2023 KTM 390 Adventure X and SW first ride reviews: Kicking up a storm

Christopher Chaves Updated: June 05, 2023, 03:50 PM IST

Well, it's easy to see why ADV bikes are gaining so much traction in a country like ours. Because, from trying road conditions to varying weather, these machines are meant to handle it all. In countries abroad, you'll have to get out of the city to get away from the city, away from the public, to get a grasp of your machine while out in search of adventure. Out here, as you may well know, you just have to go around the block. Which is an adventure on its own. Now if you don't have money for a liter-class or middle-weight adv motorcycle, the sub-500cc ADVs like the 390 Adventure should technicelly be on your radar, because they do make a lot of sense. KTM already has four different variations of the 390 Adventure out in the country, the first one is the 390 Adventure X, which is the most affordable of the four variants and is lacking a certain amount of features, but does get the same tried-and-tested hardware in the form of the engine and chassis as the higher spec variants, and so on. There's a new top-spec version that we'll be testing out as well - the SW version. So, we're going to be checking out the main differences between the models that sit at either end of KTMs 390 ADV spectrum this year, because price-wise, there's a substantial 80k difference between them.

KTM 390 Adventure X

Starting off with the KTM 390 Adventure X. Although it's the most affordable of KTMs 390 ADV series bikes at this time, this one still looks identical to the Standard 390 Adventure model which is already sold out here, and for most part, it is. Not only are the lights, panels and the tank the same, but parts like the split trellis frame, and significantly, that brilliantly explosive 373cc, liquid cooled, single that puts down 43.5PS of max power at 9,000rpm and 37Nm of max torque at 7,000rpm, are all shared between the pair. Even the seat height and kerb weight is identical. So that's the best part about it. In essence, it still remains the same comfortable and powerful machine that we've come to appreciate over time.

Stand-out features of the low-end variant come in the form of the big-piston fork at the front and rear monoshock which will perform well on all your on-road expeditions and run fine on some off-road excursions, but this setup isn't the best on offer. Secondly, the X doesn't feature any IMU and sensors, so there's no cornering ABS, traction control or even ride modes like the other KTM 390 ADV models, as a result, the switchgear is a bit different too. No fancy TFT screen on the X model too, just the LCD unit which as been lifted off the KTM's lower capacity (250cc) ADV. Those of you who think having less tech onboard is better than having more tech, failing and needing a fix will appreciate this one.

Like the V variant of KTM's 390 ADV series which gets the same suspension setup but not as much travel and a lower seat height, the X can be seen as slightly more road biased motorcycle on account of its suspension setup alone. But then again, it's still got that immense touring potential that makes this bike awesome. Another notable aspect is that unlike the standard and top-end Spoke Wheel models, the X gets MRF tyres instead of Metzeller Tourance treads, which didn't feel as nice and grippy on rougher patches.

So what did I find the X to be lacking in truth? Well, there's really a lot to love about this machine, still, you could say that the first-timers to this segment might miss the electronics to get used to things, but more experienced riders will miss the spoked wheels on there.

Now, the Adventure X is the most affordable of the four KTM models in our country and it has a lot of things working in its favour, first of all, it still has the chassis-engine setup which we've come to love and appreciate over the course of time. Good amount of power on tap, good maneuverability. It's nice and light as well at 177kg, so it won't be a hassle getting it back on its wheels if you happen to fall off. Still got a good power to weight ratio, nice and easy to manage on and off the road. This motorcycle costs around 2.60 lakh rupees, which (cut) is a good 60 grand cheaper than the standard variant. It's lacking a bit of kit, but it still gets a good amount of features like a slipper clutch, off-road ABS a ride-by-wire throttle and an LED headlamp. So still a lot to appreciate. But if you are in need of a version of the same bike that's a little more customizable according to your riding style, KTM has another model that should be right up your alley.

