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All new KTM 390 Duke prototype proving low-capacity motorcycles are where it’s at

Smaller-capacity models are propping up a sagging motorcycle new-sales market. Riders are finding that models even as small as 300cc can pack a punch in handling, safety technology and even performance.

Back in 2014 KTM’s Indian-built 390 Duke was a gamechanger in Australia. Its zippy performance and lean, clean, angular styling made a statement of power and performance that would have been unimaginable just a few years earlier.

Now a new test mule has surfaced, with slightly rusting and unpainted frame, makeshift petrol tank and seat offers a fascinating look into KTM’s all-new 390 Duke. Despite a sharp-edged restyle in 2017, the current model is still essentially the same bike that first appeared back in 2013. Now it looks like a complete redesign is being undertaken.

At this early stage the 373cc single-cylinder engine (32kW and 37Nm) appears to be largely unchanged but it’s easy to see that little else is being carried over to the new model.

The new tubular steel trellis frame is a completely new design and much simpler than the current model. Where the existing bike uses a thick main tube on each side, braced with a trellis of thinner tubing, the new design appears to use more consistent-sized tubes throughout.

The aluminium swingarm bears the characteristic external bracing that’s been a KTM styling cue for several years, but it’s not the existing bike’s unit. The pillion pegs are under development, too, plates with fifty possible mounting holes are being used to let engineers try different positions before deciding on the final design. This suggests basic development work on the overall chassis design and geometry has been completed.

The exhaust routing is new and, like the frame, is more conventional than the existing 390 Duke’s. Along with simpler routing, the catalyst is nearer the cylinder head, where it will heat up to operating temperature quicker, and should help prevent exhaust heat from soaking through to the rear shock.

By Hamish Cooper & Ben Purvis

How soon?

When can we get our bum on one?

This prototype is using the wheels, forks and brakes from the existing 390 Duke, while the vestigial bodywork appears to be slapped-together from whatever parts the engineers had to hand. All that will change before final production, meaning there’s plenty of work to be done. So it would be a surprise if it is ready for the 2020 model year. We reckon it’s likely to be a 2021 bike, the deadline for getting existing models to comply with Euro 5 emissions limits in Europe.

It’s a small world after all

Small-Capacity models like this have become commonplace on our streets and the world’s largest manufacturers are poised for significant