KTM 390 ADVENTURE (2020 - on) Review

Highlights

  • Exciting power delivery
  • Quality suspension
  • Good spec for the money

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Annual servicing cost: £80
Power: 44 bhp
Seat height: Tall (33.7 in / 855 mm)
Weight: Low (348 lbs / 158 kg)

Prices

New £5,499
Used £5,000 - £5,500

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

It’s been a long time coming for this KTM 390 Adventure review. Roughly six seconds after the addictively rorty, naughty 390 Duke was launched way back in 2013, imaginations started running wild. What if the Austrian dirt experts could take that same lightweight, approachable and addictively engaging recipe, but mix in several scoops of unmatched off-road expertise?

The result could be everything from an everyman enduro, like a modern-day Suzuki DR-Z400S, to the starting point for a rugged rally replica, like a more affordable version of CCM’s GP450.

Seven years, several spy shots and countless premature headlines later, the 390 Adventure finally arrived, complete with a spec sheet capable of delivering and more than a passing resemblance to it's mud-plugging bigger brothers; the 790 and 1290 Adventure.

With a water-cooled, four-stroke 373cc single in the middle, complete with a slipper clutch and strong six-speed gearbox, it is the final piece in KTM's A2-licence-friendly arsenal - sitting alongside the sports-centric RC390 and upright 390 Duke.

Cornering on the KTM 390 Adventure

Thankfully, the thrapping single was well worth the wait, impressing both at its world launch and on England's undulating road network. In performance terms, there's enough on offer to serve up a decent road ride and its easy-going nature will make commuters or the less experienced grin from ear to ear.

If you want to cover some decent distance, it’ll also oblige, although wind blast and vibrations will take their toll eventually. Being a KTM, it's also not afraid to get its hands dirty - capable of tackling a light trail when the mood takes you, but slightly let down by its road bike ergonomics.

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
3 out of 5 (3/5)

The 390 is not a hardcore rally bike for square-chinned Dakar wannabes – instead it’s for riders dipping a toe in muddy waters for the frist time. It is, say KTM, "aimed squarely at motorcyclists who are profoundly curious but perhaps unaccustomed to light off-roading."

The Adventure differs from the Duke by virtue of longer suspension, with 170mm of wheel travel from the adjustable WP forks and 177mm from the longer shock. There’s also a taller 19-inch front wheel to help it roll over off-road obstacles, with new tyre sizes of 100/90 x 19 and 130/80 x 17.

Seat height is 855mm and at 5ft 7in our tester can reach the ground with her toes. The LED instrument panel is clear and easy to read and a switch to the left gives the option of Tarmac or Dirt mode. There’s lean-sensitive ABS and traction control, too; not bad for £5499 (2020 launch price).

Life on the 390 is easy-going, with the rider sitting comfortably in a well-proportioned, typically adventure bike position. The seamless action of the quickshifter makes the ride even easier and strong acceleration from low down means overtaking slow-moving is a breeze - perfect for commuters. It also sounds good, too.

Carving through narrow alleys, up steep hillsides lined with old, derelict stone constructions and across bridges that look thousands of years old at the launch, the Adventure 390 pulls properly, using its 43bhp to good effect. 

This nifty little lightweight can be chucked into corners with gusto and the WP APEX 43mm upside down forks and rear shock work well. The shock’s slightly excitable on rough roads at speed, however. Adding five clicks of rebound damping calms it down, improving ride quality. Each fork leg has its own spring, with the left regulating compression damping and the right looking after rebound. Adjusting them is easy, too.

But how does the KTM 390 Adventure handle off road?

Riding the KTM 390 Adventure off road

Despite KTM's off-road credentials, the 390 Adventure, surprisingly, never stops feeling like a road bike. Stand up and the low handlebars make you stoop forwards awkwardly. On the lumps and bumps along a brisk gravel trail its suspension offers much less sympathy than rivals like the Royal Enfield Himalayan, too.

And while the 390’s motor feels frisky when ridden hard on the road, it’s a little breathless at the more sedate revs used on trails. Put a foot down and you’re aware of its tall seat height, too.

