My 690 Duke Review. (lengthy)

Discussion in 'Road Warriors' started by Terrytori, May 15, 2010.

  1. Terrytori

    Terrytori Namaste

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    Oscar Wilde once suggested that any man who could not judge another in 5 minutes is a shallow person indeed. That from a pedophile, albeit a brilliant one.

    I freely admit to being something less than the deep end of the pool. It takes me way longer to arrive at my feelings for people and as some of you know, at least twice that time to arrive at my feelings for a motorcycle.

    My history in judging scoots at the beginning is almost always colored by my leaning towards the positive. When i meet a bike for the first time, i want to like it the same way i want to like people on first meeting.

    If a person I have just met suddenly lets off a giant bum bomb while standing next to me, i do not instantly label this person ‘pig’. I immediately go to a bean burrito lunch with a gallon or two of Sam Adams to wash it all down.

    So it is with motorcycles.

    When i found myself looking out over the microscopic fly screen of my brand new Monster 1100 S last year and felt my hands tingling to the point of numbness after 3 city blocks, I did not immediately blame the ergonomics of the bike or it’s considerably heavy clutch lever. Instead, i chalked it up to my having inadvertently wandered out of my fifties and into the decade of arthritis and liver spots.

    When i hunted for the soul in my brand spanking new F 800 GS and could not find it, I actually considered for a moment that it was simply mirroring my own spiritual state, a thought re-enforced by Anais Nin’s “ We do not see things as they are... we sings as we are”.



    I’ve now logged about 200 miles on my new KTM 690 Duke.

    That’s not a whole lot of saddle time but it is way more than most people ever get from a dealer test ride. What follows are my first impressions on the thing. I am sure the sands of opinion will shift beneath my feet as my experience grows. I also leave myself open to the possibility that I am in fact slightly deeper than I give myself credit for and that
    some of these first impressions will turn out to be lasting.

    If some of this stuff gets to be a little too touchy feely, it’s largely because I don’t do this for a living and lack any real ability to form opinions based upon science.

    If i had to place the 690 Duke into a human age group that would reflect a big hunk of its’ personality, it would have to be middle teens.

    The only thing this bike really takes seriously is play. We often refer to our motorcycles as our toys. The 690 Duke is Super Toy. It’s the Toy all other toys secretly want to be.
    This bike , like some kids in their early teens is totally lithe and panther like with absolutely zero body fat and a huge, natural athletic prowess coupled to an almost manic need to get jiggy.

    People thought and still think that i was crazy and even stupid for scooting a 250 cc Ninja R across the breadth of America last fall. Let me tell you, I would totally own stupid if i attempted the same feat on this bike.

    When KTM redid their LC4 motor and slapped the 690 moniker on it, as well as telling a lie, (it’s actually 654CCs ) they made it vastly smoother than previous iterations, particularly the 625 CC which i owned in Supermoto trim. Having said this, the Duke’s motor still delivers enough of a thump to let you know it’s a big burly single and anything short of about 3500 on the clock will have it chattering, and shuddering and generally expressing its distain for your unconsciousness.

    With a redline of 8K, I am restricted to 6000 rpm for break in purposes.

    At 4K, the motor shows contentment and the party declares itself officially rocking at around 5500.

    I can’t say if this rush lasts all the way to redline but I’m guessing it will start to wheeze out a couple of hundred short of the red mark.

    This means, given the gearing on this thing, that your left foot will be getting no end of exercise as you will find yourself constantly shuffling the 6 speed box.

    However, get all the grip and lever and toe stuff right heading into the corners, and you will be rewarded by god’s hand lifting you up off the apex time and time again which for me is as addictive as pie.

    The EFI on this bike is real good and i have not been able to find any glitches along the way. The 690 Duke comes with rider programmable mapping which is accomplished by detaching a dime sized dial from it’s supposedly watertight mounting beneath the seat and moving it’s tiny knob to one of 3 settings. Setting one is pretty much a rain setting with diminished low end grunt aimed at reducing rear hoop spin. Level 2 might just as well be called the Brat setting. Everything in this zone has to happen now and with no finesse at all. You want to pop wheelies all day long and spin up the real hoop on corner exits? Two is your lucky number. Level three is described in the owner's manual as ‘Balanced: and its where i stayed for purposes of this report.

    In terms of handling, the 690 Duke is pretty much a scalpel in a drawer full of putty knives. To say that steering is quick is a massive understatement. Just breathe on the bars and this thing turns. As fun as this seems... and it is, it is not without problems. Uneven pavement mid corner will rearrange your line for you if you’re not paying attention. It may also cause unwanted modulation in the fly by wire throttle which is incredibly light and responds to the slightest twitch.

    There are bikes that can go through life without a steering damper. Personally I think the baby Duke not to be one of those and it’s pretty much topping the list of accessories I have planned for it.

