22 R7 | 21 T7
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?