Let me begin with a confession. Last spring when I saw the prototype of the new Duke in the Kiska design studio for the first time my reaction was along the lines of, WTF, that’s not a Duke! Only a few weeks earlier I had bought the previous generation of Duke and was really in love with it. It was a bike I had wanted for years, I loved the styling, the fast single cylinder engine, the supermoto like handling, but also the comfort of it on long journeys. It was in my eyes the perfect bike for the mountain roads and passes around Salzburg. It was also great in traffic thanks to the high ride height. I overlooked the slightly chattery engine at low speed, the mild vibrations and the fact that I had to almost stand on tiptoes when at standstill.
This new Duke just wasn’t the same, it wasn’t a Duke!
It sat there in the studio with me glowering at it for a couple of months and trying to ignore it. But then one day the powerparts version showed up for us to make a sticker kit and a few other things for it for EICMA. And the powerparts version was nice. Really nice.
Cut to this summer. My old duke had been traded in for a 2012 150SX and I had a new 0.0 km Duke on loan from KTM. To be honest though, I wasn’t expecting much. I guess I should have been. KTM is not the retro brand, for the most part they don’t give a sh!t about their heritage. They are forward thinking, progressive. They are all about making the best bike possible, and that is always the next one.
So, on to the KTM 690 Duke review. The bike straight away sounded much better than my old Duke with the Acrapovic slip on. I could also touch the ground easily thanks to the 30 mm lower riding position. And with the powerparts seat it was super comfy and grippier than my old seat which was annoyingly slippery. Super light clutch in, first gear, easy on the throttle and let out the clutch. The drive-by-wire throttle was immediately noticeable. Way smoother and lighter than the old duke, but the power kicking in as I shifted up through the gears was considerably greater. The front wheel didn’t want to stay down. I didn’t want it to stay down either so that was ok. I already had a ridiculous grin on my face and I hadn’t even hit the first corner yet.
…first corner coming quick, bang it down a few gears and lean it in, dam this thing is light! Next corner was tighter, hard on the brakes, WTF, this thing is kicking back at me? oh yea ABS. I had never tried ABS before and it was pretty annoying. It was kicking in much too early in my opinion. As it should though I guess. But it felt kind of spongy. I stopped and turned it off by pressing a button on the dash. Much better, I could brake later and harder.
I had another problem though. The bike had crashbars on it like the EJC version, but I didn’t have the R footrests and it was preventing me from shifting properly. In most positions my shin was hitting the bar so I had to twist my foot at a strange angle to shift. A word of warning then, don’t buy the crash bars unless you get the R footpegs too.
Anyway, apart from that I had a really fun ride up to the top of Rossfeld at 1600m. I had a quick smoke and set off back down. A funny thing happened on the way though. I started with the ABS on as that is the default setting, and really noticed it kicking in the corners again. Some of the road in the shade was a little slippery and cold, so maybe it was really telling me to relax with the braking, but I stopped to turn it off again anyway and immediately felt uncertain how much grip I had. I stopped again and turned it back on and immediately felt more comfortable. hmmm.
You really sit in the new Duke rather than on it, and It feels significantly shorter and smaller too. It’s really easy to ride, fun, uses next to no fuel and is wickedly fast. It is not a supermoto anymore. It is not the Duke of old. But it makes sense next to the 125, 200 and other upcoming Duke models. If you want a supermoto, get the new pimped out SMC-R with the slipper clutch. If you can find one anyway, as they are sold out. ha. For general riding though I would take this any day. Not that you can find these either though, KTM has sold all of them. You might see a few left in dealers if you are lucky, but I am guessing they wont be there long.
I wasn’t expecting to, but I really like this bike. I like it a lot more than my old duke. Vibrations are less than the old one but noticeable when you stay around 170 kmh for an extended period of time on the German Autobahn, but then that’s not really what this bike was made for. What is it made for then? Well, pretty much everything else I would say.
Some more photos below.
Lots of nice carbon Fiber powerparts.
First test with some new foils using the Kiska Gerber edge printer.
Some proper riding photos and video coming eventually. My wife took these heading to work. I don’t want to give it back in 2 months.