    Other than that, I’d give the Duke pretty much straight A’s in the handling department. Barring bad frost heave or pot holes, it tracks well on a given line and can be tossed around through switchbacks with only the slightest of inputs. Applying a little brake mid corner will not cause it to stand up excessively and the damn thing just seems to want to lean over forever. The stock Michelin Pilot Sports seem to be just the perfect sneakers for this juvenile delinquent and inspire all sorts of confidence in the dry( I’ve yet to scoot the bike in the wet). Suspension is multi adjustable although i have not made any adjustment to it. Comparing it to my two most recent rides the Monster 1100 S and the F800 GS, it is way firmer than the GS and considerably more compliant than Mr. Monster.

    I have so far precious little experience with the brakes. I have not yet leaned on them hard. You hear much about some bikes being able to stop with one or two fingers doing the work. Much of my assault on the twisty stuff required but one finger but then i never found myself in a sphincter slamming situation so maybe a whole handful will be required at some point. I barely touched the rear brake along my way and when i did, it felt like it requires more pressure than i imagined it would.

    Ergonomically, the bike seems just about right for my 6 foot 1 inch frame and 32 inch inseam, at least for hour long toots. I found my self sitting back a little farther from the tank than the designers probably intended and i think i did so to keep my feet a little flatter on the pegs. after about an hour, I started thinking that the pegs could be a tad lower but i was in nor real discomfort. Shifting was mostly positive. The clutch lever is not heavy nor is it big time light. I did manage to miss a couple of shifts from 4th to 5th but i think that’s nothing more than getting used to foot position.

    The reach to the bars is absolutely perfect for me which is something i can not say about the seat. Although significantly better than the one that came with my 625 SMC, it really started to get old after an hour. The problem beyond the density of the foam (read as a tad better than brick firm) is that their is a raised, articulated section the purpose of which it would seem is to let your passenger know where to place his or her thighs when they get up close and personal with you on this bike.

    The mere idea of carrying a passenger on this scoot is laughable to me but then I’m generally not a fan of two up riding unless her name is Angelina. I also find it laughable that KTM offers as an option, a thing called “ The Comfort Seat”.

    When i ordered the bike, I also ordered what KTM smilingly refers to as “ The Touring Screen”. At speeds above 75 mph, the wind was pretty much kicking the crap out of the peak on my Arai Dual Sport lid. This leads me to believe that the sole purpose of the standard fly screen is to give the fly population something to laugh about.

    The stock mirrors do a great job at showing you more than your shoulders although they do tend to get a little buzzy every time you jump on the loud grip. The instrument cluster is electronic and minimal. The round tach reigns supreme as it should with speed delivered in readable numbers in the same pod as the clock, and odometer and engine temperature bar graph.

    The overall build quality strikes me as excellent. The kickstand is one of those bits that could easily find it’s way to the Museum of Modern Art gift shop. and the low sheen, black Marchesini wheels are supremely elegant in their sculptural simplicity. The rest of the hard edged body work really is a matter of taste. I for one like it but then i like what Cadillac is doing with their new designs.

    I’m not sure how much wiser you are having read all of this.

    Right now this bike has fountain of youth qualities for me. Whenever i get on it, i imagine myself firing B.B. or pellet guns or riding skateboards or jumping on the coaster brake of my bike and doing monster rear wheel drifts.

    It’s like hanging with a kid who constantly asks you why you can’t just blow off work today and have some fun.

    I have no idea if this will get old for me and if so, how long it will take.

    What i do know is that in the nearly full week that I’ve owned it, the shit eating grin has not left my face even once.

    At my age... that’s a big deal.
    #1
  2. Bearded Hooligan

    Bearded Hooligan Moto Addict

    Joined:
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    Thomasville, GA
    Nice write up:thumb The enduro is the same with knobbies:ricky things just tend to happen more quickly with trees inches away:ricky I sure would like to throw a leg over the duke even though the motor and gearing is the same as my enduro. It just looks the business for the street, black/white or orange/black?
    #2
  3. Terrytori

    Terrytori Namaste

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    2010 Orange/ Black

    Wanted Black/white.
    #3
  4. rhys

    rhys Long timer

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    Left Coast
    If I were a rich man......
    - or -
    had I learned to be responsible with my money over the years,

    I WOULD HAVE ME ONE OF THESE PUPPIES BY NOW!

    My 5' 2"ness is riding a 620 pound 1255cc bagger (Bandit) right now, but I reeeealy want something fun to park next to it. I lowered the internals of my suspension on the FZ1 I partied on for 60,000 miles, but have simply replaced componants on the Bandit for 'better'. Lowering the internals of a suspension takes away ANY comfort to be had while sitting on a shaved & lowered saddle.

    I have often wondered if the suspension of a tall bike with longer travel would be better for lowering the internals (?).

    I rode the KTM Super (DOOPER) Duke and thought it to be the most fun and most neutral bike I've ever piloted. After the salesman helped me down from off the tall S'Duke, he walked me over to the 690 thumper and said, "...no, THIS would be even MORE fun and neutral beneath you..."

