What Makes KTM Different?
KTM has a storied history dating back to the 1950s. From the offset, it was regarded as primarily a manufacturer of offroad motorcycles and has cut its teeth in the racing world. Now KTM offers a whole range of motorcycles from the electrified E-XC offroad model through their RC supersport racers and everything in between.
In all the bikes they build they pull from their motorsports pedigree for inspiration and design. Having more than 130 world championship titles and countless national championships KTM has proven itself to make race-ready bikes.
KTM’s “Ready to Race” brand mentality has allowed them to incorporate race-proven technologies into all of their bikes. Each bike on KTM’s current lineup features a suite of high-tech rider aids and performance-oriented design.
The KTM brand is built on four values: Purity, Performance, Adventure, and Extreme. KTM says its entire company philosophy is built on providing a pure riding experience that emphasizes performance and adventure. Those four brand values are exemplified in their newest small-displacement supersport bike, the RC 390.
2022 KTM RC 390
KTM debuted the RC 390 in 2015. Since its inception, the bike has been regarded at the forefront of the lightweight sportbike category. Emphasizing their Ready to Race brand, KTM has always advertised the bike for its track-ready capabilities while being street legal and comfortable enough for a daily driver.
For 2022 the KTM RC 390 gets a significant redesign. This is the first total redesign in the model’s life having only been subjected to minor tweaks over the years since its release. With the redesign, KTM has made the bike more aerodynamic and shaved weight off the already lightweight frame in a bid to keep the bike at the top of its segment for power and weight.
Other bikes in this category include the BMW G 310 R, Kawasaki Ninja 400, Yamaha YZF-R3, and Honda CBR300R. These are all bikes that you would find in any small-displacement sportbike comparison. Read on to find out how the KTM RC 390 compares and sets itself apart from the competition.
The 2022 RC 390 has an MSRP of $5,799 with a freight fee of $535 for a total of only $6,334. This places it at the top of its category for total cost but is still in line with its competition. You can see how it compares below.
- 2022 CBR 300R - $5,499
- 2023 BMW G 310 R - $5,590
- 2023 Kawasaki Ninja 400 - $6,034 (non-ABS) $6,434 (ABS)
- 2023 Yamaha YZF-R3 - $6,249
- 2022 KTM RC 390 - $6,334
At the time of writing examples of the 2022 KTM RC 390 could be found at MSRP at a majority of dealerships near me in the Pacific Northwest. Some dealerships had them available at a markup but none were found listed below MSRP.
Similar to the other bikes in KTM’s low-displacement range the RC 390 is powered by a single-cylinder 373cc engine capable of producing 44hp and 27.3lb-ft of torque. It makes peak horsepower at 9,500rpm with a 10,000rpm redline.
The single-cylinder four-stroke engine is liquid-cooled and the 2022 model features a 40% larger airbox and updated fuel mapping. This has allowed KTM to meet the strict Euro 5 emission regulations while maintaining the same horsepower and incidentally bumping up peak torque from 26 to 27.3.
As you can see below the RC 390 sits comfortably at the top of the horsepower category with only the Kawasaki Ninja 400 tying for maximum horsepower.
- 2022 CBR 300R - 30.5hp
- 2023 BMW G 310 R - 34hp
- 2022 Yamaha YZF-R3 - 36hp
- 2023 Kawasaki Ninja 400 - 44hp
- 2022 KTM RC 390 - 44hp
The engine is mated to a 6-speed standard transmission paired with a slipper clutch. The engine is finished off with a MotoGP-inspired exhaust that features stainless steel headers and an aluminum muffler.
If you’re in the market for a track-ready supersport fuel economy probably isn’t extremely high on your list of priorities but the RC 390 continues with its well-rounded appeal by boasting a 3.6-gallon fuel tank and a fuel economy that pushes into the 60+ MPG range found in some real-world reviews.
The chassis of the RC 390 has changed a lot with the 2022 redesign though you would be hard-pressed to know just by looking at it. KTM has retained the same powder-coated steel trellis frame with a bolt-on subframe, but they have managed to shave considerable weight from its design.
The frame now weighs 3.3lbs lighter with these weight savings, but that’s not the only area where the frame has subtly changed. In keeping with its “Ready to Race” motto, the RC 390’s frame features multiple braces that can be added or removed to adjust the torsional rigidity. This allows for fine-tuning chassis flex for those who are serious about getting the most out of their track days and something that has not been seen before in this category.
The suspension on the redesigned RC 390 has been updated as well. The front of the bike now features a 43mm WP Apex open cartridge upside-down fork adjustable for compression and rebound dampening. The rear is supported by a WP Apex shock absorber capable of rebound and preload adjustments.
In reviews, the suspension has been especially lauded for its adjustability and confidence-inspiring performance noting that even under the significant braking force generated at the track the suspension was able to keep the bike composed.
