Honda CB300R, Husqvarna Vitpilen 401, KTM 390 Duke Naked Bike Comparison | Cycle World
Jeff Allen

Honda CB300R, Husqvarna Vitpilen 401, KTM 390 Duke Naked Bike Comparison

Entry-level naked bike smackdown

Motorcycle riders looking to make a bold statement should take a look at naked bikes. They blend most of the fun stuff of a sportbike along with the more upright and cozy ergonomics of a standard. Nowadays you don’t have to spend a lot to have one in the garage either. Case in point, these trio of urban racers. Ranging in price from $4,649 (Honda) to $6,299 (Husqvarna), with the 390 Duke positioned neatly in the middle ($5,499), each offers a distinct flavor for those looking to have some fun on their way to work, or during weekend blasts.

Naked bike shootout

Honda’s new 2019 CB300R faces off against the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 and the 390 Duke from KTM.

Jeff Allen

Both the Honda CB300R and Husqvarna’s Vitpilen 401 have the distinction of being the new kids on the block. They wear contemporary neo-sports styling that’s a pleasing balance of old and new. They are answers, in some way shape and form, to the awesome little 390 Duke that took the entry-level naked bike segment by storm when it was released three years ago. Since then the orange bike has been a through batch of styling updates to more closely align it with its rubber-smearing 1290 Super Duke R brother.

All equally dressed for success, it’s hard to pick a winner in the styling department. Teenage racers will likely gravitate to the KTM’s sharp edges and flashy pumpkin colors as surmised by our youngest 21-year-old tester, Evan Allen.

KTM 390 Duke

If you’re a rider of smaller stature, then you’re going to appreciate the KTM’s cozy cockpit. If you’re a taller guy, however, it feels a tad cramped.

Jeff Allen

The CB300R, on the other hand, is far more understated but still handsome and easy to live without raising too much attention, for good or bad. We appreciate the CB’s clean, boxy lines that show off the mechanics of the motorcycle in a fashionable way. The Vitpilen tastefully pumps up the volume even further appealing to those who may want to park their motorcycle in the living room and have it double as a coffee stand. With its long white torso, shapely stepped seat, and elegant spoked wheels, it’s a motorcycle that commands attention.

Vitpilen 401

If looks could kill… Husqvarna’s Vitpilen 401 makes a statement anywhere you go.

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“We all knew the Husqvarna would look fantastic, but the real surprise is how well the Honda holds its own,” Motorcyclist Editor-in-Chief Chris Cantle says. “It shares the neo-classic lines of the CB1000R, just like the Vitpilen 401 mirrors the 701—and like the Huskies, everyone comes out a winner. The Honda’s styling is a giant step up from the outgoing CB300F, which was outdated by a generation. The CB300F came from a time when entry-level bikes worked great but looked a little dorky. This new era of machines puts those ghosts to bed for good.”


 


All three are adorned with bold LED lighting that not only looks modern and elegant, but helps you stand out in a sea of traffic. They sport headlights that put non-LED-equipped machines, from just a couple of years to shame. More similarities come in the form of smooth-shifting six-speed gearboxes and feather-light and easy-to-manage clutches.

Honda CB1000R LED

Bold LED lighting helps you stand out on the road. Attention to detail and fit and finish is at a higher level than the Euro bikes.

Jeff Allen

Instrumentation, on the other hand is mixed. The orange bike wears the most elaborate, an aesthetically pleasing TFT display (that is if you’re a hard-core techie)—a colorful contrast to the monochromatic LCD on the other two. Between them, the Honda gets the nod, as its an easier screen to read at a glance. However it could benefit from a gear position indicator…something we typically see on a new Honda. Although it looks cool, the cleverly integrated round face gauge package of the 401 is tough to read while riding because of its small font. The tactile function of the buttons could also be improved.

When it comes to bikes, especially those designed for newbs, light is always right. And the Honda clearly has the advantage. With a curb weight of just 315 pounds, it is 47 pounds less than the KTM and 25 pounds fewer than the svelte Vitpilen. In fact, the Honda is so light, it made us think its 286cc single-cylinder engine was overhauled as it accelerates so much harder than we remember!

CB300R balanced chassis

Smooth throttle response and a balanced chassis make for a surprisingly fun little bike to ride in the CB300R.

