MAKE NO MISTAKE, the KTM 690 Enduro R is not a street-focused dual-sport, it’s the other way around. If you are serious enough about your off-roading to
enter organized events, you could save yourself a lot of time and
effort by buying a bike that’s ready for the job instead of making
costly modifications trying to bring a lesser machine up to snuff,
only to find that some things resist sufficient improvement.
We last tested the 690 Enduro R back in July of 2010, when
its engine displaced a true 653.7cc. In 2013, the stroke was
increased from 80mm to 84.5mm while the bore remained the
same 102.0mm diameter to lift the capacity to a full 690.0cc.
Typical for a KTM, the motor makes a lot of power for its
size. To accomplish this, every internal part and process is
done to racing standards. The wide piston looks like a Formula
One part, with its super-short skirt and anti-friction coatings.
The cylinder head’s valve seats and ports are beautifully fin-
ished and perfectly matched, with no need for tedious hand
smoothing. The valve sizes are huge, 40mm intakes and 34mm
exhausts, and the valve springs are single element conical types
to resist float. The chain-driven single overhead cam rides in
needle bearings and the split rocker shafts use rollers to reduce
friction against the lobes. There are two spark plugs, each with
its own mapping and the compression ratio is a sky-high 12.6: 1
for optimum efficiency and power. If you love well-crafted
hardware, you’ve got to be impressed by KTM’s engineering.
Said to be in the exact same state of tune as the wild and
crazy Duke 690, which made a 61.97 hp, 46.58 lb.-ft. of torque
and revved to 8500 rpm—all records for a big single in our
testing—the Enduro R has been tamed by a more progressive
response from its Ride by Wire throttle. However, due to its
knobby tires, nothing like those power numbers will be deliv-
ered to the knurled steel drum of a dyno. Tread distortion and
slip prevent even 50 hp from registering, but be assured, it’s still
in there if you were to fit street tires. And unlike its previous
version, which had some very abrupt fueling issues from idle
and a tendency for surging and hesitation, we found the new
bike’s Keihin fuel injection perfectly mapped, with smooth
response across the range—ideal for control on loose surfaces.
Our only gripes about the engine haven’t changed. One is
its tendency to make a loud clatter when hot. Although the
hefty counterbalancer beneath the crankshaft is actually gear-driven, the sound is similar to a KLR’s, which uses a pair of
chain-driven balancers. The other is vibration, and between
the engine’s throbbing, the rumble of the knobs against the
road and the fact that KTM doesn’t balance the wheels on its
off-road or enduro bikes, the machine is a veritable symphony
of shake. The thin handgrips actually threatened nerve damage
after about 15 miles of freeway speeds, and the mirrors are
completely useless. If it were ours, we’d fit fatter grips, tuned-mass-damper bar end weights and balance the wheels.
The 690 has an up-to-date six-speed transmission, not a five-speed like the Japanese dual-sports. This gives you a wider
spread of gear options and, combined with the engine’s extra
power, it always seems to have plenty of drive for the occasion.
However, the shift quality is not great. The downshifts have a
crunchy quality and neutrals can be elusive. But it’s also possible these issues would improve with more miles.
For whatever reason, KTM’s slip/assist clutches, despite
being the same Adler Power Torque products used by many
other manufacturers, don’t give the odd engagement feel we
routinely complain about. Not only did the Enduro’s clutch
have a consistent engagement point, but the lever effort required
by the hydraulic system was remarkably light, almost like a
trials bike’s—super easy to feather without hand fatigue—
perfect for really challenging off-road use.
KTM has favored WP suspension, founded by Dutchman
Wim Peters, as far back as 1981, and it later bought the company, moving it to Austria in 1999. What Öhlins is to street suspension, WP is to off-road, and the Enduro R gets top-quality
components. The fork is a stout 43mm male-slider unit that’s
fully adjustable, with its compression and rebound circuits
in opposite legs to prevent changes to one from affecting the
other. At the back is a long 23. 5" die-cast aluminum swingarm
supported by a linkage-mounted monoshock that offers not
just preload and rebound adjustability but both high and low-speed compression damping as well for the ultimate in tune-ability. Joining these systems is a stiff lightweight trellis frame
of chrome-moly tubing that resists deflection so that severe
impacts don’t knock the bike off line. The total travel is 9.84"
both front and back, for a deep cushion that can handle very
rough terrain without bottoming. Even better, unlike our last
Enduro R’s suspension, which needed significant tweaking, the
latest version’s seemed ideal as delivered. The bike soaked up
bumps large and small with a predictably consistent action that
690 Enduro R
BY DAVE SEARLE