Those braking forces are provided thanks to ByBre calipers with a 4-piston radially mounted caliper up front and a one-piston fixed caliper on the back. ByBre is a subsidiary of Brembo and is mainly found on higher-end entry-level bikes. The calipers make contact with a 320mm disc up front and a 230mm rotor on the back.
The front rotor is reminiscent of Buell’s perimeter rotors and is one of the areas where KTM has found some of its weight savings. Claiming a reduction of 960 grams (2.4lbs) the redesigned front rotor aids in reducing the overall rotational weight of the wheels. That reduction is further assisted by a new 5-spoke 17-inch cast wheel design that reduces rotational weight by another 7.5lbs.
The ergonomics of a bike can be very subjective and the best way to tell if a bike is a good fit for you is to throw your leg over the side and take it for a test ride. That being said if you are familiar with sportbikes you know that they tend to be a slightly cramped affair that typically leaves the rider in a more forward-leaning position.
These ergonomics may be great for the track and for getting as aerodynamic as possible, but they can sometimes leave riders wanting during long commutes or daily riding. Some reviewers found the ergonomics of the bike lacking, citing a hard seat, tight rider triangle, and stiff suspension as reasons the bike does not make for a great everyday bike.
While it may not inspire someone to take a multi-day tour on it the RC 390’s ergonomics are designed with the track in mind. The clip-on handlebars are adjustable by 10mm for a more aggressive rider posture and the bodywork was designed for the most efficient aerodynamics. The claimed dry weight of 342lbs ensures that his bike can be comfortably thrown around the track with ease.
Despite being on the smaller end of the displacement spectrum the KTM RC 390 is a larger bike than many of its competitors. With a larger 3.6-gallon fuel tank and a 32.4-inch seat height the RC 390 looks and feels more like a full-sized supersport.
For many seat height is an important metric when considering a bike so I’ve included a list of the seat heights for the KTM and its competitors below.
- Honda CBR 300R - 30.7”
- BMW G 310 R - 30.91”
- Yamaha YZF-R3 - 30.7”
- Kawasaki Ninja 400 - 30.9”
- KTM RC 390 - 32.4”
The KTM RC 390 has a seat height that is a full 1.5-inches taller than its nearest competition. This puts the bike more in line with larger sportbikes such as the Kawasaki ZX-6R (32.7”) or the Honda CBR 600RR (32.3”).
Electronics and Rider Aids
Perhaps the biggest area where KTM sets itself apart from the competition is in its full suite of rider aids. KTM, more so than other manufacturers, places a large emphasis on fitting as much technology into this small bike as possible.
Beginning with its full-color TFT display that provides all the information you would need and allows you to customize what you see using the KTM’s switchgear. The display features an adaptive ambient light sensor that adjusts to changing light conditions automatically.
From there KTM offers a bevy of traction control settings in its aptly named Motorcycle Traction Control suite. MTC kicks in in milliseconds if the rear wheel’s rotational speed is disproportionate to the riding situation. KTM’s traction control solution smoothly reduces engine output to maintain traction at the rear wheel and ensures stability under all conditions.
The RC 390’s rider aids are further rounded out with a lean-angle sensitive ABS solution. This Cornering ABS allows for maximum braking performance while taking into account the lean angle of the motorcycle. This reduces the likelihood of the rear wheel locking while cornering.
Lastly, borrowing tech usually reserved only for their bigger bikes, KTM has implemented the Supermoto ABS Mode for those looking to push their bike to the limits on track days. This setting disables the ABS functionality on the rear wheel which means the rider can slide the rear into a corner. It also deactivates the rear wheel lift-up detection until excessive wheel slip is detected on the front. In all this allows riders to be more aggressive with their brake pressure when cornering and trail braking.
When combined this makes the KTM RC 390 the most technologically flushed out bike in this category.
The redesigned 2022 KTM RC 390 is available in two colorways, both sporting the trademark KTM orange. The most striking is their KTM Factory Racing Blue offering which sees the subframe painted orange with the bodywork sporting blue and orange graphics. The KTM Orange offering is a bit more subdued but still stands out with vibrant orange bodywork and black subframe and graphics.
The bodywork of the RC 390 has been reworked with Grand Prix-inspired styling. The race-inspired lines not only make the bike look fast but it succeeds in actually making it fast. The bike was designed using a computational fluid dynamics process which ensures that each panel offers maximum aerodynamic efficiency.
Staying true to their Ready to Race slogan KTM has designed the body panels to attach with as few screws as possible allowing riders to swap out the street-legal bodywork with race-ready panels with ease.
About THE AUTHOR
With nearing a decade of riding experience and tens of thousands of miles on two wheels I will always opt for two wheels over four. My favorite motorcycling pastimes are motocamping and spontaneous runs to the ice cream shop. You can often find me with a loaded pack strapped to the back of my bike on my way to a new adventure.Read More About Michael Conger