KTM have given their single-cylinder sport naked Duke 690 an overhaul, its first since 2012. Motorcycles have come a long way since then, and the wee Duke has had some catching up to do - but the addition of cornering ABS should put the 690 on everyone’s radar.
Both the Duke 690 and the Duke 690 R are powered by a 690cc single-cylinder motor, which makes 73 horsepower and 55 foot-pounds of torque in the standard configuration and 75 horsepower in the Duke R thanks to an Akropovic exhaust. Weight figures for the R have not been released, but the regular Duke comes in at 327 pounds dry which is less than the current model.
This newest version also gets an additional cylinderhead balancer shaft, which I can’t wait to try out because my only problem with the previous version of the Duke was that it tickled my hands and feet so much on the freeway that I hated stints longer than 10 miles or so. The balancer shaft also gives the big single another 1,000 revs to play in.
Both bikes get a new, full color TFT dash which is a massive upgrade over the previous and hilariously outdated one. They also both get full WP suspension, ABS, and something called “Supermoto mode” which leaves ABS on the front brake but turns it off at the rear.
The Duke 690 R model gets three fuel maps with sport, street, and rain settings, as well as that Motor Slip Regulation (MSR) feature from the 1290 Super Duke GT which prevents rear wheel lockup when you drop the clutch on downshifts. The WP suspension on the R model is fully also fully adjustable.
The big news here is the addition of cornering ABS and traction control, which also comes on the Duke 690 R. This allows the ABS to work while taking into account lean angle, which means you can brake or accelerate hard while leaned over without fear of low siding. It also means that the bike holds its line as you brake, instead of straightening and pushing the bike wide.
I’ve only ridden one bike with this feature, the newest Ducati Multistrada, and I was more impressed with this feature than everything else on the bike. Its ramifications for street and canyon riding are simply massive.
I was at the Yamaha unveil for the Yamaha XSR900 yesterday and Yamaha’s product planning manager asked me what I thought was important to see in the next R6 and if I thought traction control would be the biggest draw. Without hesitation, I said that the cornering ABS I experienced in the Ducati was far and away the most important addition to motorcycling. Bravo to KTM for being the first to put this in something that isn’t in the highest price bracket and that’s actually attainable.
Unfortunately, the Duke 690 R will not be available in the U.S., but the rider modes, cornering ABS and traction control, and motor slip regulation will be available as an optional “track pack.” You’ll have to get your own Akro exhaust and fancy painted bits.
For those of you interested, here’s my very old review of the 2013 Duke 690 (the previous model) with a bunch of pics by some guy who can throw a baseball really fucking fast. Please don’t judge me by the writing in this. Seriously.
This bike (with the track pack because duh) just jumped to the top of my “must ride” list. The previous version blew me away, literally feeling like a scalpel on the street. With less vibes, more revs, and cornering ABS - this should be the ultimate canyon carver.
The Duke 690 will have an MSRP of $8,999 when it hits showroom floors next year.
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