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From the moment I heard about this bike, I was intrigued. Like many others, the sexy styling, light weight, and modest power promised something that most bikes costing twice as much have a hard time delivering on. Aside from the inclusion of ABS, the bike is pretty simple. Nothing fancy...just the basics.

I spent some time on the RC the other day and am glad I did. Yes, it's made in Asia (who cares?). Yes, it still has some budget elements. But DAMN - that thing just looks GOOD!



Thumbing the starter sends the bike (slowly) to life. A life that resembles a scooter or some other pedestrian engine. The idle hints at a subtle erratic behavior, but no glitches were present. It revs like a thumper (surprise!). Interesting, it has a distinct 'purr' down low in the rev range. At times, it almost sounds like a diesel engine's turbocharger. In a good way, of course. I wouldn't go so far as to claim the engine's sound is melodious, mesmerizing, or otherwise unique, but it's far from the worst thumper I've been on (looking at you Buell Blast). In truth, the engine has enough grunt to get out of its own way and will actually pull the front wheel in first gear if you're trying hard enough. I hate to say this (here of all places), but the power was pretty damn sufficient for sporting intentions on the street - especially the back roads. Anyone here who has ridden with me knows that kind of roads I'm talking about. Then again, it even cruised a highway speeds without scaring me...something my WR250R still can't do.

The suspension seems to have taken a page out of the FZ-09's play book. The forks are actually non-adjustable for anything (score one FZ-09), the spring rates are soft for 'Americans', and the shock doesn't have any rebound damping that I was able to discern. Those crazy Austrians. But hey, the bike is $5500 and I happen to know a guy who works suspensions. Chassis wise, it felt good. Steering was quick and the bike was nimble. It never felt nervous, but I can see where a steering stabilizer MIGHT help down the road.

After reading much to do about the brake(s) in the press, I was expecting something terrible. Granted, I wasn't riding this thing on the track, but it felt good. Like really good! With ABS as a safety net, I tried to cycle the ABS pump up front. Couldn't do it. The rear is easier to find, but the interdiction wasn't anything out of the ordinary. For the road, the brake is really impressive - you just need to give it a healthy tug. One finger won't loft the rear wheel unless your index finger is Herculean. Truth in lending, this bike did not seem to be fully US spec (had Pirelli Rosso II tires), so I may feel differently about the US model. We'll see.

Also of surprise to me was the fit and finish on the frame. Several journalists (and members here) have complained that the frame welds were less than par and were noticeably worse than KTM's top of the line bikes. This was not the case on this particular bike. In fact, I'd call the workmanship at least Ducati in nature. Given the price tag, I was impressed. The only exception? The kickstand. It loosened off on me, so hopefully KTM is sending a tube of red Loctite with each bike.

The only other lowlights that stuck out were the gauge cluster and levers. The cluster is very hard to read and the LCD tachometer was the laggiest (is that a word?) that I've ever seen. The bars were still rising when the revs were dropping. I also sincerely hope that shift light is adjustable, because it's damn annoying showing up at ~5k RPM regardless of gear. But hey, at least it's noticeable. As far as the levers, it's a reach here given it's price, but at least 3-4 adjustments on the brake lever would have been nice. As it stands, I'd need new levers right off the showroom floor.

I haven't been able to ride the new R3, so I cannot compare side by side, sadly. As a basic starting point (and definitely in looks), the RC390 has a lot to offer. While there is nothing wrong with standard forks, 43 mm USD forks are pretty good considering the competition. Adjustable cartridges will slide right in...

Will this be the next Stoltec project? Hard to say, but it seems that KTM isn't making this easy on potential customers. Most dealers are sold out for the year already. This isn't surprising considering the hype and the low allocations dealers have been receiving, but it doesn't make getting one very easy. So the question is...should we decide to buy one...will KTM sell one to us?
 

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Saw one today in the Mountains. Owner said the rear was soft...but he loves the bike.
 

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I really hope these full digital gauge clusters don't become a "thing" for many generations to come. I miss my analog tach That was on my sv for some strange reason.

Great review Stoltec although part of me kind of hopes you'll look elsewhere for your next project bike.

You have to wonder whos the majority buying this bike, is it beginners who want to look cool or track guys?

If it's track guys, I'm sure there's a strong need for after market parts, if it's mostly beginners, you have to wonder if they're looking to buy and dump for something more powerful in a short period of time vs invest in mods.

yes the 09 and rc390 are cheap bikes. But at least with the 09 you get an engine that always satisfied. Can the RC do the same?
 

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Great to see your review Nick. It's kind of funny- people back in India (where the smaller KTMs are built) actually find the RC stiffly sprung- unless they are springing it differently here or its the famous "American" size that comes into play here. Almost every review says its soft! The 43mm is really nice though and I do feel it was better sprung without needing any adjustment- for me ofcourse.

As for the display, I am surprised it was laggy- the Duke 200 that I had was pretty much spot on- never felt any lag. Maybe just that unit? The shift light is adjustable- the manual has the steps. Maybe Obijack (who has the Duke 390) confirm that. I was hesitant about LCDs too but I think I like them now- the KTM has a very detailed one which I appreciate- a real time fuel gauge (not like the one on the FZ that suddenly starts dropping), a distance to empty and the fact that a lot of info can be displayed at any point is great. The Orange backlight also adjusts according to ambient light- nice subtle touch- am guessing its the same on the RC.

I am glad you found the finish good- I was surprised to hear the reviews talk about bad welds etc but I found the quality pretty high- better than its Japanese rivals at least.

And I like that they kept ABS switchable- in a sub-500cc bike (hello Honda). Did they skip the slipper on the RC?

I think it is going to take the small trackbike segment by storm. And hopefully one of them will be yours!
 

