KTM RC390 (2014 - 2020) Review


  • A2 licence-friendly sports bike
  • Brilliant handling on road and track
  • Cheap to run, holds value well

At a glance

Owners' reliability rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Annual servicing cost: £150
Power: 44 bhp
Seat height: Medium (32.3 in / 820 mm)
Weight: Low (324 lbs / 147 kg)


New N/A
Used £3,500 - £3,900

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
3 out of 5 (3/5)

After all these years the KTM RC 390 is still the sharpest A2 licence weapon out there. Think of it as a Moto3 racer for the road…sort of, or maybe the spiritual successor to the 250cc two stroke and 400cc four-stroke pocket rockets of the late 80s and early 90s.

Its single cylinder motor is punchy, but friendly and it handles well enough to run rings around its rival in the corners. Light and accurate it’s the perfect tool in which to learn your cornering craft (it even had its own BSB-supporting race series: the KTM RC 390 Cup), but it’s also friendly for everyday riding, can handle long journeys without breaking a sweat and is decent on fuel.

It's isn’t all orange ice cream with sprinkles, though because it suffers poor brakes, a hard seat, sloppy gearbox and iffy build quality in places, especially compared to its Japanese competition.

Updated in 2017, we hoped it would get the same top-to-toe overhaul enjoyed by the vastly improved naked 390 Duke the same year. Its naked sibling had better build quality, a smoother engine, crisper handling, stronger brakes and a higher level of equipment. Instead the RC390 only got a handful of Euro4-enforced tweaks, including ride-by-wire, a side-exit exhaust, new bellypan, adjustable levers and a bigger front disc.

But despite its ills the KTM RC 390 is still a sought-after piece of kit for restricted licence holders and well-looked-after examples hold their value reasonably well.

If you're after an even sportier version of this sports bike primarily for track useage, there was also a homologation special called the KTM RC 390R.

During 2015 MCN ran a KTM RC390 on the long-term test fleet to see what it's like over an extended test period. Find out how we got on here.

Watch: KTM RC390 video review

Ride quality & brakes

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

Laid out like KTM’s Moto3 racer, the RC 390 has a lightweight tubular steel frame, aluminium swingarm and WP suspension – chunky non-adjustable 43mm upside forks up front and a single shock, adjustable for preload at the rear.

Although relatively stiffly sprung the damping at both ends is soft, especially at the rear but it makes for a comfortable ride and combined with its light weight (just 147kg dry) it’s easy for the less experienced to jump on and ride the wheels off it, which is what the RC390 is all about.

It’s perfect for learning the art of cornering and there’s always something electrifying about riding a small bike to its limit that you just don’t get on a bigger, more powerful machine. The key to peddling the KTM quickly is to maintain momentum through corners, brake as little as possible (just as well – the single disc set-up lacks power), hold your breath and flick it on to its side.

Riding the KTM RC390 on the road

Despite its bouncy set-up the chassis is composed, there’s lots of ground clearance and things never get out of control, even when you’re bouncing off the kerbs on track. It’s only when you want to flick from side to side quickly you wish the suspension had slightly more control – something KTM addressed with the limited edition (500 built) RC 390R, which had fully-adjustable WPs.

Controls are smooth and light and it’s easy to thread through traffic but ride the KTM a long way and you wish the bars weren’t quite so low and that the seat didn’t have all the cushioning of concrete. Fitting a more comfortable perch is a must if you’re going to do big miles, which it’s perfectly long-legged enough to do. On the flip side, those bars are set wide and the tall seat gives you lots of legroom, which makes it ideal for taller riders.

Aside from the front disc diameter growing 20mm to 320mm, which didn’t improve braking power by much, the chassis was left unchanged for its light 2017 refresh, which when compared to the new and improved 390 Duke of that year, made the RC 390 feel old and refined at a stroke.

Riding the KTM RC390 on track


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

Lifted from the 390 Duke of the day, the RC 390’s liquid-cooled, fuel-injected, six-speed, single-cylinder 373.2cc motor produced 44bhp and weighed just 36kg.

