DBT Bike Build: KTM 390 ADV Stage 1

Expanding Horizons

Story by Jimmy Lewis

The 390 Adventure is KTM’s expansion to ease entry-level riders onto the brand with a platform that is capable yet not intimidating. As with any entry-level focused bike, there becomes a few challenges as well. As riders improve in skill level, they may want a bike that they can work into rather than outgrow too quickly. Even experienced and seasoned riders who just plain fit on this size of motorcycle may be looking for some more capability out of the 390. Dirt Bike Test set out to address some of these concerns in a step-by-step process different from most “throw the catalog at it” builds. 

Our targets were the things we complained about in our initial test of the machine and some other things we have experienced with more and more miles on the bike. With these mods, we are making the 390 more of what it could be without trying to make it something that it isn’t. Our biggest complaint has still been the toughest to fix, aside from getting some help out of KTM’s race shop. Getting the footpegs leveled out. The aftermarket has not caught on to this and despite reaching out to a few companies, it took cutting down two sets of footpegs and welding them back so they do not have that forward slant, which makes riding in the standing position awkward for most anyone familiar with how a dirt bike feels. We’d like a slightly larger peg, maybe 30mm outbound for better leverage but we’ll take these and keep our eye out for an aftermarket solution soon.

Second on our list was adding luggage. There are lots of options but we really wanted to keep it simple and non-intrusive to the bike. So the soft, strap-on option was the call. We chose Touratech’s new Extreme Waterproof Saddlebags. We had been using them on another bike and liked the ruggedness and strapping method. It went seamlessly onto the 390, especially considering there is not a lot of side area to keep the bags from flopping into the rear wheel. We found some nice pieces from Rottweiler Performance that incorporate passenger footpeg or regular footpeg and brake master cylinder protection. They have great mounting points for straps built-in. We could have just wrapped the bag’s straps around the stock plastic pieces but this was a much more sano solution. These bags now go on and off in a few minutes and hold enough for day trips and mechanical needs. Rottweiler also makes a headlight brace set and from experience with bigger KTM bikes having this area fatigue, we thought it was a good idea to stiffen this area up before any issues get started. Call it preventative maintenance.

The stock cast spoke wheels did not take long to start acquiring dings while off-road and we wanted something stronger. Dubya Wheels built up a solution with high-quality Excel Rims and their black spokes with orange nipples. The difficult part (besides the total price tag) was finding hubs compatible with the 390. It turns out the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 has them, but the entire hub and cush drive must be used. The Excel rim sizes are 19 x 2.50 front and 17 x 3.50 rear.The wheels turned out awesome and we mounted up Kenda Big Blocks for even more off-road traction. In use, the wheels actually give the chassis a more precise handling feel and have stood up to the hard hits without even a ding nor have we had to adjust  or tighten the spokes. 

Onto the power department, we could feel there were some hidden ponies inside the motor but we did not want to make the bike louder nor lose any rideability. Coober USA makes a kit with an airbox cover and a piggyback ECU that gives the engine a very noticeable boost in torque as well as lets the engine rev out further thus making more power. We went through a couple of different software updates as they improved the mapping specifically for the Adventure. If you want the 390 to pull a lot better and have improved torque in the RPMs where you most typically ride, this is the answer.

The throttle response keeps its stock laziness, which is good for novice riders until half-throttle then it has gusto. But there is still an issue on start-up where sometimes it takes moving the throttle around a bit before the bike settles into a normal idle instead of stalling. The kit has a fair amount of wires that need to be carefully routed and requires gas tank removal to install. Instructions are good.

We also added a Rekluse Radius X Clutch available through KTM PowerParts. Again, installation is an intermediate task but doable with regular tools and excellent step-by-step instructions. It makes it so that you do not have to ever touch the clutch lever other than when starting the bike. The Rekluse’s engagement was at little higher RPM than where we would like it so we changed out the EXP disc’s springs from Red to Silver and were much happier with the feel of the clutch. This change allowed the engine to be lugged more, or ridden a gear high without the clutch slipping before full engagement. It has minimal drag at idle, but not enough to get it to really want to creep. 

Our stock rear-view mirrors were just above useless so we went with awesome Doubletake mirrors that screwed right into the stock lever perch locations. But since the stock mirrors had come loose so many times, the threads on the left side were compromised requiring a thread sert to hold the new mirror. And it is in little parts like this that the built-in India KTM is showing it is just a bit different than the Austrian built motorcycles.

The chain has stretched more than we are used to, some of the hardware is not as robust, and we’ve replaced the fork seals on one leg a couple of times now. And we just experienced a fault that seems tied to the digital dash. We know there is a software update available so we’ll soon have a detailed report on how it is holding up and what you can expect with hard use. In our sights is a new skid-plate like the one Black Dog Cycleworks just showed us (see The Future section), a taller seat, and larger footpegs. We may even add a little non-functional bling and graphics by the next time you see this bike.

Overall, we are blown away by how much performance this bike brings for the price from the showroom floor. And though some of these mods cost a pretty penny in comparison, this bike, for the right rider, is a worthy platform to grow with. 

Parts List:

Dubya Custom Wheel Set $1899.95

Coober USA Power Kit $584.99

Rottweiler Performance:

Headlight Brace Set $49.95

Passenger Peg Luggage Strap $39.95

Rear Brake Master Cylinder Guard Kit $59.95

Touratech USA Extreme Waterproof Saddlebags $399.95

Rekluse Radius X Centrifugal Clutch Kit $713.99

Doubletake Mirrors $130.00

Kenda Big Blocks $220.00

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