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Motorcycle Review: 2020 KTM 390 Adventure – Driving

St. Hippolyte, QC — KTM’s new 390 Adventure vibrates at speed, has a seat only a dominatrix could love and, despite its off-road(ish) silhouette, rides on cast aluminum rims seemingly inappropriate for  serious dirt donking. What I’m saying is that, individually detailed, the little Katoom doesn’t particularly stand out in the increasingly crowded junior adventure segment.

BUT — and this particular “but” truly deserves to be all caps — the little Austrian single lunger is proof positive that the whole really can be a greater than the sum of its parts.

Not that its parts are all too shabby. The KTM, despite its diminutive displacement, has some top-flight technology. The WP suspension is adjustable for damping, the TFT dashboard is bluetooth-ed so you can hook it up to your phone and its ABS brakes are cornering-friendly. More importantly, the littlest KTM, again despite its entry-level status, feels like a real motorcycle, a sensation not exactly common in the sub 400-cc segment.

The first thing you notice on climbing aboard is that the 390 Adventure, unlike so many budget bikes, is full-sized. The seat height is an adult-like 855 millimetres, seat-to-peg distance is sufficient to accommodate even tall riders and the reach to the wide, dirtbike-like handlebar feels like it might for any other adventure touring ride. Now, on the one hand, said full-sized status will prove a roadblock to some beginners looking for something a little more authentic than Honda’s CB500X. On the other hand, its relatively rangey seating position means the 390 won’t be quickly outgrown.

Ditto KTM’s willing little engine. Sporting one piston, the 390 is nonetheless good for 44 horsepower. More impressive is the eagerness with which it wants to transmit said 44 hp. Most single-cylinder engines