2017 sub-500cc bike of the year: KTM 390 Duke

Published: 26 October 2017

KTM has completely transformed the 390 Duke for 2017, turning it from merely a good low-capacity naked, to the best machine in the entire A2 licence category.

Giving the bike its first major updates since its inception in 2013, the new 390 offers an unparalleled level of fun, quality and performance for its size. Gone is the slightly lack lustre quality and styling and in its wake comes a 5.2in full colour dash, illuminated switchgear, brilliant panel fitment and deep glossy paint. Claimed dry weight is just 149kg dry, meaning its 44bhp single-cylinder engine has more than enough poke to achieve a decent level of performance.

At the front, the new non-adjustable WP forks are well damped and the four piston radial calipers bite hard, offering enough bite to inspire confidence in the corners. For a thumpy single, the engine is impressively long-revving and remains near-silent in traffic, but at high rpm it transforms into the snarl of a throaty crosser.

Despite its new-rider-friendly ergonomics, the 390 is serious fun. It’s capable of a genuine 100mph, you can tempt the Duke into the occasional wheelie and it will back into corners when the ABS is switched to Supermoto mode. To comply with the new stringent Euro4 emission laws, KTM have given this bike a ride-by-wire throttle and a bigger airbox. A side-mounted exhaust also replaces the old stubby underslung unit. This year’s bike keeps its slipper clutch, which was added in 2015, and a new chassis also gives the 390 its sharp handling.

5 reasons we love the 390 Duke 

1 – BIG BIKE QUALITY 

It’s the 390’s first major overhaul since its launch in 2013 and KTM have left no stone unturned. From its new 5.2” full colour dash (with optional Bluetooth multimedia function), illuminated switchgear and LED lights, to its superb panel fit and deep paintwork, the Indian-built 390 Duke is every inch the baby 690 Duke R or 1290 Super Duke R. The fuel tank size is up from 11 to 13.4-litres and the 390 Duke also gets a new two-piece seat, handlebars and adjustable levers. 

2 – A2 LICENCE BULGING PERFORMANCE 

There isn’t much the 390 Duke can’t do in the real world. The 390 Duke’s four-valve 373.cc single-cylinder motor now has ride-by-wire, a side-mount exhaust, replacing the old stubby underslung item and a bigger airbox. It now makes 5.7% more torque at low rpm.  Even when it’s time to upgrade to a full licence the KTM will still have the performance to keep you interested. 

3  – GROWN-UP HANDLING 

KTM says they’ve spend a lot of time developing the new 43mm WP forks and single shock and you can tell. The new suspension gives a more sophisticated ride and support on the brakes and under hard acceleration.  Braking is also improved, with the old model’s four-piston radial Bybre (a subsidiary of Brembo) caliper now gnawing a single disc that’s grown from 300 to 320mm. 

4 – SUPER NAKED FUN 

Weighing just 149kg its 44bhp will let you breeze past the ton, pull naughty wheelies and when you select ‘Supermoto’ ABS mode you can back it into corners, too. The motor is close to silent in traffic, but transforms into a thrapping ‘crosser when you rev it hard. 

5 – EASY FREEDOM 

It’s nimble through traffic and has a natural new-rider-friendly riding position for riders big and small. New riders will find it simple to get on with and it’s still an impressive machine for the more experienced.  

…AND A REASON TO GET A LICENCE IN THE FIRST PLACE: 2017 KTM 125 DUKE. 

Like the 390 the new 125 Duke also gets a major makeover. It has the 390’s full colour dash, illuminated switchgear buttons, LED headlight, new exhaust, revised chassis, larger fuel tank, non adjustable WP suspension, four-piston radial caliper (with 300mm discs) fat 17” tyres (Metzeler Sportec M5) and a breathed on (non-ride-by-wire) Euro 4 spec engine that has a wider spread of power. 

The new 125 Duke is easy to get on with and will make you grin every time you flick the key and see that colour display flicker into life. It’s the return of the aspirational 125. 

Read our full KTM 125 Duke test here.

KTM 390 - The Facts

Price £4599

Engine 373.2cc 4v single

Frame Tubular steel trellis

Seat height 830mm

Suspension WP 43mm forks non adjustable and single rear shock adjustable for preload.

Front brake 320mm disc. Radial four-piston calipers.

Colours Orange, white.

Available End April 

Power 44bhp@9000rpm

Torque 27ftlb@7000rpm

Dry weight 149kg

Tank capacity 13.4-litres