Doin’ Time

Farewell from the side­lines

Motorcyclist - - Con­tents - —Ari Hen­ning

We say hello to Yamaha’s YZF-R3 and good­bye to KTM’S RC390, and we spruce up the cock­pit of Tri­umph’s Street Twin.

THIS PHOTO JU­LIA SHOT of my longterm KTM is beau­ti­ful, but to me it has a touch of gloom to it. Per­haps that’s just a re­flec­tion of my feel­ings to­ward the RC390’S long-term test, which is com­ing to an end. The past 18 months have in­cluded many fun races and plenty of mem­o­rable laps aboard this bike, but I’ve also spent an in­or­di­nate amount of time work­ing on the RC.

I’m not talk­ing about the up­grades I did to the sus­pen­sion and brakes or the clip-ons and rearsets I in­stalled, all of which im­proved the RC’S per­for­mance and read­ied it for race­bike duty. I’m talk­ing about the blown head gas­ket, elec­tri­cal grem­lins, and aber­rant valve clear­ances that have reg­u­larly in­ter­rupted my en­joy­ment of this bike. I like to work on mo­tor­cy­cles nearly as much as I like to ride them, but the KTM has tested my love for wrench­ing.

And I’m hardly the only one frus­trated. The on­line fo­rums and race pad­dock are rife with anec­dotes of faulty ra­di­a­tor fans, dry swingarm bush­ings, and other fairly se­ri­ous is­sues. Through­out my ten­ure with the RC390 I’ve re­ported my find­ings to KTM North Amer­ica, and re­cently I had the op­por­tu­nity to sit down and speak can­didly with a ta­ble of Aus­trian VIPS. Every­one has shown con­cern for the prob­lems oth­ers and I have en­coun­tered, but fo­rum chat­ter and a jour­nal­ist’s ex­pe­ri­ence aren’t suf­fi­cient to spur Mat­tighofen to ac­tion.

What’s needed, ex­plained Robert Pierce, KTM North Amer­ica’s VP of op­er­a­tions, is of­fi­cial doc­u­men­ta­tion. That means get­ting re­pairs done at a KTM dealer in­stead of in your garage or your lo­cal me­chanic’s shop. There’s plenty of grum­bling at ground level, but those com­plaints won’t yield im­prove­ments un­less they make it up the chain of com­mand through the nec­es­sary, of­fi­cial chan­nels. And while you might think that rac­ing or track­ing your RC390 will void its war­ranty, KTM says it won’t.

Given the abun­dance of more re­li­able small-bore op­tions out there, I’m not likely to rec­om­mend the RC390 to oth­ers. But for all the trou­ble the KTM has caused me I have to say this: The RC390 has done won­ders for the rid­ing pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of small bikes. When KTM jumped into the lit­tle-bike pool and built this ag­gres­sive-look­ing, fast lit­tle bike, peo­ple no­ticed. And as such a pop­u­lar bike, the RC390’S faults are in the spot­light. Hope­fully KTM will in­vest in the fu­ture of the model by rec­on­cil­ing its cur­rent is­sues.

The RC390 has done won­ders for the rid­ing pub­lic’s per­cep­tion of small bikes.

WRIST Ari Hen­ningMSRP (2015) $5,499MILES 3,788MPG N/AMODS More time in the shopUP­DATE 15

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