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KTM 2020 390 Adventure: MD First Ride

It is safe to say that KTM is a leader when it comes to designing and selling motorcycles in the Adventure category. It has done so for more than 20 years … building a reputation for high performance bikes aimed at hard-core enthusiasts. This fits with the company’s Ready to Race tagline.

For 2020 KTM has introduced its smallest Adventure model. The 390 Adventure carries a relatively low price of $6,199, but offers features and performance not typically found on entry-level models.

To begin with, the new bike is motivated by the same 373cc single found in the Duke model, which MD tested a couple of years ago after its redesign. This engine is smooth (for a large displacement single) and powerful. Sending roughly 42 horsepower and 27 pound/feet of torque to the rear wheel, despite slightly smaller displacement and a single cylinder, this engine makes roughly the same power as Kawasaki’s Z400 twin.

The rider can control traction control and ABS settings with an intuitive selection process on the left handlebar. Sophisticated electronic aides are incorporated, including the aforesaid ABS and traction control, as well as an IMU that helps adjust brake pressure while cornering. “KTM MY RIDE” is a standard feature that allows bluetooth connection of your mobile phone and control of incoming calls and music through the full color TFT display.

That beautiful color display is just one of the features that is hardly “entry level.” The WP APEX fork is adjustable for both compression and rebound, while the shock features rebound adjustment. That suspension offers close to 7″ of travel front and rear, and connects the steel trellis frame to a 19″ front wheel and a 17″ rear wheel.

The headlight and taillight are bright LED units. The two-position adjustable windshield contributes to a safe, comfortable mount. The single front brake disc is a huge 320 mm squeezed by a radially-mounted four-piston caliper, and the fuel tank is a relatively generous 3.8 gallons (which KTM claims offers nearly 250 miles of range).

Ergonomics are upright and comfortable from the tapered aluminum handlebar, supportive seat and reasonable leg room.

Lifting the 390 Adventure off its side stand immediately tells you this is a lightweight motorcycle, and the reach to the ground is much shorter than most competing Adventure models offer. KTM claims a dry weight of 348 pounds, and this is believable.

For a small single, the 390 Adventure has a lively feel when you pull away from a stop. It revs out quickly, with good power at relatively low, street rpm levels. Top speed is north of 100 mph, and highway cruising speeds don’t make the bike sweat.

Vibration levels are controlled reasonably well, although, like any larger displacement single-cylinder bike, long-distance trips could become fatiguing. Nevertheless, commuting on this bike for 40, or 50 miles at a clip should be no problem for most riders. This is probably the smoothest single-cylinder engine under 450cc that we have tested.

The riding position is comfortable, as well. Wind protection is decent from the hand guards and windscreen, which keeps air off your chest. Stability at higher cruising speeds is good for such a lightweight motorcycle.

The 390 Adventure feels light and flickable on twisty, canyon roads, where the little single pulls well out of corners. The optional Quick Shifter+ system on our test bike worked well, allowing clutchless upshifts. The suspension keeps the bike planted, and the extra travel helps absorb mid-corner bumps.

Grip on the road from the semi-knobby Continental TKC 70 tires is surprisingly reassuring, with decent feedback.

These same tires do a relatively good job off-road, as well. The 390 Adventure is no motocross bike, but it is so much lighter than larger displacement Adventure machines, it seems to bridge the gap between those and small displacement dual sport models. KTM says the cast wheels were specifically designed to have the strength for dirt use, and the suspension provides sufficient travel and damping for moderately aggressive riding in the dirt.

Overall, this is a fun, versatile and practical motorcycle that offers a surprising amount of performance and features at its relatively low price tag. With the world economy in trouble, at present, the 2020 KTM 390 Adventure is a very timely addition to KTM’s line-up. Take a look at KTM’s website for additional details and specifications, as well as the availability of KTM accessories for this model.

48 Comments

  1. Butch says:

    A kick start only, would lighten things up a bit.

  2. Mick says:

    While this bike is very inexpensive compared to a KTM 500 EXC-F, a street legal motorcycle. It weighs over 100 pounds more?!

    It’s mysterious to me how bikes marketed to the street bike crowd gain 100 pounds (45% in this case) at the bat of an eye. That doesn’t even count the tank empty weight that the dirt bikers get verses the hyper vague dry weight (lie weight) that the street bike crowd tolerates.

