Accessible‌ ‌Adventurer‌

Story by Alan Cathcart// Photos by Heiko Mand
June 9 2020

A‌ ‌smaller-displacement,‌ ‌full-size‌ ‌adventure‌ ‌bike‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌masses‌.

Since KTM began production back in 2011 of its smaller Duke models, no fewer than 515,000 KTM motorcycles have been built by Bajaj Auto, KTM’s partner, in Pune, India. According to Stefan Pierer, KTM’s president and CEO, volume gradually increased throughout this decade until more than 100,000 such bikes left the Pune production lines in 2018, around half of them for India and Indonesia, two of the top three bike markets globally. The rest went to countries all over the world, from Austria to Australia, from Ukraine to the U.S. More than 20 per cent of KTM’s total 2018 production of 261,454 bikes headed to the U.S., split between its eponymous brand and Husqvarna,

None of those Indian-built KTMs, however, were directly descended from the kind of dual-purpose on/off-road bikes that have made Austria-based KTM so successful in the marketplace since introducing its first 620 Adventure multi-purpose single-cylinder back in 1996. That absence is widely attributed to Bajaj boss Rajiv Bajaj’s lack of conviction that any real demand existed for such machines in his company’s massive home market, which is the largest in the world for combustion-engined motorcycles. That’s despite the challenging road surfaces found throughout India, which a street Enduro’s longer-travel suspension ideally would cope with, and the traffic-clogged cities through which a taller seat height is beneficial in helping plot a course – let alone the glorious adventure riding possibilities throughout the subcontinent. One can only conjecture that the advent of the 411 cc Royal Enfield Himalayan and the Indian-built BMW G310GS in the past two years may have helped change his mind – that, and Stefan Pierer’s talent for persuasion.

390 Adventure’s Introduction

That absence has now been addressed with the launch of the first small-displacement KTM go-anywhere bike at the 2019 EICMA Show in Milan. The KTM 390 Adventure, developed primarily in KTM’s R&D Centre at its HQ in Mattighofen, Austria, will be entirely manufactured in India. Using the 390 Duke as a platform, the Adventure’s distinctive design is also derived from the company’s dominant KTM rally bike, which won the iconic Dakar race 18 years in a row, from 2001 to 2019. Indeed, with such rally events limited to 450 cc bikes since 2011, KTM can justly claim that the 390 Adventure is more closely related to the company’s serial race-winning off-roaders than its larger-displacement parallel-twin 790 Adventure and V-twin 1290 Super Adventure models are.

I was the first outsider to ride the preproduction version of the new model and the bike promises to be a genuine multi-purpose entry-level motorcycle rather than a look-alike styling exercise or a neo-retro nostalgia bike.

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