October 29, 2021 By Maynard Marcelo

Bike Review: 2021 KTM 390 Adventure

This bike is just amazing. I know it’s good. But I didn’t expect it to be THIS good. I mean, it’s made by KTM and assembled locally by the good folks at the KAMMI assembly plant in Laguna so you wouldn’t expect anything less. But after riding for more than 1,200 kilometers around Northern Luzon on it during the 2021 KTM Orange Ride Out I am pretty convinced that it is the best value entry-level adventure bike in the market today. Except on the really long straights the KTM 390 Adventure can keep up with its bigger stablemates and it proved to be more than a match on the twisty stuff, showing that the 390 Duke, where it was based on, is very much alive deep within. Plus it has the added benefits of having more advanced features such as adjustable suspension, traction control, and cornering ABS. 

The very first checkpoint we encountered from Cabanatuan was at the welcome arch to Nueva Vizcaya via Dalton Pass. The PNP personnel were very courteous asking for our travel pass and destination.

Powering the 390 Adventure is the same tried and proven liquid-cooled 373.2cc (rounded off to 400cc, of course) single cylinder with double overhead cams and 4 valves also found on the 390 Duke and RC390. It makes a healthy 43.5 hp at 9500 rpm and a maximum torque of 26 lb-ft at 7000 rpm that’s more than enough to allow the lightweight 390 Adventure to run with the big dogs, well, until it reaches its 160 km/h top speed. Not that there are many places where you can actually go beyond the posted speed limit anyways. 

Requisite photo ops at the Nueva Vizcaya-Isabela boundary.

Top speed may be the 390 Adventure’s biggest handicap, but when the road turns twisty the 390 Duke within takes over, allowing the 390 Adventure to curve corners with pinpoint precision despite having a bigger 19-inch diameter front wheel compared to 17 on the Duke. It also helps that the 390 Adventure is equipped with higher spec WP Apex 43 upside-down forks in front and a WP Apex mono-shock in the rear, providing a more supple ride and stable cornering. The slipper clutch also helps smoothen downshifts, not only preventing annoying rear wheel chatter while decelerating but also gives a lighter clutch lever action.  

Another group photo ops in Isabela City proper after having lunch.

Two advanced rider aids not available on the 390 Duke, however, are Traction Control and cornering ABS. The traction control system on the 390 Adventure is lean-angle sensitive that reacts immediately when the system detects a discrepancy in the rear wheel speed that’s disproportionate to the riding situation, and reduces engine output that’s barely perceptible until slippage is reduced to optimum proportions for the selected ride mode and lean angle. 

Quick stop over in Gattaran, Cagayan for some fresh buko juice.

The ABS on the other hand has an off-road function, which is optimised for use in slippery environments. In this mode ABS is deactivated on the rear wheel while ABS intervention on the front wheel is reduced, allowing the rider to lock up the rear wheel to steer the rear end into corners. Wheels are cast aluminum while standard fitment rubbers are Continental TKC 70 that provide plenty of grip on and off road. Brake calipers are made by Bybre, a subsidiary of Brembo. 

After getting separated from the main group I stopped just before crossing the welcome arch to Ilocos Norte. The Covid task force manning the checkpoint were friendly, but very strict with travel requirements.

The 390 Adventure is equipped with the same large color TFT display found on the 390 Duke and can be easily controlled using the 4-way buttons on the left hand switchgear. Most important information is readily available on the main screen like speed, tachometer, gear, engine temperature, trip meter, odometer, battery voltage, fuel level, fuel range, abs and traction control status, and time. Other settings can be accessed on the sub menus like ride modes and traction control. Speaking of traction control, we wish there’s a dedicated button for turning it on or off so we don’t have to dive into the sub menus to deactivate it everytime we switch off the motor.    

After traversing some dirt roads we finally reached the Patapat Viaduct in Pagudpud, Ilocos Norte.

We covered more than 1,200 kilometers, most of which were on pavement, during the 2021 Orange Ride Out and that allowed me to thoroughly test the 390 Adventure’s touring ability. I must say I was immensely impressed with the 390 Adventure but it’s not without some faults. First of all, the seat height. At 855mm it’s a bit on the tall side and this might present some problems to short Filipino riders, especially the new ones with which KTM targets for the 390 Adventure. Perhaps an adjustable seat or a redesign of the subframe will address this issue on the next 390 Adventure. Secondly, the footpegs are canted forward and while it felt natural when you’re attacking corners, it felt awkward when you’re standing up while riding offroad. 

A trip to Bangui, Ilocos Norte is not complete without some photos at the welcome arch or the wind turbines.

A 390 Adventure owner and follower of our social media page, Mr, Ipe Reibaus, suggests that we opt for the optional quickshifter. He said it is worth every centavo and makes the 390 Adventure so much more fun to ride. And we agree with him. The 390 Adventure was designed with a quickshifter in the first place and even without it installed, the ECU somehow auto blips the throttle when you’re downshifting a gear which feels a bit disconcerting at first until you inevitably get used to it. We wish for KTM to make the quickshifter standard on the 390 Adventure. These are some but minor faults to an otherwise perfect platform and can be dismissed if you’re not as nitpicky as we are. 

The roads and sceneries in Ilocos Norte are just spectacular. Very few traffic, too.

Along with the 200, 390, and 790 Duke, 790 Adventure and 790 Adventure R, the 390 Adventure is proudly made in the Philippines at the KAMMI (KTM Asia Motorcycle Manufacturing, Inc.) factory in Santa Rosa, Laguna and not only does these models give much needed employment to Filipino workers they can also be priced much lower compared to when they were imported from other countries. At PhP 309,000 the 390 Adventure presents extreme value in the entry-level adventure touring bike segment and should be included in your list if you’re shopping for one. No wonder it won for two consecutive years in our annual C! Awards.    

Stopped by the roadside on our way to Vigan, Ilocos Sur to take in this beautiful view of the ocean and the 390 Adventure.


Specifications:

Engine: efi, liquid-cooled, 1 cylinder, 4 stroke, 4 valve, dohc

Displacement: 373cc

Max Power: 43.5 hp @ 9500 rpm

Max Torque: 26.03 lb-ft @ 7000 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed

Seat Height: 855mm

Fuel Capacity: 14 Liters

Tire, Front: 100/90-19

Tire, Rear: 130/80-17

Brakes, Front/ Rear: Disc/Disc Cornering ABS

Curb Weight: 163 kg

Top Speed:  160 Km/h 

Price: PhP 309,000 

+: Punchy motor, agile chassis, comfortable ergos, advanced electronics, value for money

-: Tall seat height, canted foot pegs.

C! Rating 10/10 


We made it to Vigan just in time to watch the beautiful sunset. The following day we made our way back to Manila, concluding the 2021 KTM Orange Ride Out.

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