My motorcycling journey: From a TVS Centra to KTM 390 Adventure

The riding posture is good, and there’s a lot of space to move around. However, standing up and riding is a bit hard compared to the Himalayan.

BHPian aslampr07 recently shared this with other enthusiasts.

Before I get into explaining how I came to own my current motorcycle, let me share how my journey with motorcycles began.

2005: TVS Centra

Just like many of us, it all started with my father. He bought a 2005 TVS Centra, a bike that was meant to rival the Hero Honda Passion but ended up being a victim of its own fate. I was about 9 or 10 years old when he bought it. That bike was the only vehicle in our family, and it stayed with us for years, being our go-to ride.

Around the time I was 14, my dad began teaching me how to ride a bike. He started by showing me how to kick-start the TVS Centra since it didn’t have a self-starter. I remember endlessly kicking to get it started until I finally figured it out – after that, it was a piece of cake.

We had some land near our home, and I used to spend hours just circling around on the bike. This was the same place where I learned to ride a bicycle. With time, I grasped how to control the clutch, and since the land had tight turns, my balance also improved. It felt like I wasn’t just riding a motorcycle anymore; I was manoeuvring a motorized bicycle.

2012: Honda Unicorn

Around 2012, the Centra began to show signs of ageing. It emitted puffs of smoke and often refused to start. Consequently, my dad made the decision to upgrade. Our preference was a Honda, so we had three options in mind: the newly released Dream Yuga, CB Shine 125, and Honda Unicorn 150. Eventually, we settled for the Unicorn due to its unmatched reliability. From the day of purchase to the day it was eventually sold after 11 years, it never left us stranded or even ran out of fuel. It was an incredibly dependable machine. In my opinion, there’s hardly any other bike in India as reliable as the Honda Unicorn.

I’ll never forget my first ride on the Unicorn. It was the day after we brought it home when I was around 15 years old. My father handed me the key and told me to take it for a spin. Unlike the Centra’s N1234 gear pattern, the Unicorn had a 1N2345 setup. My dad explained how to shift gears and put it into neutral – my first time experiencing a different gear arrangement or riding a bike other than the Centra.

I took the bike onto the road in the early morning when it wasn’t too busy. After a short 100-meter ride, I attempted a U-turn to head back home, and that’s when disaster struck. While trying to downshift to 1st gear, it unexpectedly shifted to Neutral, causing the engine power to cut off midway. Panicked, I struggled to keep the bike upright, but its weight overpowered me, and the bike toppled along with me. My dad hurried over, lifting both the bike and me. The incident left a minor scratch on the mirror and the leg guard of the bike. I experienced pain in my legs for a week from trying to prevent the bike from falling. It’s a memory that’s etched in my mind forever. Surprisingly, my dad wasn’t angry or annoyed. He even mentioned that a scratch could be considered a badge of honour for a new bike. The scratch on the mirror remained like a battle scar, still visible when we sold it off in 2023.

Following the mishap, I gradually grew more comfortable with the bike. I didn’t venture far since I didn’t have a license yet, and my dad didn’t permit me to take the bike onto main roads without one. I eventually acquired my license after completing my +2 education. I’m not sure if anyone else experienced this, but during the initial days of having a license, I would freeze at the sight of a police vehicle, despite having a brand-new license with me.

The Unicorn was the sole two-wheeler in my family, shared between my dad and me. Most of the time, it was used by him. I only had access to it on Sundays or when he was at home. During my first and second years in college, I took the bus; occasionally, I rode the Unicorn to college.

In my third year of college, Dad bought a Honda Activa 125, ending the practice of sharing rides on the Unicorn. Throughout the rest of my college journey, I continued using the Unicorn for commuting. After college, the Unicorn became my daily commute for work, until 2022.

The Unicorn served as my experimental platform for DIY projects. I would clean the carburettor, change brake pads, and tackle whatever tasks were feasible for me.

2022: The Royal Enfield Himalayan and Yamaha R15 V3

In February 2022, one of my best friends made the decision to relocate to the UAE for work. He owned a 2021 BS6 Himalayan and, instead of selling it, he entrusted me with its care. I had a solid track record of maintaining vehicles, which could have been the reason behind his choice. Being just a year old and having covered only 13,000 kilometres on the odometer, the motorcycle was in excellent condition. During a certain period, our circle of friends boasted 3 brand-new Himalayans, earning us the nickname “Trimalayans.”

My garage was now home to three motorcycles: the Unicorn, the Himalayan, and the Honda Activa 125.

