I’ve been riding motorcycles all my life. I think I owned my very first one when I was 14. It was a 50cc Beta. From that day, I was hooked and with time I slowly progressed (as one should) to bigger and bigger engines.
First, a 125. Then a 500, then a 600, then a 750 and finally, after a decade on two wheels, I was able to afford my very first 1000 cc motorcycle.
I had learned how to navigate the weight of a big bike and from then on I never really felt the need to step back to a smaller displacement. After a decade riding big bikes I almost forgot how good it felt to ride something smaller, until I stumbled upon the 390 adventure.
Let’s be honest. I am 6’3″ and I kind of dwarf the bike If I sit on it. So on learning that I was going to spend time with this “miniature” adventure bike, my reaction wasn’t exactly joy, especially because I was coming from a massive 1190 Adventure.
But the bike looked great! It had a very simple but aggressive line and some extras that definitely drew my attention. The 390 Adventure I was given to test was equipped with Akrapovic muffler, Quickshifter+, Powerparts seat and Continental TCK 70, which are among my favourite tires.
Rear suspension preload wasn’t adjustable, but rebound was, as on the front fork. One of my favorite features of this motorcycle is in fact its suspension. The WP Apex fitted on this bike are not top of the line (clearly), but they are hard and responsive for the weight of the bike.
Considering that the overall price of this motorcycle is close to €6,000 (about $7,100 US), the adjustable WP suspension is definitely one of the highlights of this machine. Front and rear performed exceptionally well in all terrain types and at all speeds. But this is not the kind of suspension that would please the average rider. Comfort has been compromised to provide a stiff rear shock, ideal for more aggressive riding.
Brakes are okay. There’s a decent amount of force that has to be applied to the lever to see some reaction, most likely due to the fact that there’s only one rotor instead of two on the front wheel. Overall, as the motorcycle is very light, this is probably not a deal breaker. The rear brake is instead more responsive and better tuned. Very easy to lock the rear tire with this one! The presence of cornering ABS does provide some good aid in this sense.
The engine is good! It does have 2 peaks in which power gets delivered to the rear wheel, almost like wanting the rider to feel comfortable with each tip of the curve. The first is around 4500 rpm and it’s a gentle one. Below this there’s really nothing to worry about. Doesn’t matter in which of the 3 riding modes you find yourself. Whether in Street, Rain or Offroad, the bike behaves the same for the first few thousand engine revolutions.
The second and more grunty torque peak happens at 6000–6500 rpm. Here, the engine shines and delivers the KTM performance we all know about, even for a relatively small bike. Keep in mind that this is still a 373 cc single cyclinder engine, barely passing the 43 hp mark. But again, the bike weighs only 348 lb (160 kg) dry with a 14.5 liter fuel tank, so it ends up being one of the lightest bikes in its category.
Considering all this, even with a “big” guy like me on it, the bike was super fun to ride around and it had sufficient power to keep up with even bigger motorcycles.
The only discomfort I found was while riding standing up offroad. The handlebar was quite low and it was painful to adjust my riding to absorb all the shocks, especially when riding downhill. Also, I wouldn’t probably feel comfortable in the long run with the leg positioning forced by the little KTM, since the distance from the pegs to the seat is quite short—a problem that occurred also on her bigger sisters (the 790/890) but that was easily fixable by replacing the standard seat with a Powerparts item.
Another little issue I found, probably again for my size only, was that the gear pedal was very short. I had trouble sometimes sliding my foot under the lever to upshift. This happened especially with boots on.
Again, this has been an issue for me just because my size (I wear size 13 boots) and it may not be the case for you if you are more proportionate to the machine.
In all other situations the bike was comfortable and was quite a pleasure to ride. It was quite a relief for once not having to worry about the weight and the power of the motorcycle! In that sense I was completely happy and relaxed, finally riding a bike that was completely under control.
Many customers complained about the fact that the bike came with alloy wheels instead of spoked ones, cleary a detail that puts it more in the street department than the offroad one. But the bike is so light that I couldn’t feel any difference per se. But don’t take my word for it! Quinn Cody (R&D specialist for KTM USA and massive guy) took the 390 fully loaded on some gnarly terrains and it managed to bring it back in one piece with these rims on. The maneuverability and light weight of this motorcycle are key strengths!
The dashboard is clear and simple. A comprehensive TFT scratchproof color display shows speed and analog-style rpm.
One feature that didn’t really convince me was the MTC. Traction control is a feature that indeed provides extra safety, especially on wet surfaces, but it became annoying while riding offroad. The system has to be disabled while the bike is stopped and it gets re-enabled automatically every time the bike turns off and on again. Not the best considering that turning off the bike, on a muddy uphill, could happen several times in one go. It becomes clear also that there’s not much power to be controlled on a 390 cc engine, so it seems overdoing it to have MTC on a bike like this.
After riding the 390, I think it is one of the best bikes out there for its price. It has the same perks of KTM’s city bikes, like the Duke for instance, with the advantages of being able to take the offroad path with ease.