The KTM RC200 and the RC390 have been one of the most hyped and sought after motorcycles of 2014 and they have created a huge stir amongst the Indian bikers since their launch last month. So when we got ourselves a chance to test ride the RC twins at the Bajaj Auto test facility in Chakan, we made sure we rode the bikes till the wheels fell off. While both the RC-series machines have similar underpinnings to their naked siblings, the Duke 390 and the Duke 200, there have been some significant changes under the skin that claim to live upto the RC-series supersport tag. So do they deliver what is expected of them? Let us find out.
Design and Styling: Our faired ladies
What largely differentiates the RC200 from its elder sibling is the all-black scheme as against the white-black paint/sticker job on the RC390. Although, most of us journos present at the track ride loved the full black RC200 scheme better out of the two and it would be a real treat to see a RC390 in all black paint scheme. Both twins get really powerful 65 watt projector headlights, all-new LED tail-light, mirror mounted front indicators and the gorgeously styled pillion seat, which is designed to look like a cowl giving the motorcycle a single-seater race-bike look. A classic example of form follows function. The pillion seat is made out of what KTM calls, single skin seat and is imported from Canada. On the Indian models, there is 10mm more cushioning for added pillion comfort. There is also a rather shabby looking grab rail that has been incorporated, thanks to the Indian norms, though we are certain most owners will b quick to get rid of it.
Under the gorgeous race-bike cladding on the RC-series, the chassis has been tweaked and reworked to suit the race-ready stance and allow for sharper handling. The steering angle to has been sharpened to 66.5 degrees which has also resulted in a shorter wheelbase of 1,340mm and it is complimented by 125mm front fork travel on the WP upside down suspension (25mm lesser than the Duke 200/390) making the RC-series a very flick-able and eager to turn machine.
The shortened wheelbase has also resulted in the ground clearance getting higher by 8.5mm than the Duke models. The rear sub-frame too has been fiddled with and the seat height has gone up by 20mm over Duke's 800mm to 820mm. The taller stance, sharper steering geometry and rear-set pegs have truly given the RC-series a supersport stance although that has compromised the overall riding comfort if one wants to go highway hauling for long hours.
The overall setup delivers a package that can be called as a perfect beginner race-bike experience. The aggressive riding position is spot on for corner carving and despite shortened wheelbase, there is no lack of stability even at high speeds. Riding the long sweeping left hander on the Bajaj Auto's test track, the RC200 felt perfectly at home and absolutely planted. The lightweight and slim frame and nimble handling of the RC200 makes it an absolute joy to ride on the track and tackling a series of corners one after the another, there is enormous reward for little effort. All we wished though was that even the RC200 came with the super grippy Metzeler rubber on both ends like on the Duke/RC390 instead of the MRFs that it gets. While the MRFs work just about fine on the Duke 200 for street use, on the RC200 in its guise as a beginner race machine, the MRF tyres seem to be struggling when pushed hard on the track.
Engine and Performance:
The motor powering the RC200 is the same as the one serving its naked sibling and there are no major advancements to the configuration. The lightweight 199.5cc liquid cooled single cylinder DOHC motor is fed by an advanced fuel injection unit and it makes 24.7PS of power at 10,000rpm. The motor offers similar punchy and crisp feel as found on the Duke and the RC200 energetically pulls in every gear all the way to its electronically limited top whack of 137km/h (speedo indicated) before the rev-limiter plays spoil sport. The overall quality of parts is top notch and there are very little vibrations reaching the handlebars despite the RC200 not getting bar end weights.
The RC390 is a thoroughbred track machine and equaling its handling prowess is the 373.2cc liquid cooled single cylinder motor that also serves the Duke 390. Power figures remain unchanged with the engine pumping out 43.5bhp at 9,000rpm and 35Nm of torque at 7,000rpm. The same trusty six-speed transmission transfers power to the rear wheel and does a fine job without a clunky or notchy feel to it. The single cylinder motor packs solid mid-range grunt that keeps power handy at all times. Even when running a gear higher, the bike will offer enough drive out of the corner without having to dance on the gear lever. And despite the increased bulk amounting to 166kg, the RC390 feels no less quicker or ferocious than its naked sibling.
The RC390 surges ahead at a gentle twist of the throttle and the revs climb with enormous urgency requiring the rider to keep focus for a well-timed upshift in order to achieve a seamless power delivery. The 100km/h mark comes in just about 5 seconds and the RC390 continues to pull through in each gear. On the 1.1km long straight at the test facility, the RC390 comfortably posted a top whack of 176km/h with still some more revs in its kitty before hitting the redline.
The KTM RC390 is one mean track tool that means business and can hold its own even against competition from a class above. And its not just pure engine performance that we mean here. Include the high-tech disengage-able ABS system, sticky Metzeler tyres Sportec M5 tyres on both ends, aluminium swing-arm and aerodynamic bodywork, all constitute towards an enriching experience aboard the motorcycle.
Loaded with tech wizardry and high-end components like 43mm thick upside down front suspension from WP, projector beams, information loaded digital dash, day-time running lights (DRLs) and a rather long list of world class equipment, the RC twins are truly in sync with KTM's Ready to Race motto and provide a rewarding experience each time one swings a leg over the saddle. Be it a racetrack then or your favorite set of mountain twisties. And at the introductory price-tag that they come with, it sure is a steal for all budding racer-boys in the country!
Image Courtesy: Sumit Jagdale Photography