2019 KTM 690 SMC R Review: Supermoto Returns
After disappearing in 2017, supermoto returns to the KTM lineup with the 2019 KTM 690 SMC R. Replete with a host of updates that tick boxes both on the performance and practicality, the heavily revised SMC R has newfound utility baked into it, without dulling its Supermoto edge. In fact, it is sharper than ever.
We spent countless hours stalking the Southern California canyons aboard the new KTM 690 SMC R. However, that wasn’t enough. With the nearest kart track about equal distance from me as the legendary Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey, California, I let the SMC R stretch its legs courtesy of Fun Track Dayz – a fun-loving track organization based in northern California. Now, without further ado, here are the Fast Facts.
1. The single-cylinder LC4 690cc motor receives significant upgrades. KTM engineers sought to smooth and improve the performance of their massive single-cylinder powerplant, and that is precisely what they did. To that end, the bore was increased and the stroke shortened, while also doing some cylinder head work. A new forged piston added for good measure. All those changes let the gigantic thumper rev out higher than ever, now featuring a claimed 74 horsepower and 54 ft/lbs of torque. That’s an extra seven horses under the seat, along with a much broader powerband. To keep the powerful single from rattling the rider unconscious, there is a new counterbalancer in front of the cylinder head. It works in conjunction with the counterbalancer on the crankshaft, effectively quelling any bad vibes.
2. You won’t be letting any of that power go to waste—the 2019 KTM 690 SMC R begs to be ridden. KTM’s fixation with massive thumpers shouldn’t come as a surprise, as it is one of the leaders in the off-road world. This engine punches well above its class, with good low-end that slingshots you off the line, immediately followed by broad midrange power. Best of all, it doesn’t run out of steam and wheeze when wringing its neck across the finish line. In the city, the SMC R can plod along, making use of all that tractable power on the street. On a sizeable road circuit, such as WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, or in the canyons, you’ll be twisting the grip with maniacal laughter and hovering the front wheel at every opportunity
3. The six-speed transmission has a PASC slipper clutch. Slipper clutches are a massive help for supermoto motorcycles, as they alleviate wheel-hop while banging down the gears when barreling into corners or backing it in. Luckily, KTM didn’t pinch pennies, and its slipper works flawlessly. Although shifting is smooth and feels good, the SMC R wants an assertive rider; otherwise, you might catch a false neutral. This is the same durable gearbox used in the 690 Enduro R, so you can be much rougher with the shift lever—don’t be shy. With that logic in mind, I donned anchor-like motocross boots, and that eliminates most of my falsies.
4. KTM’s clutchless shifting system is standard. That’s right folks; the SMC R comes with a quickshifter and autoblipper. They work quite well and keep you from having to grab the clutch lever, unless you’re planning on backing the bike in or coming to a stop. The 690 does prefer that you be on the gas or maintaining higher rpm when shifting, which is hard to avoid when in the saddle.
5. Two riding modes are available – Road (1) and supermoto (2). Displayed as modes 1 and 2, riders have a choice between Road and Supermoto. The modes alter the throttle response, as well as the IMU-supported traction control and cornering ABS. Road mode softens the throttle response to a noticeable degree, while reigning in the supermoto hooliganism. It isn’t a rain mode by any means; instead, it is for sensible urban riding. Supermoto mode is just that—it gives the 690 a much peppier throttle response, while also loosening the electronic-aid chains. Supermoto mode allows a bit more sliding around, without ever fully letting go.
6. The 2019 KTM 690 SMC R is the only street-legal production supermoto with electronic aids of any kind—that’s an achievement in of itself. Trail braking aggressively is a must on supermoto machines, and the SMC R obliges. That is a massive help on the street, but incredibly crucial in turn 2, 5, and 11 at Laguna Seca. Getting on the gas hard and early isn’t such a stress-inducing affair either, with TC that lets you lean on it. If you’re losing grip or too eager on the gas, the power cuts smoothly, without jostling the chassis. For riders that want the purest Supermoto experience, TC and ABS can be disabled at the touch of a button.
7. KTM PowerParts offers a dongle to access a Supermoto ABS mode. If you want to keep TC and ABS in the front only, you’ll have to spring for the $115 dongle. Sadly, I lacked the dongle.
8. The 2019 KTM 690 SMC R’s steel trellis chassis is revised. Dimensionally, the latest edition remains similar previous iterations of the SMC R, while the rake has decreased to 26.4 degrees and the wheelbase tightened to 57.9 inches. Still, those numbers are enduro worthy, and that makes sense as the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R is the SMC R’s dirt friendly brother. KTM claims that the frame is lightened, stiffened, and slimmed down around the headstock to improve steering lock—gymkhana, here I come. We’ll have to take KTM’s word for it that the stiffened chassis helps improve handling, but that’s what we’ll get into next.
9. To keep weight down, the subframe incorporates a 3.6-gallon fuel tank. Generally, I like to keep the gas pump away from a piping-hot muffler, but fuel inlet is found in the rear, and that’s exactly where your fuel is stored. Interestingly, this doesn’t seem to impact that bike’s handling, regardless of fuel load. In terms of range, I’d see around 100 miles, with some fun riding involved, always. There is no gas gauge on the less than spartan dash.
10. If you’re looking for an agile motorcycle, look no further than the 690 SMC R. Supermoto requires a few things—an impressive motor, maneuverability, and lightweight. KTM only quotes dry weight, but we can estimate the running weight being around 360 pounds. In the saddle, it feels like much less than that. Striking a balance between agility and stability, the SMC R gleefully allows itself to be chucked into the tightest of hairpin turns with a leg-out supermoto style, or rip through a long sweeper like Rainey Curve at Laguna Seca with your knee down. Flicking the SMC R from side-to-side takes zero effort. Better yet, the feather-weight feeling chassis translates all information quite well. It’s an active, living, breathing, laugh-inducing experience—not a boring, sedate, overly stable motorcycle for the faint of heart.