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There's one at B&B Yamaha in Mannheim, PA, that they had for 5k. I think the R3 looks better, but we all have our tastes. Nick, If you are in the Lancaster area and want to ride an R3, let me know. It's good for what it is. You probably would have more takers on accessories/after market since Yamaha is way more widespread than KTM.
 

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Yes the shift light is adjustable. I set it for 7k for the first 300 miles and now, it is near redline. It works really well. You can see it come on in your peripheral vision. The gears go quick so we (my wife and I) make good use of the light.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I really hope these full digital gauge clusters don't become a "thing" for many generations to come. I miss my analog tach That was on my sv for some strange reason.

Great review Stoltec although part of me kind of hopes you'll look elsewhere for your next project bike.

You have to wonder whos the majority buying this bike, is it beginners who want to look cool or track guys?

If it's track guys, I'm sure there's a strong need for after market parts, if it's mostly beginners, you have to wonder if they're looking to buy and dump for something more powerful in a short period of time vs invest in mods.

yes the 09 and rc390 are cheap bikes. But at least with the 09 you get an engine that always satisfied. Can the RC do the same?
Based on the market research I've been doing, it seems like most of the talk is about guys buying them to track and/or race. I'm sure there are some aspiring Ducati-owning newbs who are going to buy them, too.

Great to see your review Nick. It's kind of funny- people back in India (where the smaller KTMs are built) actually find the RC stiffly sprung- unless they are springing it differently here or its the famous "American" size that comes into play here. Almost every review says its soft! The 43mm is really nice though and I do feel it was better sprung without needing any adjustment- for me ofcourse.

As for the display, I am surprised it was laggy- the Duke 200 that I had was pretty much spot on- never felt any lag. Maybe just that unit? The shift light is adjustable- the manual has the steps. Maybe Obijack (who has the Duke 390) confirm that. I was hesitant about LCDs too but I think I like them now- the KTM has a very detailed one which I appreciate- a real time fuel gauge (not like the one on the FZ that suddenly starts dropping), a distance to empty and the fact that a lot of info can be displayed at any point is great. The Orange backlight also adjusts according to ambient light- nice subtle touch- am guessing its the same on the RC.

I am glad you found the finish good- I was surprised to hear the reviews talk about bad welds etc but I found the quality pretty high- better than its Japanese rivals at least.

And I like that they kept ABS switchable- in a sub-500cc bike (hello Honda). Did they skip the slipper on the RC?

I think it is going to take the small trackbike segment by storm. And hopefully one of them will be yours!
I'm 200 lbs in gear, so read into it what you will. Very soft for me on my local roads. I bottomed out the rear quite a few times. I don't know if the slipper clutch has made it's way to the US, yet (I didn't think it has). There was talk of updating the Duke and RC in India, first. Someone else may have more recent information than what I have at the moment.

There's one at B&B Yamaha in Mannheim, PA, that they had for 5k. I think the R3 looks better, but we all have our tastes. Nick, If you are in the Lancaster area and want to ride an R3, let me know. It's good for what it is. You probably would have more takers on accessories/after market since Yamaha is way more widespread than KTM.
Thanks, Jen...I'll keep that in mind. I might be rolling through your area in June on my way to VA for work. If I haven't ridden one by then, maybe we can link up.

The elephant in the room is supply. Demand is clearly outstripping supply, but it's hard to say if that is because KTM underestimated demand or if they're intentionally keeping volumes low. After speaking with a few dealers (and others in the industry), it appears that KTM is awful to work with. This is a major concern for someone like myself. It doesn't matter how much demand there is for a bike if the market isn't large enough to work with. Yamaha is clearly more established in the street bike and dealer areas.

Yes the shift light is adjustable. I set it for 7k for the first 300 miles and now, it is near redline. It works really well. You can see it come on in your peripheral vision. The gears go quick so we (my wife and I) make good use of the light.
Praise Jesus! That damn thing annoyed me, but like you mentioned, it is very bright.
 

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My 2015 Duke had a slipper clutch. I would be surprised if the rc didn't.
 

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Hey Nick, I just bought the KTM 390 Duke a month ago. I think they're a blast to go out and hammer on back country roads or urban "combat" missions !

Pete
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
Hey Nick, I just bought the KTM 390 Duke a month ago. I think they're a blast to go out and hammer on back country roads or urban "combat" missions !

Pete
My thoughts exactly. People will call bullshit, but IMO, the 390 has enough juice for my goat paths.

if you can get your hands on one of these nick, you'll forget the rc390 ever existed...

Ducati Supermono - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


it costs a little more than the rc though.
Oooh oooh! Love me some Super Mono. Sadly, the only one I've seen was at Barber Museum. I'm not starting my Ducati collection until I have my own machine shop, though...
 

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I agree with you that peak HP doesn't mean it's a better ride. Like most know, I kept my 49 000 miles FZ6R since I have it all set up with hard case luggage. Give and take, 67 HP & 35 ft.lb of torque in stock trim is way more than enough to get by and pass cages by rolling on throttle in 6th gear. Actually sort of in the early stage of planning a 2 week trip +/- 7000 miles for early to mid july. I didn't even think abut using the FZ09 for this... FZ6R is my work horse.

The KTM is a very nice bike, for most perfect track weapon. Like the old saying, much more fun to go fast on a slow bike...
 

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Since I have bad wrists the RC wasn't an option for me. However,with a mucky 300 ft driveway the Duke is a perfect alternative I don't mind trashing, unlike my K-bikes and FZ09, so it was kind of a no-brainer. My nephews raced KTM's growing up and didn't kill them so I should be GTG. The power to weight ratio and flickability make it a blast to crank around back roads and city traffic snarls.

Pete Land vehicle Vehicle Motorcycle Motor vehicle Rim
 
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