If KTM Dealer Information sessions are to be believed, the Enduro R “represents the entire brand nucleus”; high performance, low weight, high-quality components and off-road performance with 100% functionality. Which are fighting words, not just a warning shot fired across the bow of the BMW, Triumph, Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki big boys, but a complete genre defining on-and-off-road surprise attack preempting the competitors’ enduro offerings way back in 2009.
Even three years later, the KTM 690 Enduro R belittles the competition.
While other manufacturers may claim to have racing pedigree, you could buy a 690 Enduro R, show up and the Monaco Rally the next day and race it stock. In fact, I know people who have. While I may not be one of those off-road gods, the Enduro R lets me catch a glimpse of that greatness every now and then in a beautiful turn, a lovely roost of dirt, a graceful slide of mud, a tremendous water-crossing spray or a mad high-speed charge down a gravel road.
This isn’t a race replica, with a few minor changes it’s the real thing.
The 690 Enduro R, despite the hardcore personality, strangely isn’t like giving a toddler a hand grenade to play with given my dirt skills, because despite being “competition spec” as designated by the R, it is hugely forgiving. This is one of the most forgiving bikes I’ve ridden, the chassis elegantly gathers up mistakes, and where it can’t the Enduro is tough.
A ride to the top of the world, the edge of the earth and end of days toughness. Dump either KTM into the dirt, drag them under a tree, pick them up, brush them off, inspect a new scratch and ride on. I know, because I have… Repeatedly. That durability in the hands of a dirt neophyte is a huge plus. Park it leaned against embankments, ride it through rivers, drag it under fallen trees, or better ride it over them, the 690 Enduro R takes it all and asks for more. Mind you, to better your odds at keeping it whole and handsome, I’d recommend a good sturdy aftermarket bash-plate.
The occasional drop isn’t what’s ruined me though.
Nor has getting to the off-road. The 690 Enduro R in Canada is road legal, and has ample displacement and power for the highways. Not having to throw your enduro in the back of a truck to get to where you’re riding answers why having a 650cc “dirt bike” with 63hp at 7,500 rpm and 47.9 ft-lb of torque at 6550 rpm is a good idea. The seat however isn’t, it’s is shaped unlike any human ass and after riding any distance the design comes into question.
You can adapt, as I’ve put in over 400kms days on the 690 Enduro R and was willing to ride the next day. There are options out there, and my ass has sent me repeated memos indicating it would like to try a few.
The other thing that needs a remedy for such excursions is the range. I’ve managed 206km by draining the 12L stock tank to its very last fume. I’ve found a 9.5 litre cure, courtesy of Rally Raid Products UK. The Rally Raid Tanks, which pannier the front sides of the bike add to the girth, but boost the safe range to 360kms. As one would expect they add weight along with the width, but the utility for Canadian riding, where gas stations aren’t always handy, is transformative.
So I’ve not been ruined by having to hike out of gas-less locations, nor have I broken the bank by tacking on higher quality components, because the 690 is equipped with the choice stuff right out of the box.
There’s Brembo brakes; a single 300 mm disc with floating 2-piston caliper in the front, and a single 240 mm disc with a 1-piston caliper in the rear. Beefy 48 mm WP front forks offer 275 mm (10.83”) travel and the WP mono shock with Pro Lever Linkage rear matches that. It’s all fully adjustable, except for front pre-load… which is an over sight. As the ride may be for some – it isn’t compliant, but bumps, chops and potholes are taken in stride and the only thing the damn sexy 690 struggles to hook up with is washboard.
There’s a slipper clutch to keep you from locking up the rear on downshifts. Something I’ve found rather useful in the heat of the moment on the dirt.
There’s a dose of innovation too. The under-tail self-supporting fuel tank gets rid of the complexity and weight of a sub-frame. Fuel injection with selectable mapping to match the conditions or your riding style; soft power for the wet and mud mutes the power and punch, advanced for riders who match, and standard which balances responsiveness, mileage and tractability. There’s even a low-grade fuel setting, which is convenient when you have to borrow some farm gas. The fueling is twitchy, but a G2 throttle cam calms the onset suitably – so add that to the must have list.
About the only thing you’ll want to ditch is the Jovian-heavy stock exhaust; my used 690 came equipped with a Wing’s Titanium. Raw and raughty, the Wing’s with the “quiet” spark arrestor fitted offer a suitable soundtrack without inciting orange hatred in the neighbors every time you rip down the back alley.
The innovation is a selling point, but there’s one that trumps all these features, this is a motorcycle stripped to the essentials.
No traction control.
No electronically assisted braking.
No unnecessary weight – stock the Enduro R comes in at 138.5 kg (305.4 lbs) dry, wet with 12L of fuel 152kg.
And a lot less to go wrong.
What you ultimately get with the KTM 690 Enduro R is less, though you pay a bit more for it. Used, I picked up mine for $9,500… with the tempting optional extras thrown in; folding mirrors, bash plate, the Wings Titanium Exhaust (and re-map), G2 Throttle Cam… New you can expect to pay an MSRP of $10,998.00 Canadian bone stock, but it isn’t the sticker that has done me in.
What’s ruined me is that I like the KTM 690 Enduro R too much. To steal a glance at it, the hard angles, the build quality, the sheer sense of purpose fill me with surprise and delight. To ride it only amplifies the experience as I marvel at the destinations we can now reach, and the conditions we can ride though.
A dry river bed with boulders the size of toddlers? Why yes, I can ride that now. Single-track for a desperate escape from a ride gone wrong? Sign me up. Every time I ride the Enduro it re-calibrates me to a new level of expectation, letting me push just that much further. The KTM 690 Enduro R has opened a world of riding to me, inspiring the confidence to move from pavement to dirt, to cow and goat trails. Cows, you tasty trail breaking, nomadic wanders, I thank you for leading me to places I never thought I’d see by motorcycle.
The 690 Enduro R isn’t flawless. The last time you saw a headlight this feeble the bike had a Strawberry Shortcake paint job. The turning radius makes you jealous of freighter captains. The seat is carved out of the softest marble by a cruel cubist and should come with a complimentary epidural kit. The fueling on and off throttle on and off will buck like an untamed stallion. There is also a recurring show stopper, the connection for the wires into the coil corrode, and have caused the bike to strand me twice now – which reminds me to go buy some dialectic grease to prevent further incidents.
Love though is blind, and often completely insensible.
Which all brings us to the big problem, in the middle of testing other bikes I periodically find myself longing for my KTM 690 Enduro R. Every time I walk through the garage, I find myself with a childish grin on my face, and the urge to fetch the keys, rather than head out on a tester. That is a huge problem for business, but after “a few” bike reviews that’s something special. Call me besotted.