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 its 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 Nins We do not see things as they are... we sings as we are. Ive now logged about 200 miles on my new KTM 690 Duke. Thats 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, its largely because I dont 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. Its 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, (its actually 654CCs ) they made it vastly smoother than previous iterations, particularly the 625 CC which i owned in Supermoto trim. Having said this, the Dukes motor still delivers enough of a thump to let you know its 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 cant say if this rush lasts all the way to redline but Im 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 gods 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 its supposedly watertight mounting beneath the seat and moving its 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 youre 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 its pretty much topping the list of accessories I have planned for it. Other than that, Id give the Duke pretty much straight As 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( Ive 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 thats 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 Im 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 its 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. Im 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. Its like hanging with a kid who constantly asks you why you cant 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 Ive owned it, the shit eating grin has not left my face even once. At my age... thats a big deal.