Recently I had a pleasure of experiencing the KTM RC390 in both road and race feathers, at a media launch of the KTM British Junior Cup. The race series will consist of 25, 13-18-years old riders racing on identical RC390 bikes in the ‘Cup’ variation, competing for one of two places in the MotoGP Red Bull Rookies Cup selection process, and after having a little play on this remarkable machine, I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to seeing these guys compete on impressive but identical bikes and tyres. In a truly fair, racing spirit, it will all be down to the skill and ability. We are in for a treat!
As I arrived at the Shenington kart circuit near Oxford, Alastair Fagan from 44teeth was out enjoying some laps, and the first thing that struck me is how amazing the RC390 sounds and looks in the hands of a pro. Amazing! Goosebumps-all-over-my-body-butterflies-in-my-stomach amazing!
Soon I was in my leathers and ready to test the stock RC.
It started with a disappointment. Motorbike that everyone seems to be calling ‘small’, wasn’t small at all. In fact, at 820mm seat height, it’s as tall as my 2012 BMW S1000RR. That’s right at the limit of my floor-touching ability.
Then there were many surprises. RC390 is shockingly light. A very narrow seat and 147 kg dry weight meant there was absolutely nothing intimidating about the overall size and height of the bike. Riding position was extremely comfortable thanks to high handlebars, and the screen was creating just enough wind protection for my shortie-self (not sure how beneficial it would be to taller riders)
ABS equipped as standard is a game changer. This is a £5000 bike that comes with ABS! Even my R6 at almost twice the price, didn’t have ABS, and trust me when I say this, I would be terrified to ride the R6 in the weather conditions we had. At first it was cold and dry, but soon it started snowing, however it wasn’t until visibility had become affected, that I made my way back to the pits. And in these cold, wet, slippery conditions, I still had a bloody good time! The handling was brilliant and the 44hp, 375cc single-cylinder four-stroke engine was peculiarly spirited.
Quick break for hot tea and a biscuit (I know, I’m such a Brit-wannabe) and I was out to test the race RC.
I was not ready for this. The RC390 Cup is built and meant solely for track use. The already super light machine enters the featherweight class by dumping 9kg worth of unnecessary road-required parts, the 1.2 kg ABS being one of them. The engine may be restricted to 38 horsepower but in no way did it feel limited. There’s a lot of PowerParts thrown into the mix, including Akrapovic exhaust and a fully adjustable suspension package. This package not only allows for individual settings for each race, it is also a fantastic learning tool for suspension set-ups.
I know what you’re thinking. Of course a race bike is awesome to ride, with all these gadgets, but it’s not like you can go and buy one. Well, this is where things get really exciting. Not only is the stock bike, at £5k, seriously affordable; all the powerParts are also not expensive and available to public.
The bike has also adjustable foot pegs and levers for personalised ergonomics, not only making it ideal for young racers who are still growing, but also for us, mortals. After all we do come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, and this KTM might just be stealing “The most versatile fit” award.
Yes, the gearbox is not the smoothest, and it could use a slipper clutch. It’s not the engineering state of the art kind of bike. It’s rough round the edges, but isn’t ‘rough round the edges’ the definition of the track-riding experience? It is to me.
Now this is my very personal opinion, but being a ‘little’ A2 legal bike, there’s nothing ‘little’ about it, apart from the lack of ability to go super fast in a straight line, which is not a respectable ability anyway. This is the most gripping starter bike I can imagine and leaves all the ‘slow’, bigger cc motorbikes like the XJ6 or F800R behind. Finally the younger riders are being catered for, and no longer have to feel like they are missing out on the fun. What a frisky toy!
It was tough one for me acknowledge. See, I am all about numbers, and after riding it’s big sister, the RC8, and my 186bhp BMW I really wasn’t expecting much from 38bhp. The numbers speak for themselves, right? Well, wrong. This bike has the thrill factor comparable to my two favourite supersports (R6 and S1000RR) and being more affordable (even after all the power upgrades), it completely rearranged my wish-list and has officially become my dream track bike.