    For the price and the market it is in though. I guess it would decent reasonably urban assault vehicle that you can ride pretty hard without drawing the sort of attention riding a 500 EXC-F would if riden nearly as hard. Some people freak out when they see barking dirt bikes.

    • Pedro says:

      Seriously? Comparing it to a racing dirt bike that costs twice as much? Here’s 2 places where weight adds up: The 500 has 1 liter of oil and 2 piston rings. Maintenance is counted in hours, not miles. For the love of mike….

      • Mick says:

        Oh please. Oil is six pounds per gallon. A pound of piston rings would make a fair sized pile of them.

        Take a look at a 100 pound piece of solid steel. It’s a pretty large item. How about a 100 pound piece of plastic? That’s big too.

        We are talking about two complete street legal motorcycles made from similar materials by the same manufacturer.

        A full suspension mountain bike weighs around thirty pounds. Would you not be suspect of one that weighed 43?

        Whatever, there is a reason that I make my street bikes from dirt bikes. Your results obviously vary.

        • Reginald Van Blunt says:

          The KTM 500 EXC-F is an enduro bike not a street bike, the light and license plate mount are a minimal effort to legally cross a paved road.

      • Reginald Van Blunt says:

        Agreed, and Pete could use a little love too.

    • Dave says:

      The answer to your question is in your question. “Very inexpensive”. If you want lightweight without throwing away reliability, you pay in dollars.

      • Mick says:

        Just don’t try to tell me that while I am getting off of my 17 year old supermoto.

        I complained about 100 pound weight difference. You know that the 390 engine is not 100 pound heavier than the 500 engine. There is also the difference between the tank empty weight of the 500 and the dry weight of the 390. The oil that Pedro was on about is not included in a dry weight. It is included in a tank empty weight. The weight difference between the two bikes is probably closer to 150 pounds. About 60%.

        It just surprises me that the street bike industry makes so little effort at weight reduction on all but a very few bikes.

        Then I look at these comments. Why bother? If someone asks why bike A weighs so much more than bike B, he is treated as being unreasonable.

    • Grover says:

      Mick is right, a hundred pounds is a hundred pounds. If it was 35-40 pounds more I wouldn’t bat an eye. But 100? Some very cheap, very heavy parts must be used to gain that much weight. That’s the only way you’re going to gain 100 pounds on a bike that is over 100cc’s smaller.
      Perhaps that 100 pound increase will result in a bulletproof bike that will last through the great tribulation and into the millennium.

  3. Jeremy says:

    I thought the Yamaha Tenere 700 was going to be the Unicorn of the mid size ADV bike but this KTM has me thinking? An I thought I’d never own a KTM. Japanese bike only (XR’s, KDX’s, KLX etc).It’s $3,800 less expensive than the Yammie(if if it every arrives). For the amount of adventure riding (or even getting out and riding) I do, maybe it’s the new Unicorn, 19/17 and all.

  4. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    The are several reports on the internet, over several years time, of broken/bent KTM wheels with the thin ‘spokes’ when used off road. I do not trust thin anything off road, especially the open desert.
    Never had a failure with aluminum rims and heavy gauge steel spokes, on a 350 pound desert sled, in 30 years.

    • Grover says:

      Kind of a flop considering they gave it cast wheels instead of spoked aluminum rims. I realize this isn’t a race bike, but for anyone who rides a bit more than fire roads, thin, spoked rims ain’t gonna cut it. You can bet installing the correct wheels on this bike isnt going to be cheap or easy. Also, the front wheel should be 21″, not 19″ for those that actually push it a bit in the dirt.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        The vast majority of people out there don’t ride in the dirt like some here say they do.

        Whether or not those here really ride hard in the dirt doesn’t matter, the truth of the matter is that this bike is fine for it’s intended audience.

        It doesn’t need spokes. People think they do. People that are doubtless not the bike’s intended market, i.e., experienced off road riders.

        Variation on that theme:

        It doesn’t need to weigh less. People think it does when most could stand to lose a few pounds themselves.

        People do need reliability and a good dealer network for anything they purchase, including motorcycles. If those here and in the real world stay away from a bike that more than a few have said they really wanted then expect the model to be dropped and when the Kawasaki Versys 400 comes out expect these folks to say, “If only it had a 450cc motor. I would be on that like a fat man on a sundae”…

        If only? Indeed.

        • Reginald Van Blunt says:

          This bikes intended buyer is a casual dual purpose rider. One does NOT have to ride hard to bend or break a wheel in the dirt, so why have a skinny component at all ?
          There are tons of bent steel rims in a pile somewhere, taken off dual purpose, easy dirt rides.

