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Long term update: Turning over a new leaf

Published: 04 November 2015

Usually I wince at the thought of subjecting a bike to the horrors of autumn; mud-strewn roads permanently soggy, plummeting early-morning temperatures and the hazard of slippery mulched leaves.

I’ll admit, as I’ve got older not only have I become fixated with keeping my bike as clean and lovely as possible, but – and I realise I may get drummed out of town for saying this – I don’t get pleasure from commuting in the cold, wet and dark. Or at least, I didn’t…

Aimed at carefree 19 and 20-year-olds, the single-cylinder KTM has taken me on a trip down memory lane, back to a time when I didn’t own a car and biked the whole year round without a care in the world. It reminded me of the sense of satisfaction that comes from wrapping up, braving the elements and using two-wheels to triumph over the conditions to reach your destination.

So as British summer time officially ended, I found myself swapping my sunny Sunday jeans and vented leather jacket for commuter-clobber and toasty textiles then disappearing out of the door every morning to work, whatever the weather – and loving every minute.

It appears the switch in seasons has brought about a bit of a sea-change in my expectations of the KTM. Now I’m no longer trying to use it as a sportsbike, the RC has taken on the role of a brilliantly fun commuter. Just a slight change in my attitude has seen me become thankful of – rather than frustrated by – the 390’s gentle power delivery, soft suspension and non-intimidating brakes.

Fitted with its Metzeler M7RR tyres, the KTM is stupendously surefooted in the rain and cold, so much so that I can ride with as much gusto amongst the fallen autumn leaves as I could when the sun smothered the tarmac instead.

Not afraid of the dark

Now darkness has fallen by the time the KTM and I head for home each evening, the A2-licence friendly machine’s super-cool lighting impresses too. Not only are there super-bright, white running lights on the KTM’s beak to help us stand out in the traffic, but there’s also a strong numberplate light, eye-catching twin-strip tail lights, and comforting illuminated switchgear too.

Even the KTM’s plastic-fantastic matt black bodywork has become a godsend rather than a bone of contention. With nothing as such to polish, I’m less of an auntie when it comes to getting it dirty, and I’ve even discovered that there’s actually very little of the KTM that’s bare metal – the frame, swingarm, footrests and hangers are all painted/plastic coated so shouldn’t suffer from the ravages of winter road salt. With the exception of the bolts holding the rear brake disc on, there’s very little in the way of corrosion and I genuinely expect things to stay that way too.

A bit too chilled out

The only real question mark hangs over its low-temperature reliability. Even with the thermometer barely below 10°C in the mornings, the KTM struggles with cold starts – plain old reluctance to fire then turns into a stall if I try to ride away before the engine is warm. Also, riding through heavy rain one morning, the coolant temperature dropped lower than usual as the raindrops battered the radiator.

The result of this cool-running was fluffy fuelling and a bit of bogging down on full throttle; if the winter temperatures really start falling perhaps I’ll have to block off a bit of the radiator to help keep the coolant stay at the right temperature, especially if it’s raining.

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