The all-new KTM RC 390 has been a long time coming, while the rest of the KTM family had already got significant updates over the course of the last few years, there track weapon had been sorely in need of a come up. Pandemics, chip shortages and supply line disruptions meant that the wait just kept getting longer. Now though that has alll changed and how! The 2022 KTM RC 390 is here, and it’s a brand new motorcycle based around the same engine, and all of it atleast on paper points to a more mature, well rounded motorcycle that combines the scalpel like nature of the previous gen with a more tractable and accesible demenour. We headed out to Bajaj’s test track outside Pune to put their claims to the test.
2022 KTM RC 390 review: design
Before we jump into our review, let's start talk a little bit about the way it looks. For 2022 the RC 390, is a rampant departure from its predecessor, ditching the sharp edgy design in favour of a more rounded design language, that we’ve seen on the newer generations of KTMs. From the time we got our first look at the bike, keyboard racers on the interwebs have been on about how it looks and why the older one looked objectively better and more like the track tool that it is.
First of all, puhleese!
While the older bike did push the bounds of what we call a safe design, this new motorcycle looks more modern and compact. Add to that the new orange and blue MotoGP inspired livery, and you have a bike that grabs eyeballs quicker than a celebrity spawn of drugs. And let’s be honest, you’re interested in a track-bred middle-weight to ride to work, so that’s what you wanted all along.
But its not all show and no go. The wider fairing cuts the air better, the taller and wider flyscreen has more room for you to tuck in under it, and in total the motorcycle has a much lower co-efficient of drag that means not only does the RC gain high speed stability but it also allows for it to cut through the air better. Housed in the fairing are the all-new LED lamps that are now flanked by the front turn indicators, that used to be on the mirror stalks on the previous generation. In all I think, The rear section too is clean with the exposed sub-frame painted in orange commanding attention and flowing into a sharp tail piece that houses a brand new LED tail-lamp. Another big change is the tank that is entirely redesigned, stores 13 litres of fuel (up from 9 on the previous generation) and -- perhaps most importantly-- is made of metal.
2022 KTM RC 390 review: chassis and cycle parts
The spilt seats have been redesigned too, right from the ground up. They get an alcantara like finish and unlike the older generation of the RC are individual units. It also contributes to weight savings on the 2022 bike, which drops a kilo of kerb weight over the previous generation despite carry 3 extra kilos of fuel. In terms of absolute savings on dry weight, the KTM sheds about 3kg from it predeccesors and while this is not something you should feel out on a bike with a full fuel load. KTM have been smart about where they’ve shaved weight to ensure that the savings are evident.
Infact, while the new bolt-on split-trellis does a better job of centralizing the wieght, improving the efficiency of the assembly line and makes repairs a whole lot easier, it does add about 100gm from the previous generation. Where KTM have actually saved weight is on the unsprung mass, the new more minimal alloy wheels, the front disc brake and a hollow front axle all add enough weight savings to still save a kg of kerb mass despite having to carry 3 extra litres of fuel. Run a low-fuel load and this difference becomes all the more evident.
There are some big changes in terms of electronics too, the KTM RC 390 now gets the same TFT instruments that we’ve seen on the 390 Duke and the 390 Adventure, functionality, like mobile phone connectivity, media toggles, navigation and telephony are all possible through KTM’s RIDE app.
2022 KTM RC 390 review: Engine and performance
Powering the new RC 390 is the same 373cc single cylinder liquid cooled motor, that we have all come to know and love. Maximum power stays at 42.9bhp, while torque increases by 1Nm thanks to a redesigned air-box that is now 40per cent larger in this iteration. The power delivery hasn’t changed all that much, that still makes for the sky every time you roll on with your right wrist. Now though, KTM have also included a traction control system that is among the best I’ve ever used on a motorcycle, the intervention is not intrusive in the least but it allows you thwack open the throttle with confidence while the electronics figures the most effective way to put the power down. The six-speed gearbox is also just as slick as ever and an impeccable quick shifter makes for easy downshifts out on the track.
2022 KTM RC 390 review: Ride and handling
Where things have really changed though is on the ergonomics and ride. This new RC uses a new chassis with a bolt on rear sub-frame and is suspended between 43 mm USD forks upfront and a rear mono-shocks that is adjustable for both preload and damping. This new frame improves the weight distribution too, from 53-47 to a more closer to 50-50 weight of 52, 48 which is impressive. This means that even with the tractability of the new handlebars, the KTM doesn’t lose any track worthiness even in its stock rider’s triangle setting. It still a scalpel, that can change direction with just as much (if not more) agility and surefootedness. Braking comes from a lighter 320mm disc with ByBre four-piston radially mounted calipers and a 230mm disc at the rear, aided by the more surefooted frame, the brakes seem to offer a little more confidence and stopping for than before.
Finally, for those touched individuals among us, who like to tour on their track focussed RCs. This iteration is likely to much improve the experience, there is still the vibey natural character to motor that will leave you buzzing after the ride, but its much improved from previous generations that we’ve ridden. To balance that out you now have a much more pliant seat with an alcantara like finish that incorporates 50% more padding without changing the height of the seat. It also contributes about 900gms to the overall weight savings of the KTM. Finally the new handle bars are taller and wider, meaning that the stock setting is now much more pliant and long hours in the saddle don’t leave you with aching wrists and shoulders. For the track the bars can be dropped by 10mm and angled towards the rider, but honestly I don’t think it will make a difference for the most of us, unless you’ve been living track-side for the last few years.
2022 KTM RC 390 :Verdict
Veggies first, at Rs 3.14 lakh the KTM RC 390 is now about Rs 36,000 more expensive than the previous generation, for your extra monies, KTM have crafted a motorcycle that is, not only just as good if not better around a track, but also more tractable and easy to use as a daily rider/commuter. It gets more comprehensive electronics, better heat management, features and in all is a much improved product than it ever was. It’s shot fired for the competition, who have been using duality of purpose to edge out the undisputed king of the small displacement supersports. KTM have not just seen their call, but gone all in, and I think it’s pretty safe to say the king is back!