          • The AnonymouseI' says:

            I’ve watched a few reviews of the bike on India based video channels and no one has yet to complain about the wheels. A couple of them have even stated the advantage of this bike is the TUBELESS tires.

            And they rode the bike in the dirt. Go figure. Most DP bikes rarely see the dirt and certainly not in the hands of the elite.

            Why?

            Too “heavy”.

            Too “under powered”.

            Too under suspended”.

            Too “if only”. 🙂 😉

      • todd says:

        There are plenty of KTM spoked aluminum rims available in all sorts of sizes. Check ebay.

  5. Marcus says:

    I swear I could break those spokes with my bare hands. 😳

  6. Anonymous says:

    any idea on alternator output? it is after all an adv bike.

  7. Grover says:

    The places I go off-road require a reliable machine. I don’t yet trust a KTM built in India using inferior parts at a low price point. I believe its combination of performance, highway manners and price is better than any of the other offerings at this time. Still, I think build quality trumps all the other factors when you’re 50 miles out on the trail (the bike looks trail worthy on the videos I’ve seen). Now the RC390 is another matter as your always on the highway with a tow truck nearby. Who gives a hoot if it breaks down on the road. The questionable quality of the 390 Adventure is another matter. Pass

    • todd says:

      There’s no reason to believe they are cutting corners with inferior materials. I imagine, the whole reason to manufacture a bike in India is to reduce costs in labor and facilities. This would allow KTM to maintain their normal quality requirements without having to re-engineer it to be inferior.

  8. Neal says:

    People have been asking for a Versys 400… it’s hard to see Kawasaki coming out with something competitive to this with adjustable suspension, IMU, and all the other bells and whistles for only $900 on top of the $5300 Ninja 400 ABS. This is a lot of bike for the money.

  9. TimC says:

    Huh, so you can get KTM Europe reliability with KTM Asia build quality?

    Sign me up!

  10. motorhead says:

    Honda CB500X is a good comparison. The Honda is listed at 434 lbs, while this is 348 pounds. If I’m more street-focused (and I still have a job) I’d buy the Honda today. For more off-road, I’d grab the KTM 390. For the most off-road, what does the latest DRZ400 provide?

    • Dave says:

      ” For the most off-road, what does the latest DRZ400 provide?”

      Real off road capability.

      • motorhead says:

        thanks, and with DR-Z400 weight at only 319 pounds, it’s a top choice for hard-core off-roaders. List Price of $6749 is not bad, either.

    • RyYYZ says:

      I think I’d probably go for the KTM because it’s quite a bit lighter, and a big taller, so for my 6’2″ purposes of something for relatively short local runs and dirt road exploring, I think I’d go for the KTM. But it’s good to have choices!

    • Curtis says:

      I have heard journalists listing a weight for this new KTM which is higher than the 348 you quote.

      • Jeremy says:

        The 348 lbs is the dry weight spec KTM provides. It’s probably 385-ish wet, so still significantly lighter than the Honda.

  11. Mark says:

    Interesting seeing the comparison to the DRZ400. I have owned a DRZ and it is a DIRTBIKE/Dual Sport, (LONG travel, kinda light weight, no comfort, geared for dirt)that can be used for “Adventure”. I liked it for what it was. I now ride a 690 Enduro for that purpose.
    How does this bike compare to the 390 with high technology, relatively heavy, high comfort level and geared for travel, and can do some dirt work. apples to oranges IMHO

    Powerplants may be similar in size and output, but it ends there. That said, some may want to use the KTM like a True Dual Sport or Dirt bike but it will come up woefully short. And others try and use the Suzi for Travel, but again it will have serious short comings.
    Now, the comparison to the Honda CB500X is pretty close…

    PS- I ride a KTM 1190 non R model, and I LOVE it. The 390 is it’s baby sister. Seems they really did hit a homeroom on starter/small displacement bike for Adventure and street use

  12. Reginald Van Blunt says:

    Nice practical motorcycle, and larger than the pictures appear. I am not too keen on an IMU modulating my braking, especially in a turn.
    Good design must START with the correct numbers and then design inwards from there. This bike does that.

  13. denhajm says:

    How well do those LED headlights actually work in a night riding scenario (compared to the old H4 reflector type headlights)? I’ve not had the opportunity to ride an LED headlight equipped bike at night.

