KTM Duke

The New KTM 390 Duke

Dear Santa. Pleeez can we have a 390 Duke, but make it cooler looking, give it awesome adjustable suspension, and a fancy new screen, and make it smoother…

It looks like Santa has some connections with RAD KTM because, just before Christmas, they handed us the best 390 Duke yet to play around with. For a whole day!

By Rene and Stefan.

Blackrock Studio

From RAD we dived straight into Sandton traffic, which is the Duke’s natural habitat.
This cheeky little KTM is designed perfectly for an exciting commute, with all the agility and pep to get around town as fast and fun as possible in the bustling city streets.

“The new models represent the biggest change to the sub-500cc capacity Duke model range since the first KTM 390 Duke. The result is a complete redesign with new engines, an all-new chassis concept, and new styling.” 

The 399cc (up from 373cc) engine has been completely redesigned with a newly optimized cylinder head and gearbox. It meets the latest emissions standards. It also features throttle-by-wire, a new Power Assist Slipper Clutch (PASC), and optional Quickshifter+.

The new riding position is slightly more aggressive, it feels like you sit more inside of the bike as opposed to more on top with the previous model. The invisible orange seat is also much softer and more comfortable.
The grips felt a bit smaller, but after riding around for the whole day it felt more comfortable than the grips on the older model.

The new tech pack has a bunch of cool features, and it’s very nice to have. I also enjoy the new display design. I didn’t play with any of the modes, I leave it with ABS and MTC on, because I know that the bike is probably a much better rider than myself, and I have confidence in the safety features of the Duke.

Another small new feature that I appreciate, is the hazard button. If you use the bike for commuting or just as a general runaround machine, then you’ll most likely find yourself stopped next to the road checking your phone or GPS a couple of times a day, which makes having hazard lights on your bike to improve visibility a necessity.

Another favourite addition is the set of grab rails on the back seat. It was always a mission to strap a camera bag or something on the rear end of my old Duke, but now there is plenty of luggage strapping potential, further rounding this bike out as a versatile machine.

The 390 Duke boasts a 43mm WP APEX open-cartridge fork with five-click adjustment on rebound and compression and a split-piston rear shock with adjustable rebound and preload.”

The new Apex suspension is comfortable and smooth. It feels softer than the previous suspension and more stable when cornering, especially when riding on the highway. Where the previous model felt a bit twitchy, this new one feels solid on the highway when cruising along at 120 odd kph.

My 2021 Duke was my first ever motorcycle, and one of the things that took me a while to get comfortable with, was its aggressive and snappy throttle response. The power kicked in very easily, and was either on or off, without a gradual transition. This feels much smoother in the new model, with a gradual power output with a definite peak at around 7k rpm – less angry and more racey.

The part that people either love or hate about each new naked brought into the market, are the looks. Like it or not, manufacturers keep pushing more futuristic and edgy designs on their naked performance bikes. KTM’s looks have always been one of my favourites, and I love the direction that they have taken. 

Visually, the 390 has longer tank spoilers featuring prominent air intakes, larger radiator covers, and external LED positioning lights. 

An even more dynamic and aggressive fender and headlight design, without going overboard. The tidy little exhaust popping out at the bottom of the rear wheel looks much cleaner than the classic old can stuck beside the bike. It’s great to see such a neat solution to the ever-more restrictive emissions requirements. Plus the side-mounted rear shock just makes the bike look like a million bucks.

On top of all the funky new fenders and bits, they cleaned up one of my biggest pet peeves with my 390. The integration of the Screen to the handlebar looked pretty funny and awkward from the face, which almost ruined the iconic KTM headlight design for me. The 2024 model looks much more thought out with great attention to detail, really rounding off that front end.
Which one do I like more?

 I think it’s pretty obvious… KTM brought us a more premium 390 Duke, for only a slight price bump, I’m thoroughly impressed.

Stefan tried to steal the new bike from me all day, and eventually, I let him take it for a spin for a bit.
This is what he had to say:

This is a more premium version of the last model.

The tech upgrade and new display layout are just what was needed to tie it in properly with the rest of KTM’s advanced machines.

You get 3 new riding modes, of which only one changes your ride. 

Rain mode ups the safety features a bit, just to give you that extra confidence when mother nature strikes. The track mode is much the same as road mode, but it gives you the ability to turn on launch control. Launch control on a 390!? 

Sadly only available after the bike has 1000km on the clock, so we’ll be back…
Other than that you get a handy stopwatch feature in track mode, along with a lap timer/counter which you can count by pressing down on KTM’s easy-to-use controls on the left bar.

Now you can play around in a bunch of new menus for all kinds of little settings, but the ones you’ll most likely want to play with are the supermoto ABS mode carried over from the previous model, disabling the rear, and the new traction control toggle, which can set to road, rain or off so, if Pops pays for tyres,  you can show off your burnout skills to all your friends.


                         One of the really big upgrades is the new suspension.

The suspension upgrade is also much appreciated. The 2024 duke comes with the same fully adjustable WP Apex suspension that they introduced on KTM’s previous adventure models.  Not only can you now dial in your perfect ride feel, but the standard setting on the new suspension immediately gives a more planted feel to the bike, especially at high speeds. With the Apex’s semi-active technology, you get a softer feel around town at lower speeds and a stiffer and much more stable feel at higher speeds. 

I like it a lot! It makes the 390 handle like big fancy sport bike around the long sweeping bends through Cradle Valley.

Duke 390
The new looks? Well you decide.

I am a big fan of the snappy throttle response on the previous model, it made the bike feel much more cheeky, so you can have lots of fun with less power. The new power delivery feels more racey, and back-to-back with the old bike feels less raw, a more refined ride.

But – and I need to point this out, this bike only had 600 KM’s on the clock, so realistically, we need to ride it again once it’s completed the run-in cycle and had the first service.

KTM took a great little bike and made it even better. I can’t think of anything that I’d change about the new model. While the previous model was a bike that we both really enjoyed, the 2024 Duke 390 feels better in just about every way. It’s certainly one of the best bang for your buck bikes that you can get right now.

The new bike comes in at R109.999. Remember:

New electronics, New suspension, New engine, New chassis… For what seems to be a slight price increase in todays terms of around R8000, you get a whole lot more bike.

It’s just so lekker!

This one from RAD KTM.

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