2023 KTM 390 Adventure SW (Spoke Wheel) 

This is the top-spec 390 Adventure Spoke Wheel variant – the motorcycle that costs around Rs 3.6 lakh (ex-showroom), and it's got the goods that KTM India fan boys have been craving for a long time. It's got all the electronics mentioned before (which is also available on the standard model) and yes, KTM is finally offering spoke-wheels and adjustable suspension as part of the 390 Adventure package, something that it refrained from doing in the past. So now that it's here, is it finally worth the painful wait? The answer is a big, big yes.

The Spoke Wheel variant of the 390 Adventure gets all the good stuff that we have been asking for. LED lights, adjustable levers, slipper clutch, quickshifter, ride-by-wire throttle, even the stuff that a rider lacking some bit of confidence like cornering ABS, traction control, ride modes like the standard model before, is all on the new variant as well. Now, if you buy a KTM you are definitely expecting performance from the machine and by jove, this one has it as well. Like the three 390 ADV models before it, this Spoked Wheel version has the same exhilarating oil-cooled motor that makes whacking the throttle open very addictive once you hit the spot, so it's still a thoroughly enjoyable machine that loves to be revved and slap a smile across your face. It's as comfortable as before too with generous seating room for two-up and even rider plus luggage. The highlights of course are the new suspension and wheels over the standard model.

Obviously the USP of the top-spec Spoke Wheel variant of the 390 Adventure is the Open cartridge fork up front which is fully adjustable, you get 20 clicks of preload, 30 clicks each of compression and rebound. The monoshock at the rear too gets preload and rebound settings. So the difference with this one is that with the standard model, you had to really manage with what the bike was capable of doing, but now in this setup, the bike has the capacity to manage what you want to do, with your weight, riding style, the terrain and such. It allows you to personalize and set it up according to your fancy. And of course, having spoked wheels on this variant, going off-road is a lot better now, because with the previous alloy wheel setup, you ran the risk of cracking the wheel while running hard on broken surfaces, ricks and stuff like that, but with the spoke wheel, it's easier to mend and get on with your ride with this setup on your bike.

Yes, having a customisable suspension setup means that you can get the bike to behave and react the way you want to depending on your weight, the terrain and the speed you're comfortable travelling at. Long sections of well-paved road coming up? You can stiffen things up to stay well planted. Some lumpy trail sections coming up next? Dial in some comfort settings to soften the blows. Having the option to customize your ride on the go is always a good thing. On the road, this suspension setup allows you to be more in tune with your bike and not only ride but stop with better confidence too. Even if you're trying out settings off-road, while taking on jumps, you will notice that the bike does tend to bottom out a fairly easily, thankfully the bashplate does its job exceptionally well.

Now to sum things up out here with the two new 390 Adventure models. Beginning with the Adventure X – at Rs 2.8lakh that is the most affordable of the bunch of bikes and you still get a very enticing package because the engine, the chassis, the suspension, all very capable and more than acceptable. You will also enjoy the space arrangement for the rider, the pillion, the luggage and everything. A very nice package all throughout. Yes it is lacking a certain amount of features in terms of cornering ABS, ride modes and stuff like that. But then again what makes it appealing is the fact that you do get some essential bits like the slipper clutch, LED lights and of course switchable ABS.

When it comes to the top spec Spoke Wheel version, this of course is a big step over the standard variant because the new suspension gives you that level of personalization that the motorcycle was lacking before. It lets you engage with your machine all the better. Even the spoke wheels are a boon while off-road because it lets you toy around with different air pressures in addition to it being easier to mend and get on with your ride as opposed to having an alloy wheel crack out in the wild.

So the two variants of the definitely spice up the sub-500cc KTM Adv bike lineup because of their price points and offerings. They are two highly capable and unique variations of the same motorcycle that will appeal to different audiences with different usage preferences.

Price (Ex-Delhi)
Starts Rs 2,99,000
Max Power(ps)
Max Torque(Nm)