Although the covetous eyes will always be locked on the 390, if you want to learn the art of riding on a race track then it is the KTM RC 200 you want
Words: Aninda Sardar
Images: Gaurav S Thombre
I scratched my head, I squinted at it and then I squinted harder but I simply couldn’t find it. Nope, apart from the new set of graphics, including the glossy finish that I prefer over the previous edition’s matte , I couldn’t find anything new. How could I? There is nothing new on the new KTM RC 200. But then again, brakes aside, did the bike really need an update? I think not. In fact, I’d go out on a limb and, even at the cost of being branded a motorcycling heretic, tell you that of the two RCs available in India you’re probably better off with the RC 200 if your goal is to use the bike as a stepping stone to mastering the art of riding on track.
The RC 200 is less intimidating
Sure one looks like the other but I kid you not, the RC 390 is an intimidating machine. It is focused and it can be angry if you don’t ride it with as much attention as the bike demands of its rider. At 291.8 bhp per tonne, the larger KTM can accelerate as quickly as some of the much larger bikes on sale in the country now. Which also means that on a track a novice’s body will be approaching turns way before his brain has exited the previous corner. Sure that’s an exaggeration, but you all get the drift, right? If you want to learn how to ride you’ll be better off on a machine where your head is not playing catch up with the cylinder head. We say, stick to the RC 200’s gentler (relatively of course) 185.5 bhp per tonne. And frankly, that’s a pretty neat power-to-weight in its own right.
It’s less of a handful
Tipping the scales at 137.5kg, the RC 200 is significantly lighter than the 390’s 147 kilos. That means the novice will have an easier time on the saddle, shifting from side to side through the corners on a race track. It’s also easier to slow down since the lighter motorcycle carries less momentum on the straights. The fact that the power delivery from the 199.5cc liquid cooled engine is rather linear also helps. As does the fact that the engine itself feels less frenetic.
Its handling is sublime
Guess what? The trellis chassis of the RC 200, its 43mm WP inverted forks and that WP monoshock at the rear are all identical to what’s used in the RC 390. Even the 1340mm wheelbase and the 66.5-degree steering head angle are the same. Ergo, the 200 is as sublime a handler as the RC 390. Of course, it goes without saying that I would have preferred the 390’s larger 320 mm disc (new on the bike) to the smaller bike’s somewhat spongy 300 mm rotor, ABS and the Metzeler rubber that the larger bike gets but the 200’s MRFs are decent too. The bike’s dynamics are such that in a waltz through a race track, it’ll happily lead the novice as they dance their way from one corner to another. At the end, it’s a win all situation for the novice for he gains confidence because the bike allows him to push harder and find his limits, lap after lap.
So am I saying then that it is better to buy the RC 200 over a 390? Certainly not! The bigger bike is still the one you want, but a bike like that cannot be approached but with respect. You need to fulfil your rite of passage before you earn the right to ride the RC 390. That’s where the RC 200 fits in. It’s the stepping stone that will ensure that you learn how to acquit yourself on a race track before you swing a leg over the other one.