The 690 R is surprisingly mild-mannered in the lower rev
range. At first this was disappointing, but the more time I
spent off-road the more I appreciated the control over rear
wheel spin this provides. But, make no mistake, the 690 has
plenty of power in the upper revs. In fact, this split personality; tractable initial throttle response coupled with progressive
high-rpm power, makes the bike very manageable to ride off-road, which reduces rider fatigue.
KTM’s attention to detail and overall build quality is top tier.
The machine handles well and is superbly suspended. My only
two complaints are the incessant buzz in the handgrips at
anything over 45 mph on the pavement (regardless of rpm),
and the other is the mirrors. They are the only items in the
entire package that just don’t fit, as if they were purchased
at Pep Boys as an afterthought. Their homely looks are further
aggravated by being somewhat ineffectual.
So, add some different mirrors and perhaps thicker grips to
subdue the vibration in the bars, and all would be well.
Although the new KTM 690 R is mechanically almost identical to the version we rode five years ago, its riding impression
couldn’t be more different. Where the old one had a frighteningly abrupt throttle response and rock-hard suspension, which
made dealing with its potential performance difficult, the new
one is a sweetheart, with perfectly controllable power and suspension that feels like it’s filled with marshmallows to give a
consistently deep cushion over every obstacle.
Obviously, its suspension tuning is now very close to ideal
as delivered, but the engine mapping has definitely changed.
Despite the fact that the 690 Enduro’s state of tune is said
to be the same as the wild and crazy Duke street thumper, the
Enduro gives much smoother response in the first half of the
throttle opening for the predictable control you need in the dirt
to maintain traction. With a stiff, lightweight chassis that’s
stable and accurate even in sand, and terrific tactile braking,
the KTM 690 Enduro R will make you feel like you’ve just graduated to the expert class.
1. Enlarged from its previous 653.7cc to a
true 690cc displacement in 2013, the Enduro
R shares the same tune as the Duke, which
generates a whopping 61.97 hp at the rear
wheel on street tires, although the knobby
rear tire will fight for grip and show less than
50 hp on the dyno. Nevertheless, the Enduro R
gives generous performance together with a
smoother throttle response that makes
traction on dirt easier to manage.
2. The brake and throttle cables
may interfere with visibility, but the
instruments are very complete with
a big digital speedo, analog tach,
clock, fuel gauge, gear indicator,
coolant temp, on/off switchable ABS
plus the usual fare. Note, too, that
the handlebars can be mounted in a
second position, closer to the rider, to
refine the ergonomic layout.
3. Like a motocrosser, the Enduro’s seat
stretches almost to the steering head for
optimum body placement in turns. The layout
is also very narrow, with only the radiator
scoops to widen the front, while the plastic
3.17-gal. fuel tank resides under the number
panels at the rear (the filler is under the
triangular cap between the grab rails).
4. The front view shows off the headlight
with its mini wind fairing and the strong
plastic lever guards. The WP forks are fully
adjustable and deliver a superb 9.84" cushion
together with great control and stability. Plus
the single 300mm brake disc with its two-piston Brembo caliper gives very sensitive feel
and strong power. Only the funky mirrors were
a drag. Their too-close location is fixed by the
throttle control’s placement and their skinny
stalks were unable to deal with all the vibration, making their images all but useless.
5. The Enduro R has a very rigid chrome-moly trellis chassis that is not deflected by
sharp impacts and the cast aluminum swingarm is a very long 23. 5" for excellent drive
in the dirt. The monoshock rear suspension
uses a progressive linkage that also gives
9.84" travel. The Pirelli Rallycross knobbies
work great in dirt, decent on pavement, but
create a lot of vibration at high speed and
the wheels are not factory balanced.
PHOTOS B Y DAVE SEARLE