I would opt for a random ride based on my mood. For city rides, I’d pick the Unicorn, but when longer travel was in the cards, the Himalayan was my definite choice.

I embarked on several trips to Munnar and Idukki, and I even undertook a 1000-kilometre journey to Rameshwaram and Dhanushkodi, accompanied by one of the Himalayas.

My first cousin was working in the Middle East and owned a 2019 Yamaha R15 V3 here. It was one of the best-maintained R15s I had ever seen. He would replace the entire panel if he spotted a crack. I often borrowed this machine when he was around. However, as he was no longer at home, it was being neglected. One of his friends had taken the bike for a joyride and had a minor crash, resulting in some damage. When I visited his home and saw the state of the bike, I felt sad. I called him and offered to take care of it, to which he immediately agreed. I then brought it home.

The ride home was intimidating. The front tire was smooth as silk, the handlebar was bent, the chain was rusted, and the fork was very tight. The brake and brake foot lever was also bent. Recognizing that this wasn’t a DIY job, I booked a service at the Yamaha ASC.

The ASC replaced the broken parts, and now the bike is almost new. I also changed the front tire, so the bike is now ready for regular use.

With this addition, I had 4 motorcycles and one car on my small car porch (Unicorn, Himalayan, R15, and Activa). Eventually, my father and I agreed to sell off the Unicorn to one of his friends. I already had plans to buy a new bike since the owners of the Himalayan and R15 would be back in the coming months.

Right after selling the Unicorn, the actual owner of the Himalayan arrived. I washed and polished the Himalayan just before sending it off.

The R15 now served as my daily ride. I cherished nearly every aspect of this bike except for its ergonomics. No matter how hard I tried, I would invariably end up with wrist pain after each ride. Yes, people would say, “Use your core strength instead of your hands,” but despite starting each ride with a focus on using my core, after a couple of kilometres, I would find my full weight resting on my hands.

A call from my cousin informed me that he would be returning in about 3 weeks. This meant that my time with the R15 was limited, igniting my search for my next motorcycle. Although I didn’t have any concrete options in mind, I did have certain requirements:

At the start, I considered the Honda CB300R and the upcoming Himalayan 450. The Himalayan 400 was an absolutely fantastic motorcycle, even though it didn’t quite align with my requirements. But the upcoming Himalayan 450’s leaks made me lose interest in the 400.

Because of the lack of an ETA for the Himalayan 450, I removed it from my list. Then came the Honda CB300R, an attractively designed small bike, but its price tag was hefty for a 300cc. Suddenly, news reached me that KTM had introduced three more variants for Adventure 390. The Adventure 390 had checked all my boxes except for the price, but the introduction of the Adventure 390 X altered the equation.

During the few weeks before parting ways with the R15, I delved into reviews and discussions about Adventure 390. I even read through the entirety of the 70-page Adventure 390 thread here on the forum. After this thorough evaluation, I finally reached a decision and confirmed that the Adventure 390 X would be my future ride.

So here goes by buying experience of the KTM Adventure 390X

Saturday, 17 June 2023

Visited the KTM Showroom, Aluva, to check out the bike, but there was no Adventure X on the display or for a test drive, all the Demo bikes were headed to an off-road event they were conducting.

Friday, 28th July 2023

After receiving a couple of calls from the KTM showroom informing me that a test drive vehicle was available, I finally decided to head out to the showroom for a test drive. The sales staff asked for my driving license and handed over the bike after completing a brief paperwork.

The first thing I noticed was that the test drive bike had a broken clutch lever, and the right-hand mirror was missing! I started the bike and noticed that the instrument console was like a Christmas tree, showing the ABS warning, check engine light, and so on. Additionally, the speedometer was also not working.

I then took a 4KM round trip around the showroom, but I didn’t speed as I didn’t feel comfortable riding without a right-hand mirror in traffic. During the test drive, I noticed the following things:

After the test drive, I returned the vehicle to the showroom and informed them about the pathetic condition of the test drive vehicle. I also mentioned that as a customer, I wouldn’t go ahead and buy another bike after riding this test drive bike. They listened to what I said and replied that it was due to a recent off-road trial they sent the bike for. They also mentioned that this bike was shared across all the showrooms of Kochi and Thrissur (which I find hard to believe).

All the issues I mentioned were non-issues for me, so I decided to book the vehicle. Fortunately, they had a bike in stock, and I paid an amount of ₹5K to book the bike.

