KTM 690 Enduro -08: First look

IMG_5526-1Yesterday afternoon I got the chance to try out my KTM 690 Enduro for real. I have ridden it a few times, but only in the city for short periods of time. Although by the time I was done with some unexpected chores the beautiful weather was replaced with dark clouds and temperatures around 8-10 degrees Celsius (resulting in me having a man cold from hell today), I still managed to get 150 kilometers out of her and these are my impressions…

Sitrep: My KTM 690 Enduro -08 has been through a lot. Like A LOT! To be a dual sport, she’s racked quite a few miles and as such has her flaws. For example, she doesn’t always start at the first push of the electric starter. And if she does, she might sputter and die after a few seconds. Granted, this happens with my buddy’s bike too, the same model and year so it might be a model related thing. Anyways, the key factor is that she’s not new and she’s been ridden for better and worse.

19228_10152917210493037_3030931799266313770_nThe plan was to try the bikes on gravel and dirt roads. My tires are worn and we just switched the wheels on my friend’s bike to the stock size rim and knobby tires (TKC 80 by the way), so we weren’t going to challenge ourselves. Well, that plan went right out the window with the addition of a third member to our little party.

On tarmac, the bikes behave really well even with offroad tires. They feel stable and smooth but with enough kick to easily overtake traffic as needed. At 70 mph they still feel solid but even with the prolonged windshield I have I got enough to feel cold. But they are fun on normal roads and you soon trust the bikes enough to take corners like you would with a sport bike.

IMG_5527On gravel, these things are impressive. Even with worn tires the 690 Enduro will let you go as fast as you dare to go. I suck riding offroad but the bike is a confident booster. Any bump, hole or whatever will be swallowed by the suspension. With 64 hp to the 145 kilo bike (dry weight) and a lot of dirtbike torque, you can cover great distances in terrain you wouldn’t believe.

When it comes to riding in the woods, I can only compare it to my KTM 450 EXC -04 and that comparison is, of course, not in favor for the KTM 690 Enduro. The extra 40 kilos makes it a tough beast to wrestle around the tracks. Tough but not impossible. Once again it was my poor offroad skills that set the limit and not the bike. In reality, I don’t think there is any offroad bike except for hardcore enduro bikes which could do what the 690 does. It is so well balanced it feels like big brother to the 450, which it is. The problem is that in the kind of woods we have in Sweden, even a 450 is a big bike to use.

I had some issues with the temperature warning coming on, especially in the tougher terrain where you have to use lower gears. It tends to overheat, or at least warn you of the danger of overheating, quickly. To that, my bike has the problem of only starting while in neutral. Even with the clutch pulled in, it won’t start with the bike in gear. When the bike dies, as it does sometimes for no reason, it makes it really hard to keep balance while at the same time trying to fiddle in neutral to fire her up. I’ll have to look into that problem.

Comfortwise, it’s much better than the 450 EXC. Of course it’s not a Honda Goldwing, and the seat will literally bring you a pain in the ass, but I was surprised by the fact that it wasn’t worse. Even when standing, I was pretty comfortable with my 172 centimeters. I tend to get back aches when riding sport bikes for an extended period of time, but not this time. That could probably be explained with the riding style too, that you stand up and move around a lot on this bike.

My friend complained a bit about the bike going in neutral while shifting from fifth to sixth gear. I only experienced twice during the last hour of the ride, but it is something to be aware of. Probably just the results of lazy feet but still, it might come as a surprise when you least expect it.

I haven’t verified that I have the stock sprockets on, my I do feel it’s a little bit too low geared for my taste on the higher gears while too high geared in the first two gears. The third gear is more or less perfect. This too might just be something to get used to, but I’ll check the sprockets just to be sure.

Conclusion: With around 200 km on the bike, I am impressed by the capability of the KTM 690 Enduro. For my needs and riding, it is just about the best bike you could find. I cannot understand why other manufacturers won’t develop some competition to the 690. The KLR 650, Hond XR600R and Yamaha XT660 all seem to be too heavy and underpowered compared to the KTM 690. Next time I buy a bike, I might raise enough money to get a brand new one and if the competition has produced any nice bikes in this segment, I’ll happily take a look at them. Until then, the KTM 690 Enduro is the new champion in my book!