This is a review of the KTM DUKE 390 2014 model which I decided to sell after 3 months of owning it. It’s not news anymore that I won this motorcycle, I did not buy it for myself or was it a motorcycle that I had in mind when I was looking for a something to purchase. I liked it, I really do but there are just some reasons technical, financial and personal that made me want to let it go.
Looking at the motorcycle 360 degrees while its not moving would make you say one thing… it looks aggressive. Even while parked it looked fast, the street-fighter influence is very evident in any angle and the white/orange/black color scheme just screams attention. Its really hard not to get looks and stares when waiting for the red light to turn green. If loud graphics and screaming colors is your thing then this will definitely give you that.
Now that we have set physical style out of the way lets talk about what it feels sitting on it. Sitting position is upright, it is after all standard bike. Although the position of the foot pegs and the wide handle bars make it feel sporty than your regular stand bikes. Seat is hard and literally a pain in the ass during long rides, although you can sort it out by getting the softer, plushier KTM power parts seat which costs about 7,000, not this is just for the rider if you are thinking of giving your passenger a comfortable that’s another 7,000. Yeah, I know what you are thinking, it’s expensive.
Exhaust heat are annoying as hell it’s most noticeable when you are riding in very slow speeds and of course in traffic, I always wear denim jeans during regular city rides and you can really feel the heat pass through that, one way to lessen it would be to use exhaust wraps, might look ugly but it does lessen the heat quite a bit.
The orange back-lit dash is quite visible even during day-time, although the buttons for me are too hard and needs more tactile feedback. I also wished they indicated the
ABS off button with some kind of icon so people could notice it easily, although on second though that might have been a safety feature, besides who would want to ride with the ABS turned off.
It’s light and its fast. Although I did not max out the speed people have claimed that it could go 170kph without any problems the, fastest that I did on it was 150 kph. Why? Wait did I mention that it was light? yeah I did. What made this feel different from my previous 400 cc motorcycles was evidently the weight, my CBR400 and my CB400 as well as the CBR 600 that I used before was significantly heavier but felt more planted at speeds above 150 kph, as for the KTM D390 upon reaching 150 I can feel some rear vibrations which I usually just experience on light motorcycles going on fast speeds, or maybe I’m just riding it wrong.
Now here comes the fun part and this is probably the best thing about the Duke, its handling is superb. It’s so light that it feels so alive while you flick it from corner to corner, it has a lot of low and mid range power that you can exit tight corners with power and confidence. It felt at home at the corners of Marilaque and Infanta, I never thought I would average 67km/h from Infanta to Sampaloc and 55km/h from there on til I get to the crowded places. Now I’m in by no means an excellent rider or an aggressive one, I’m just your regular rider that had some basic motorcycle riding course. Which means for a guy like me the Duke’s power and handling is friendly, un-intimidating and fun. Oh and the ABS? Works like a charm… turn it off and try skidding your tires on gravel roads and you will immediately know the difference. It’s also a big confidence booster when riding on wet as the chances of you over-braking or locking the rear-wheel is minimal.
Ok… this is wehere the KTM Duke falls short. Don’t get me wrong I’m not hating on the bike, I’m just stating my experience of it. First of all before even getting the bike I read and researched a lot about it. I was actually surprised to hear a lot of not so good things about it, from mags breaking, overheating, fan damage and so-on. At first I thought this was just isolated cases until experienced some of them.
Its not news anymore that anything below the 390 line is not made in Austria anymore, its made by Bajaj in India. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, I’m just saying it so people would have some additional information. If you look at it on the showrooms of KTM along side with their much more expensive bigger brothers the quality is really not that far-off. However owning it is a different thing in itself.
First of all, over-heating. I’m religious when it comes to fluids on motorcycles like these so I made sure the coolant is always in check and everything else but for some reason I still over-heated, ok-ok… a lot of bigger high-revving motorcycles suffer the same fate specially when stuck in traffic. I just did not expect it to happen on a supposedly commuter bike.
So I was installing my headlight again because I had to remove something and I was surprised that some of the screws lost its thread… I then concluded that It was my fault because I was tightening it too much. But when I was hanging around at a garage of someone I know the same thing happened it’s as if the steel is so soft that it looses its thread easily. Lastly I religiously followed the service intervals and even had everything done by the KTM shop, but when I sold the bike to them. They told me that the head was leaking and that I need to pay for the gasket and it’s not covered by warranty, note this is just after 3 months of owning it.
Ok… no motorcycle is perfect but the sad part is, the KTM shop inventory of parts are very few and their stock is not even the important ones. I actually found out that I can get perishable parts from a neighbor better than from the shop. So that was a very big turn off for me.
There are a lot of sellers now, than when I got it so looking for a reputable seller is really not that hard. Also parts are not hard to find anymore, just join the FB groups for KTM Duke 390 and you will have a plethora of options and sources for pretty much anything.
I sold my KTM because I had to ask myself a very serious question. Where does this motorcycle fit in what I do? I need a motorcycle that can travel on and off-road, that is ridiculously reliable, parts and service are plentiful and easy to maintain. The Duke is just not that… it’s a street-bike, some will argue that it can do off-road and so on but its not a dual sport machine (I honestly even tried to turn it into one). The Duke 200 dominated one of the races in the Himalayas but those are heavily modified Dukes that they actually looked like dirtbikes, yes it can be done but it’s expensive, time consuming and will take a great deal of skill to execute.
KTM is relatively new here in the Philippines so branches or service shops are limited to just big cities. Having technical problems in small towns might prove to be difficult to resolve. Shop service also factors into my recommendation because if the shop service is poor then your confidence in your machine will be quite low, that being said there are a lot of things to improve on that aspect.
Even from the negatives that I have said about the bike I still think the KTM Duke 390 is an amazing street bike its priced competitively, fast, light, modern and it looks good. But for me it’s not something that I will take on very long distance ride alone. Also take note that I had the 2014 model, from what I heard the 2015 has sorted out the issues with the fan it also has some plastic protection the radiators as well as a cover for the rear shock and some other bits and pieces that makes it better than the 2014 one.
Also from the recent news that I heard KTM is now owned by the Ayala group of companies and is looking to expand its production here in the Philippines. Now, is that a good thing? I hope. If they can have more shops in the different places, improve their overall service and can lower the costs of the unit as well as easy access to cheaper parts then it will be a win-win situation for everyone.