Saturday, 29th July 2023

Transfer the full amount of ₹3,62,180 the very next day. The sales staff then called me to send them the necessary documents for RTO registration, which includes a passport-size photo and the Aadhaar card number.

Monday, 31st July 2023

Received a call from the showroom to come in and sign the registration papers. Upon arrival, the sales staff informed me that the bike was available for viewing. After completing the paperwork, I was led to the rear section of the showroom/service centre. Since I had already signed the papers, this wasn’t a PDI.

Seeing your dream machine in person for the first time is a truly indescribable feeling. I couldn’t resist taking out my phone and capturing some pictures. I then turned on the ignition, and the odometer showed a reading of 8 kilometres.

Upon returning home, I received an SMS from the RTO indicating the payment of the ₹59,690 registration fee.

Tuesday, 1st August 2023

The dealer sends the registration number via WhatsApp.

Wednesday, 2nd August 2023

Finally, the wait was over. The salesperson called me around 4 PM and informed me that the bike was ready for delivery. I took a metro ride to the showroom. I had already signed the paperwork on Monday, so there was nothing to do except wait for my friends to arrive. The salesperson mentioned that the bike had an extended warranty of up to 5 years or 75000 km. Sweet!

I took the delivery and headed to the nearest petrol pump. There was a warning light on the console when I first started the bike, but it disappeared after filling up the fuel. After consulting the manual, I found out it was because the fuel level was low.

Initial impressions:

  • The power! The sweet and responsive engine revs up really well.
  • My dad rode as a pillion and mentioned that he could really feel the bumps on the road.
  • You sit tall, providing a clear view of the roofs of cars around you in traffic.
  • There are a lot of tools under the seat, and there is also preload adjuster which is rare to see.
  • By the end of the day, I had added around 45 km to the odometer. I intend to keep the bike as close to stock as possible, but I might add things like GPS mounts soon.

Thursday, 3th August 2023

Took a 60 km ride around Kochi just to get to know the bike. The bike feels very light and highly manoeuvrable around the city traffic. The fan would often come on occasionally. I can feel a little heat around the leg, but it’s very low compared to the Himalayan which would often scorch my leg during heavy traffic. I also feel that the heat will be lower after the run-in period is over. There are vibrations, and you can feel them. I made a mistake by not taking a break during this ride; my hands were firmly gripping the handle for 2 hours, and after the ride, my hands were numb for the entire day. Lesson learned: take breaks occasionally.

I have not been able to fully test the headlight yet, but the illumination around the buttons and controls is a nice addition. The console was showing 31 kmpl for the trip. I also saw that the Low Fuel Warning shows up when I have around 80KM for DTE.

The buttons on the console are a little hard to press. The button is quite wide, but the pressable area is tiny, making it difficult to press the button with gloves on. However, it feels like I will get used to this.

Saturday, 6th August 2023

It’s the weekend, and I’m eager to rack up some kilometres during the run-in period. The best place to do that is by hitting the roads to Munnar. I read somewhere in the forum that the high-range road is the best place for a run-in as it requires the usage of the entire range of the tachometer.

I started my trip around 6 AM, and we had a rendezvous at Perumbavoor at 7 AM, which is about 90 KM from Munnar. The Adventure 390 was accompanied by two Himalayans and one FZ-X.

I filled up the fuel and reset my trip meter to zero. The road was not busy, and it was my first time getting some proper open road with the bike, so I twisted the throttle a bit. Oh boy! Never in my mind did I think this bike is so quick. There was zero effort during overtakes; I never felt this confident in an overtake. The Munnar road doesn’t have many steep hairpins—actually, there are hardly any hairpins. But there are lots of twisty bends. This really tests the ByBre braking unit, and the braking was top-notch, way better than the Himalayan’s, which had less efficient braking due to its weight.

After having breakfast and taking multiple tea breaks, we reached Munnar around 11:30 AM. Then we decided to go to the Top Station, which is around 35 KM from Munnar town. The roads to the Top Station are not as well maintained as the road to Munnar, so it will be a great place to test the suspension. I felt the suspension is a little hard and was able to feel most potholes. While switching to the Himalayan midway through the ride, it shows how good its suspension is compared to the Adventure’s. The Himalayan suspension handles the potholes very well, and I barely felt any shocks. This could be due to its higher travel and spoke wheels.

The stock MRF tires were pretty good, but I am not very experienced in tire dynamics, so I am leaving that to the experts. We stopped for lunch and continued the ride, reaching the top station around 1:30 PM. After spending around 2 hours there, we decided to ride back. The ride back was uneventful except for seeing some elephants in the grassland by the roadside. I then took a couple of pictures of the clan.

