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The KTM RC 390 blows any 'small bike' misconceptions totally out of the water

2018-07-30 08:17

Dries van der Walt

Image: Dries van der Walt / Instagram

There are many reasons why it would make sense to opt for a smaller bike for commuting. Firstly, the price: with the cost of bikes increasing almost exponentially, it is hard to argue against the affordability of small bikes.

Then there is the ease with which you can weave a smaller, lighter machine through traffic. Thirdly, the performance – or rather, the lack thereof. Commuting with a litre-class bike in traffic that rarely allows you to get up to 50km/h seems a bit of an overkill.

Don't judge a book..

However, very few small-capacity bikes are capable of reaching the national speed limit, and if your budget doesn’t allow a second, bigger bike, you are caught between a rock and a hard place.

READ: KTM RC390 long-term test: 'A sports bike in its purest form, reduced to the essentials'

Unless you can find a bike that is small, inexpensive and still powerful enough to stay with the traffic on the traffic on an open highway – a bike like the KTM RC 390, which has enough power to do this and more.

Having covered around 3000km of the planned 10 000km test, the little KTM has yet to disappoint me. My daily commute consists of 80% highway riding and 20% surface roads.

My morning travel happens before the rush hour, meaning that I spend the bulk of the highway portion travelling at 120km/h. In the afternoons, however, I find myself smack-dab in the middle of the rush, which means I spend most of it lane-splitting in almost stationary traffic.

More than up to the task

I can honestly say that not once have I felt I needed more power than the RC could deliver. Even at 120km/h in sixth gear, I can simply twist the throttle to accelerate for a gap in the next late without the need to drop a gear.

In fact, gearing down would be counter-productive, because the engine sits at around 8 000r/min at 120km/h in top – firmly inside the powerband. Shifting down to 5th would increase the revs to about 9 500r/min, the point at which the power curve starts to decline.

The claimed top speed is 167km/h, and I have actually seen that on the speedo on a very slight downhill stretch. Incidentally, my GPS has shown that the speedo is unusually accurate, with only a 2% underread error.

But what is more important than the top speed, is the fact that the RC cheerfully maintains speeds of up to 140km/h even up steepish hills – something that is very welcome when you are sharing the road with other vehicles.

A real sense of urgency

The RC 390 makes it easy to forget that you ride a small bike. While a 5.7 seconds 0-100km/h time is exactly going to pull you off the bike, it has a real sense of urgency when you ride it hard.

This, combined with sure-footed handling and ample braking power, means that you won’t embarrass yourself when playing in the twisties with the big boys – in fact, you may well embarrass one or two of them.

Physics dictate that you can throw a lighter bike into a corner quicker, and if you pay attention to the power band the RC offers a surprising amount of out-of-corner acceleration. 

I took the bike for a number of open-road rides, and every time I was perfectly happy with the power available. Sure, I wasn’t going to win any drag races or stay with the big boys on the insane side of the speed limit, but I still had to keep an eye on the digital speedometer to make sure that I stay honest – on quite a few occasions I went up to 150 km/h without even noticing it.

Although I might get castigated for using the term for a sub-500cm³ bike, seating position on the RC is closer to a sports tourer than a sport bike.

This, in conjunction with the bike’s performance, means I wouldn’t think twice about taking it on a long-distance trip. It is comfortable enough, quick enough and plucky enough that such a trip is bound to be huge fun.

                                                                      Image: Dries van der Walt/Instagram

With a very competitive price the RC 390 offers a lot of bike for the money. As a commuter it has few rivals, and it offers the added bonus of being open-road capable, which few dedicated commuter bikes are.

Whether you are a budget-conscious buyer who needs one inexpensive bike that can fill almost every role or somebody who need a second bike to commute with without the risk of being run over from behind, the RC is almost a no-brainer.

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