    • Curt says:

      I haven’t ridden this new 390, but have two other KTMs with LED lights, and they’re great. Other reviewers (with more experience than I have) tend to be complimentary of the newer LED lights on KTMs, as well.

    • fred says:

      I’ve just recently installed LED H4’s in a couple of my older street bikes. Be sure you get good, modern LED’s, as there is a variety of tech out there. Mine are absolutely terrific. LED headlights are a relatively inexpensive, easy retrofit, and are one of the best upgrades I’ve ever made.

  14. Bill N says:

    Amazing! First KTM I’ve seriously considered. The aftermarket should be awesome with add ons.

  15. ag_streak says:

    Like Gary, I immediately started comparing this bike to the DR-Z 400, but I think it ends up a wash… KTM Advantages: 3 more hp, 2 more lb/ft torque, 6-speed, FI, bigger tank. Disadvantages: 40-45 lbs heavier, less suspension travel, cast wheels. I guess one’s a dual-sport and one’s an adventure bike (more road capability) and I like the KTM quite a bit, but I certainly don’t think it’s a “home run”.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Depends on your intended use.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Reading peoples “thoughts” throughout the interwebs on what they say they need, I tend to think it all depends on whether you’ve bought a bike to ride somewhere or pose on nowhere. 😉 🙂

    • RyYYZ says:

      Let’s just say I have no trouble telling you which I would rather ride any significant distance.

      Also:
      less vibration
      more comfortable
      ABS, traction control, IMU, LED lighting, TFT

      I don’t think they’re really directly comparable. One’s a dual-purpose (i.e. dirt) bike and the other a street bike that can get dirty. There might be some crossover in the market – I had recently been considering picking up a light D-P that I could ride to real off-road riding areas. Now I’m considering the KTM. But it would be a lot happier on the road, and a lot less happy in serious dirt bike territory, than the DR-Z. IMO. And I wouldn’t use it the same way.

  16. Buckwheat says:

    A huge home run. And top of my list to test ride. Thanks for the article.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      Once again, Buckwheat is OooooTAY! 🙂

      Well said, Buckwheat! It does indeed look to be a genuine home run for KTM and motorcyclists.

  17. Stuki Moi says:

    Aside from possibly reliability issues, this seems like an absolute home run.

    Has Conti redone the TKC70 front? On my 1190 5 years ago or so, they were flat out scary on Socal concrete freeway raingrooves.

    Even so, TKC70s are a seriously premium tire. KTM fitting those, along with superbike amounts of electronic riding aids, TFT, LED lights, adjustable (and, being KTM, likely at least more than decent) suspenders on a bike this affordable, is pretty amazing.

    While I, all else being (close to) equal, personally prefer a twin (Z400 vs Duke…), and would ideally want a 90 degree one of those (Vstrom 400 within 25lbs dry of this……): At this price and with these specs, this is a pretty darned serious gauntlet KTM has thrown down.

  18. Gary says:

    I am a DRZ400 owner…and I really love my DRZ. But I must say, for the type of riding I do this KTM just crushes the DRZ in every way …for $1,000 less money. Better technology, better suspension, better display, better power…this bike is a home run.

  19. Valentino says:

    Looks like the Honda CB500X. Prob stick with the Honda.

  20. bmbktmracer says:

    Back in the day I had a Honda XL500. I thought it was an awesome bike with it’s 32 HP. I could start a wheelie in 2nd gear and shift all the way up to 5th at 80 mph, where the front fender would be flapping like a red flag on an aerial. Every time I think the KTM 390 is too small, I remember back to my Honda, my GS 450, my FT500 Ascot…those bikes weren’t fast but they were fun. I think if experienced riders give this bike a chance they might rediscover the true joy of motorcycling.

  21. The Anonymouse says:

    There are wants and then there are needs and we all have them. However, too many only want what they “want” and not what they really need, i.e., can really use in the world we all live in. You know…the real world? 😉

    This bike, could be both to a lot of folks if only they would get of their ego.

    Having said that, I eagerly 😉 await the rushing waters of the “if only” crowd. 🙂

    • Ken Howard says:

      So true, about the “if only” crowd, no matter what type of new product is being shown. For bikes: “If only” it were more powerful, lighter, more reliable (with no evidence it will not be), built somewhere else, spokes vs cast wheels, a bigger fuel tank, and – ultimately – cheaper (because they can buy a used so-and-so for half the price).