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KTM Announces RC390 Sportbike — Coming to America?


What do you call it when a racing-oriented European motorcycle company teams up with an Indian factory to produce a performance-oriented, entry-level motorcycle at a price competitive with the Japanese big Four? I call it brilliant, but KTM calls it the RC390. It’s based on KTM’s light, cheap and quick 390 Duke, and it will very likely be on sale in the USA next year for a price not too far from other entry-level sportbikes like Kawasaki’s Ninja 300 and Honda’s CBR500R.

“The new KTM RC390, which will be available for sale in 2014, will meet a big demand for affordable, quality sport bikes for the lower displacement class,” KTM CEO Stefan Pierer said at a press conference showing off the race-only RC390 KTM is building for the Red Bull Rookie’s Cup. Since KTM has already confirmed the 390 Duke is coming to U.S. dealers for 2014, it’s logical to assume the RC390 — which will use the same chassis and engine — will get here too. Kawasaki’s Ninja 300 is about 600 Euros more than the KTM 390 Duke in Europe, so expect the RC390 to be the same price — or less. The U.S. Ninja is $4,799 without ABS, $5,499 with it, and the 390 will probably come standard with the anti-locks. My prediction? $5,299 for the RC390, $4,999 for the Duke.

But to compare it to the other bikes isn’t really fair. The Duke has a claimed tank-empty weight of 306 pounds and claimed hp is 43 (expect a little under 40 at the wheel). We loved the 300 Ninja, but it’s no out-of-the-box racebike. It weighs almost 390 pounds gassed up and makes about 35 horsepower at the wheel. And the CBR500R (and its naked and Adventure-Touring brothers the CB500F and CB500X) is a big hit for Honda, but it’s also very heavy—well over 400 pounds wet—and makes about 45 hp at the wheel—more power, but it’s lugging an extra c-note of poundage, too. That’s like having a passenger who won’t get off.

In a Honda CB500-like approach, the RC390 is the Duke with different styling, including that angular, Gerald Kiska-penned fairing. The race version is trimmed down to 286 pounds and less than 39 hp, but that’s probably due to racing rules — we expect the U.S. street-legal version to be identical in spec to the 390 Duke, as it’s easier and cheaper to certify one motor for regulatory purposes than two.


A final thought — will KTM be able to compete with manufacturers like Kawasaki and Honda, global companies with vast production capacity? If there is huge demand for an entry-level, affordable sportbike (and we think there is), will KTM dealers be able to keep up with demand? Kawasaki has said for years its Ninja 300 (including the 250cc predecessor) has been its best-selling (or close to it), and though it doesn’t release sales numbers by model, we estimate it sells around 5,000-8,000 a year. Can KTM make that many RC390s for the US market?

Yes. Remember that 47 percent of KTM is owned by India’s Bajaj Auto, a small company by Indian standards, but vast by European ones. It has actually been having a bit of labor trouble lately, so production is down, to a mere 3,000 units.

At one factory of three. A day.


  1. billy says:

    Jeez, looked pretty cool until I figured out it was a single. Oh well.

    • Chad says:

      Whats so bad about singles? Im new to the motorcycle scene and im trying to pick between this and the ninja 300 for commuting and fun here in the city

  2. mugwump says:

    Be still my heart…

  3. todd says:

    I hope thy plan this enough so that there will be bikes available. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to a dealership and they tell me their entire allotment of a particular bike for the year is already sold – before it ever makes it to the showroom. I usually don’t wait and end up buying something used instead.

    • Dave says:

      re: “how many times I’ve gone to a dealership and they tell me their entire allotment of a particular bike for the year is already sold ”

      Often code for “we didn’t order any when the model became available so we can’t get them..”

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I don’t know how many times I’ve gone to a dealership and they tell me their entire allotment of a particular bike for the year is already sold”

      tell ya a story. my local Honda dealer JUST had 4 of the new cb500r’s (black, w/r/b, and 2 reds) 3 on the floor for weeks and 1 in the crate. they were only supposed to get 1 of each MODEL (1R, 1F, and 1X) because they’re all limited since the bike was launched GLOBALLY.

      but due to their connections, they were able to allocate a few extras. seemed like a bad idea. suddenly, in the 10 day span before the 4th of july, all 4 bikes sold, to 4 different customers…! none of which knew each other. short of dealer trade, can’t get any more.

      morale, if you want something…? don’t blink. you’re in competition with OTHER PEOPLE’S MONEY. while you’re blinking… they’re BUYING.

  4. Randy says:

    Bring it! Bring it! bring it!

  5. Ricardo says:

    I am starting to save money today to buy this one when it arrives!!

  6. Zach Settewongse says:

    WANT! This looks awesome.