There are tricks up the KTM’s sleeves, however. It has the safety net of traction control, which you can switch off if you prefer on dirt, while the clever ABS system has an off-road setting to let you lock the rear. The gear pedal’s flip-up tip is a nice touch too, and standard handguards are very welcome. A measured kerb weight of 173kg with a full tank helps with manoeuvrability also.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
3 out of 5 (3/5)

It’s a frantic, eager, impatient little nymph, one that relishes being revved hard. The short-stroke 390 motor makes peak torque way up at 7000rpm and really wants to spend its life from there to the 10,000 redline.

Producing 43bhp, it holds 80mph easily and can carry on to tickle the fringes of 100mph. It’s buzzy though, with vibes tingling through the bars and pegs at cruising speed - made worse by the knobbly Continental TKC 70 tyres. The wind protection’s lacking, even after adjusting its short screen to the higher of its two positions, while the seat’s firm too.

And being tempted into carrying higher speeds drains the tank a lot faster – the KTM’s economy drops to just 62mpg in brisk riding, though that’s still enough to give an easy 150 miles between fillups. 

Riding the KTM 390 Adventure at its launch

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
3 out of 5 (3/5)

With impressive spec, decent build quality and a 24 month manufacturer warranty from new, there is no reason to suspect the 390 will be unreliable. What's more, owners reviews on its single-cylinder siblings; the RC390 and Duke 390, show nothing but glowing praise.

As some of these machines will be purchased by new riders and others by budding off-roaders, keep an eye out for the usual tell-tale signs of crash damage and neglect on the used market.

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
4 out of 5 (4/5)

That sensible 43bhp and light weight makes it great fun on trails and at just £5499 (2020 prices), this little funster could prove a surprise hit for 2020.

BMW’s G310GS is a tad cheaper (£5320), but not as accomplished as the KTM. Honda’s CB500X offers bigger cc for just £700 more, but it only has 3bhp more and won’t tackle the trails as well as the 390 Adventure. It's also a rival to the Honda CRF250 RallySuzuki V-Strom 250Kawasaki Versys-X 300 and Royal Enfield 400cc Himalayan


Royal Enfield Himalayan or KTM 390 Adventure?

KTM 390 Adventure and Royal Enfield Himalayan

We recently tested the KTM against the Royal Enfield and both bikes provide something different to the would-be A2 adventurer. Pick the KTM and you get a 12V power socket, a colour TFT dash, Bluetooth phone connectivity, backlit switchgear and an optional quickshifter.

Pick the Enfield and you get a centrestand, fork gaiters and a choke lever that doesn’t stop the motor stalling when cold. One is built on tried and trusted tradition, the rugged beauty of simplicity and a 119-year legacy. The other thrives on vibrant, sharp-edged modernity, youth appeal and shameless excitement.

In some ways the KTM 390 Adventure vs Himalayan proposition might be polar opposites, but they’re both trying to appeal to the same audience: from A2-licence-clutching novices to veteran road riders dipping a boot into the adventure world for the first time. They just go about it in very, very different ways...

Judged as road bikes, the KTM wins hands-down. The Adventure is so much faster, lighter, more sophisticated and, most of all, so much more fun. It might be a little more expensive than the Himalayan, but that £1100 difference is completely justified when you compare the spec of the two bikes, from the KTM’s superior-quality suspension to its 21st-century technology. With almost twice the power – not to mention brakes that can stop by 2020 standards – the 390 has a night-and-day dynamic edge.

But when it comes to which is the better adventure bike, that’s where things get tougher. Because the one that’d make life easier when the off-roading got rougher and tougher, and the one that you might stand a chance of repairing with a blunt twig in the middle of a rainforest during monsoon season, is the Himalayan.

So for the road, it’s the KTM. But for a real adventure, it’s the Royal Enfield.

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

With switchgear for the Playstation generation, the 390 Adventure’s back-lit four- button pad provides access to the 5in TFT screen’s various menus and settings. This display has big clear speedo, as much (or as little) trip info as you like, an eight-bar fuel gauge, tank range countdown and loads more. What's more, you can also connect to your phone via bluetooth, then display turn-by-turn satnav directions using KTM’s My Ride connected app.

