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First Ride

First Ride - 2018 Zero FXS 7.2

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Body Position

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Throttle Response

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Handling

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Ease of Use

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Perceived Weight

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First Ride - 2018 KTM Duke 690

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Body Position

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Throttle Response

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Handling

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Ease of Use

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Perceived Weight

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The 2018 KTM Duke 690 is a tribute to the original Duke 620 released over two decades ago. The Duke 620 is often referred to as a streetmoto, a more refined version of the often hooligan manned supermotos. Following the same line as the original Duke, KTM is dubbing the 690 Duke the “smooth criminal”. After a short ride on this 690cc single cylinder, I can absolutely agree with that tagline. 

This motorcycle reminds me a lot of a supermoto, the seating position is very upright, there is a ton of leg room and you feel very high up on the bike. KTM completely reworked the cylinder head, using an ultra light piston and connection rod, rerouting the air intake and providing the crankshaft with sleeve bearings. The result is a huge power band and power delivery that is relatively uniform at any engine speed. Twin ignition featuring plug-selective mapping assisted by the advanced ride-by-wire allows this huge single cylinder to be somewhat smooth and manageable. The Duke 690 is said to have a dry weight of 327 lbs and provide 72 HP and 55 ft lbs of torque. Suspension is composed of 43 mm front forks and pivot-arm articulated pressurized-gas monoshock, both by WP.

As for ergonomics, the seat height is 32.87 inches and the positioning of the foot pegs allow for plenty of leg room even for a very tall rider. The handlebars felt very narrow but allowed for precise steering inputs. Hand controls are both hydraulic with the front brake lever offering a dial for personal adjustment. Foot controls were a little hard to reach but with a quick adjustment, it should easily suit any rider. Shifting is smooth and gives great feedback with a solid click that the bike is in the next gear. 

Around town, the power on this bike was more than readily available, it was very punchy even with the RBW system meant to smooth out the power. On the highway, I was searching for anything to hide from the wind. I would strongly advise purchasing a touring windscreen to make highway riding enjoyable. In sixth gear, the engine still has pull when you roll on the throttle - a big plus for this bike. As with any engine with a huge bore the engine braking is very extreme but useful for bringing the bike to a desired speed very rapidly. 

Some things that stood out on this first ride was how easy KTM has made navigating the TFT display menu. The control layout is simple and effective utilizing only up, down, back, and select.  It should in my opinion be a standard that I would love other motorcycle manufacturers to mirror. On the subject of mirrors, the Duke 690 has these huge bulky looking mirrors that take away from the general sleekness of the bike, but they actually work and allow you to see behind you. Where most mirrors have your shoulder taking up half the mirror no matter where you position them. The only big negative of this bike is how the TFT display is mounted almost parallel to the ground, this forced me to lean forward and look directly down to see any information. Something that is a huge annoyance and safety concern when doing something like monitoring your speed on the highway. 

I would recommend this bike for someone who wants the feel and riding position of a supermoto but with the power delivery of something like an SV650. The Duke reminded me of both those bikes throughout the ride. If you are looking at something like the MT-07 but want a single cylinder in your face streetmoto then the 2018 KTM Duke 690 is for you.


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First Ride - 2018 KTM Duke 390

First RideChaseontwowheels4 Comments

Body Position

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Throttle Response

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Handling

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Ease of Use

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Perceived Weight

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The 2018 KTM Duke 390 was one of the most enlightening first rides ever. With KTM promoting this as a starter bike (A2 license approved) this thing surprisingly packs a punch. This 4-stroke, liquid cooled, single cylinder makes use of all 373cc’s. Pumping out an amazing 44 HP and 27 ft-lbs of torque with a curb weight of only 359 lbs. The gearing is very short thanks to the 45 tooth rear sprocket, but this makes gears 1-3 feel super punchy and acceleration around the city very fun. Once on the highway though, a twist of the wrist doesn't yield the same results. It will hold highway speeds but don't expect any massive bursts of acceleration in 6th gear. As with any naked bike prepare to have some extreme wind blast at higher speeds.

