2013 KTM 690 Duke Quick Shift
Motorcycles have a number of tasks contingent on their design brief, but at the end of the day each bike’s core purpose is to entertain, and few motorcycles do this better than supermoto-inspired naked bikes. Even the most stirring of naked bikes has a difficult time finding a safe haven in the U.S. sportbike market, however, hence the KTM 690 Duke’s departure from the KTM lineup through 2011 and 2012.
Fortunately for those who appreciate the Duke’s design and intent to satisfy, KTM has brought the venerable 690 back to the States for the new model year. More importantly, all the same updates that made the 690 Duke a success over the pond one year back are carried over. But is it enough to warrant a longer stay stateside?
People say you don’t realize what you’ve got until it’s gone, but in the case of the 690 Duke, we always knew that it was a great package with an undeniable ability to satisfy all senses. A larger displacement LC4 engine sweetens the package for 2013, and runs a longer stroke than before in addition to a new cylinder head with dual sparkplugs that act independently of each other and provide “extended service intervals of 10,000 kilometers (6213 miles) and even lower fuel consumption,” says KTM.
The engine’s highlights aren’t all hidden up top; the Duke runs an Adler Power Torque Clutch (APTC) slipper clutch for rear wheel stability under deceleration, and now a ride-by-wire throttle that’s intended to provide crisp throttle response. Engine updates terminate at the Duke’s newly routed exhaust, which sweeps up near the tail of the bike and provides a surprisingly muted exhaust note.
The 2013 690 Duke will come with selectable engine maps. The softer of these two maps retards the ignition timing by one degree, whereas the more aggressive map will advance the timing by one degree. Fueling is unaffected by either map.
The Duke’s chassis is different only in regards to the non-adjustable WP fork and rear shock, which replace the older Duke’s adjustable pieces and were likely used to keep costs within reason. That’s not to say that there aren’t other worthwhile updates for 2013; a new two-piece seat lowers the seat height by more than an inch, plus the bike’s been outfitted with more aggressively designed body panels at the tank and a single lens headlight that’s easier on the eyes than the outgoing twin projector-beam setup. The braking package is still completed by a high-spec, radially mounted four-piston Brembo caliper that bites on a 320mm disc, although for 2013 that package has been strengthened by way of a switchable ABS system that weighs no more than 2.2 pounds.
KTM confidently touts the new 690 Duke as the most powerful single-cylinder motorcycle on the market . and our test unit drove that point home by producing 62.3 horsepower at 7800 rpm and 46.7 foot-pounds of torque at 6400 rpm. What’s perhaps more impressive is that the bike weighs just 356 pounds when full of fuel and equipped with a fresh set of Michelin Pilot Power tires.
The first thing you notice when you throw a leg over the 690 Duke is how much more userfriendly its 32.9-inch-tall seat feels than the older model’s perch. The rider triangle is superb as a whole, and there’s still plenty of room between the footrests and reshaped seat to allow 6-foottall riders the opportunity to stretch their legs out. One thing we did notice over the course of a few long rides, however, is that the contour of the seat limits how much you can move around in the saddle.
It doesn’t seem like a big problem at first, but after 50 miles in the saddle you’ll be wishing for some freedom. Back at a standstill, you can’t help but appreciate the bike’s nearly unparalleled fit and finish.
The Duke’s on/off throttle transition feels mildly aggressive, but the ride-by-wire throttle feels well calibrated through the rest of the throttle’s pull and makes for easy stoplight-tostoplight runs. Getting slowed down and launching off the line are equally as endearing a task thanks mostly to the bike’s hydraulic clutch and brake lever, which take just one or two fingers to modulate and are surprisingly easy on your forearms. Brake power from the Brembo caliper is all you could ask for from a bike that weighs just a tick over 350 pounds.
We could go on and on about the Duke’s smaller triumphs (this is one of those bikes that’s more than the sum of its many sweet parts), but in all honesty it’s that LC4 engine that we really like. The powerplant is a workhorse, with plenty of power between 3000 rpm and 8000 rpm to keep you entertained no matter how tight or open the road.
There’s an abundance of front-wheel-lofting torque down low and plenty of rpm to carry triple-digit speeds when your heart so desires, yet you can cruise around at 4000 rpm and everything settles in around you quite nicely. Everything’s got a downfall of course, and in the LC4’s case it’s vibrations, most of which become apparent at around 5000 rpm, or at about 70 mph in top gear. The Duke was never intended to run long stretches of freeway of course, and around town those vibes add nothing more than a bit of character to a bike that’s already full of personality.
The 690 feels at home in the canyons thanks to its low-end grunt, stable chassis and low curb weight . The transmission isn’t faultless, so gear changes between corners must be completed with attention to detail, but in all other aspects it’s a sweet ride, especially when you add some preload to the rear shock, which feels a bit undersprung for middle-sized riders. The front fork doesn’t have such an adjustment, but feels surprisingly well damped and keeps composed through the middle of a corner.
Need more reason to argue that the 690 Duke is better than ever? Consider this: our test bike ran something like the Energizer Bunny and went, on average, 160 miles on just 3.0 gallons of fuel. The bike has got a 3.7-gallon tank too, so at 53 mpg you can expect to go just under 200 miles before having to fill up.
So is the Duke better than its predecessor? Or more importantly, good enough to stick around in KTM’s lineup? We think so!
2013 KTM 690 Duke
Type: ** Liquid-cooled single-cylinder, 4 valves/cyl.
**Displacement: ** 690cc
**Bore x stroke: ** 102 x 84.5mm
**Compression ratio: ** 12.6:1
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