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Duke 390 is a go! Blog Part 1

Blog author and master of wit, ‘Pump Kinn’, was in Salzburg this week for the press presentation of the KTM 390 Duke. Here are his thoughts and impressions of the new bike

It is nice to spend the day on country roads to Austria. After 600km blown away at the handlebar and knowing that your destination address in Salzburg is ‘Sheraton Hotel’ the world can begin to look orange again after a shower and slap-up dinner. I discover a special touch on arrival as KTM have decorated the hotel with flags, screens and banners, a Duke 390 has taken up residency in the lobby and there are even floor display stickers saying ‘Duke 390’, so that everyone can immediately see where to head for event info the next day.

After a swift power nap I sit in a conference room with 25 journalists who have travelled from Malaysia, India, Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Mexico, Colombia, Argentina and Finland. We are the last of the four groups that will ride with the new KTM 390 Duke through the ‘Salzkammergut’ and then to write what we think.

Thomas ‘Kutti’ Kuttruf (Press Manager), Sebastian Sekira (Head of Street motorcycles), Joerg Schuller (Product Manager), Stefan Schmollgruber (Project Engine), Andreas Wimmer (project chassis), Sven Lacker (application programmer engine management), Craig Dent (designer and Creative Leader at Kiska) and Sel Narayana (KTM Southeast Asia and working for KTM for 25 years) talking about the 390 Duke development can be summarized as follows:

‘The 390 Duke is a very important for KTM not only because it closes the gap between 125/200 and 690 naked bikes but also because it is the first bike from Mattighofen which will be available in all markets around the world, in total 76 countries. The price is amazing. Less than 5,000 euros. Such a calculation is possible through the co-operation with Bajaj in India where a bike that was created and developed in Austria runs off the production lines. Bajaj is the fourth largest manufacturer in the world and produced a total of 3.8 million two-wheelers in 2012.’

Simply put, the 390 Duke is something that tuners have been dreaming of for decades: a lightweight chassis with an engine that is just ‘one size’ larger. The result is a well-balanced, agile, sporty and jaunty naked bike to entertain newcomers as well as experienced riders. The special appeal lies in the combination of light weight and a more-than-adequate engine, not an easy thing to find on the market in recent years.

The KTM Duke 390 offers special riding pleasure thanks to balanced finesse. The chassis and bodywork is from the 125er/200er while the 375er liquid-cooled single-cylinder engine has been completely redeveloped with fuel injection, Nikasil-coated cylinders, forged pistons and six-speed gearbox. The only part that was transferred from the smaller engine family are the rockers for the valve train. The short-stroke designed four-valve unit (89 bore, 60 mm stroke) produces 44hp at 9,500 revs. A catalytic converter in the exhaust system is included and the system enables a low centre of gravity.

36 bikes in front of the hotel are put into line. We grab a machine each secure our helmets and finally leave in small 5-rider-groups, led by guides. On the compact Duke you instantly feel at home. Handlebars, footrests, seat; the triangle fits great. The single cylinder sound is surprisingly strong, the clutch engages smoothly, gearbox precise and engaged with short lever paths. The engine excels with friendly character, pleasant vibration-free running, the power delivery is smooth when low, crispy angry at increasing speeds. The power increase is linear, without any jumps or harsh steps. The more right hand on the throttle, the more power propels me forward.

We roll out of the city and along winding mountain roads. It goes up and down, right and left and involves all kinds of asphalt from smooth to rough. The Duke 390 turns out to be a genuinely fun motorcycle. It is uncomplicated, and very easy to handle in and through corners at any speed. It is direct, fleet-footed and can be accurately and safely steered around corners. Fully fuelled (with 11 litres) the Duke 390 weights only 150 kg, so it is a pleasure.

Everything on the Duke feels precise. The disc brakes can be properly loaded and have no trouble stopping the lightweight bike vehemently. The standard Bosch ABS provides additional security; for those who prefer a supermoto riding style and sliding the rear into corners the system can also be turned off by pressing a button on the cockpit dash. The gearbox engages easily and precisely. Suspension tuning ironed out most of the ‘nasties’ the asphalt had to offer. High quality sports tyres (Metzeler Sportec M5) also provided good feeling when turning at any speed.

Finally we get to the first photo location. Two photographers take action photos then we continue. Passig Fuschl and along the modern headquarters of Red Bull, we are carried by scenic country roads eventually to Lake Wolfgang. We stop for lunch at the sophisticated scalaria, a locality where the guest room is decorated with a Toro Rosso Formula 1 car.

The next phase of riding leads to the second photo location on a mountain road. Other groups are waiting with us, so it turns out to be a good opportunity to pause and devote attention to individual details of the Duke 390. A crafted frame that is not painted but coated in plastic; upside-down fork with 300 mm disc brake and radial four-piston brake caliper, a visually impressive aluminium swingarm with preload adjustable WP mono shock absorber; orange, delicate cast-wheels; conical ‘Fatbar’ handlebars and nicely designed mini wind shield over the headlight front mask.

After the action shots are done, the riding fun goes on. Through beautiful countryside under blue sky an outright orgy of curves comes in a wide arc back to Salzburg, where our guide incorporates a detour to the Gaisberg. A week ago, when the first Duke tester group stopped here, temperatures were hovering just above zero and led to a hearty snowball battle. We have much more luck with the weather and enjoy the magnificent views of the Salzburg region.

When we finally arrive back to the hotel after about a 200km riding course the red carpet before the entrance pops into vision. One Duke 390 is placed on top to shoot a final picture. Eva Priewasser, responsible for organising the event, together with 20 KTM people for a total of 103 journalists finishes the evening with a horse drawn carriage ride to dinner at a restaurant next to the monk mountain museum over the rooftops of Salzburg. That’s it, thanks for a pleasurable day and an easy to ride and great KTM 390 Duke!

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