    Someday I hope to have a little (fully capable) machine to throw around through the twisties, curves, and goat trails of the Grande Diablo Canyon over Del Peurto/Mines, or the fun to Lick Observatory.... some day.

    Fun to read write-up,
    seems I know more about how you think than I do of the bike though.
    #4
  5. El Guero

    El Guero V4 Whore

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    Iowa City, IA
    Nice review, how long do you think you will keep this one? :lol3
    #5
  6. Terrytori

    Terrytori Namaste

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    Halifax Nova Scotia
    I've got a bet with myself that I'll have it at least until September... but then again... I can't lose. :rofl
    #6
  7. LuciferMutt

    LuciferMutt Rides slow bike slow

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    Great review. In your first topic with the pictures, every angle of the bike looks good to me and the bike just screams FUN!!!!

    And I don't think you're nuts for riding your ninja 250 across the country. I've put almost 9K miles on mine and still love it.
    #7
  8. Crow

    Crow Corvid

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    Scottsdale, Arizona
    <snip>
    <snip>

    It took me three years for my 2002 KTM Duke II Adrenaline Orange. Then I gradually returned to my true nature, sport touring. Enjoy the moments!

    :norton
    #8
  9. MookieBlaylock

    MookieBlaylock Long timer

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    tune it and run 100 octane , and your good for another 6 months :D
    #9
  10. RoteEddie

    RoteEddie Been here awhile

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    Nice reading! IF your riding skills are as good as your writing, Rossi needs to be looking over his shoulder :D

    We need pics!
    #10
  11. gallinastrips

    gallinastrips Been here awhile

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    Taos NM
    Nice :deal and sweet :ricky . I could use and abuse one of those
    #11
  12. Terrytori

    Terrytori Namaste

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    Hey Eddie My riding skills are pretty much equal to my grade three compositions. Thanks for the appreciation.

    Here are a few pics from an earlier thread i started the day I brought it home.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    And as you can see, I've been scrubbing the skins up a little.

    [​IMG]
    #12
  13. 101N

    101N peccavi

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    Thumbs up:)
    #13
  14. Cortez

    Cortez BAZINGA!

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    Croatia
    Now that's what I call a review.

    The 690 is one of best bikes I ever had a ride on, if a bit (a lot)
    focused.
    #14
  15. Zeke013

    Zeke013 Village Idiot

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    Google brought me here. This thread is good enough to renew with a reply.

    Great write-up.
    #15
  16. mminob

    mminob Been here awhile

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    Ocean Beach,California
    Great bike to improve your corner speed skills at the track...Try doing some trackdays at a kart track or smaller road course with twisty tight stuff...This bike has to be ridden hard to really understand it's potential as one of the funnest street bikes ever sold...Congradulations and I really want a Duke 690 R...:evil

    Attached Files:

    #16
  17. Florida Lime

    Florida Lime Long timer

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    As stated, and not often enough- Robbinsville, NC.
    I had a Duke II, and did several trackdays with it. Nothing like passing the bigger bikes on the outside - as long as you could hold them off for a straight section. :lol3

    I'd love a 690R also, but I just checked again, and KTM doesn't even list the regular 690 anymore......:cry
    #17
  18. sportmotogear

    sportmotogear Mr. Fancy Pants

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    Why am I always attracted to the unobtanium?
    #18
  19. misanthropic

    misanthropic Been here awhile

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    Aug 22, 2004
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    Keller TX
    Action Motorsports in Decatur has one for sale. Edit, it's a regular 690 Duke.
    #19
  20. Damo108

    Damo108 n00b

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2011
    Oddometer:
    2
    Greetings all,
    I recently purchase a new 2010 Duke 690, all black and I am expecting delivery this coming week. I discovered this review months ago and it solidified my choice and confirmed what I new all along...I had found what I had been looking for after years of searching.
    Something slick, tough, raw and powerful gracefully balanced in a machine. Funny, I originally discovered the duke as a toy my 5 year old brought home from Wally World over a year ago. I still have the little 1/38 scale Duke 690 and it served as a great little tool as I day dreamed every day of when I would get a chance to try one out. Finally last fall 2011, I had an opportunity to test ride one and I loved it!! Started saving up and found a great deal out of Pennsylvania. And now my Duke is on its way here as I type, I am exrtemely excited.
    I grew up riding dirt bikes as a kid and teenager and trotted around town in high school on little Yamaha 250 cc street bike out of the 80's. Been mainly a summer rider through the years, catching a few long riding weekends with my dad on his HD and Honda from time to time. Now I am getn some wheels of my own, more my flavor, needless to say its going to be a great summer here in Houston, TX as I plan to spin out some miles breaking in my new road mustang!

    Terrytori, how has the Duke treated you, assuming you still have one, be cool to get an update.

    Your Ever Well Wisher,
    Damo
    #20