Head off the straight and narrow with the KTM 390 Adventure
The KTM 390 Adventure motorcycle will be light for your travels and easy on your wallet
The world of big adventure motorcycles has always been a romanticised one.
Advertising campaigns dare you to go into the unknown on these huge, powerful and technologically superior machines. The world is your oyster, they say.
But what if you snap a motorcycle chain or break a drive shaft? How do you repair a dual-purpose motorcycle that requires special tools and diagnostic equipment out in the wilderness?
Getting bogged in mud with nobody to help you yank a 250kg motorcycle can end your globe-trotting dreams as quickly as you can say "automobile association".
What manufacturers do not tell you is that the same adventure can be had on smaller, simpler bikes - like the 2020 KTM 390 Adventure.
With a dry weight of 158kg and costing $13,500 without the certificate of entitlement, this KTM is easy to handle and will not burn a hole in your wallet. Its rivals include the Zontes T310 Adventure and BMW R 310 GS.
The KTM offers a natural riding posture, allowing the rider's feet to rest flat on tarmac.
The key to its pliant handling is its ultra-light trellis frame, which is similar to the championship-winning KTM 450 Rally's. The 390's wheelbase of 1,430mm strikes a delicate balance between straight-line stability and mild off-road riding.
Want to head to a faraway destination, like across the Thai-Malaysian border? The single-cylinder, 373cc KTM will get the job done. But it may take you a few hours longer, given its rather modest output of 43bhp and 37Nm, and top speed of around 160kmh.
The compact 390 has similar styling cues as the more powerful KTM 790 Adventure. It retains the face-like headlamp, a bash plate and pseudo radiator shrouds.
At the rear are large grab rails and a flat exhaust pipe.
The electronic features on the ride-by-wire 390 are sufficient for most riders. Gauges on its TFT screen show average fuel consumption, battery voltage and riding aids such as anti-lock braking system (ABS) and traction control.
There is also an off-road ABS function which disarms ABS on the rear wheel while reducing intervention to the front one. This allows for brake-sliding or steering the rear wheel into off-road bends.
Surprisingly, the 390 also comes with cornering ABS and a slipper clutch, features that are commonly found on pricier and larger motorcycles.
A bonus is its adjustable WP Apex suspension - its 43mm inverted forks offer fine-tuning of compression and rebound damping on separate fork legs without the need for tools.
The KTM feels more at home on roads. Its rounder profile semi-off-road tyres are better at low lean angles than scooping up dirt. Still, it will hold its own on gravel or logging trails.
It is also a fuel saver capable of about 30km to a litre of petrol. In theory, it can cover about 430km with its 14.5-litre tank.
But you would have to moderate your expectations. The 390 does not have low-down explosive acceleration that comes with larger engines.
While acceleration is smooth, you will need to keep revs above 5,000rpm before you see some serious speed. It takes around six seconds to go from 0 to 100kmh.
I also faced some difficulty in finding "neutral" on its rattling gear shifter, especially after riding off-road.
But those are small miseries given the fuss-free journey the bike offers. Not to mention less stress on the wallet.