Jeff Allen

True, it employs the smallest-displacement engine, but it still delivers a surprising degree of acceleration for a bike of its displacement size. On the dyno, the Honda cranks out 27.5 hp at 8,300 rpm—13.7 fewer ponies than its European born competition. It also produces 8 pound-feet less of peak torque. Sure it isn’t quite as quick as the Euro bikes, it still delivers enough oomph for it to run with speedy California freeway traffic.

286cc single

Without a doubt the Honda is down a bit on power with its 286cc single. However, with its svelte chassis, it’s a faster bike than you’d think.

Jeff Allen

“Both Euro bikes are snappier, and happier to loft the front wheel, but it’s easy to appreciate the smoothness of Honda’s mill and its excellent six-speed transmission,” Cantle explains. “The Honda’s weight savings are evident, it has no trouble keeping up with the bigger 373cc bikes. I have to give a nod to the sportier motors in this group though. There’s more drama—and more entertainment value—in the Austrian engines. Getting on and off the throttle seems like an event; there’s intake racket and clatter, and with entry-level bikes, a little rudeness is a welcome attribute. No matter which machine you choose, you’re going to be wringing it out to keep up with traffic.”

Vitpilen 401 373cc single

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 is powered by a liquid-cooled 373cc single that is identical to the powerplant inside the KTM.

Jeff Allen

In contrast, the shared 373cc singles belt out nearly identical power numbers on the Cycle World dyno. The 401 ekes out the KTM in terms of horsepower, but the Duke has a 0.5 pound-feet advantage in torque. Throttle and engine response are also sharper and more pronounced feeling—not necessarily a happy attribute, especially in a new rider’s hands. However, more experienced folks will likely appreciate the engine’s punchier feel.

390 Duke

KTM’s 390 Duke not only looks the part of an sport naked bike, it acts like it too.

Jeff Allen

The way these singles make power has quite the effect on suspension performance. For example, the harder-hitting powerband of the Austrian-designed four-valve mill inside the orange and white bikes loads up the rear suspension than the gentler delivery of the Honda. The white and orange bikes’ engines also shake a bit more at speed, delivering more vibration in through the controls.

Vitpilen 401 ergonomics

Husqvarna’s Vitpilen 401 has the most aggressive ergonomics in this group. If you’re a taller, lanky fellow, the setup works well.

Jeff Allen

Because of its smaller size, it’s no surprise the Honda recorded the most favorable fuel mileage. It registered a 54.1 mpg average, giving it a range of 146 miles based on the capacity of 2.7-gallon fuel tank. The KTM and Husqvarna, on the other hand, were a few points lower with an 48.9 mpg average (Vitpilen) and a 48.5 average (KTM). However the KTM gets the nod for its largest-in-class 3.5-gallon fuel tank, 1.0-gallon more than the 401.

2019 CB300R

The 2019 CB300R’s styling is tasteful and elegant.

Jeff Allen

Suspension-wise, all three machines wear non-adjustable inverted forks that not only look cool, but offer sporty handling dynamics. Rear suspension configuration is also similar, with this trio featuring more basic non-linkage setups with the shock mounted directly to the frame and swingarm. The Honda’s setup proved best, offering the most controlled action at a mellow commuting pace and at speed through turns. The KTM suspenders deliver a more active ride than the Honda, but nowhere as springy feeling as the Vitpilen. Rider beware: Have gentle hands on Husky.

CB300R

Honda’s little CB300R is a hoot to ride. It’s also more accommodating for taller folks than the KTM.

Jeff Allen

Despite its slim size, the Honda offers the most accommodating and natural-feeling ergonomics that was appreciated by all three of our testers, ranging from 6 feet tall (author) to our pint-size tester, Evan Allen, at 5-foot-5.

“The CB300Rs office is killer,” Cantle says. “Another outstanding update over the CB300F. Extra legroom means the taller fellas can stretch their legs, but a thin waist and well-sculpted seat mean folks with shorter inseams can touch both feet with no trouble.”

Honda’s CB300R vs KTM’s 390 Duke

Honda’s CB300R and KTM’s 390 Duke are perfect examples of getting a lot without spending a lot.

Jeff Allen

In contrast, if you’re a taller guy like Cantle, the Duke’s cockpit isn’t as spacious as the well-appointed Honda. Specifically, the seating position below the waist is cramped and not as well proportioned. Nevertheless we did appreciate its handlebar and more upright stance much more so than the low-slung clip-ons of the Husqvarna. Another nice plus is the ability to adjust the position of both the clutch and brake levers on the Euro bikes.

