Loud, proud and certain to draw a crowd; everything about the 2016 KTM 690 Duke R’s build and ethos seems a statement. From its colour scheme to its raucous and deep exhaust note, it draws attention and for all the right reasons. Having had my test bike dropped off, I spent a good half hour checking out its many styling details, which seemed to flow effortlessly between its components.
The more I saw, the more I liked, including its quirky semi-transparent airbox. Naked bikes are often the hardest to style, but nothing on the KTM jumped out as an afterthought. There were no random wires to pick fault with or hideous plastic blanks situated right where they shouldn’t have been. The Akrapovic exhaust was a real treat to the eye, and I quickly fell in love with the 2016 KTM 690 Duke R’s TFT dash, which shone brightly with the ignition switched on. Everything seemed so clear to read which made navigating the bike’s traction control, ABS and power mode selections a doddle.
Out on the road the motor quickly won me over. I’ve never been a fan of singles, because of their typically vibey and lumpy dispositions, but the 2016 KTM 690 Duke R’s engine proved to be really smooth, or at least once it got over 3500rpm. I expected it to be torquey, but I was amazed at how relentlessly the power continued all the way up to its 9000 RPM rev limiter – which really sounded a treat through that exhaust can.
KTM 690 Duke R claimed to make 75bhp, impressively ranking it on a par with Yamaha MT-07, Suzuki SV650 or Ducati Scrambler Classic – but none of the others could hold a candle to it in sheer delivery of torque. Every crack of the throttle fired the bike forward, with the front wheel desperate to lift off under its own steam at slower speeds. The gearbox proved to be really slick, and the best I’ve ever known from a KTM to date. Its slipper clutch meant aggressive downshifts didn’t unsettle the bike, and stopping was made easy by the KTM’s single Monobloc Brembo M50 caliper up front.
It facilitated a couple of different options of ABS, which could also be switched off entirely, but I found the standard ABS system to be unintrusive despite some very hard braking. The one stage traction control was too engaging for my liking, so I mostly kept that off and I preferred the bike best with ‘Sport’ riding mode selected; Rain and Street weren’t really necessary, in my opinion.
On back lanes is where this bike made most sense, blasting along and making the most of its nimble and precise handling. The 2016 KTM 690 Duke R’s equipped with high spec, fully adjustable WP suspension, which translated into great road holding in the bends. Considering how stiff this bike’s chassis is, with its firm seat being no less forgiving, it was quite surprising to discover how well the KTM absorbed and mastered any imperfections. I had a great time throwing the short wheelbase machine around, which never required much effort owing to the huge amount of leverage on tap through its high and wide handlebars. They were paired nicely with its sportily placed pegs to form an aggressive, albeit upright, rider stance. It worked well on smaller lanes, but I wasn’t such a fan on motorways.
With zero wind protection on offer, the 2016 KTM 690 Duke R was neck-wrenchingly uncomfortable at higher speeds. But I don’t think that’s what this bike’s about; it’s tailored for short, sharp performance riding. If that’s what you’re after, look no further, but for more general, less focused riding, there are a lot better options out there for the money.
Costing £9149, it’s definitely a luxury purchase. I applaud KTM for having achieved what it has with KTM 690 Duke R, and it’s worth keeping in mind that the less extreme 690 costs £7699, and offers an 835mm seat height with fewer of the race-spec parts.
2016 KTM 690 Duke R Specifications and Price
Engine : 4-Stroke, Single-cylinder, SOHC 4-Valve, Liquid-Cooled
Bore x Stroke : 102 x 84.5 mm
Capacity : 690 cc
Compression Ratio : 12.2 : 1
Induction : Keihin EMS with Ride-by-Wire
Transmission : 6-Speed, Chain-Drive
Max Power : 75 HP @ 8.000 RPM (claimed)
Max Torque : 74 N.m @ 6.500 RPM (claimed)
Seat Height : 865 mm
Wheelbase : 1.466 mm
Weight : 149.5 Kg (dry, claimed)
Fuel Capacity : 14 Litres
Fuel Economy : 41.7 mpg (tested by RealRiders)
Frame : Chromium-Molybdenum Trellis Frame
Front Suspension : 43mm WP Upside-down Forks, Fully Adjustable
Rear Suspension : WP Monoshock, Fully Adjustable
Front Brake : Single 320mm Disc, with Brembo M50 Monoblock 4-Piston Caliper, ABS
Rear Brake : Single 240mm Disc, with Brembo 1-Piston Caliper
Front Tyre : 120/70 – 17 (Metzeller RR)
Rear Tyre : 160/60 – 17 (Metzeller RR)