11. Upright ergonomics are perfect for commanding this beast. There’s no denying that the SMC R is tall with its 35-inch seat height. However, thanks to the compliant long-travel suspension and extremely narrow chassis, my 32-inch inseam can still put the balls of my feet on the deck. Reach to the grips is average, while the long, flat seat allows tons of movement in the saddle. My only complaint is that KTM’s Ready to Race slogan seems to translate into hardest seats on the market. Luckily, that isn’t an issue when your head is in the wind in the canyons or on the track. On a freeway haul, you might want to opt for a cushier seat.
12. The WP suspension is more than suited to the 2019 KTM 690 SMC R. The SMC gets a beefy 48mm WP Apex fork featuring compression and rebound damping adjustment—though oddly lacking spring-preload adjustment—while the WP Apex shock is fully adjustable. Normally, I’d gripe about the lack of preload adjustability, but I am more than happy with the compliance and function of the suspension, overall. The long-travel suspension soaks up the rough stuff on the road and can be stiffened up for virtually any setting thanks to a wide range of adjustment. KTM makes basic damping adjustments easy, thanks to recommended click settings based on the intended use. Further, KTM provided a sticker under the seat with baseline suspension settings to get started.
13. Braking power is nothing short of stellar. Upfront, a single Brembo 4-piston caliper clamps onto a 320mm disc. In the rear, a dual-piston Brembo caliper works with a 240mm disc. The stopping power you have on tap is impressive, with excellent feel at lever actuating the radial Magura master cylinder. There’s plenty of feel, making trail-braking a snap, and all that power is delivered without a harsh bite, too. In the rear, the story is much the same, and riders that like to use the rear brake to initiates slides won’t have a problem modulating the rear braking power.
14. Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 rubber is slapped onto tubeless 17-inch wire-spoke wheels. Wire-spoke wheels give you that edge if you’re at a kart track with a dirt section, or if you feel like doing some urban off-roading. The SMC R calls for generic sizes of 120/70 and 160/60. So, if the S21s don’t suit you, you can opt for something else. That said, the S21 is an excellent sport tire with good durability on the 690. Even after a full day of ripping Laguna Seca, they have tons of life left in them. That single-cylinder engine might pack a punch, but it’s kind to rubber.
15. While it might seem counterintuitive to commute on a such a track-friendly motorcycle, the SMC R makes getting to work disturbingly fun. Associate Editor Kelly Callan is our ace motorcycle commuter, and she loves it. Kelly says that although she’s not likely to get a massive speeding ticket on the freeway, the 690 SMC R does encourage other behaviors that could get her in trouble if the wrong eyes catch her in the act. It’s a master lane-splitter, incredibly agile in urban environments, smooth thanks to the counterbalancers, and the tall seat delivers a commanding view of the city terrain and competing vehicles.
16. A sensible stainless-steel exhaust is featured on the 2019 KTM 690 SMC R. Usually, I applaud manufacturers for providing EPA and DOT compliant exhaust systems that seemingly skirt the regulations for my auditory pleasure. Given that single-cylinder engines are a bit, well, flatulent, I’m all right with the exhaust note being far more reasonable in volume. This is one motorcycle that won’t upset the neighbors.
17. The 2019 KTM 690 SMC R is pushing the boundaries of supermoto with more power, range, and utility. I adore supermoto bikes, but a full-blown, motocross racer converted to a supermoto machine isn’t practical outside of the kart track. Lower top-speeds and painstaking maintenance schedules make them ill-suited for everyday use. The 690, with its smoother engine, more headroom, and reasonable service requirements, alters the conversation. Sprinkle in some top-shelf electronics, and suddenly things become even more appealing. Sure, it still isn’t suited for long-haul rides across America, but put in a tight canyon or a corner-heavy circuit and you’ll make plenty of literbike riders do a double-take while diving up the inside line.
Street photography by Don Williams
Track photography by Oxymoron Photography
Studio photography by H. Mitterbauer
- Helmet: Shoei X-Fourteen
- Suit: Alpinestars Missile
- Gloves: Alpinestars GP Pro 3
- Baselayers: VnM Sport Compression
- Boots: Alpinestars Supertech R
2019 KTM 690 SMC R Specs
- Type: Single-cylinder
- Displacement: 690cc
- Bore x stroke: 105 x 80mm
- Ignition: Keihin EMS w/ ride-by-wire and dual ignition
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ quickshifter
- Clutch: Hydraulically actuated slipper clutch
- Frame: Chromoly steel trellis
- Subframe: Self-supporting polymer fuel tank
- Handlebar: Tapered aluminum
- Front suspension; travel: Fully adjustable WP Xplor 48mm inverted fork; 8.5 inches
- Rear suspension; travel: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable WP Xplor shock; 9.4 inches
- Front wheel: 17 x 3.50
- Rear wheel: 17 x 5.00
- Tires: Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21
- Front tire: 120/70 x 17
- Rear tire: 160/60 x 17
- Front brake: 320mm disc w/ Brembo caliper
- Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ Brembo caliper
- ABS: Standard w/ Cornering and Offroad modes
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 57.9 inches
- Rake: 26.4 degrees
- Seat height: 35 inches
- Ground clearance: 9.4 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.6 gallons
2019 KTM 690 Enduro R Price:
- $11,699 MSRP