On the flip side, however, if you’re seeking a more focused, racy-feeling machine between your legs, then you’ll likely gravitate toward the white bike. Especially if you’re a tall, lanky fellow.

Shootout

Here’s $16,447 worth of brand-new entry-level machinery.

Jeff Allen

At the end of the day, we’d be happy to go home with any of these three bikes. Each offer a unique take in motorcycling as well as statement of the person behind the handlebar. Despite being the cheapest, the Honda is the most polished machine offering superior fit and finish and smooth, cozy riding experience. Sure it’s not as quick as the Euro bikes, nor as flashy, but its understated silhouette is both elegant and fashionable. Oh, and did we mention: It’s the least expensive too…

Entry-level shootout

Three flavors of entry-level naked bike fun—which would you pick?

Jeff Allen

“Honda knocked it out of the park with the CB300R,” Cantle sums. “It’s down on displacement and power to other entry-level machines, but it handily keeps up, then runs circles around this group when it comes to pricing. Better still, it’s a great-looking motorcycle. No more holding your nose or rushing through the new bike experience; any rider would be proud to roll up on it.”

City slicking

This trio of entry-level naked bikes are perfect for city slicking.

Jeff Allen

However, if making a statement is your mission, the Vitpilen 401 is absolutely the bike to do it on. Long, low, and sleek, it’s as entertaining to ride as it is to look at. But the springy suspension and punchy throttle response necessitate more delicate hands typical of a more mature rider. It’s also the most expensive and has the most unfinished look when viewed up close.

Duke throttle

Throttle response and ride-by-wire settings are smoother than the Husqvarna, but not quite as refined as the CB300R.

Jeff Allen

When it comes down to brass tacks, the KTM offers the best overall bang for the buck. It delivers the same sort of rowdy riding experience as its Super Duke R big brother, only in a smaller and more manageable package. It includes nice componentry like a color display, electronically disabled ABS, and a bold stance that exudes power at a stoplight. And if you can live with its tighter rider triangle and more jumpy-than-the-Honda throttle response, you’ll be very happy with the entry-level 390 Duke.

Vitpilen 401

Husqvarna’s Vitpilen 401 makes a statement wherever you go.

Jeff Allen

390 Duke

KTM’s 390 Duke is a boy racer’s fantasy come true.

Jeff Allen

Honda CB300R

Riders seeking a tasteful and well-rounded entry-level naked bike will do well with a Honda’s 2019 CB300R.

Jeff Allen

CB300R Dyno

2019 Honda CB300R Dyno Chart

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Vitpilen 401 Dyno

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Dyno

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Duke Dyno

2018 KTM 390 Duke Dyno

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2019 Honda CB300R Specifications

Price: $4,649
Engine: 286cc, liquid-cooled, DOHC, single
Transmission/Final Drive: Six-speed/chain
Front Suspension: Showa 41mm inverted fork; 5.1 in. travel
Rear Suspension: Showa Pro-Link shock; 4.2 in. travel
Front Brake: Nissin radial-mount caliper; 296mm disc
Rear Brake: Hydraulic; 220mm disc
Rake: 24.7 degrees
Trail: 3.7 in.
Wheelbase: 53.3 in.
Seat Height: 31.5 in.
Fuel Capacity: 2.7 gal.
Weight: 315 lb.

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 Specifications

Price: $6,299
Engine: 373cc, liquid-cooled DOHC, single
Transmission/Final Drive: Six-speed/chain
Front Suspension: WP 43mm inverted fork; 5.6 in. travel
Rear Suspension: WP shock; 5.9 in. travel
Front Brake: Bybre radial-mount caliper; 320mm disc
Rear Brake: Hydraulic; 230mm disc
Rake: 25 degrees
Trail: 3.7 in.
Wheelbase: 53.43 in.
Seat Height: 32.87 in.
Fuel Capacity: 2.5 gal.
Weight: 340 lb.

2018 KTM 390 Duke Specifications

Price: $5,499
Engine: 373cc, liquid-cooled DOHC, single
Transmission/Final Drive: Six-speed/chain
Front Suspension: WP 43mm inverted fork; 5.59 in. travel
Rear Suspension: WP shock; 5.9 in. travel
Front Brake: Bybre radial-mount caliper; 320mm disc
Rear Brake: Hydraulic; 230mm disc
Rake: 25 degrees
Trail: 3.7 in.
Wheelbase: 53.4 in.
Seat Height: 32.68 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.5 gal.
Weight: 362 lb.