Elsewhere, the standard 390 comes with a black plastic bashguard, which looks okay but won’t stand up to much abuse. KTM offers a much tougher, aluminium version for an extra £165. Small, powerful LED lights look good and work well, too. There’s still that split face, but the design has been refined and now looks striking rather than plain weird!

To truly make it your own, there are actually no less than 160 KTM Powerparts available, allowing you to spec your machine to almost any scenario. 

Specs

Engine size 373cc
Engine type Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single
Frame type Steel
Fuel capacity 14.5 litres
Seat height 855mm
Bike weight 158kg
Front suspension WP APEX 43mm upside down, fully adjustable
Rear suspension WP APEX adjustable return damping and spring
Front brake Single 320mm disc, four-piston radial caliper
Rear brake Single 230mm disc, single-piston floating caliper
Front tyre size 100/90x19
Rear tyre size 130/80x17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 84 mpg
Annual road tax £44
Annual service cost £80
New price £5,499
Used price £5,000 - £5,500
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term Two year

Top speed & performance

Max power 44 bhp
Max torque 27.3 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

2020: KTM 390 Adventure launched.

Owners' reviews for the KTM 390 ADVENTURE (2020 - on)

3 owners have reviewed their KTM 390 ADVENTURE (2020 - on) and rated it in a number of areas. Read what they have to say and what they like and dislike about the bike below.

Review your KTM 390 ADVENTURE (2020 - on)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Engine: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Value vs rivals: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Equipment: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Annual servicing cost: £80
5 out of 5
31 August 2020 by Ferenc

Year: 2020

Annual servicing cost: £50

Amazing handling, great brakes. Superb price / value ratio, with the LCD dash and the traction control, ABS (normal, offroad) etc. The one cylinder engine is a little bit noisy and do not like the life under 3500 rpm, but above 6000 it is very enjoyable and colorfull. Cruising speed is arond 120-130 km/h without any problem, so great for longer travel. Perfect for commuting in the city, with low consumption (3,3 litre / 100 km) and light offroad on the weekends.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

Very good, strong brakes, with good ABS.

Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
4 out of 5 Old guys rule on new bike!
23 July 2020 by Daddums57

Year: 2020

This bike takes me back 45 years and why I got into riding. It’s a blast. Lightweight, easy to ride. Perfect for a retiring old fella like me! Dirt roads to destination then enough guts to do the twistes back home. Just what the doctor ordered!

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

I know more as I rack up the miles but did I say easy to ride!

Engine 4 out of 5

Is a little weak down low but for where I’m riding it’ll be fine. Some dirt roads some blacktop. 50, 60 miles jaunts.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 4 out of 5

12volt plug. Keeps my phone charged.

Buying experience: Paid recommend msrp. No dealer mark up other than freight.

4 out of 5 Perfect first bike.
11 July 2020 by Nick C

Year: 2020

Annual servicing cost: £100

A perfect learner or great option for a returning rider.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

Easy to ride and comfortable for about an hour - then the saddle starts to feel a bit hard. However, this might ease as it breaks in and there is plenty of room to shift around from the narrow front to the flatter rear.

Engine 4 out of 5

Great, peppy little single that has more than enough power to overtake and have fun. I'm still under 7000 rpm until the first service and that's when it gets better apparently so I can't wait.....

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Great fit and finish. No complaints at all. For the price it's amazing that they can build such a solid and light bike!

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Early days as I still have to do the 1000km service but I can't get over the fact it takes about $10 to fill the tank which will do my commute to Sydney city for a week! (my car is $100)

Equipment 4 out of 5

Amazing level of tech for pricce. I see reviews on much more expensive bikes without TFT or corner ABS etc + you can turn off traction and rear ABS if you like. Also you can run sat nav from KTM phone app which I haven't seen on any other learner bikes!! When you add adjustable from and rear suspension too it is very difficult if not impossible to find a bike with the same specs for less cash...

Buying experience: KTM dealer was very good and arranged insurance and didn't over sell when I went to test ride against the cheaper duke 390. That said, when you ride both back to back it will be obvious which one you want depending on use etc.

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