2019 KTM 690 Enduro R Review: ADV, Rally, and Dual-Sport in One
The KTM 690 Enduro R has always been a red-headed stepchild in the Austrian company’s lineup. Despite having Enduro in its name, KTM markets the motorcycle as part of its Travel line, home of KTM’s adventure motorcycles.Plus, the 690 Enduro R is more closely related to the now-discontinued 690 Duke than it is any of KTM’s Enduro offerings. Be that as it may, KTM hasn’t given up on the 690 Enduro R since the loss of the Duke. The 2019 KTM 690 Enduro is pretty much a full redo, and that makes it a better street and off-road motorcycle.
1. That’s a new LC4 motor under the new trellis frame, and it has lots of updates. KTM has addressed the inherent vibration from a big thumper by giving the new 690 motor a couple of counterbalancers—one at the crank, the other in the cylinder head. The result is a wonderfully smooth engine. You feel the smoothness most on the pavement, but it’s there all the time, reducing fatigue. The 690 has always pulled linearly from idle to the rev limiter, with the new engine delivering superior performance above 6000 rpm. You really can let it sing on the street, and that makes you appreciate the counterbalancers even more.2. In addition to a new motor, the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R gets an interesting suite of electronics. While these aids aren’t unfamiliar to the ADV crowd, we aren’t used to seeing them in a single-cylinder setting, especially one that is more oriented toward the dirt. There are two power modes and two traction control modes; they do make a difference, and they are interactive. The ABS and traction control are corner-aware, though through sensors rather than an IMU. For off-road performance, the ABS can be shut off. An optional $115 dongle releases Offroad ABS, which is a front-wheel only system. Mastering these systems is critical to getting the most out of the R.3. Although the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R still has a trellis frame, it’s a new one. The basic architecture is the same, but the tube positioning is different. We didn’t ride the new and old models back-to-back, so all we can say for sure is that the chassis feels great on- and off-road. Seat height remains the same at 35.8 inches. KTM also put new plastic on the new frame, and it moves the styling a bit closer to KTM’s dual-sport EXC-F line. Also, the new structure means the fuel tank holds nearly a half-gallon more fuel.4. As a street bike, the Enduro R is impeccable, even with the blocky Continental Twinduro TKC 80 tires. You have loads of power on hand, plus the electronics to manage it. If you’re the wheelie popping type, put it in Offroad mode and let the front end climb skyward. Most of the time, you will be happy with the snappier Road mode throttle response and the corresponding management of wheel lofting and slippage. Traction control can be switched off, but I didn’t feel the need to disable that feature.5. While it takes a bit of time to trust the 690 Enduro R on the street due to the ADV-ready TKC 80s, once you do, it’s time to have a blast. Traction control helps in that regard, though not for the front end. Still, the tires work better than you might expect. The long-travel WP Xplor suspension also requires some acclimation, as it is valved in more of an off-road direction. The fact that the 690 weighs in at about 350 pounds at the curb works in its favor, certainly.6. The six-speed transmission is long-legged, so you can break any speed limit in the country with ease. Even better, it has a bi-directional quickshifter. Also, the high gearing makes the 690 Enduro R even smoother on the street.7. The upright ergonomics and narrow chassis make it easy to feel in complete control of the motorcycle. Once confidence is established in the tires and long-travel suspension, the KTM can be pushed hard on the twisties to great results. For urban duty, the 690 Enduro R is a stylish way to make your way through town noticed. The height and orange are attention grabbers, and you have a great view of traffic. Still, if you are a full-time street rider, the supermoto-inspired KTM 690 SMC R is a fraternal twin with 17-inch street tires and a much better choice for exclusively on-road riders.8. Off-road, the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R is highly capable in the right conditions, but be wary of hills. Even aside from the 350-pound weight, the primary limiting factor for the R is its high gearing. Because it will do over 40 mph in first gear, it is easy to get into trouble on hills, whether you’re going up or down. This compromises the advantages of the superb engine, as it will bog on technical hillclimbs where revs inevitably drop. It is strange to have a 690cc motor start to flag, but it happens in first gear and there is no shifting down—all you can do is start slipping the clutch. On downhills, there is little engine compression braking due to first gear being so high. While the Brembo brakes are great, nothing beats the smooth deceleration of engine braking.9. The 690 Enduro R loves open terrain and dirt roads. Again, it is all about gearing. The chassis is highly capable, with the WP Xplor suspension great at doing its job; it can also be adjusted to taste. The chassis is stable at high speeds—even triple digits are doable on a high-quality dirt road (though we don’t recommend it). The TKC 80s feel good at speed on the 690, and the braking is predictable, though you do have to set the electronics up correctly. Oh, and the quickshifter is pure fun on dirt roads—it’s not just technology for street bikes anymore.10. Switching between the drive modes and ABS is done via a pod on the left handlebar, and you will have to remember what the lights mean. The settings of 1 and 2 for Road and Offroad are unintuitive, so you’ll have to learn them—no big deal. Traction control is on when the TC light is off—same with the ABS. Technically, you can change the ride mode and TC on the fly, but you have to hold the buttons down for quite a while, so it’s easier to stop. Defeating the ABS also requires a long push of the dash-mounted button.11. What electronics settings you use off-road depends on what you’re doing. For tearing down dirt roads, the Offroad mode with the traction control engaged is the way to go if you want to make time. The 690 hooks right up, and away you go. If you like to pitch it sideways through every corner—not that there’s anything wrong with that—feel free to turn the tractions control off. You might think you would want the Road mode for the sharper throttle response, but it doesn’t want to let you slide the back end or loft the front. If you do go with the Road mode, though, you will almost certainly want to turn the traction control off. If you don’t, it’s quite intrusive.12. Setting up for technical off-road riding depends on taste. You will want to steer clear of the Road mode, and then decide if traction control suits your style. For me, I preferred no traction control, though my right hand is sensitive enough that I am not likely to be spinning the rear tire anyway.13. As long as hillclimbs aren’t involved, single track performance is admirable. You’re still dealing with a tall, heavy dirt bike, so know your limits. Although the motor bogs when speeds drop on climbs, there is always enough torque on tap to handle relatively flat terrain at any speed. The clutch is durable, fortunately, and is an assist-and-slip setup. It’s something we don’t often see on off-road motorcycles, and we would like to see that change.14. ABS is great for the street, and we always left it on, but the standard Cornering ABS doesn’t quite work well off-road. ABS is to be avoided for high-speed dirt runs. It will constantly be invoked, often when you don’t want it. Although we didn’t have a chance to try the Offroad ABS for the front wheel only, it sounds like a great option to us.15. All the controls and details on the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R are top-notch. We love the handlebars, hand and foot controls, footpegs, and wheels. We like the ergonomics for the street and dirt, though pure street riders will find the seat on the minimalist side. The underseat tank is cool, making the 690 feel lighter than it is, and carries a decent 3.6 gallons—it is the only thing holding it back from being a perfect ADV or rally mount.16. Even though the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R is awkwardly positioned in the brand’s lineup, it works. There’s no real competition for the 690 Enduro R. It is capable of an honest 100 mph on- and off-road, and you can take it on a good single-track trail as easily as run down the road for a snack. We would love to see it turned into an authentic rally or adventure motorcycle. Until that happens, if you have the right set of demands—and desert riders will know what we are talking about—the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R is a dual-sport motorcycle with no peers.Photography by Don WilliamsRIDING STYLE
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