Cycle Canada Test – KTM 390 Adventure

By Éric Ménard. Pictures: Sebas Romero and Éric Ménard. Posted on



Canada is rich in trails and forest roads of all kinds. No matter which direction we point our bike we can find a way to discover more roads to nowhere.

So it makes sense that we are a breeding ground for adventure motorcycle manufacturers of all stripes. In fact, for the past 10 years or so, the adventure segment has grown substantially in Canada. Many people have swapped their standard, sport touring or custom motorcycle for dual-purpose motorcycles offering more comfort, better suspensions and the promise of adventure in unknown territories.

Obviously manufacturers who were already in off-road mode were the first to benefit from this craze. Among them, the Austrian manufacturer KTM. It is therefore normal that their model range today offers not only off-road motorcycles but also a wide and ever-growing choice of dual-purpose motorcycles. After the 990, 1190, 1290, 690, 790 and so on, we arrive today with the latest addition to the family: the 390 Adventure.

Based on the 390 Duke but sharing the looks of its adventure siblings, the smallest of this bunch will surely bring many motorcyclists to the adventure segment. Some that hesitated to enter this market either for lack of budget, lack of confidence or experience in off-road motorcycling.  It could also be simply because they were too vertically challenged to dare climb on a heavy motorcycle with long travel suspension. In any case, the 390 is undoubtedly the most user-friendly motorcycle that the Austrian manufacturer has ever offered.

It will satisfy both beginners and intermediates who will find in it an ally to familiarize themselves with adventure motorcycling. Be it on dirt roads, forest trails or even urban adventures, this newcomer will be able to steer through it all easily.

KTM installed a high-performance 373 cc single-cylinder 4-stroke that pumps out a claimed 43.5 hp at 9500rpm. This mill delivers a little more power than its competitors in the same category, enough to carry the 348 pound (dry weight) motorcycle at respectable speeds on the highway and on any trails.

In fact, the liquid-cooled single perfectly propels this nimble little machine into the world of adventure riding. The double overhead camshaft design with four valves and electronic fuel injection plus ride-by-wire electronics come together to give us a surprisingly powerful and flexible engine. It was also fitted with a larger radiator to improve its performance.

This small, simple engine will likely require little maintenance and has beenhoused in a chassis optimized for flexion and weight. The WP APEX suspension is similar to the 390’s larger siblings, is adjustableb, and offers 170 mm of travel at the front and 177 mm at the rear.

On the braking side, ByBre (by Brembo) brake calipers and a two-channel ABS system developed by Bosch are installed. To take on the trails, there is of course a standard ABS offroad mode.

What is surprising is all the electronic equipment found on this motorcycle. Riding aids are at a higher level than what is available on the market in this displacement range. Tilt-sensitive traction control (MTC), a PASC slipper clutch (optional) to keep the power on the ground at all times and cornering ABS will all help beginners get out of trouble on slippery ground and technical climbs.

On the handlebar, we discover an astonishing level of comfort considering the small size of this motorcycle. Aside from the gorgeous colour TFT dashboard, this bike offers access to the KTM My Ride app for mobile phones. This allows you to pair your smart phone with the dashboard to control all kinds of things and even display GPS directions on the bike screen. It’s definitely not necessary but frankly pleasant to use.

We were more comfortable in a sitting position than standing where it becomes more restrictive for the experienced pilot. On the road, the little 390 is quite comfortable despite limited wind protection for the head; protection is surprisingly good for the lower body, though, the fairing deflecting air adequately, a plus at cruising speeds. Its windshield offers two positions but remains rather short.

Our test initially included a section of country road of about 40 kilometres where the motorcycle was fun to ride. It is friendly, not at all intimidating. The engine is lively, the steering is good, and the adjustable suspension responds more than adequately to dirt, gravel, and asphalt. The next section was a one-hour highway ride where the bike was obviously not in its best element. Wind protection is limited and if you are taller than 5 feet, 10 inches, you will become tired of getting your head bumped around. The standard riding position, on the other hand, is very comfortable and the two-part saddle offers reasonable comfort. The foot pegs are at a height that will suit most inseam lengths.

We then had an appointment in an off-road motorcycle centre with a lot of sandy sections and stony climbs and sections on a mix of dirt and long grass. On the rocky sections the motorcycle keeps its trajectory and does what it’s supposed to in a confidence-inspiring way. Its suspension and traction control work together to get you up the hill as if you were a pro. One cannot ride this small bike as if it were a bigger, tougher bike but if you keep in mind the limitations, you will be able to have a lot of fun with it and conquer any terrain. And if you drop it or have to push the bike, you will love its more reasonable weight.

We really think this newcomer has its place in the KTM range. Maybe even more than some of the last iterations where we’ve seen differences of only 100 cc between two consecutive models. You have to wonder why KTM has not brought this model to the market before. Especially since they already had a road-worthy 390 in their stable. In an era where smaller displacement motorcycles are experiencing increasing demand, the 390 Adventure is right in tune with the times. Obviously we get a little more bumped around than on a larger dual-purpose motorcycle and we will not have as much autonomy or possibilities than on these expensive brutes. But a motorcycle is always a compromise between comfort, performance, price and so on. The MSRP of $6,799 is a little higher than the price of its competitors in the same category but it offers more technology and a little more power for the money.


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