The KTM RC 390 has finally arrived — what's it like to ride?
The KTM RC 390 has finally arrived — what's it like to ride?Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe

2022 KTM RC 390 first ride review | The best sub-400cc supersport?

We ride the updated KTM RC 390 at Bajaj’s Chakan testing facility to see if all the small changes both under and over the hood add up to a better road and track bike

The KTM RC 390 has always been one of the most accomplished track focussed bikes in India, sub-400cc. If you wanted a tool to hone your track riding skills and become a faster corner carver, it didn’t get much better than this. For 2022, KTM has given the bike a much-needed overhaul giving it an all-new design, new chassis setup, the same engine but with a few new tricks up its sleeve and a swanky new electronics suite. The aim for KTM while developing this 2022 RC 390 was to make the bike an easier bike to live with daily while becoming sharper on the track. Have they managed to do that? We head to Bajaj’s Chakan test facility to find out.

2022 KTM RC 390 design

The design department is where the RC 390 has received its biggest overhaul. Take one look at the bike and you are immediately reminded of the bigger RC 16 GP bikes. The front end is all-new with a new headlight surrounded by an extremely efficient, wide and tall windscreen. All this is quite polarising but I love it. It reminds me of the RC8 and that is amazing. Behind the windscreen, you have the same colour-TFT screen you find on the 390 Adventure and 390 Duke. Moving behind, you have a larger 13.7-litre fuel tank which is also wider allowing the rider to better grip the tank with their legs. In terms of seating you have a new split seat setup and to make their bike more comfortable there is 50 per cent more foam and this is without a change in saddle height. From the rear, the bike has a similar strip-like tail light but in a different housing. Overall the bike looks rather handsome and well proportioned. You have two colours to choose from. Black with orange and the one we rode, orange with blue which looks very similar to the colours proudly adorned by the GP bikes adding that much more of a special feel to the bike.

2022 KTM RC 390 chassis

The chassis department of the 2022 KTM RC 390 has seen major changes as well. As aforementioned, the bike has been designed to be more comfortable for its rider to be able to use a tool for commuting daily while becoming a faster, sharper weapon out on track. We can’t talk about what the bike is like to live with or what its road manners are just yet because we only got to ride it around Bajaj’s Chakan test track. Out on track all the small and large changes that KTM has made to the bike add up. Weight savings have also been a key department of focus. Dry, the bike weighs as much as 3.7kg less than the model it replaces courtesy lighter wheels, lighter brakes, hollow wheel axles and a bunch of little changes here and there. Despite the larger fuel tank, the bike still weighs a kilo less, with 90 per cent fuel. The lighter wheels and hollow wheel axles immediately translate to a bike that is significantly easier to steer. The 2022 KTM RC 390 changes direction rapidly all while feeling extremely stable. And once tipped over, the bike feels planted and holds the line extremely well. The bike also gets a new WP Apex suspension setup. The front USDs are non-adjustable, but like the international-spec RC 390, the rear monoshock gets preload and rebound damping. This suspension setup works rather well with it not feeling too stiff or too soft. The Chakan track has a few bumps and the RC 390 ironed most of them out effortlessly. I suspect this will be a very compliant setup on the streets as well but more on that when we get it for a road test.

The clip-ons can be lowered by 14.5mm if you want a racier rider's triangle
The clip-ons can be lowered by 14.5mm if you want a racier rider's triangleShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe

The RC also gets a new split trellis frame design similar to that of the 390 Duke. To make the bike more comfortable, KTM has made the rider’s triangle a bit more relaxed but this doesn’t come at the cost of pace at the track. It still feels focused and committed but once you’re done with your session you feel significantly less fatigue than you would on the previous generation of the RC. Should you want a racier rider’s triangle KTM will allow you to drop the height of the clip ons by 14.5mm using a spacer. Stopping power comes courtesy of a new rim-mounted disc upfront and this new lighter setup works wonders. The braking performance is powerful with tons of bite and feedback, something you would appreciate on the race track.

2022 KTM RC 390 engine and performance

Same 373.3cc powertrain, but a 40 per cent larger airbox allows better breathing
Same 373.3cc powertrain, but a 40 per cent larger airbox allows better breathingShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe

The KTM RC 390 is powered by the same 373.3cc high-compression single-cylinder engine that we are already familiar with but KTM has engineered a new airbox for this engine which is 40 per cent larger than before and this allows the bike to breathe much better. It has also resulted in a 1Nm increase of torque which is now available more evenly across the rev range. This is extremely apparent as soon as you thumb the starter. The RC 390 feels significantly more potent in the lower and mid-range and this comes in handy while navigating the relatively tighter corners that the Chakan test track presents you with. This wider torque band has resulted in the RC 390 becoming a much more forgiving bike. You can almost always carry a gear higher and get away with it with enough oomph to drive you out of the corner hard and fast. Not something that could be said about the previous generation of the bike. According to KTM the changes in aerodynamics and the larger airbox have resulted in the time taken to achieve 0-60kmph reducing from 3.2s to 2.7s and 0-100kmph now takes 6.3s instead of 7.1s. We can’t verify that unless we V-Box the bike but I won’t be surprised if it is true. The bike also now gets a ride-by-wire system which feels precisely calibrated. The six-speed gearbox is slick and tactile and a joy to use with the new bi-directional quickshifter.

2022 KTM RC 390 features

The colour TFT screen has finally made it onto the RC 390 as well
The colour TFT screen has finally made it onto the RC 390 as wellShot by Avdhoot A Kolhe

The KTM RC 390 from being a rather barebones committed bike has become one that is packed with features. You get the same colour TFT screen as the 390 Duke which enables a host of features like call/media control and turn by turn navigation using the KTM app for your smartphone. In terms of rider aids, you now get traction control, a bi-directional quickshifter and dual-channel ABS with switchable modes including a supermoto mode. Both the ABS and the traction control are lean-sensitive courtesy of the IMU and they work rather well. They are very intuitive and transparent, allowing you to focus completely on the ride. Apart from this, you get the standard full-LED headlight, tail light and indicators. A comprehensive electronics suite for a sub-400cc bike. Good stuff, KTM.

2022 KTM RC 390 verdict

KTM has made an already sharp tool even sharper with the new RC 390
KTM has made an already sharp tool even sharper with the new RC 390 Shot by Avdhoot A Kolhe

Due to the chip shortage, KTM took its sweet time to get the 2022 KTM RC 390 to Indian shores. But now that it is here, boy, am I glad. This 2022 bike is a comprehensive upgrade over the previous bike and in all the right ways. It looks much nicer in my opinion, handles much better, delivers power in a much friendlier and usable manner and comes with a bunch of rider aids that you actually enjoy using. From our initial impressions, it feels like it will be a much friendlier bike to commute on and we can’t wait to put that to the test in our road test. Now all good things come at a price and the KTM RC 390 comes with a rather expensive Rs 3.13 lakh ex-showroom price tag. But when you stop to think of how much extra you are getting for the extra Rs 30-odd thousand the price starts to feel justified. As it should, because in my humble opinion, KTM has gone and sharpened an already sharp tool in the RC 390 and made it that much better a proposition for someone looking to properly hone their track riding skills in India, because this bike has what it takes to handle any track in India, including the BIC and that is saying something.

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