2009 KTM 690 Enduro R Used Review – Besotted

The KTM 690 Enduro R should need no introduction; it has been around for a while hasn’t it? But, this particular Enduro R does merit a few words, because this is MY KTM 690 Enduro R, which is something entirely different. That’s because I test bikes, over 150 of them at last count, but when it came time to sign on the dotted line I chose the KTM 690 Enduro R. And it’s ruined me.

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.
No compromises.

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.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. DavidM says:

    Your bike preferences have changed a lot since the days of the VFR. Keep riding and writing. Thanks


    1. It is a bit funny how things change, but in the past couple years I’ve realized just how little pavement there is in BC. We have some astounding destinations that aren’t always suitable to a road bike. I also am really enjoying the challenge of a new form of riding, it’s put my back to basics with every trip out offering a new learning experience. It’s the joy of being a newbie.

      Plus, I’ve yet to encounter a speed-trap on a goat trail. 🙂


  2. Madjak30 says:

    I luv the way you write…you make the most mundane sound fun, and I want to go and try it…you, Rob Harris and Steve Bond have changed my ideal ride from strictly a street bike to heading in the dual sport direction (the ADVrider site is also to blame)…I may not end up with a KTM, but a DL650 V-Strom is directly in my sights (mostly because I am chea…I mean frugal), a used one for the same reason mentioned…thanks for openning my eyes to a new direction (even though riding is new to me anyway).

    Keep up the excellent writing, I enjoy the sense of humour that you inject into all your stories and videos…

    Now to sell my GS500 and find my new toy…although after only one season, the GS500 still has some lessons to teach me…just makes it easier to wait for the right deal to come along…



  3. Kelly says:

    Once again, you’ve got to try a local guy for some wind protection and HID lighting; you won’t be disappointed. Ian is fantastic to deal with.



  4. katui says:

    Agreed with both the above comments. Keep up the great work, and I love your writing style! I think I may have seen you headed north on the sea-to-sky two Sundays ago no less with a 640 Adv and some other bike, you waved whole heartedly 🙂


    1. Yep, that was us heading on up. We nipped into the roads behind Britannia for a bit. Fun, fun, mud.


  5. katui says:

    Yep, that was us heading on up.We nipped into the roads behind Britannia for a bit.Fun, fun, mud.

    Fun, I thought I recognized your bike. Well have good one, and I look forwards to whatever you choose to write about in the future.


  6. Christian says:

    Thanks for that review! Have not been driving motorcycle for some ten years. Then a friend of mine bought a 400 EXC. We used to drive through the woods of upper Franconia (well, that is in the northern part of Bavaria). Would be happy to buy a 450 EXC but in Germany it will have some 20 BHP or so to get it on the road. Therefore set an eye on the LC4. Well, aroung 30 kilos more is no fun. At least not when you have to lift. Guess you would not notice too much while driving. Think I will get the LC4 in spring. Now located at Lake Constance, Boarder of Switzerland. Happy to explore there.

    Thanks again for the review. It is written “for the rest of us” like a university fellow like me that needs something to get the mind free but not 20 anymore…


  7. pasta_again says:

    Nice articles on the 690r. I was thinking of going this route, too. Lighter is better.
    I’d like to share some thoughts, ask you questions, solicit feedback.

    I was thinking of selling my f800gs, with all of its hardware (TT bling, hard panniers,etc….), and getting a 2012 690r.
    How heavy would you say your bike is now with all the mods (fully fueled)?
    The extra 9.5 liters of gasoline is about 6.8 kilograms = 15 pounds additional weight. So it’s going to be over 350 lbs with a full tank.
    My f800gs is 490.5lbs/222.48kg wet! That’s an improvement!

    Motorcycle Consumer News actually weighed the f800gs themselves:
    “As this was also our first occasion to weigh the new machine, we were eager to see its actual difference versus the larger R1200GS…While BMW quotes 455 lbs. wet for the base machine, our scales noted 490.5 lbs wet, wearing the options of ABS (said to be on the order of 5 lbs), saddlebag mounts and a centerstand.”

    I’d like some wind protection for those trips on the highway (to get to the dirt, of course).
    How does your bike do on the highway? I’m not trying to do an Iron Butt ride on a 690r, but I’d like to know how miserable it is. I know from experience that there are very long highways in BC and people drive very fast.
    I’m not sure if I want to get those large rally fairings, probably just a taller windscreen.

    For luggage I’d get some soft throw over panniers. I’m not into the aluminum panniers look anymore. I’ve done enough dirt riding to see the light. I don’t need the extra weight. Plus they have clipped my legs during a drop.

    Other mods would be an outlet for heated gear, sae lead, gps wiring, Denali lights, bash plate and radiator guard.
    I had risers/scotts dampeners on my old dirtbikes. Love them. You just aren’t as tired at the end of the ride.

    Did I say lighter is better???!!!! I’m planning to add more weight! But hey it’s easier to scale up than down.

    Does your bike run well on 89 octane? Does it have a knock sensor? The f800gs does not, although I’ve run it on 89 octane in remote areas just fine

    Future mods:
    Save up for some supermoto wheels when I feel like being a hooligan.

    Thanks for your articles and any feedback you provide. Looking forward to some long distance trip reports with the 690r.


  8. Jesse Bouliane says:

    Hey Neil, excellent post with some great writing. Im over in Golden BC, riding a 2013 that I just bought from Mainjet in Nelson BC. I was wondering what manfucturer that windscreen is? It appears to be just the right size for longer trips. So far I have only added a slavens skid plate, motovenuture rear rack and rotopax holder (made locally in Kelowna) and a ktm black windscreen which I think will be a little small for riding the Dempster next summer. I would apreciate any info you could spare on local resouces as well. Thanks dude. Keep writing!


  9. Ken Money says:

    What a great article. I have found myself coming back to this several times over the course of my “adventure”. And I use that term in all sincerness. I grew up on a farm in Ontario riding kawasaki 75’s, xc100’s ” my dad’s, and my first born 1989 yz125. I Now live in Squamish and have taken the bike course through Pro Ride. What a great experience it has been with them as well as searching for the one bike. My wife seems to not agree with the need for more than one. Please talk to her for me! Anyhow. I am in search of that street bike that can handle a day of logging roads and possibly a tiny bit of single track. I have to buy used as my budget is $7000 to $9000. I would get a KTM 350 or 530 EXC since on paper it is off the charts good. But I don’t have a garage nor the longing to spend hours working on my pride and joy. Also I was told that those owning the kings of off road can spend up to $1000 a year just in oil and filters and such. Also not something the budget will allow. I am handy with a wrench but my neighbors in my complex are not supportive of me replacing a clutch in our common space. So my choices. 690 Enduro R 2010 or so. Versys 650. V-strom 650. or go cheap. . . . . wr250F. PLease share any thoughts and opinions. By the way I love everything you guys put out there. Please continue writing and sorry for the long post. I am with cash in hand in a week or so and am ready to pull the trigger. Cheers


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