Mallory Park, a 1.4-mile exercise in momentum conservation buried within the natural bowl of a sleepy Leicestershire village. Over the past 12 months it’s become something of a second home through the countless laps I’ve raced here with the East Midlands Racing club. I love everything about the place from its glorious history, the 100mph+ Gerards bend, the amazing food in the café, and grazing the shoulder of your leathers on the wall as you dive under someone at Britain’s tightest hairpin.
So bringing the RC390 here was a bit like taking it to meet the family. What would Gerards think of its front end? Would Edwina’s mock its OE tyres? And what would the Kirkby Straight make of the 42bhp motor? And just like that first, all-important meeting, I was nervous, too.
Lined up in the pit lane alongside bigger sportsbikes, the RC390 didn’t look out of place; being reasonably large and sharply styled it definitely cuts a piece of the sportsbike cloth. But with its 375cc engine and short gearing only able to muster a top speed of 105mph, I knew I’d be something of a sitting duck on Mallory’s two straights.
Exiting the pit lane for session one, the little KTM immediately fell behind as the full-sized sportsbikes exercised their cubic capacity advantage and accelerated away on their pre-warmed rubber. But with a couple of laps under our belt and the OE Metzeler Sportec M5 tyres nicely warmed, the KTM was soon back on their tails; our 220kg all-up weight giving us a massive advantage over heavier bike/rider combos as we braked hard into Shaws hairpin.
I’d not been able to deactivate the ABS prior to the trackday (I didn’t know how to, but I’ve since read the manual and now know I need to press and hold a ‘secret’ button on the bottom left side of the dash) but the excellent Bosch 9MB system chimes in almost undetected, apart from the fact that you don’t stop in the distance that you expect to and run on at the hairpin!
The ByBre front caliper, although decent enough for road use, really needs a firm squeeze of the lever to get it biting on track, especially when teamed with forks that are on the soft side of compliant. But, like the power delivery from the single-cylinder engine, this inertness means you can really feel like you’re riding hard without running the risk of the KTM biting back.
The Metzelers are the only part of the bike that hasn’t been made in India, but even so I was initially dubious about how they’d perform. I had my question answered in a couple of laps as the pegs scraped around Gerard’s bend, then the rear tyre hop, skipped and jumped out of the exit of Edwina’s chicane.
I tried experimenting with the tyre pressures, but nothing seemed to cure the loose sensation coming from the rear. I also noticed that the rear tyre still had a quarter-inch of ‘chicken strip’ around the edge, so I’m going to experiment with some slightly narrower tyres (140 section instead of 150) which should improve side-grip and help me get the best out of what appears to be a fairly decent chassis.
After another session I found the road pattern gearshift was making it tricky to change up a gear on the exit of Gerards, so I pulled in to see if I could switch it to race pattern. But, after removing the front sprocket cover to prevent it fouling the now inverted shift rod, the clamp wouldn’t align on the gearbox shaft, so I had to stick with road pattern. Apparently KTM do their own adjustable rearsets that allow the switch to GP-shift, so I’ll have to investigate those.
Ready to race? Almost, but not quite…