Photography by Gaurav S Thombre
KTM just launched the updated RC 390, with a new livery and a few mechanical changes. The biggest changes are of course the new exhaust that allows the bike to meet Euro IV regulations and the ride-by-wire system. These are the only changes, and you can’t really call this a new motorcycle — more like one that has got a mid-life refresh to keep it up to date with contemporary regulations.
The ride-by-wire system now means that instead of the direct connect between the throttle and the throttle bodies, twisting the throttle results in a whole lot of electronic wizardry where sensors determine exactly what you’re asking of the engine and the ECU sends instructions accordingly. This allows extremely precise amounts of fuel to be injected in to the engine and combusted, and this is crucial in reducing emissions — probably why KTM saw it fit to add to this RC 390.
The ride-by-wire system has smoothened out the rough edges of the older 390. The snatchiness that the older bike had, when opening and closing the throttle has now been ironed out and has been replaced by a smoothness quite uncharacteristic of the 390. But the change is a welcome one, the controls are far more predictable, allowing you to have more control over the throttle getting out corners.
The other big change is the exhaust. Now, instead of the underbody unit, the 2017 RC 390 gets a upswept unit. Euro 4 regulations define the precise amount of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen dioxide bikes are allowed to emit per kilometre and they came in to force last year. This new exhaust obviously deals with the emissions from the engine better. But it has also subdued the exhaust note. No longer is it the guttural, raw note, but a more refined, smoother one. It’s still raw and is still worthy of a bike with the capabilities of the RC 390, while being a bit more sophisticated about things. The update also means that when you’re really leaning in to a corner, the RC allows you to scrape Another compulsion on Euro 4-spec machines is to pass a SHED test, that determines how much fuel the bike loses through evaporation from the tank. KTM has fixed the RC 390 with their EVAP system that minimises this to meet permissible limits.
A positive to take away from all this is that the new regulations haven’t strangulated the engine. The 390 is still the manic machine we have come to know (and love), and its characteristics haven’t been blunted on that front. Power is still the same — at 43bhp while peak torque has been bumped up by 1Nm from the 373.2cc engine.
Another major update to the RC 390 is the addition of a larger brake rotor up front. Out goes the older 300mm disc and on comes a larger 320mm unit. The brakes have a surprisingly good feel to them — they are sharp, yet progressive and let you know exactly what’s going on in the front.
In addition to all this, the bike gets a couple of minor ergonomic changes as well. One major grouse that KTM owners had was that the seat was far too firm and tended to get uncomfortable. KTM have addressed this with a new seat that they claim has 12mm more cushioning than the older one. They have also swapped the minuscule rear-view mirrors on the older bike with wider, more usable mirrors on the MY17 bike. While the older ones were rather useless on the go, the new ones actually allow you a fair bit of sight behind you.
All this aside, the bike retains all that DNA from the older one that made it such a popular machine among enthusiasts. It’s as sharp, as agile, as focussed as the older one. Visually, the changes are few. It even retains the old instrument cluster — the new touchscreen one that the 2017 Duke gets is not yet integrated on this bike. The new livery injects a much-needed dose of freshness to the bike — the new decals have more of the KTM orange and black, and less of white, going with the whole aggressive theme of the motorcycle. Instead of a matte finish though, the bike now gets a glossy paint scheme which made the bikes really stand out.
As for the RC 200, the updates are simply cosmetic. The new paint scheme is now primarily white and again, gets a glossy finish. Nothing mechanical has changed on the bike though and it remains exactly the same as it’s predecessor.
The new RC 390 then, is the same old goat, albeit a bit more polished up and far less polluting. The MY 2017 RC 390 costs Rs 2.25 lakh (ex-showroom, Delhi) and is still the go-to, affordable supersport north of the Yamaha R15. The updates are minor, but they inject a new lease of life in to a bike that has been around for some years now.