It’s a gem of an engine, if a little vibey. The original model had a smooth, friendly throttle, but after it gained ride-by-wire, Euro4 fuel mapping and a side-mounted exhaust (with a corresponding new bellypan), its throttle became snatchier.

At low revs old and new RC 390 motors are docile, but the KTM will still out-grunt its twin and four-cylinder A2 licence rivals. There’s an almost two-stroke-like step in the power at 7000rpm, which fizzles out around 10,000rpm, so you need to scream it through the gears and keep the throttle welded to the stop to really get going.

The KTM RC390 features a single-cylinder engine

But keep it pinned and it’ll quickly hit the magical ton and even pull clutch-up wheelies in first. It sounds great on the throttle, too, rumbling like a Moto3 weapon.

Ridden normally it’ll do around 63mpg, which will give a theoretical range of 138 miles from its tiny 10-litre tank, but after 120 miles the dash will be screaming at you to say you’ve run out, even when you haven’t.

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
2 out of 5 (2/5)

Made by KTM’s partners, Bajaj in India, RC 390 build quality is acceptable, but it has a more plasticky feel than its Japanese rivals, especially machines like the Honda CBR500R and Kawasaki Ninja 400.

We’ve experienced gearbox problems on test bikes before (jumping out of 4th gear) and KTM RC 390 owners' reviews of running hot in traffic, excessively loud cooling fans and general corrosion, aren’t uncommon.

A side-on view of the KTM RC390

Value vs rivals

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

New prices aren’t cheap, but RC 390s tend to hold their value well, which is important on a machine you’re likely to trade up from, once you’ve moved onto an A licence.

It won’t cost the earth to run and insure, but if you’re willing to do without a fairing and clip-ons you get a lot more for your money with KTM’s own 2017-onwards 390 Duke - an altogether more polished and well-rounded A2 licence option.

The KTM RC 390 is a rival to the Honda CBR500R, Kawasaki Ninja 400 and Yamaha R3.

300s mega test: KTM RC 390 vs Honda CBR500R vs Kawasaki Z300

First published in MCN 13 May 2015 by Michael Neeves

KTM RC 390 vs Honda CBR500R vs Kawasaki Z300

Just like a big super-naked makes more sense than a superbike on the road, the Z300 is more fun to ride than its faired rivals. OK, so you don’t get the wind protection, but you get a bigger impression of speed, and with its straight bars and upright riding position it’s easy to control and to flick through traffic.

The Honda is still a class act. It’s smooth, roomy and handles impeccably, but as our new riders remark, it doesn’t get the heart pumping. If you want to go flat out everywhere the KTM is perfect. It handles superbly, has a snappy little engine and decent ground clearance, but the brakes are weak and gearboxes can be iffy. Living with it every day won’t be as easy as on the Japanese bikes. The seat is hard, the fuel tank is only 10-litres and build quality is questionable.


4 out of 5 (4/5)

Standard equipment includes a four-piston Bybre radial front caliper, 10-spoke lightweight wheels, LED running lights, a multi-function LCD dash with a gear position indicator, WP suspension and racing seat hump made from a foam/plastic material that doubles up as a pillion perch. You even get backlit switchgear and nice detail touches including orange cable ties holding the wires in place.

The KTM RC390 gets back-lit switch gear

KTM also offer a wide range of optional extras under their Power Parts line-up. You can order an ergo rider's seat, a pit mat, touring equipment, and even an Akrapovic slip-on exhaust.


Engine size 373cc
Engine type 4v, single
Frame type Steel trellis and ali swingarm
Fuel capacity 10 litres
Seat height 820mm
Bike weight 147kg
Front suspension 43mm non-adjustable WP forks.
Rear suspension Single WP shock adjustable for preload.
Front brake 300mm disc with four-piston radial calipers. ABS
Rear brake 230mm single disc with single-piston caliper. ABS
Front tyre size 110/70 x 17
Rear tyre size 150/60 x 17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption 82 mpg
Annual road tax £55
Annual service cost £150
New price -
Used price £3,500 - £3,900
Insurance group 15 of 17
How much to insure?
Warranty term 2 years unlimited mileage

Top speed & performance

Max power 44 bhp
Max torque 26 ft-lb
Top speed 105 mph
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range 180 miles

Model history & versions

Model history

  • 2014: KTM’s A2 licence friendly (2015 model) RC390 arrives in dealers late October.
  • 2017: Updated for Euro4 - ride-by-wire, side-mounted exhaust, new bellypan, 320mm front disc, adjustable levers.

