With approximately 450 miles of back-roads, jeep trails, and even some sandy, whooped out single track, what's the verdict on the 2017 KTM 690 Enduro R? Is the new bike honeymoon over? Did it live up to rather high expectations? I'll cut to the chase and say that I absolutely love this bike and have zero regrets on my purchase! Why? Keep reading and I'll do my best to explain. Currently the engine, suspension, and brakes are bone stock. Mods coming? Oh yes... There WILL be mods!
Bryan Bosch taking a mid morning break from the sand whoops - Croom OHV Brooksville, FL
The 690 Enduro R power plant in many ways defines this machine. It makes BIG boost from bottom to top in a very linear fashion that always puts a smile on my face. On the street, whack the throttle wide-open and the front tire lofts as you row through the gears. You're not trying to wheelie, the bike just pulls that hard. If you're a wheelie guy, this bike makes it easy. From the factory, there is a sticker that warns you not to exceed 100 mph, but my guess is that it will pretty easily. My buddy has the 701 Husqvarna and we dragged on a flat, long, deserted dirt road. We decided to back 'er down in the mid 90s, but both bikes had more legs left.
Off-road, the gearing is a little high for tight single track, but this bike really seems to be the most at home in more open, flowing terrain. In ski racing terms, it's more at home on the giant slalom course. Not that it's not nimble or capable of tighter terrain. The bike has tons of low-end and a 'butta smooth Magura Hydraulic Clutch, so I find myself in 3rd a lot, just rolling on the throttle. But, a surge of power is a clutch pull away. I'm more of a short-shifter, so this torquey motor suits my style. Where we ride, it's just about all sand and even in tighter, slower sections, the bike is hard to stall, even with lazy clutch skills.
Is the motor buzzy or vibey? Sort of a tough question because that's personal perception. I will say, before I bought it, this was my biggest worry. I've had Carpel Tunnel surgery on my throttle hand with mild nerve damage in both wrists, and things like string trimmers cause my hands to tingle after 10-15 minutes of use. I even had some issues with my ultra-smooth Triumph Tiger 800XC in-line triple. Maybe it's certain resonance frequencies, but I'm not having any issues with the 690. So, very, very relieved. And, word on the street is that after a couple thousand miles, the motor smooths out a bit more. For back-road dualsporting on the stock DOT knobbies, vibes are pretty mild, but as the speed picks up, so do the vibes. If you want to pound freeway, I'd suggest different tires. The stockers are happiest below 55, maybe 60 mph @ 20-25 psi. Not a fan of highway slabbin', so I'm keeping these tires.
I really have no complains here. It's never harsh or chattery and always feels planted. Keep in mind that in central Florida, you couldn't find a rock if your life depended upon it. Most of our trails are soft sand, but there are plenty of sections with exposed roots. On Memorial Day, we rode an area called Croom and despite the unrelenting, deep sand whoops, this bike surprised me. For its 326 ready-to-ride pounds, it tracked through the whoops straight and both ends stayed pretty poised. However, I'm not going to say that sand whoops is where the bike shines. Most purpose built off-road race bikes would be a better choice, but I wanted to see how she'd do and it was surprisingly well all things considered. But, I hate to ride sand whoops all day, so not high on my list of performance criteria. Still nice to know what the bike can do.
The over-sized Galfer front wave rotor and dual piston Brembo caliper with ABS offers plenty of initial bite & power, enough to tax the grip of the Pirelli MT21 DOT front tire on dry pavement. When the pavement is wet, this is where the ABS rocks. Off-road, ABS is easily turned off by pushing and holding a single button on the gauge cluster. However, it sucks that every time you turn the bike off, it defaults to ABS on. The aftermarket has options to fix this, but I'd prefer my last setting to be remembered. I'm sure a KTM lawyer will disagree with me. At least there is a button vs. having to nav to sub menus to turn ABS off like my last bike.
When compared to a dirt bike, say the KTM 500EXC, the 2017 KTM 690 Enduro R is a big girl on paper. However, I think it rides a lot lighter than the numbers would suggest. With the rearward fuel tank mounted low and relatively central to the bike's mass, it's slim in the mid section like a 450 and remarkably light on its feet. Even in tighter terrain, weaving the bike through the trees is easy and overall, the bike feels pretty nimble. About the only time you feel the mass is when you get the bike crossed up in deep sand and mistakenly grab a handful of big bore. For me, the most fun is rippin' down a sandy trail, power sliding from corner-to-corner. This is very easy with all the power the 690 has on tap and the handing is very predictable. Around town and on back-roads, the bike is a sweet heart. It will do freeway speeds without issue, but without a windscreen, longer runs would be a chore IMHO.
All Kittens and Rainbows?
Hmmmmmmmmmm.... no. Where do I think KTM came up short with the 2017 KTM 690 Enduro R? Here's my list so far (not in any particular order):
1. How tall do they think most of us are? This bike is tall! I'm 5' 10" and it's still tall. With boots on, I'm still just slightly better than on my tip toes. Thank God for the strong steel kickstand for getting on the bike. At the lowest point of the seat, it's 37".
2. For almost 11k before taxes & registration, no fuel gauge? This is a premium dual sport KTM. You made the tach sweep up and back at start up like a race car, but no fuel gauge? Booo! But, at least there is a low fuel light, just before you run out.
3. KTM, you still can't make a comfortable seat? I know you love your sporty, sharp angles, but they create pressure points that don't feel good on the ass after a few hours. Can't you compromise a little aesthetics for comfort? For 11k, I shouldn't have to immediately order a functional dual sport seat. And even worse, the seat pan rubber bumpers? I have extras in my garage b/c they fall out if you look at them wrong.
4. Handlebars are too low for standing. I understand that we all come in different shapes & sizes, but I'm much closer to the average that otherwise.
5. No power port for my phone or navigation? I appreciate the power with key on Accessory 2 wires in the loom behind the headlight, but again, premium dual sport. For the money it should come with this. But then again, dummies like me pay what you ask, so...
6. The shifting action is good, but if you're not very deliberate, a missed shift is pretty easy. I happens to me a couple of times on every ride, mostly upshifting into higher gears. There is an aftermarket fix that I might install if it really bothers me.
My biggest regret is the two year detour riding a 500lb. ADV bike. The 2017 KTM 690 Enduro R has re-lit my fire for dirt biking. I'm once again excited for the next ride because this bike is just so much fun to ride. All of the gripes above are either completely livable or fixable in the aftermarket and none are show stoppers. I think that the 2017 KTM 690 Enduro is an amazing dual sport and for my needs, I absolutely made the right choice to sell my 2013 Triumph Tiger 800XC. I was a little worried that the 690 Enduro R might be a dirt bike with a license plate (had a plated KTM 450), but there is no question that it's a purpose built dualsport that is better on the road than a dirt bike and far better than a big ADV bike off-road. For me, I've found the middle ground that I was looking for. Fathers day is this Saturday and when my wife asked what I wanted, the answer was easy, "I'm going ridin' hon!"
Bryan Bosch & Steve Claus
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