Big Touring Motorcycle

KTM RC 390: A 1200km all-terrain touring review

It was around 6 am when I mounted the Viaterra Element tail bag on the pillion seat and headed out. The sun wasn’t completely up, courtesy of the winter season, but the RC had already pumped up my energies with its brisk acceleration. And that helped me escape the city in no time and enter the ghats of Lonavala. These amazing twisties of Western ghats are where the RC came into its element, as I had expected. 

Around every corner, I braked hard and late and dropped the bike into corners with an unusual audacity, and the RC abided by my intentions. It leaned and carried on with the grace of a ballerina. Then, the corner exits, if I was in the right gear, were equally ballistic and smile-inducing.

KTM RC 390 Engine From Right

Now, after dancing around the ghats, as soon as I hit the wide-open NH48, the motorcycle didn’t stop impressing me. My usual stress-free touring speed, on almost all motorcycles, is 100-110kmph. And that’s a cakewalk for the RC’s 373cc mill which shows no signs of distress. Every time I overtook bigger vehicles, just a slight wring of the throttle was all it took to zoom past them. At times, I even tried to do 120-130kmph and the bike felt absolutely unstrained and overtakes were still easy. 

As I reached Satara, moving yet dense traffic awaited me and that meant a lot of gear changes and fast manoeuvres. The former is something I thoroughly enjoyed as going up and down the RC’s gearbox is a profound joy. The cogs shift with the slightest effort and with a reassuring click. The experience is further accentuated by the bi-directional quick shifter. Every time I had to slow down in urgency, I would go down the gears with swift movements of my toe, without even touching the clutch! And then going up the gears and getting back to highway speeds was, for the most part, a similarly engaging and quick clutchless affair.

KTM RC 390 Left Side View

Another aspect that helps the RC in traffic is its braking prowess. The ByBre calipers are some of the best units in this segment as they deliver a handful of bite even with minimal force on the lever. The same goes for the rear brake. 

Now, as I crossed Satara, it had been over four hours since I started on the bike in the morning and the RC’s committed ergonomics began showing their effect. My upper back started aching due to the intermittent pressure on my hands that was induced by constant braking in traffic. This is where the RC’s revised ergonomics and my 5’11” stature with long hands shone brightly. Since the handlebar is much closer to the rider now, I could sit upright for a while, holding the throttle with the tip of my fingers which gave some needed respite to my back. I repeated this exercise every few minutes which made the sporty riding triangle bearable.

KTM RC 390 Bike Seat

One aspect of its ergonomics that truly impressed me is the seat. There’s such a generous stuffing of cushion that not once did I feel my backside getting soar. Also, an abundance of space meant constantly switching my body position from upright to a crouch was easy.

The journey was as smooth as a knife through butter until we reached Amboli Ghat. This was the section I was really looking forward to, mainly for the unending corners it offers. However, as we entered this hallowed territory, we kept coming across profoundly broken patches sporadically. And this is where the RC’s revised suspension setup came to the rescue. Now, although the bike’s ride quality isn’t outright plush, it isn’t as unforgiving as before. I kept on gunning the RC through ruts and potholes and it kept flying without returning obnoxious jerks to my arms or slapping my back. It was only when the bike jumped into deep craters that I could feel the firmness of the rear spring. I throttled my way through the marginally broken patches and the RC glided over most of it without much reluctance.

KTM RC 390 Front Tyre

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