  7. vitesse says:

    Don’t forget that the 390 (and 690) motors are thumpers and of different character. Not the sewing machine-like in-line fours, triples or parallel twins. Not a recipe for a vibration-less ride.

    Better take a test ride (whether you’re shopping for either the duke or the RC version) to decide if the the advantage of a huge weight and power difference outweighs ride quality.

    • Scotty says:

      Having owned a hotted up SRX600 and a SZR660 with a fruity exhaust….I’m confident I’ll be OK with any vibes the KTM would produce.

    • bikerrandy says:

      Most modern singles have counter-balancers in them nowadays. I have 4(250cc-660cc) singles and none of them vibrate that much. Not like singles of the past.

    • Gabe says:

      So’s the CBR250R! Nobody complains about it Single-ness.

      • MGNorge says:

        Wouldn’t you say though that “Single-ness” starts to show more in the larger displacements? The singles I’ve owned were just fine and each had their own character. I wouldn’t expect a sub-400cc engine to be a paint shaker at all.

    • todd says:

      Many people that want this want it BECAUSE it’s a single.

    • RRocket says:

      I own a 690 Duke. It does not vibrate. You are certainly confusing it with the old 640 engines, which shook like a dog trying shit out a peach pit.

  8. Mike says:

    I’m not sure why there’s so much moaning about the dealer network. My last three KTM’s were bought from dealers over 120 miles away. Parts are plentifully available online, they’re simple bikes to maintain, and if they would sell them online like another has suggested; there would be no need for a dealer at all……..for me anyway.

    • Dave says:

      I’ve owned bikes for 20 years and needed dealer support (small parts) exactly twice. Seems like the internet erases most of that issue unless there’s a recall or something.

      • Gronde says:

        I’ve owned many bikes since the 1970’s are have never needed dealer support for any of them. I call dealerships “stealerships” because that’s what they’re best at.

        • Norm G. says:

          re: “I call dealerships “stealerships” because that’s what they’re best at.”

          you call dealerships “stealerships” because YOU have a devaluing mentality. you heard somebody ELSE say this…? and thought it might be clever to repeat it. thus, mindlessly contributing to the destruction of an industry you supposedly love.

          i know of at least 10 dealerships (8 in just my area alone) that have closed in the past 3 years, what exactly were all these businesses stealing…? or were they being stolen FROM…?

          • sl says:

            Local Honda dealership charged my buddy $18 for a spark plug. It was a Sunday, no one else was open. We wanted to ride, and the stealership got their money. Not always the case, but to common to ignore.

    • John says:

      “I’m not sure why there’s so much moaning about the dealer network.”

      My issue with KTM dealerships is that there are very few in my area and they won’t budge off of MSRP (for KTMs or anything else on their floor). On top of that, they add close to $1,000 in dealer fees. When I bought a CBR600 a few years ago, the local KTM-Honda dealer’s best price was $2,000 more for an identical bike than a Honda shop just a couple hours away. Yes, $2,000.

      “…and if they would sell them online like another has suggested; there would be no need for a dealer at all……..for me anyway.”

      Totally agree with this, if I could have bought a KTM online and skipped all the used-car-dealer tactics that the local KTM-Honda uses I would have put a 690SMC in my driveway years ago.

      • Norm G. says:

        re: “My issue with KTM dealerships is that there are very few in my area and they won’t budge off of MSRP (for KTMs or anything else on their floor).”

        curious, tell us why you deserve a discount…? what’s so special about you…? are you military…? have you demonstrated loyalty by buying numerous bikes and parts over the years…? have you referred a lot of customers, friends, family, etc…?

        why sell the bike to YOU at a discount rather than the guy (that neither you nor the salesman know about) who’s about to walk in the door 5 minutes AFTER you leave…? a guy (papered up) that’s simply there to BUY A BIKE, not there shopping for a bike AND “the bigger and better deal”.

        if you haven’t guessed, those 2 things are “diametrically opposed”. as a rule, the person who walks through the door focused on accomplishing ONE THING (not angling for two), are those who experience the pleasure of riding away on new motorcycles. it’s literally that simple.

        re: “On top of that, they add close to $1,000 in dealer fees.”

        next time you’re driving past that dealership, i want you to look up and tell me if you see a RED CROSS somewhere on the signage…? or somewhere on the physical building…?

  9. Uffe Kristiansen says:

    Fine with a rookie’s cup but make a regional RC390 cup for those of us getting older too. I’m 43 and would love to race this in a spec series. Fairly low cost. All on the same equipment. On-track dealer support for those technically challenged. I’d sign up in a heartbeat! Think Miata spec series for bikes.

