2020 KTM 390 Adventure Review
Motorcycle Review by Wayne Vickers – Images Rob Mott
I admit that I wasn’t immediately enamoured. At first, the littlest of the Adventure range didn’t feel very KTM-like at all. There’s just something about most KTM machine’s. It’s like they’ve stumbled onto the secret sauce recipe and have managed to engineer a little bit of hoon into almost everything orange that I’ve thrown a leg over in recent years. They take the whole ‘Ready to Race’ ethos pretty seriously which I personally think is why they’ve had such success in the sales charts.
But the 390 was positively docile around town and on the way home. The easiest of easy bikes for anyone to jump on and feel comfortable straight away. Crikey I thought. Have they softened this one down for the entry level folks too much..? And so it sat in the shed for a couple of rainy days before I had a chance to get it out and try it out properly on the dirt.
Even the first few kays on gravel roads weren’t all that impressive. I mean there was nothing wrong with the engine, controls, or the clutch, or gearbox or anything really. Handling on tarmac was certainly nice. Predictable, nimble. Seat was nice and comfy too. I just wasn’t… inspired. The first dirt track I took had some serious corrugations on it and the suspension didn’t really like them even at the moderate speed I was doing while everything came up to temp.
‘There’s got to be more to it than this’ I kept telling myself. Everything fully up to temp, I flicked the ABS to off-road mode (you either have road or off-road, no off – but that’s ok – more on the dash later), and the TC to off. Righto little one, time to turn it up to 11. Show me what you’ve got.
So I went on the charge. And ‘ho hum’, quickly turned into a silly grin. The deceptive little 390 doesn’t really come into its own until around six-grand I reckon. There’s still no major rush of grunt around that point but it’s perfectly happy being revved.
Trev has detailed the stats and technical details in the launch report here (Link), but know that the little 400 single pumps out a handy 44hp in a package that comes in under 160 kilos, which might sound light on power compared to its bigger brothers, but stacks up well compared to anything else in its segment. And it does so in a truly linear fashion – it doesnt tail off or get a bit breathless at the top like some singles can. Wring its neck and the package as a whole starts to make more sense. A lot more in fact.
While the suspension itself could have more travel and a better overall control, the chassis balance is excellent. As good as they come. Even with the OEM dual sport tyres on, I found myself backing into corners and two wheel drifting through wide sweepers at nearly all speeds. It is positively superb in second and third gears on anything but seriously whooped out tracks where the aforementioned suspension reigns things in. Loads and loads of grip thanks to being such a lightweight which also translates to being ridiculously forgiving.
How well balanced is it? I was having a proper crack in a mix of conditions. Dry sandy loam to slick wet clay and everything in between. Had two proper front end tucks at speed and a handful of times where the rear came right around on me fully pinned on clay. Neither felt like I was in any danger of it going pear shaped. With TC set to off – the rear will let go, but still keep itself tidy as you keep it pinned. You’d have to be seriously pushing to manage to crash one of these. That said, the harder you push, the more rewarding it is… I was sweating like a bastard by the time I got home.
On the go, with the short seat height and light weight, it feels like a cross between a mini-bike and a dirt tracker more than a full sized enduro/adventure bike. Remember that confidence you get when you jump on a mini bike and are urged to do silly things? Well.. that’s kinda how it felt to me. And I didn’t mind it at all. Incidentally the stats say it has a seat height of 855mm but I swear it feels noticeably lower than the 790 Adventure, which is supposed to be 850mm.
The low seat and bar height don’t really translate perfectly for your typical adventure/offroad standing position – they might for someone under say.. 170cms? But I’m a smidge over 180. It’s not uncomfortable as such, just that you have to lean forward a little more than what feels instantly natural. That said – low speed maneuverability is excellent – picking your lines through rougher, trickier sections was a doddle.
The box is excellent, on the go I barely used the slipper clutch and it happily shifted in both directions for me – I did have a couple of missed up-shifts while up near the red-line, but I think that was me being a little lazy on the lever more than anything.
The dash is simple and straight forward. No rants required here – Trev will be happy. Layout is good – although some of the text on the LHS could be a smidge bigger if I’m being picky, which I am.
The home screen allows you to customise what you’d like to see on said left hand side via favourites which is awesome. Two-minutes worth of button taps and I had exactly what I wanted being shown to me. Winning.
The speedo and tacho is easy to read and you can see the tacho pulse orange as you enter the top couple of thousand revs without even looking down at it. It’s usable, legible and nicely designed. Top marks.
The off-road setting for ABS disables electronic intervention on the rear – which is just how I like it. One negative which seems to be a constant on most bikes. It kept dropping back to TC turned on every time I turned it off. Which as I’ve mentioned before is a pain in the arse if you’re frequently stopping and chatting with mates in the dirt… You soon know it when you go to take off. The TC is certainly in a very conservative tune on this one. Understandable for a bike aimed at the entry level, but I’d have liked to see a little more slip. Riders with more than a day or two on dirt will not want to have it on (in the dirt).