Other versions

2018 RC390R. Limited run of 500 built. Still A2 licence-friendly, but with shorter intake trumpets for more performance. Full adjustable WP suspension, machined ali top yoke, clip-ons, flip-up brake and clutch levers.

SSP300 Race Kit also available comprising of over 230 individual parts, including titanium Akrapovic exhaust system, race ECU, STM slipper clutch, quickshifter, race wiring loom, spare wheels, sprocket selection, uprated cooling system and bodywork kit.

More KTM RC models

Owners' reviews for the KTM RC390 (2014 - 2020)

3 owners have reviewed their KTM RC390 (2014 - 2020) 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 RC390 (2014 - 2020)

Summary of owners' reviews

Overall rating: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Ride quality & brakes: 4 out of 5 (4/5)
Engine: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Reliability & build quality: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Value vs rivals: 4.3 out of 5 (4.3/5)
Equipment: 4.7 out of 5 (4.7/5)
Annual servicing cost: £150
5 out of 5 Absolutely phenomenal!
24 July 2023 by Tron

Year: 2015

Moto3 racer for the road. If you want to play at being your favourite rider then this is the tool for the job. After reading the reviews (and doing my research on it's shortcomings) this track weapon for the road ticks all the boxes for me. Light and torquey with good stomp from the bottom end makes it perfect for the roads I ride. It's no long distance tourer, although I have done this out of necessity and it performed surprisingly well with good fuel economy, and I wouldn't want to commute on it though with it's light weight and narrow profile would be more than capable. I grew up on a diet of trick grey import 250's and this feels as close to them as I can remember from the dim and distant past. Mine is by no means standard though; ktech fork kit and razor rear shock, power commander, full akrapovic exhaust system and a host of other KTM powerparts bolt-ons all add up to make this one phenomenal machine. If I were to pick fault, I would say it can be a little vibey at times and initially the fuel capacity caused me concerns, although now I go off the trip gauge rather than the erratic fuel level bars so problem solved. Best features? Looks (marmite), handling, engine, brakes, ergonomics, too much too list.

Ride quality & brakes 5 out of 5

I believe the standard model can be a little soft on the rear, and also the standard brakes lack power. The ktech fork kit and razor rear shock I have fitted make the bike an absolute scalpel through the twisties, this is complemented by EBC HH brake pads which provide impressive stopping power with no fade, even after many continuous kms of curves and hairpin bends.

Engine 5 out of 5

Has all the power and torque I need, able to thrash it to within an inch of it's redline without fear of losing my licence, something I couldn't do before I sidestepped from a 600 to the 390. I refuse to say step back as this bike is more than a match in most real riding environments. Starts to run out of breath around 160kph but that's more than quick enough for the real world.

Reliability & build quality 5 out of 5

As it's a small single I expected issues with bolts vibrating out, etc, however this has proved not to be the case. Build quality feels nice, panels line up and feel fairly good quality. No major reliability issues so far (after nearly 15000 kms) although I am fastidious with oil changes, checking the level correctly and regularly, as well as warming up correctly before riding.

Value vs rivals 5 out of 5

I do all my own servicing as a qualified mechanic so cost of parts only which, compared to Supersport 600's I've owned previously, seem very well priced. I use Motul 7100v and change every 1500 kms, pricey but the bike is ridden hard and it's cheaper than an engine rebuild.

Equipment 5 out of 5

Never bought it for it's 'luxuries' so difficult to comment, although having a shift light, backlit switchgear and any warnings come up on the dash are nice touches.