The ergonomics on this bike were very comfortable. My legs felt like they were in a forward attack position but my back was straight and could easily reach the bars. Both the clutch and brake levers are adjustable to match comfort needs. The seat height is 32.68 inches and being 5 ft. 10 in. tall I could easily reach the ground. The bike was relatively vibration free, a big plus for a single cylinder engine. KTM has somehow packed this bike full of premium features while still keeping the price reasonable. Slipper clutch is very smooth when aggressively downshifting. Throttle by wire allows for precise and responsive throttle control. Bosch 9mp two-channel ABS is also included. ABS can be turned off or placed into “supermoto mode” which turns off ABS only on the rear. Allowing for some sweet supermoto stepping out into turns while still maintaining maximum front braking. Front brake rotor is a single 320mm disk and the rear is equipped with a single 230mm disc.

 Suspension is composed of 43mm WP front forks and a WP mono shock with adjustable preload on the rear. The TFT display is a big plus in my book. It was very easy to see even in full sunlight. Navigating the menu is very user friendly, using the four buttons on the left side of the handlebars. A led headlight also comes standard which gives this bike an even more aggressive look from the front with the added safety benefit of being shockingly bright. Overall I was very impressed with this bike. It is a very aggressive and sporty looking naked bike that was very enjoyable to ride. I would recommend this bike for someone who does a lot of city commuting or wants to enjoy some spirited mountain road riding. It performed decently on the highway but I would recommend an aftermarket windscreen if you plan on extended highway rides.

 


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First Ride - 2017 KTM RC 390

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Body Position

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Throttle Response

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Handling

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Ease of Use

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Perceived Weight

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The KTM RC 390 is a race bike at its core. If you are looking for a “beginner” bike and you also might want to do a track day, there is no other bike you should be looking at. This thing is basically a super sport bike packaged with a single cylinder 373 cc engine. While 43hp and 26 ft lbs of torque doesn't seem like much, it still boasts a top speed of 104 mph and posted a 14.02 second quarter mile. Compared to other lower cc bikes, the seating position is very aggressive. The ride by wire throttle delivers torque in a smooth yet snappy manner. ABS does come as a standard, but can be toggled off to be "ready to race". A slipper clutch is also equipped on this bike and eliminates rear wheel chatter when downshifting too rapidly.

The bike feels aerodynamic and stable even at highway speeds. Most smaller bikes can feel turbulent when dealing with high speed winds. The RC390's windscreen and riding position makes highway rides very comfortable. Around town the low end torque is what makes this bike an absolute joy to ride. In curves, this bike is the perfect balance between very flickable, and yet stable. Coming in with a wet weight of 340 pounds, it can easily be thrown back and forth quickly while still maintaining a planted feel.

 

I’d recommend this bike for the person who wants a sportier beginner bike experience. Or someone who likes technical routes around town, and runs the mountain roads aggressively on the weekends. Truly, the greatest part about this bike is that it has so much to offer, even for an experienced rider. It is a motorcycle that can be fully utilized on the street, unlike most 600cc and up bikes which will never even come close to using 50% of their potential on the street. You can push this bike to use all of its potential and have a damn fun time doing it. It’s not the fastest bike out there by a long shot, which forces you to be a better rider. To ride that perfect line, to have that precise corner entry speed, and to know exactly when to get back onto the throttle as soon as possible. It’s a bike that demands that you hone your riding techniques.

 

Yes, it’s a “beginner bike,” but definitely has room for a higher skill ceiling than other starter bikes. Riding the RC390 was a blast and it’s officially become my favorite beginner bike.
 


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First Ride - 2018 Kawasaki Ninja 400

First RideChaseontwowheels3 Comments

Body Position

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Throttle Response

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Handling

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Ease of Use

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Perceived Weight

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First Ride - 2018 Kawasaki Z900RS

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Body Position

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Throttle Response

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Handling

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Ease of Use

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Perceived Weight

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First Ride - 2017 CBR 1000RR

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Body Position

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Throttle Response

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Handling

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Ease of Use

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Perceived Weight

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First Ride - 2015 EBR 1190 SX

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Body Position

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Throttle Response

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Handling

FirstRide_5bar.png

Ease of Use

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Perceived Weight

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