KTM 390 Adventure

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Updated: October 12, 2020

We might as well ’fess up early: riding the 390 Adventure was seriously good fun. We’ll try and be all pro and give sensible opinions, but it’s not easy when every time we think of the 390 Adventure we crack a huge smile and start remembering some of the crazy stuff we did. A lot of the fun we had on the bike wasn’t too sensible at all.

We kept telling ourselves this was a LAMS approved bike, and a small-bore, and we needed to keep in mind the bike’ intended purpose. But no sooner had we thought that than a greasy rocked creek bed would beckon, or someone on a bigger bike would challenge around a corner, or there looked to be a sneaky line through some lantana that would give us the lead. Such is the nature of the 390 that every time something like that happened we didn’t hesitate to have a crack at it. Other bikes may well have caused us to pause due to their size or insane power output, but with the 390 we put our brains in our backpack sand didn’t hesitate about anything. Not once. And the result was sensational, awesome fun riding every time.

Intended Purpose

KTM’s adventure models, like the 790Adventure, are renowned for being strong performance areas like power output, handling, and especially suspension. The390 has those characteristics to a degree that should satisfy even the most critical KTM fans, allowing, of course, for its engine capacity.

The motor is very smooth right through the rev range. It’s not a stump puller at low revs, but it’s no weakling dawdling through the city either. A light, smooth, slipper clutch makes it easy to let a rider deal with stop-start traffic, and the quick shifter on our test bike worked really well in that situation.As long as the bike was moving we hardly needed to think about the clutch at all.

Braking was strong and the ABS was excellent. We tried the standard ABS setting on a bitumen run on a rainy afternoon and it worked well, but the Offroad setting suited us better, and once we’d tried it we pretty much left it selected for our whole time with the bike. It meant no ABS on the rear.

WP suspension front and rear?

Say no more.

We did manage to crunch the shock once during a poorly executed maneuver that didn’t go to plan, but in general, it coped with everything well.

We reckon a bike like this one is probably going to spend most of its time with young riders going to and from uni or work, with maybe some lightweight trail riding on weekends and perhaps that one big adventure ride in a year. For that kind of rider in that kind of setting the 390Adventure is superb. It’s a great pleasure to ride, the electronics will help look after an inexperienced rider in the best possible way, and both on and off-road it’ll hold its own, even in among much bigger capacity, higher specced bikes.

KTM has done an excellent job with the390 Adventure.

Toughen up, Princess

What about some rougher going with more experienced riders?

This is where the bike became interesting for us.

The comparatively low power output will put off some potential owners for sure, but in a  strange anomaly, good riders will get all they need from this motor, while inexperienced riders will find it so easy to use they’re likely to perform above their expectation on it too. Compared to the current crop of grunt monsters the 390 is a horsepower lightweight, but geez, it’s a sensationally good fun motor, and when it’s used, and used hard, the race heritage shows. It’ll spin up quickly and run at highway speeds or gobble up fast, off-road tracks without any complaint.

Another way of looking at it is the 390Adventure offers a rider a chance to show how good he or she is. Whatever level the rider sits, the motor on the 390 Adventure will match. Navigating the menu is all done from the left-hand switch block and is fairly straightforward.

D’oh

As is often the case, some of the bike’s strengths can, in some situations, also be its weaknesses. For the 390, there were a couple of things that really got our goat.

The one that really porked our chop was the traction control resetting itself to the ‘on’ position, even if the ignition was left on and the killswitch flicked off.

We’re being careful there because traction control is an excellent safety feature and plenty of bikes these days are offering different levels of control. The 390 has only on and off. It works well for its intended purpose keeping riders safe – but makes no allowance for mud, sand, clay, or corrugations, and the bike’s almost unrideable in those situations if the traction control is on. The bike was so much fun we wanted to do a lot of that type of terrain, so we were constantly resetting the traction control.

Again, the motor having less punch than the bigger bikes made traction control less critical in off-road situations, so an interesting balance presented itself.

Another thing that gave us cause for thought was KTM’s claim of a fuel range of around400km from a tank. We couldn’t get that range in our time with the bike. We averaged around 23km per litre, and that meant about340km from a tank. The warning light came on at around 230km and the readout insisted we had around 160km left, but the fuel gauge dropped so fast we panicked and filled it each time it happened. We felt like even340km from the tank was possibly optimistic, but we admit we did push the bike a little at times. For its intended purpose the fuel range is good. Anyone wanting to head to the wide-open spaces might want to consider carrying a little extra.

Happy, happy, joy, joy

As we said at the start, the 390 Adventure is an insanely good fun bike to ride. It’s smooth but still has enough snap in the motor to offer good performance from those who knowhow to ask for it, it’s light and easy to move around, the stock suspension and brakes are really good, and it’s loaded with features we don’t expect to find on a LAMS bike. For its intended purpose – LAMS riders and perhaps those just beginning their adventure riding journey – it’s superb. For experienced riders looking for maximum enjoyment and perhaps less hardcore physical commitment, it must be a great option. The seat height is comparatively low too, and there are a lot of ofriders who’ll consider that a major bonus.

We’d rate the bike’s adventure capability and versatility as ‘high’ and would be happy to point the 390 Adventure at a ride of just about any kind.

In fact, we wish someone, anyone, would challenge us to do some more crazy shit on the 390.

Now we’re grinning again.