Buying experience: Bought privately for £3000, very low mileage with all the extras fitted, full mot and lots of life left in the consumables so one very happy buyer.

4 out of 5 Gotta Love Orange
23 May 2022 by Sven

Year: 2017

Annual servicing cost: £150

Great small displacment sports bike for all levels of rider with bags of character. Cheap to run/insure but requires a little more care than others. A niche bike but a blast to ride! Looks like a mini decepticon and attracts plenty of compliments.

Ride quality & brakes 4 out of 5

The ride quality is very compliant but bouncy at the rear. I've had no problem with the stock seat on extended rides and even taken a passenger on the faux seat cowl. However the suspension squats significantly even at the highest preload with a passenger. The RC thrives on being ridden at high RPM's on twisty roads and sails through corners with ease.The Bye Bre callipers do a good job of stopping the bike on the 320mm rotars and the ABS isn't obtrusive. Overall a brilliant riding experience.

Engine 4 out of 5

Low down the power delivery is snatchy due to lean fueling from the factory and runs hot when in traffic. The cooling fan is loud and sounds like a fighter jet prepearing for take off. The bike can unexpectedly stall when feathering the clutch at low RPM if the throttle is not opened enough but is easy enough to work around. Ride this bike pinned however and it rewards with a jump in power after 7k and surges upto the red line encouraging spirited riding. Great for back road blasting and tight twisty roads. It keeps up with bigger bikes and provides plenty of fun. It can even handle the motorway, comfortably cruising at 70mph at the 7k mark with plenty left for overtaking.

Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5

Its worth taking the bolts out and applying quality thread locker as they work themselves loose especially on the main fairings. I've had 2 vanish while out riding. In one year of ownership the only fault has been a leaking fork seal (fixed with a Seal Doctor for £20).Some parts of the bike feel a bit overly 'plastic' and certain things such as the rear sprocket have very rough, untidy edges on the cut outs. The bike has been build down to a price so such things are to be expected but in no way detract from the overall experience.

Value vs rivals 4 out of 5

Average range is around 120 miles even when ridden hard. The fuel gauge and miles until empty setting on the dash have a mind of their own, best to set the trip work off that instead. With the small tank size, filling up with premium fuel (E5) rarely costs more than £14 for a full tank.

Equipment 4 out of 5

Switchable ABS is great fun for antics and the adjustable shift light make it a fun to bang up through the gearbox. The stock screen is low and almost feels like riding a naked bike. The fist mod I made was a KTM powerparts bubble screen which is just big enough to fully tuck behind (6ft rider). The stock exhaust is underwhelming and worth replacing for a better sound. The dorky projector lights do a great job on highbeam in the dark and the back-lit controls is a nice touch.

Buying experience: Bought from a dealer in Scotland for less than £3995 straight from the showroom floor. 1 year KTM warranty and Motobility breakdown cover included. Drysdale motorcycles (Perth) highly recommended.

4 out of 5 Mental Performance for an under 500 cc!
28 July 2015 by Jesse Daniel Antony

Version: India

Year: 2015

Mental performance for under sub 600 cc motorcycle! The engine could've been a little more refined, torque comes in lumps, not a very smooth / linear feel as, say the Ninja 300. Very uncomfortable saddle for touring! Superb for the track! Brakes need some getting used to, not as sharp as you would expect a 300 mm rotor to be! Tires - Excellent for track + wet conditions (METZLER SPORTEC M5). A little too soft for everyday street riding, very low mileage (mine are about to almost die now). Front suspension is bang on! Just so perfect! Inverted 43mm telescopes The rear suspension is way too soft and bouncy. Putting in on the highest pre-load setting makes it just acceptable, but the damping could've been a lot better actually. The 82 MPG figure that MCN has given is not true. The highest MPG so far is 76 (while using not more than 25% of the throttle at all times), Done over 6000 miles so far - Avg mpg is 60 to 70 MPG.

Ride quality & brakes 3 out of 5
Engine 4 out of 5
Reliability & build quality 4 out of 5
Value vs rivals 4 out of 5
Equipment 5 out of 5
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