you’ll feel very familiar straight away. I’m still a fan of Doris, my 125 Duke though.

What I wore for a sunny Bank Holiday weekend of riding?