KTM Duke 390 vs RC 390, what should I go for?

By | September 2, 2014

About a week is left for the launch of KTM RC 390. About a year is gone since the launch of the Duke 390. The Duke changed our motorcycle industry for the better, it gave us ridiculous power at an even ridiculous price tag. Clubbed with revolutionary features like standard ABS, mind-numbingly informative console, and super-sticky Metzeler rubber, it took other bike manufacturers by their balls and forced them to change.

Now KTM is at it again. The RC 390 is touted to be an awesome track tool, a Daytona for poor people if you will. I personally love those dual projector headlights! But a lot of people are confused with the Duke 390 vs RC 390 question. This decision would totally depend on your riding style, but here are some pointers that should help you decide what to choose between these two. 

Duke 390 vs RC 390: Touring

The KTM Duke 390 isn’t marketed as a tourer, but this insane pocket rocket just doesn’t want to stop! I have ridden it 21000 kms in 9 months, people have taken it to Ladakh, and everyone is in awe of its touring abilities. Apart from the puny fuel tank, the Duke is an unstoppable mile muncher, highways are where it belongs, not crowded city streets. However, the upcoming RC 390 will not be that awesome a machine as far as touring goes, and here’s why:

  • RC 390 has an even smaller fuel tank (10 liters), so even more irritating fuel stops
  • It has a very sporty riding position, which may not be comfortable for everyone over long distances
  • The front suspension travel on the RC is just 125mm, a full 25mm less than the Duke. This will put additional stress on the rims, which do not have a reputation for strength
  • The rear seat on the RC 390 is just too damn high, and too damn small! I am not certain if normal saddlebag/tailbag systems would fit it easily, which will be a big issue for long rides
  • The RC will most likely be priced at a premium of about 35000 rupees over the Duke. Touring is a costly passion, and with so many disadvantages of the RC over the Duke, it might be a better idea to go for the naked bike and buy good riding gear with the money saved!

So as far as tourers like me are concerned, better to stick with the Duke. This also answers the question some Duke owners have, that should they move on to the RC. Well, I don’t think it’s a good idea, unless you are a track guy. Let’s discuss why the RC will be an awesome machine on a circuit.

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Duke 390 vs RC 390: Track

I have been lucky enough to ride my 390 at the Buddh International Circuit. It was a scary awesome experience, but I believe the RC will give her owners an even better time! The RC 390 is very track focussed, it’s easy to tell that by just looking at it! There are already racing events happening on this machine, and here are a few reasons why:

  • The steering angle has been reduced from 66.5 degrees on the Duke to 65 degrees on the RC. This will make the RC even more flickable than the Duke! Kinda hard to believe though
  • The foetal riding position is completely race inspired. Clip-on handlebars, rear-set footpegs and tiny seat are all tell-tale signs of its love for the track
  • The wheelbase has also been reduced by 27mm as compared to the Duke, which should again help with improving the bike’s dynamics over corners
  • RC 390 has 8.5mm more ground clearance than the Duke. It might not look much on paper, but when you are trying to lean in as much as possible without grinding on your footpeg, every millimetre counts!
  • The fully faired, aerodynamic design is meant to cut through air as quickly as possible. Even though the RC is 8kgs heavier than the Duke, it is expected to have a better top speed due to the streamlined profile

As far as track fun goes, I think the RC will be one hell of a machine. I won’t be surprised if superbike owners get an RC 390 just to have unadulterated fun on the track, and also to save their big machines from big damage! Hopefully, we’ll have some racing events based on the RC as well, would be fun for sure!

Duke 390 vs RC 390: Street

Duke 390 is categorised as a street bike, but it is the farthest thing possible from it. Sure it looks the part, but the heavy clutch, tall gears and wide handlebars aren’t the best things to have in crowded city traffic. The RC on the other hand, should be slightly better at handling our streets as compared to the Duke, and here’s why:

  • The RC has dual projector headlamps (55/65w) with DRLs, which should be really helpful during those night rides and on our dark and dingy streets
  • The RC 390 definitely looks better than the Duke, we Indians are suckers for faired bikes anyways. Out on the streets, it’ll be an eye grabber for sure, even more than the Duke
  • The ultra slim profile of the bike will make it awesome for filtering through traffic. No one can stop you from reaching the front row at a red light now!

Duke 390 vs RC 390: Verdict

All in all, the RC would also be one hell of a machine. If you are a city rider, or someone who loves the track, the RC will be a dream come true for you. It has everything that any decent rider can expect, and then some! However, it may not be the best buy if you are tourer. You’ll not only be in a lot of physical pain, but the tension of broken rims and sheared fairings will be a lot of metal pain as well. But then again, weirder things have happened! The guy that I went to Ladakh with rode an R15 all over that terrain, so yeah, don’t be surprised to see an RC with big number on the odo. I am staying with my trusty Duke for now, let’s see what the future brings in!