Monday, 2 December 2013

KTM Duke 390 vs Royal Enfield Continental GT

Royal Enfield finally launched the Continental GT after its reveal at the Delhi Auto Expo back in 2010. Unlike the rest of the RE range, the CGT is not a tourer or a cruiser. It is a café racer, which means that this is more about the speedometer than odometer. Prior to the arrival of the Continental GT the big bike release was the KTM Duke 390. The reason why this is a big deal is not only the fact that you could now get a high displacement sports bike for just around Rs. 2 lakh, but also because the Duke 390 will be Royal Enfield’s biggest threat.

First off let’s have a look at the basic specs:-

KTM Duke 390:

Displacement: 373.2cc
Max Power: 44 BHP
Max Torque: 35 NM

Royal Enfield Continental GT:

Displacement: 535cc
Max Power: 29.1 BHP
Max Torque: 44 NM

Many people ask if it’s fair to compare them since not only are they in different categories, but they also have a TVS Apache between them. The fact is that their pricing does bind them as bedfellows. The performance figures are not far off so this is actually as close as a head to head needs to be. Now coming to the big question, which one should you buy?

The KTM Duke 390 is an unapologetic street bike. The strokes are short, the rev range is high and the bike is like a young greyhound on 10 cartons of Red-Bull. While most street bikes in India will manage 100kmph, the 390 does yoga at that speed. It pretty much skips speed ranges and goes from 30-60-80kmph and with ABS dual disk brakes it will stop just as fast. So the Duke will zip through traffic and is great if you’re looking to make a quick 200km breakfast run on a Sunday morning & hit 170kmph or more. The Duke 390 seems like it’s too good to be true, but despite being a complete package it does have its drawbacks.

1. The engine heats up a lot. This bike is meant for high speeds and constant start-stop movement will see your ankles getting a sauna treatment.

2. A short stroke engine gets you great 0-60 figures, but also means constant shifting. Low end torque delivery won’t be as good as the Continental GT, so gear shifts will be very frequent in city riding.

3. The 390 is a stand out motorcycle, but doesn’t stand out from its younger sibling the 200. The bikes look almost the exact same and in fact the 390 has 90% of its parts sourced from the 200. It would take a keen eye to immediately pin point which one is the bigger Duke.

4. The seats still feel like sitting on a wooden plank. Riders of the 200 will tell you that after prolonged riding, this is not a very butt-friendly bike.

5. It is too powerful. This statement may sound like a travesty, but hear me out. The problem is handling that kind of power needs experience. Not only is it a fast bike, but also a very light one giving it a great power to weight ratio. The rider of this machine needs to be very aware of its mannerisms. Enter a corner too fast and the rider may just lose all grip, give it too much gas in the city and your need to brake will get you frustrated and burn a lot of fuel.

Above Image Via:

Now over to the new veteran on the block. The Royal Enfield Continental GT is all about the torque. It will be fast off the mark and manage 35kmph in 4th gear if it has to. Café racers are street speedsters, but back in the 60’s the streets were a lot different. Racing was about short sprints from café to café, hence the namesake “café racer”. Contrary to the beliefs of many Royal Enfield loyalists, this is a true Royal Enfield. It is a genuine British classic as it was meant to be, but that actually creates a fair amount of speculation.

Royal Enfield depends on its loyalists and brand heritage to rake in sales. The majority of their loyalists are long distance riders who need their saddle bags, tank bags and ladakh carriers to feel complete. The Continental GT however is not the ideal choice for this, which is where the problem arises. The café racer has an identity of its own, but faces problems while trying to identify with buyers. It isn’t entirely a street bike and isn’t a long distance cruiser either. The riding position isn’t as wrist heavy as the CBR 250r, but isn’t as relaxed as the rest of the Royal Enfield range. With 44nm of torque, this ride doesn’t need a flexible rev range and you will find yourself mainly between 2000-4500 rpm.

The CGT is however, a motorcycle that will stand out. Bright red/yellow colour options, a look that has been restricted to modifications until now and the fact that India has never seen Royal Enfield in such a unique manner means every buyer will get attention and a lot of it. This is a bike that can perform really well and will handle curvy ghats the best. City riding will be great as its riding position isn’t too hunched, low rev torque delivery equates to minimal shifting and the seats are fairly comfortable. Here are some things to look out for.

1. With a 13.5-litre fuel tank, this isn’t ideal Royal Enfield for long distance riding . The 535cc engine will manage 30kmpl at best in real world conditions and less if you plan on gunning it on the open roads. The company claimed top speed is 150kmph, so it can manage a little above that.

2. It is meant to be a single seater. The Duke 390’s pillion seat is nothing to write home about, but the Continental GT doesn’t have one at all (it is an optional extra)

3. It is a Royal Enfield at the end of the day so it won’t be easy on the pocket. These bikes are still hand-made and with that comes human error, so don’t be surprised if your clutch cable needs changing after a few months, because it won’t be as easy to live with as the Duke 390.

4. Spare parts are often a hassle with Royal Enfields and with the CGT using a few different components as compared to the rest of the RE range, spares may run a little bit on the expensive side.

5. Royal Enfields have been downsized since the Classic arrived. They ride lower and have a smaller profile, so if you are the stereotyped Bullet-man the Continental GT may not suit your personality as well as you would have liked.

To sum up, if you want a ruthless, bloodthirsty performer that will pop a wheelie if you sneeze, go for the KTM Duke 390. If you want a earth munching torque traveller that stands out, is composed and classy while going through the paces, the Royal Enfield Continental GT is for you.

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