made control easy, and we were very impressed by both the ride
quality and stability it delivered, both on-road and off. However,
if the long-travel platform has a drawback, it’s the seat height it
creates, a tall 36. 8" from the ground unladen. While climbing
aboard does compress the springs, so that reaching the ground
isn’t quite so challenging, those with shorter inseams may have
issues. Also, as the suspension settled a bit after a few hundred
miles, the sidestand became almost too long on level ground.
We were obliged to lift ourselves off the seat while hanging
off on the inside peg to keep from toppling over. But to keep
it all in perspective, you could spend a small fortune on aftermarket suspension for a Japanese dual-sport and not approach
the quality of the standard KTM parts.
Seemingly minor changes to the Enduro’s braking components create a much better impression overall. The petal style
front disc is still the same 300mm diameter and uses a Brembo
two-piston caliper and axial pump master cylinder, but the brake
feel it produces, which we called “wooden” back then, is now
very tactile and controllable. At the back, the rear disc has
been enlarged from 220mm to 250mm for more power, and
the balance of front/rear braking is now very nicely matched.
Of course, the braking power these components create must
be transferred to the pavement by the tires, and knobbies don’t
have the surface area of street tires. Our previous test generated
a very long 144.2' best stop, but the improved braking feel we
found should deliver slightly shorter stops.
ABS is standard equipment on the Enduro R, and it can be
turned off if desired. Also, an optional “dongle” can be plugged
into the system to convert the standard ABS for pure off-road
use, with a changed threshold for front ABS activation and the
rear ABS disconnected, so that you can skid the rear wheel into
turns for steering purposes.
The standard tires are Pirelli Rallycross models in 90/90-21
and 140/80-18 rear sizes, with near identical axle heights of
13. 6" at the front and 13. 3" rear, which we’ve learned to associate with neutral handling. We really like the Pirelli’s off-road
grip, but their tall sharp knobs were quickly rounded by street
use, so we tried to be as gentle as possible with the throttle on
pavement to preserve their strengths in the dirt. Regardless,
keeping a bike as powerful as the Enduro R in fresh knobbies
is bound to get expensive.
The 690 Enduro R feels more like a motocross bike than
your typical dual-sport. It’s tall and very skinny, with only
the width of the radiator scoops to add width at the front. And
instead of a humongous gas tank between your knees, the KTM
wears a 3.17-gal. plastic tank that forms the rear subframe,
shaped into a saddle-like configuration around the rear tire,
and at 54 average mpg, it has a 170-mile range. This tank
placement makes the bike feel lighter than its actual 345.5 lbs.
and also influences the weight balance, which is 39.4% front
with the rider aboard. Ridden in sand, perhaps the best handling test for a dual-sport, the bike tracks accurately without
plowing or skating the front tire. The steering geometry isn’t
aggressive, but it gives excellent stability with agility; 27.0°
of rake with 4.53" of trail on a 59.2" wheelbase. The seat-to-pegs relationship is also quite comfortable both in a standing
and sitting position.
There’s no mistaking the 690 Enduro R for a street-focused
ride. Its tall, hard seat, strong vibration and knobby tires fail
to hide its preference for dirt. And although its potent motor
has no problem generating freeway speeds, the knobbies con-
stantly remind you not to expect too much from its braking
distances, and as you slow to a stop, the bike refuses to hold
a steady line as the alternating knobs change the balance
point of the contact patches. While you might be tempted to
use it as a commuter for short distances, imagining that your
weekends could be spent in off-road pursuits, we think you’ll
soon go searching for compromise rubber. It’s either that or
you truck the Enduro R to events where its knobby tires are
On the street, the very skinny seat will get your attention very
quickly. Okay for off-road, it can feel hard as a brick within
100 miles on pavement.
Instruments & Controls
A compact instrument cluster provides a wealth of information. The speedo is a large digital display and the tach has
a clear analog sweep, with a gear indicator, clock, fuel gauge,
distance to empty readout, coolant temp gauge and a wide
range of indicator lights. In addition, the exact circumference
of the front tire can be set to provide an accurate speedo readout
regardless of the tire used.
The footpegs are cleated, in keeping with the dirt-centric
mission, and do not have rubber inserts, and the brake lever
is unusually easy to adjust for height, without the bother of
accessing a hidden brake light switch mechanism, another
thoughtful touch. In addition, the handlebars can be repositioned closer to the rider to customize the ergonomics. Only
the flimsy mirrors seemed out of place.
Wherever you look, the KTM has been designed to excel as
a sporting dirt-bike, not simply as a dirt-capable thumper. And
it all works to make your riding experience special. Even the
plastic skid plate is a rugged piece, not a cosmetic part meant
to be replaced by something stronger.
With an MSRP of $10,498, the KTM 690 Enduro R has
only increased in price by $200 from what it cost five years
ago, and although you can have a lot of fun with a Suzuki
DR650SE for just $6499, for instance, don’t imagine for a
moment that it measures up to the Enduro R when it’s time to
get down and dirty.