Ready to Race: KTM RC 390 and RC 200 Road Test Review

KTM RC 390 and RC 200 (8)

The fully faired sport motorcycle trend is a relatively recent phenomenon. Yamaha were the first to deliver a purpose-built small-capacity sport bike in the form of the R15 a few years ago and then Honda gave us the CBR 250R and then 150. However, KTM have probably given us the first set of bikes that are genuine sport bikes that make no pretension to wanting to be put to commuter use. Here’s our take on the RC 390 and the 200

Story: Aninda Sardar and Piyush Sonsale
Photography: Sanjay Raikar

We knew they were two of the most awaited motorcycles of the year and we knew several hundred motorcycle enthusiasts were eagerly waiting for them to arrive on Indian shores. Some even speculated if these would be just faired versions of the 200 Duke and 390, but, no, they weren’t. When we first rode the KTM RC 200 and 390 around the streets of Modena and around the Circuit de Modena last year, we came back impressed. Impressed by how a subtle alteration by the manufacturer (essentially a marginally sharper rake) had differentiated the RC 200 from the 200 Duke and the RC 390 from the 390 Duke. Back home, we waited for a while to get our hands on these two lovely machines to see if they would be any different from what we had tasted on Italian roads. Fortunately, barring some very minor differences, there’s not much to distinguish between the Indian RCs and their Italian counterparts. And, as in Italy, opinion will be divided on which of these two makes more sense for the buyer. At Bike India, we believe that despite their similar appeal, the RC 200 and the RC 390 are not meant for the same kind of person. Even in our office, opinion is divided as to which of the two makes more sense. I instinctively like the smaller of the two motorcycles more while Piyush likes the more powerful 390 a few shades over the RC 200.

So far as styling goes, apart from the paint scheme and the missing bar-end weights on the RC 390, you’d be hard-pressed to tell these two apart. Unless, of course, you’re extremely observant and manage to look at the tyres. Then you’ll notice that while the RC 390’s orange painted wheels continue to be shod with Metzeler rubber, the 200 gets home-grown MRFs. In both cases the styling is unique and nothing of this nature has ever been seen on our roads in the past. The sharp, edgy lines, the wonderfully integrated grab recesses under the pillion seat, the exposed trellis frame, clip-on handlebars, rear-set foot-pegs and that neatly tucked in under-belly exhaust make both RCs look very sporty. The mirrors, too, are very well integrated. Relation between seat, handlebars and foot-pegs is super sorted. Indeed the RCs’ riding position feels a tad more natural than that on the Dukes.

That said, there are some downsides too. For starters, as with all sport bikes, the pillion seat is too high (even more so in the case of bikes sold in India on account of the extra foam on the pillion seat). The mirrors, while good looking, offer limited visibility and you will have to shift your elbow to actually see what’s behind. Then there’s also the issue of cleanliness. The fairing is fitted in a way that it puts form over the cleanliness function. As a result, it will be difficult to clean certain portions of the bike since it’ll take some effort to put a cloth behind the fairing and clean it. Also, as we found out on the track in Modena, the fairing, though effective, is a shade low. Taller riders will really need to crouch down and lie flat on the tank to save themselves from wind blast.

KTM RC 390 and RC 200


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Aninda Sardar – who has written posts on Bike India.

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