KTM 690 Duke

KTM Duke 690 First Ride

These first impressions come from BikeThing community member Bikermole, who took a test ride on the KTM Duke 690 after previously test riding the KTM Duke 200. These are all his honest opinions.

A couple of weeks ago, I test rode the KTM Duke 200  courtesy of Jim Aim Motorcycles. Upon my return to the dealer I said that while I liked the chassis and riding position, I felt the 200 was underpowered and geared badly. Upon hearing this, the salesman offered a test ride on a restricted Duke 690.

On a damp Saturday morning two weeks later, I was back at the shop.

Before I get into the ride, I’ll go over some details about the Duke I was riding:

The 690cc single cylinder puts out 67bhp in it’s standard form. However, as I mentioned before, the Duke I rode was restricted to 33bhp by way of a downloaded fuel map. This means that there is no awkward throttle stop, and no temptation to remove the restriction.

The fuel map can only be downloaded from a KTM dealership, and the salesman assured me that they check the drivers license before derestricting the bike. Additionally, the 690 has three switchable engine modes, adjusting the power delivery. I rode the Duke on the ‘Medium’ setting.

So, on to the ride.

I decided to ride the 690 on the same roads that I took the Duke 200 on, so as to give a fair comparison. These roads consist of town riding, country lanes, and dual carriageways. I’m delighted to say the 690 Duke excelled as an all rounder – even on the dual carriageway!

Around town the single cylinder is punchy; delivering most of it’s torque before 6,000 rpm. Coupled with the upright seating position and high bars, the 690 could be described as perfect. However, the Duke is let down slightly by the very thing that makes it so fantastic: the single cylinder engine.

It vibrates so much! The mirrors may as well not be there, as the vibrations make seeing anything impossible. Aftermarket bar end mirrors may help a little, but at the cost of all round visability.

A small blight on what is otherwise a great town bike.

Heading into the countryside is where the Duke gets better. Even in restricted form the engine feels fantastic, with overtakes becoming effortless. The front wheel is eager to rise at the slightest movement of the right hand. I often found myself grinning and whooping like a madman, then looking at the easy to read dash only to find myself doing under the speed limit.

It inspires lunacy!

The Duke 690 from behind.

The WP suspension was perfect for the all round rider; soft on bumpy roads, yet firm on smooth, fast corners. The Brembo brakes had the stopping power of a brick wall. Overall, this bike just oozes quality.

More on the easy to read dash: you get a big rev counter and a small digital display that gives only the basic information. It’s easy to read at a glance, and sometimes that’s all you need. The 200 Duke in comparison had a hugely complicated display, and while it looked great at first there can be a thing called too much information.

Before I get into detail, I would like to point out that the Duke is by no means designed for motorway and high speed work. Regardless, it performs well. It’s never going to be as fast or comfortable as a big BMW or Yamaha, but it does a good job. There is a little lip above the headlight which does a grand job of keeping the worst of the wind off my chest, yet aftermarket screens are also available.

Restricted the 690 has a top speed of around 85 mph, but 70 is well within it’s capability leaving enough power for overtakes. However, this still creates horrific vibrations through the footpegs. I guarantee you’ll be tired after only a few miles.

The Duke screams fun. It inspires silliness. It is the harbinger of three points. However, when I was riding it I was constantly wondering how it would be to actually live with.

The big single cylinder produces incredible vibrations. After I got off the bike, having ridden for an hour and covered 37 miles, my hands and feet were numb. I use a motorbike for everything – so while its was great on back roads, great in town and ok on motorways; as an all rounder, that engine is as big of a positive as a negative to me.

At a fiver under £6,800 the Duke is well priced for it’s quality, undercutting one of its main rivals, the Triumph Street Triple, by a good £300 and Kawasaki’s new Z800 by a huge £700. While the other two bikes produce more than the KTM’s 67bhp, neither can match the Duke’s 60 impressive mpg.

All in all, the KTM Duke 690 is a fantastic bike to ride, no matter how you ride it. I do, howeverm question how long a rider would ride it for before wishing for more cylinders.

If you want a terrific bike purely as a toy, and that’s where the 690 sits perfectly, then I’d reccomend the Triumph Street Triple over the KTM. The Triple engine is widely regarded as one of the best engines ever made and, in my opinion, the Street is one of the best looking bikes on the market. If you need to do a longer trip, the engine won’t make you feel like your legs have fallen off.

All that being said, if you want the KTM, know that it is a fine bike.

KTM 690 Duke specs:

Price: £6795.00

Engine: 690cc Single cylinder 4 stroke

Power: 67bhp (33 and 47bhp restrictor kits available)

KTM 690 Duke
KTM 690 Duke
KTM 690 Duke
KTM 690 Duke

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