Now that the KTM 390 Adventure has finally been launched, and we have ridden it too, it's time to set the reality against the expectations to find out if it's really the motorcycle that we've all been waiting for.
For more than five years, we’ve been waiting for the KTM 390 Adventure, and the wait has been killing us. It was the regular feed of rumours, spy shots, and information that, over all these years, bit by bit created an image of what the 390 Adventure could be like. And as the image of the 390 Adventure got clearer and clearer in our head, waiting for it became harder and harder to bear.
With the kind of success KTM has enjoyed at Dakar, expectation from the 390 Adventure has always been high. And it isn’t just their rally machines, KTM’s larger Adventure offerings have always set new benchmarks and proven to be great all-rounders too. Keeping all that in mind, the expectation from the 390 Adventure was that of a typical KTM ADV, albeit in a smaller and more accessible package. In fact, the endless spy shots that surfaced over the years also hinted that the 390 Adventure would be just that. But the reality is far from the expectations.
Since the global unveiling of the 390 Adventure at EICMA in November 2019, it has been clear that the motorcycle is indeed a road-focused ADV. And there are multiple things on the motorcycle that suggest that – the biggest one being the engine. Just like its larger 790 siblings, the 390 Adventure uses the same engine as the Duke 390. In the 790 range, though, the Adventure makes its max torque at roughly 2,000rpm lower than its naked sibling. But that isn’t the case with the 390 Adventure, which makes its peak power and torque at exactly the same rpm as the 390 Duke. While the motor works brilliantly on the naked offering, the 390 Adventure's inadequate bottom-end punch doesn’t go unnoticed. Sure, it gets a slightly larger sprocket – 45T instead of the Duke’s 44T – but the difference isn’t as stark as I'd have liked it to be. The 390 Adventure, just like its naked sibling, is still a motorcycle that is strong in its mid-range, which doesn’t quite make it easy for your off-road endeavours.
In the past, we have seen spy shots of the 390 Adventure with spoke wheels, but no such version was unveiled at EICMA 2019, nor has it been launched here. The 390 Duke’s history of cracked rims does raise a few concerns, but it's an apprehension that will only be addressed in time. That being said, KTM claims that these cast iron alloys have been strengthened to take the kind of bashing an off-road motorcycle is expected to get. At the first ride event, I also found the 390 Adventure’s suspension to be a bit on the firm side, an aspect that can not only steal the joy of exploring the unknown but can also make it into a rather tiring affair.
The truth is that the 390 Adventure is not an out-and-out off-road machine. Sure, Adam Riemann put on quite a show and tackled even the toughest of terrains at 19-degree North (Lonavla), like it was a walk in the park. But it was also because of the skill of the rider and not just the motorcycle itself. Can the 390 Adventure off-road? Sure! Is it a good motorcycle to learn off-roading tricks? I don’t think so! The absence of low-end torque and the firm suspension don’t make things easy for a rider. Not to mention, if you happen to fall and break some parts, the 390 Adventure isn't the cheapest motorcycle to fix.
A lot of things that steal points away from it, in terms of its off-road cred, also make it an incredible all-rounder. Its tall and upright seating should make it extremely comfortable for long-distance riding and city commutes. It takes on corners with surprising agility and feels reasonably plush over bad roads. For those of who are looking for a touring motorcycle that can take on some trails and undemanding hill climbs, the 390 Adventure is the machine for you – it's comfortable, quick, and entertaining, all at the same time. The 390 Adventure is a long mile away from what a lot of off-road enthusiasts expected it to be, but the reality, if you look at it from a slightly different perspective, is equally terrific too!