The brakes didn’t seem to feel wanting, though I did feel a bit of a pulse from the front just before I dropped it back as though it might have been on the way to warping. It had less than 2000 kilometres on the clock, so I’d be keeping an eye on longer term reports on that front. Could be just a one off – but I tell you as it is.
What else. It runs the same gearing as the 390 Duke so will happily sit on the highway limit and will stretch its legs past 150. The 14.5 litre tank should also see you get around 300ks on the road as it only sips juice. Less range if you ride it like a nutbag on gravel roads 🙂
Other than that I can only see possibilities with this platform. It makes more power than a 250 four stroke enduro (bear in mind that I also have one of those in my shed – I am a fan of the light weight thing), with what should be better longevity and is way more comfortable and easy to ride.
And I reckon it’s bloody well priced at 9 grand ride away. Yes, the suspension is ultimately the limitation in how hard you can push it in the rough stuff, but I don’t think it’ll be an issue for 99 per cent of the folks that will consider buying one as it’s really supposed to be a soft roader and would be fine for pretty much any road you care to point it at. It’s not an R model after all.
Worth mentioning that Unifilter do an Aussie made pre-filter for the 390 Adventure for an additional level of protection if you’re doing serious dusty work with it. You’d be mad not to have something similar if you were planning a big trip on any Adventure bike.
Final word – its a solid learner legal adventure bike (leaning towards the soft roader end of the spectrum) and deserves to sell well. That said, I can’t help but think what it would be like with the 790 Adventure R treatment, or R Rally treatment which would be even better. Longer travel, higher spec’ suspension at both ends, slightly higher seat with taller bars to match and a slightly more conventional seat for easier weight movement all the way back… if you’re not the sort of person to ride loaded up much you could punt it along pretty hard… I mean most of us mortals can only dream about a 450 Rally Replica (Link) as they’re 56 big ones, but I reckon a 390 Adventure R could be a really, really, stupidly, deliciously good thing if they turn their mind to it. And not just for entry level riders… 🙂
2020 KTM 390 Adventure Summary
Why I like it
- Confidence inspiring chassis and loads of grip
- Nice and light – superb away from the sealed stuff
- Low seat height is perfect for entry level riders and wanna be dirt trackers alike
- That 390 single is a deceptive little revver
- Everything feels better about it when you wring its neck 🙂
I’d like it even more if
- Could have better quality forks and shock, they don’t like corrugations and are the limiting factor on gnarlier off road stuff
- I’d personally prefer a slightly taller seat and bar height with some extra suspension travel with it.. Almost like.. an R Rally version please… with proper spoked wheels too 🙂
- And give it a slip-on while you’re at it so it has some bark
2020 KTM 390 Adventure Specifications
|Engine Type||Single cylinder, 4-stroke|
|Bore / Stroke||89 / 60 mm|
|Power||32 kW (44 hp) @ 9,000 rpm|
|Torque||37 Nm @ 7,000 rpm|
|Starter / Battery||Electric starter / 12V, 8 Ah|
|Fuel System||Bosch EFI (throttle body 38 mm)|
|Control||4 V / DOHC|
|Engine Oil||Motorex Formula 4T 15W/50|
|Clutch||PASC™ slipper clutch, mechanically operated|
|Ignition / Engine Management||Bosch EMS with RBW|
|Frame||Steel trellis frame, powder coated|
|Subframe||Steel trellis frame, powder coated|
|Handlebar||Aluminum, tapered, Ø 26 / 22 mm|
|Front Suspension||WP APEX, Ø 43 mm, adjustable compression / rebound|
|Rear Suspension||WP APEX shock absorber, adjustable rebound and spring preload|
|Suspension Travel Front / Rear||170 / 177 mm|
|Front Brake||Single piston, radially mounted caliper, brake disc Ø 320 mm|
|Rear Brake||Double piston, floating caliper, brake disc Ø 230 mm|
|Abs||Bosch 9.1MP Two Channel (disengageable)|
|Wheels Front / Rear||Cast aluminium wheels 2.50 × 19″; 3.50 × 17″|
|Tires Front / Rear||100/90 × 19; 130/80 × 17|
|Silencer||Stainless steel primary and aluminium secondary silencer|
|Steering Head Angle||63,5°|
|Wheel Base||1,430 ± 15.5 mm|
|Ground Clearance||200 mm|
|Seat Height||855 mm|
|Fuel Tank Capacity||Approx. 14.5 litres / 3.5 litres reserve|
|Dry Weight||Approx. 158 kg (without fuel)|