Around 5 PM, we reached back in Munnar town. Then we decided to travel to the Gap Road, AKA the ‘Scottish Roads of Kerala,’ to have some tea. The Gap Road is a bikers’ heaven, 30 KM of wide paved roads with twisty and predictable turns and stunning views. I unleashed the power of the Adventure 390, being careful not to exceed the run-in period limit of 7.5K RPM. It was the best part of the entire trip, even though I hardly pushed the bike.

As we had a time constraint, we didn’t ride the full length of Gap Road. After finding a tea stall on the roadside, we stopped and enjoyed the stunning view of Gap Road while sipping tea. It was around 6 PM, so we started our return home. As it was getting darker, it seemed like it was now time to test the headlights. I am always sceptical about LED units because the vehicles I’ve driven with LED lights, whether it is a car, scooter, or motorcycle, always had very bad illumination. I always preferred a halogen setup. But Adventure 390 changed my view. The LED unit performed way better than I expected. The headlight illuminated even the side roads, but it had a very short throw. The low beam only illuminated 10-20 m in front of the bike. When the high beam was switched on, it had a much longer throw and illuminated the entire road. However, I was careful not to blind oncoming traffic. Also, the friend who was riding in front of me on his FZ-X complained that the high beam was blinding him via his rearview mirrors. The journey down to Perumbavoor was smooth; we occasionally took breaks. Around 10 PM, we reached Perumbavoor town, ate dinner there, and parted ways.

The journey added around 300 KM to the Odo. Below is the full trip status shown on the console.

So, this completes my first proper ride with my new Adventure 390. I’m hopefully planning to do more trips in the coming months. As a final verdict for the 500 KM of ownership, here are the points I’ve noted down. Please note that most of them are in comparison with the Himalayan, as I partly owned them.

  • The 373CC powerplant is quick. There is vibration around some RPM, but I’m not sure how the vibration is after 7500 RPM.
  • The mirrors are good, way better than the stock Himalayan ones. They have very few blind spots. As an extra note, the Himalayan stock mirror is a safety hazard; it has a very narrow view and a huge blind spot.
  • The meter console is good and very informative. I didn’t feel the need for the TFT screen, but it would be great if it had the button controls right on the handlebar, just like the other Adventure 390 variants. The console buttons are very hard to press, even without a glow.
  • I’m not sure if I miss the electronic safety features like Traction Control and Cornering ABS; it’s too early to tell.
  • I’m a little scared of the stock MRF tires, so I haven’t let it lean too much in the corners.
  • I have no complaints about the build quality; everything feels sturdy. No rattling yet.
  • The riding posture is good, and there’s a lot of space to move around. However, standing up and riding is a bit hard compared to the Himalayan.
  • There is a lot of chain noise; after the ride, the chain slack has increased quite a bit. It needs some adjusting and lubing.
  • The clutch is light; it doesn’t feel like a hand workout compared to the Himalayan.
  • The suspension is quite hard, and we can feel the shocks even on small potholes. I will try to adjust the preload and see how it goes.
  • The handlebar is wider than the Himalayan’s and has a very good touring posture. I think I don’t need a handlebar riser.
  • Sometimes the gears feel a little hard, but they’re a lot smoother than the test drive vehicle I rode. Maybe the chain slack will have an impact on this. I will update this after the chain slack adjustment.
  • The user manual app is very hard to use; the search functionality often does not work. I was not able to find the PDF version of the Indian version of the bike or for the X variant. A printed version would have improved the experience for me.
  • Pillion comfort is good; my cousin rode with me, and she said there is a lot of room for her to sit. But it is not a final verdict as it was a very short ride.
  • There is no center stand unlike in the Himalayan. I already had a paddock stand, so it’s not an issue for me.
  • I was given a 5-year/75000 KM extended warranty; I think this is more than enough for me.
  • The ride-by-wire is awesome! The throttle is a lot smoother. I’m not sure if I’m imagining it, but during an overtake, if we blip the accelerator, I feel the throttle opens more than normal and gives a sudden boost to complete the overtake. Experts, please enlighten me if this is really happening or if I am imagining it.
  • The wind visor is doing its job fine. It’s still at the lowest height but performing nicely.
  • The styling: This doesn’t look like a KTM Duke. There is very little orange on the bike, which IMO is a good thing. Even the KTM branding is hard to see.

Check out BHPian comments for more insights and information.

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