Bikes designed for beginners come in a variety of shapes, but for safety’s sake, their engines aren’t terribly big. However, small-capacity motorcycles’ compact dimensions, low curb weights, and lower power make them excellent teaching tools. And even veteran riders can enjoy sharpening their skills on the street or track with an entry-level sportbike like the Kawasaki Ninja 400. But as good as the Ninja 400 is, it may have just met its match: the 2022 KTM RC 390.
KTM sharpens its RC 390 beginner sportbike for 2022 with MotoGP-like looks and racetrack-ready tech
|Spec||2022 KTM RC 390|
|Engine||373cc liquid-cooled single-cylinder|
|Transmission||Six-speed manual with slipper clutch|
|Front suspension and travel||Fully-adjustable WP Apex inverted cartridge fork; 4.72”|
|Rear suspension and travel||Fully-adjustable WP Apex mono-shock; 5.91”|
|Dry weight||342 lbs|
Since its 2014 introduction, the KTM RC 390 has been a solid choice for sportbike buyers on a budget, particularly for track duty. However, while KTM mildly updated its beginner-friendly sportbike over the years, it was starting to feel dated, Bennetts notes. So, for 2022, the single-cylinder motorcycle doesn’t just get an update, but a full-on redesign.
To keep the 2022 RC 390 in line with European license regulations, it doesn’t have more horsepower. However, in addition to updating the 373cc engine to Euro5 emissions compliance, KTM revised the fueling and installed a new exhaust and airbox, Cycle World says. So, the redesigned bike makes slightly more torque.
But eking out more performance out of the engine wasn’t KTM’s main goal; handling was. For 2022, the RC 390 has a stiffer, lighter frame and fully-adjustable suspension, both new. KTM also moved the battery and electronics for better weight distribution. The bike’s wheels are lighter, too, by 30%, or 7.5 lbs each, and wrapped in new Continental tires. And the upgraded ByBre ABS-equipped disc brakes are lighter as well, Motorcyclist reports.
Its MotoGP-like looks are matched with racetrack-ready tech
Speaking of ABS, for 2022, the KTM RC 390 gets cornering-enhanced adjustable ABS. This comes as part of the single-cylinder sportbike’s technology upgrade, which includes lean-sensitive traction control and a full-color Bluetooth-equipped TFT display. Now, even the ‘baby’ KTM can connect with the company’s MyRide app. Plus, it now has all-LED lighting.
Besides the tech upgrades, the 2022 RC 390 redesign comes with a new look inspired by KTM’s MotoGP bikes. But it’s not just for show: KTM claims it raises the top speed by 7 mph, CW says. Plus, the bike has a bigger fuel tank, a comfier seat, and adjustable brake and clutch levers. Even the handlebar height is adjustable.
The 2022 KTM RC 390 “sets a new benchmark” for entry-level sport and track bikes, Cycle World says
One downside of making the 2022 KTM RC 390 Euro5-compliant is that the stock exhaust somewhat strangles the sound, especially at low RPM, CW notes. The optional Akrapovic exhaust helps somewhat, though, Bennetts reports. Also, while the redesigned RC 390 has more tech, a quickshifter still isn’t standard.
However, these are ultimately minor quibbles in the grand scheme of things. The 2022 RC 390 “is a big step up” from an already capable bike, Bennetts says. And as impressive as the spec sheet is, it doesn’t sell how capable this motorcycle is, MCN reports.
On the street, the updated single-cylinder pulls strongly even at relatively low RPM. But it, as well as the exhaust note, truly comes alive above 6000 RPM. And no matter what gear you’re in, the 2022 RC 390 races eagerly to its 11,000-RPM redline, Motorcyclist says. True, it’s not the most powerful motorcycle around. But that means you can zing the engine without worrying about breaking the speed limit.
As with a Miata or a Grom, riding a 2022 KTM RC 390 well is about maintaining speed in the corners. And the 2022 redesign makes that a breeze. The lighter wheels and grippier tires, combined with the suspension and chassis upgrades, make for intuitive, easy handling with excellent steering feedback, Bennetts reports. The traction control no doubt plays a part, but you can’t feel it working, which is a good thing. And despite being a sportbike, the 2022 RC 390 has a forgiving and surprisingly plush ride. The seat and riding ergonomics are better, too.
It’s great fun on the street, but the 2022 KTM RC 390 is arguably even more in its element on a racetrack. Even after an extended lapping session on a hot day, the brakes only slightly faded at the very end. And again, the tires and suspension make it easy to start dragging knees.
Is the 2022 KTM RC 390 good value for money?
As of this writing, KTM hasn’t announced official US pricing for the 2022 RC 390. The bike won’t be here until February or March 2022, though. And in all likelihood, the 2022 bike will be pricier than the last-gen model, which starts at $5549.
That being said, even if the 2022 bike starts at or above $6K, its main competitors, such as the Ninja 400 and Yamaha YZF-R3, don’t offer this level of tech, MCN notes. The $8999 Yamaha YZF-R7 doesn’t, either, though it is more powerful and has an upshift-only quickshifter. And while the Aprilia RS 660 has even more tech and horsepower than the KTM, it’s also twice as expensive.
Ultimately, deciding whether or not you should buy a 2022 KTM RC 390 requires some test riding. But if you’re looking for a beginner motorcycle that can slice corners like the ‘big’ bikes, this one is worth checking out.
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