  10. Alpinaweiss says:

    all KTM needs to do for the US market is design an online ordering & logistics
    system, with different warranty back-up “packages” depending on intended/performed
    usage of the bikes by the owners.

    that, and this product(and provided that their Asian partners have the production capacity potential if the thing sells hot) if priced around 5k, are enough to make some serious market-share shifts in the (much awaited, thank you God almighty!) sub-500cc light sport/race bikes category.

    knowing KTM market strategy, however, they might opt for exclusivity and long-term brand building, as opposed to going pure “commercial”.

    but surprises are still possible, as the motorcycle manufacturers (and especially the japanese Big Four) are getting bolder and more innovative seemingly by the minute – which can only be .. good times indeed !!!

  11. allworld says:

    I love the bike and really like KTM products, but in my neck of the woods while there are several KTM dealers, only one sells street bikes. For some odd reason KTM doesn’t allow all its dealers to sell street bikes.
    They have a thin dealer network as is compared to other brands, so the weak link to the success of this bike and other street bikes is not the manufacturing capabilities, nor the consumer demand, but KTM themselves.
    Does a former Piaggio manager now work for KTM,….:)

    • John says:

      Agree, this bike and the Duke look awesome but KTM really needs to work on broadening their dealer network.

      • Jeremy in TX says:

        I am sure dealers want to see a line of bikes they can sell. It is a bit of a chicken-egg conundrum I imagine.

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “For some odd reason KTM doesn’t allow all its dealers to sell street bikes.”

      my local franchisee (like many) has been with KTM since the pre-street days and is certainly “grandfathered” to just off-road kit. also, being both multi-line and rather cantankerous, i’m sure he’s told KTM to “cram it” in regards to any attempts to push street bikes on his business. can’t fault him, he’s seen pretenders come, he’s seen pretenders go. so unfortunately, it’s going to be a cold day in hell before this (or any other KTM street bike) is spotted in my area.

      • Dave says:

        “will KTM dealers be able to keep up with demand?”

        Maybe the better question will be, “will KTM dealers evolve and sell road bikes?” This was a major issue/obstacle to Buell’s growth. HD dealers didn’t want it or get it.

  12. Austin ZZR 1200 says:

    Love it. Want it. Lets see the fruits of globalization work in the right way and send it here, street-legal for $5k.

  13. Norm G. says:

    as audi abandons the trellis… ktm, (their neighbors to the south) pick up the “fumble” and run it in for the touchdown. all that “plumbing” and only 280-310lbs…? that’s gotta be some kind of a record.

  14. Tommy D says:

    I’d buy one right now . I always envied the Japanese with their 400cc race replicas back in the day. Grey market lightweight nirvana. My local track doesn’t have much of a straight. This thing would be FUN at NHIS.

  15. Don Fraser says:

    that cheap? I’m in.

  16. raivkka says:

    Be nice if it was a 390 2 stroker

    • Roberto says:

      Now that would be something…would be much lighter if it was a 2-stroke. My old TZ250 was 220lbs wet. I managed 86 hp with a fresh top and bottom. Factory teams saw much more than that.

  17. mk says:

    There are already 6 690 dukes waiting for customers in a San Fran shop, so as long as they can market these bikes well they will sell.

  18. endoman38 says:

    Leave the RC building to Honda.

  19. Selecter says:

    Obviously what’s pictured here is a race bike; it makes one wonder exactly what will be changed for a production model. If they want to get within striking distance of the Ninja 300 or CBR500R, a guy’s gotta guess that neither the radial-mount brake nor the fancy inverted forks shown here would make the cut.

    The Internet has it that the Duke 390 costs Rs 180,000 in its home market… under $3100, but is closer to 4500GBP in the UK. Which is quite the markup, even adjusted for VAT and other Euro-tax nonsense. Makes me wonder that when it gets stateside, which half of the pricing schema we’re closer to… The Duke 390 and this RC390 would absolutely slaughter the US low-price market if it was $3500 or even $4000.

    I await more details anxiously.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      The Brits always get hammered with pricing for some reason. Not sure what the mechanism is there that causes it.

      • 80-watt Hamster says:

        VAT is generally included in the retail price, so a 4500GBP bike costs 4500GBP (plus dealer fees and crap). On pure exchange rate, the same amount is a purchase price of ~6800USD, which would be an MSRP of about $6300. The 690 is 6800GBP (or $10.3k) vs 9000USD (~$9700 with tax), about a 6% living-in-the-US discount. My fearless prediction: US MSRP of $5999

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      And for what it is worth, the 390 Duke is fitted with an inverted fork and radial brake.

    • Halfbaked says:

      The 390 Duke has an inverted WP fork and as KTM owns the company it seems very unlikely that the RC would lose that particular component.

  20. Al T says:

    Send one to my house with a MSO. I figure out the lights myself.

  21. jim says:

    Oh hell yes!

  22. todd says:

    oh yeah, with lights.

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