You can have both the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 and KTM 390 Duke for roughly the same price! So, what would you choose – the modern classic or the aggressive hooligan?
Before we begin, let me make something clear first. This is an unusual comparison, for these bikes have hardly anything in common, except for the fact that they both have two wheels. The KTM 390 Duke is a street naked, and the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 is a modern classic roadster. You see, nothing in common! They’re miles apart in terms of body style and dynamics. So, why the comparison? Well, that’s a fair question. And the answer lies in their price – this one factor is what puts them both in the same league.
The 390 Duke and the Interceptor 650 can both be had for roughly the same amount of money – around Rs. 2.5 lakh (ex-showroom). Moreover, in terms of outright performance, they are very similar too. So, if you’re out there in the market for a motorcycle that can do it all – from regular commutes to weekend rides – there’s more in common here than meets the eye. But which one? We spent a few days with both to help you make the decision.
Hulk vs Bruce Banner
There’s just so much to like about the 390 Duke, and the engine is right at the centre of it all. The Duke is powered by a 373cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder motor that’s good for 43bhp and 37Nm of torque. Out on the road, the 390’s motor is so energetic and lively that it’s hard not to have fun. The motor is rev-happy, with a strong mid-range and crisp acceleration. And in its 0 to 100km/h run, it’s as fast as the Ford Mustang. Now, that’s a proper pocket rocket!
At 47bhp and 52Nm, the Interceptor 650’s 648cc motor makes marginally more power and torque than the Duke. The additional power, however, gets somewhat nullified, given the additional weight of the motorcycle. Still, in terms of outright acceleration, the Int650 is almost as quick as the 390. But the real beauty of the motor is its torque spread. Nearly 80% of the 52Nm of torque kicks in from as low as 2,500rpm, which makes it incredibly easy to ride in the city as well as make quick overtakes on the highway.
While both engines perform in a somewhat similar way, it’s the manner in which the power is put to the ground that sets them apart. The KTM is an out-and-out hooligan. It loves to be revved hard, and you’d want to keep it on the boil for the sheer thrill that it offers.
The Royal Enfield, on the other hand, isn’t as exhilarating. It delivers the power in a much more composed and friendly manner – something that you’d appreciate during long-distance rides. In the city, however, the RE loses a few points for being an air-oil cooled motor. In heavy traffic, at slow-moving speeds, the engine tends to heat up, which can make the ride a bit uncomfortable. KTM’s liquid-cooling ensures that the ride remains comfortable even during a long, busy commute in the city.
The RE, however, makes up for some lost ground in terms of refinement. The Duke sure is refined for a single-cylinder motor, but there’s no way it can match the smoothness of the parallel twin of the Interceptor.
Aggression vs Relaxation
The riding posture of both motorcycles essentially compliments their respective engine’s character – the Duke has an aggressive posture, while the Interceptor is comfort-oriented. The latter’s tall handlebar, long flat seat, and forward-set foot pegs offer such a relaxed position that you can ride it all day long without feeling stressed. The Duke’s riding posture, on the other hand, with a flat handlebar and rear-set foot pegs isn’t as comfortable.
Moreover, thanks to a longer wheelbase and, of course, a longer seat, the Interceptor offers comfort even for the pillion rider. The 390 Duke’s split seat is just not good enough in this department. It feels small and has limited rear space. In fact, the 390 Duke even feels quite cramped for larger riders.
The Royal Enfield may have a more comfortable riding posture than the 390, but the forward biased stance of the latter adds weight to the front-end, giving it a better feel and control. The Interceptor weighs 202kgs, which is nearly 40kgs more than the 390 Duke. And all that additional weight of the Interceptor simply cannot be masked. In comparison, the Duke feels much easier to manage while pushing it in and out of a parking lot, or even while riding around bends.
The 390 Duke’s stiff suspension is what gives it better handling prowess, but not without a heavy price – it simply isn’t comfortable over bad roads. The Interceptor’s softer suspension setup and a comfortable riding posture make it a much better ride over bad roads. You can just stand on the pegs and throttle your way out of bad roads. The Duke, however, tends to get nervous over the smallest of mid-corner bumps.
With both motorcycles are quite evenly matched so far, the battle is down to a single question – which one provides better value-for-money? Royal Enfield could only manage to price the Interceptor 650 so well by limiting its features. Consequently, it doesn’t get liquid-cooling, ride-by-wire or even LED lights for that matter. The instrument cluster also looks rather primitive. Quality in certain areas is also compromised – the indicators, for example, look straight out of a commuter from the 90s.
In comparison, the 390 Duke comes loaded with equipment. While it gets all of the above, it also comes with a funky-looking screen that not only gives you all sorts of information but also allows you to connect your phone via Bluetooth, answer/reject calls, and play music.
Both motorcycles come with dual-channel ABS and a slipper clutch. The former, however, is switchable on the 390 Duke.
Spoilt for choice
After spending a few days with both motorcycles and considering all their pros and cons, followed by endless debates with colleagues, we still couldn’t decide on which shines brighter. You see, both motorcycles have their benefits. The KTM offers phenomenal value and is just the motorcycle to have for someone who loves to ride aggressively. You can literally feel the energy it exudes. The RE, on the other hand, feels a lot more refined and is surely the better choice for touring purposes. It has energy and enthusiasm too, but it’s like a gym rat draped in loose clothing – it just doesn’t like to flaunt it. Both motorcycles are great reflections of the very spirit of motorcycling and offer unadulterated fun on the road – and, for that, we love ‘em both.
The 390 Duke comes loaded with equipment. It gets ride-by-wire throttle, LED headlamps and a funky-looking screen that not only gives you all sorts of information but also allows you to connect your phone via Bluetooth, answer/reject calls, and play music.
- KTM 390 Duke
- Royal Enfield Interceptor 650
Engine: 373.2cc / Single-Cylinder / 4-Valves / Liquid-Cooled
Power: 43bhp @ 9,000rpm
Torque: 37Nm @ 7,000rpm
Price: ₹2.48 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-factor: If it’s affordable and thrilling performance you seek, it doesn’t get any better than the 390 Duke.
• Handing prowess
• Value for money
• Features galore
• Harsh ride
• Cramped seating
Engine: 648cc / Parallel-Twin / 4-Valves / Air-Oil Cooled
Power: 47bhp @ 7,250rpm
Torque: 52Nm @ 5,250rpm
Price: ₹2.50 Lakh (Ex-Showroom)
X-factor: The RE Interceptor 650 is for those who enjoy a civilised and composed steed.
• Refined motor
• Ride quality
• Superior comfort
• Poor tyres
• Limited features
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