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Long term update: RC390's hidden skills

Published: 17 December 2015

Three-and-a-half-thousand miles on KTM’s learner-friendly RC390 have taught me one or two things.

The first thing I learned was, despite the Austrian firm’s brace of Moto3 titles and the RC’s ‘Ready to Race’ motto, it’s not a sportsbike. Was I a bit of a fool to think it would be anything other than a friendly roadster for new A2 licence-holders? Perhaps, but there’s no denying the KTM is wearing all the right superbike-esque parts like WP upside-downers and a radial brake caliper. A couple of trackdays proved that my preconceptions were way out of line, but as the year wore on it seemed I was wrong about its other abilities too, which brings me nicely to the second thing I discovered.

The 390 is a surprising tourer. What it lacks in sporting potential it makes up for with long-distance ability. Yes, the best ride of the year came via a jaunt to the Scottish Highlands, over 600 miles in one day, a trip that I thought would run a big orange highlighter pen over the KTM’s list of flaws. Instead, I found it comfortable (with the £80 Ergo seat fitted), frugal (70mpg) and so easy to manage that I felt no road or track was out of bounds.

Yet it wasn’t until the sun had set on summer that the KTM stepped up and showed me what it was really good at – hardcore commuting. Fitted with a pair of Metzeler M7-RR tyres (approx. £210 mail order), the RC390 was unshakable in cold and wet conditions – so much so that with its upright riding position, wide-ish bars, linear power delivery and ABS I could carry on riding in much the same way as I did when it was dry and sunny. It took me half a year to find the RC390’s true vocation as the coolest looking and most fun commuter around, and now it’s returned to KTM UK I do feel a pang of loss as I sit in nose-to-tail traffic in my car.