Somehow I missed this question. My bad. To make up for my tardiness, here is a way-too-much-info answer.
I recently moved into a new home, and subsequently added 35 minutes to my laughably-short, 5-minute, daily commute to work. I'm 5'4" and 155lbs, with about 30 years of riding experience. I was looking for a small, lightweight, inexpensive (moving is expensive) street bike to rip up the back-roads on my 40 minute daily commute. The highly-modded CRF I came off of was super fun off-road, but lackluster on the pavement, and had notable head-shake above 60mph. I knew I didn't want another sport bike either. I've had 3 GSXRs, which were brilliant, but would be overkill for my intended use, and also out of my target budget. I was looking at the entry-level cruisers (Vulcan, Rebel, C50, etc.), but couldn't bring myself to stray that far from the aggressive sport machines.
The 390 Duke caught my eye when I stumbled across a comparison between it and the BMW GS310. I was super attracted to the look, the size & weight, the intermediate-aggressive riding position, and, finally, the price. My local KTM dealer had a leftover 2018 on the floor for $4500, and they offered me $2150 for my beat up CRF. Wow. So, for $2350 plus taxes, tags, and title, I rode home on my my brand new fair-weather commuter.
In the dealer parking lot, sitting next to the Duke, my CRF looked like a fat, dirty cow.
First impressions: I couldn't believe how quiet the Duke idles. My CRF had an FMF Q4 and MegaBomb exhaust system, sounded like a proper motocross bike. When I fired up the Duke, my first thought was, I'm gonna need a slip on. I sat there idling for a few minutes, adjusting mirrors and leaver, and familiarizing myself with the TFT display features and controls. I then rolled back and forth, on and off the clutch in first gear to get a feel for where it engages. I'm never happy with dealer clutch settings, so I took another minute to adjust it to engage sooner in the travel.
In my opinion, one of the most nerve racking moments on a new motorcycle is that very first time pulling out of the dealer lot into traffic. Will I stall it? Will the turn feel different that expected? Will it take off faster then I'm prepared for? Especially when the bike is quiet and your not sure how much noise is the right amount for take off. I've heard horror stories of folks looping their brand new sport bikes while exiting the dealership. Fortunately, that had never happened to me, and the Duke and I made it onto the street and into traffic without issue.
I was immediately impressed with how much pull the little engine has. KTM builds powerful engines, and this is no exception. My CRF250 couldn't get out of it's own way in stock form, but this Duke is a rocket. And I wasn't even venturing beyond 6500 RMP yet. The growl that the engine makes while its being properly worked is actually quite pleasing. I like the sound. This would do quite nicely for my daily commute.
I had read poor reviews about the brakes, particularly the rear brake, so I made sure to play with them to understand the feel. To me, the front brake feels great, and the rear brake is about the same as any bike I've ever ridden... press hard and it'll stop you, eventually. I'm not very heavy, so it doesn't have to slow a large payload. I imagine a 250lb rider might have a different experience.
The riding position is comfortable and can be as aggressive or relaxed as you want to make it. Being my first "naked" bike, I thought it felt cool to not have a lot of fairing and windscreen in my field of vision. Definitely feels exposed, especially once you build speed and the wind becomes a factor. I was surprised at the intensity of the wind resistance that beats up your body once you're really cookin'. I guess my CRF was too slow, and my GSXRs were too aerodynamic for me to notice. It does seem to create a phenomenon, or maybe an illusion that bike is pulling harder than it actually is, because you're forced to hold on tight, lest you be sucked off the back of it by the wind.
I got the bike home and did the first thing that I do to every new bike, I ripped as much of the stock rear plate holder off as I could without a tail tidy. In fact, I'm holding out for an integrated rear brake light (brake light and turn signals in one). Anyone seen such a thing for this bike yet? I have not.
I'm blessed to have a euphoric system of twisties and back roads as my daily commute. It's 25 miles of Central, MD farmland, woods, and rural bliss. I don't have a straight stretch of road for more than 1/4 mile anywhere on the route. The 390 Duke was made for this. It it such an easy bike to go fast on. Not sport bike, 100+ mph fast, but 70 in a 30 kind of fast. The fact that you know this bike won't loop you gives a confidence to push it even harder. Super fun.
On the highway, anything above 75-80mph really beats you up with wind. The engine has enough pull for those speeds (I've seen 101mph so far) but the bike is light and susceptible to wind blasts from cars and trucks. It's clearly not it's intended environment. I've done some 30 minute highway commutes, only because it was the best route at the time. If avoidable, I'd avoid them.
At 600 miles, I changed my own oil (always do, simple enough), and skipped on the recommended valve check. Dealer wanted too much for that. I'll have them check at my 5,000 mile service. Then it was time to open up the tach to 10,000 rpm. I was happy to feel the bike pull hard nearly to redline. Power does drop off a bit above 9k, but the pull is still there. On certain, long, steep, fast uphills, I could see wanting to rev beyond the 10k rev limiter. I've read of a Coober ECU which opens up the tach to 12k RPM. Anyone have experience with this?
I'm able to lift the front wheel with ease in first. I could probably get it up in second, but wheelies are not my strong point, and the idea of looping a new bike doesn't sit will with me. Having short arms means my body weight is always forward of center. So I don't really try.
I now have over 2000 miles on the Duke. It's seen more commuter miles this summer than my car has. It's been wonderful. The only gripes I have are the same everyone has:
1. It does not have a helmet lock.
2. The fan is loud.
3. The stock mirrors look like goofy bug antennae.
I may consider that Coober ECU, but have to read up on it more.
I bought the Akra slip on with baffle removed from a guy FB Marketplace for $375 plus shipping. I put it on, rode to work and back once, and immediately took it off and reinstalled the stock silencer. The Akra was too loud (I listen to XM/radio on my helmet's comm. system) and with the baffle removed I could feel slop in the throttle response. Nope. No thanks. Do you think replacing the Akra baffle would improve performance? I'd be willing to try, but I'd need someone to sell me the baffle, cheap. Otherwise, I've got an Akra slip on for sale... $375 plus shipping. CONUS only.
I'll go bar end mirrors at some point. Haven't found any I really love yet. And I'm holding out on a tail tidy in hopes of a proper integrated taillight system. Wishful thinking?
Hope this first impression/3-month review is helpful to anyone considering the bike. Look for a good deal on a leftover and have fun!
P.S. Hit me up about the Akra.