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2009 KTM 690 Duke Comparison

Monday, July 6, 2009
If you love riding through tight canyon roads  the KTM 690 Duke is definitely for you.
If you love riding through tight canyon roads, the KTM 690 Duke is definitely for you.
In a world of cookie-cutter, look-alike motorcycles, the KTM 690 Duke not only breaks the mold—it jumps up and down on it,  smashing it to pieces. Visually, it’s hard to find anything wrong with the design as its engineers developed the 690 with the best aesthetic elements from every sport-motorcycling segment.

Stare at the back end and you’d think it was the latest high-end sportbike. Take a look at its tall stance and beefy suspension and you’ll start to think off-road. Then examine the front end with stacked projector light beams and its cockpit and you’ll believe its pure supermoto. If engineers could have just integrated the front turn signal stalks into the mirrors they would have achieved aesthetic perfection.

Lift the 690 Duke off its trick aluminum kickstand and you’ll be amazed by how light it feels. In fact, you’ll assume it’s more svelte than its actual 352-lb weight. Slide over the top of the motorcycle and it will trick you into thinking you’re aboard a big dirt bike.

Pop the starter button and the 654cc Single fires to life quietly, proving that a compact underslung exhaust need not be loud. Grab a hold of the thick aluminum handlebar and it is easy to be impressed with the solid feel of the motorcycle. Everything from its Magura bars and control levers to even the gas cap appear to be of Star VMax-quality and fit together as if they were pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Riders with limited dexterity will be pleased to discover that the footpegs are mounted relatively low, which works together with the handlebar and seat to provide a relaxed rider's triangle.

Twist the throttle and the bike leaps forward with the immediacy of a V-Twin sportbike. No joke, the engine in the Duke spools up fast and has some serious steam. Another plus is how lively the engine sounds when you hammer it.

The KTM feels much lighter and is more easy to maneuver than the Aprilia.
The KTM feels much lighter and is more easy to maneuver than the Aprilia.
Take a look at the dyno chart and you can see that the KTM engine pumps out over 40 lb-ft of torque from just over 5000 revs. Though on paper the numbers aren’t anything special when compared directly to the power output of Aprilia’s V-Twin engine, take into consideration that the KTM weights over 100 pounds less and it make sense how the bike can accelerate with such authority from a stop.

Throughout the journey, throttle response is instantaneous without feeling too jerky. And, like the Aprilia, the KTM allows the rider to adjust fuel map settings. A switch accessed inside of the frame next to your right leg provides multiple options: Position 1 is designed to limit power production for use during rides where traction is limited, Position 2 is Sport Mode which makes the throttle more sensitive and Position 3 thru 9 is Standard Mode.

Stay on the throttle and power escalates in a ridiculously smooth manner. Right around 7000 rpm you’ll be rewarded with a peak hp output of nearly 56 horsepower. Maximum power stays online for another 800 rpm before beginning to taper off until the rev limiter shuts the engine down at 8500 rpm.

A single 320mm brake disc and radial-mount Brembo caliper perform just as well as the Aprilias double front brake set-up.
The Duke 690s exhaust delivers a much more subdued sound when compared to the Dorsoduro 750. Although instrumentation is functional as well as legible it isnt as refined as the Aprilias.
Grab an upshift and you’re right back in the game. Like the Aprilia, the KTM uses a six-speed transmission, but the one in the 690 takes performance further, offering an Adler Power Torque Clutch (APTC), which not only eliminates rear wheel chatter during aggressive downshifts, but reduces the effort required to operate the clutch. And it works great—especially on the track.

We were also surprised with just how spot-on the 690 Duke’s final drive gearing is both on the street and the track. True, first gear is on the tall side, but it doesn’t compromise the ease of launching from a dead stop. The next four gears are spaced well to help ensure that you’re always right in the meat of the engine’s power. Yet, in top gear at 60 mph, the KTM is just a tick under 4000 revs.

Unfortunately, as speed increases, so does vibration. In the city you won’t really think too much of it, but when cruising down the freeway it’s pretty hard not to get annoyed by how buzzy the cockpit is. Yet we can’t help but admire just how nimble the bike performs on the freeway. Its slim dimensions and powerful engine allow you to zip in and out of traffic with about as much thought as you’d have aboard a 1000cc Superbike.

But racking up miles down the freeway isn’t what this bike is about. It’s about shredding pavement on the tightest backroad you can find, and this is where the Duke is in its element. Hustling it back and forth through tight switchbacks is virtually effortless. And slamming the bike from side to side doesn’t do a thing to compromise its composure.

Another clear beneficial feature of its chassis is the WP suspension components. Up front, the fork offers both compression and rebound adjustability, however, there isn’t any spring preload adjustment. Conversely, the shock offers all necessary adjustments, including spring preload, separate high/low-speed compression and rebound damping. Good thing is, not only does the suspension offer a wide range of adjustment, but the clickers actually work and the chassis as a whole is responsive to individual changes.

On a side note, one of the problems we encountered during aggressive street rides was how slippery the seat is, which has you sliding to the front whenever you’re hard on the brakes and then sliding back to the tail section when on the gas—highly annoying to say the least.
Even at the racetrack the 690 Duke offers plenty of ground clearance.
Even at racetrack speeds, the 690 Duke offers plenty of ground clearance.

Despite how low the footpegs are mounted, the KTM has loads of ground clearance. In fact, even around Grange we’d rarely ever drag hard parts. Traction from the OE Dunlop Sportmax Alpha-10 tires was also first-rate. The tires feel similar to the Qualifier and only differ in the fact that the carcass feels just a bit softer. It’s also worth noting how fast the tires wear out. We logged about 600 miles on the street with one track day and the tires have less than 50% rubber left.

Without question KTM’s Supermoto pedigree ensures the 690 Duke is going to carve up tight canyon roads, but to our surprise its chassis is equally adept at tackling faster, more sweeping corners; its composure at speed is excellent considering that it’s a supermoto-style bike. Without a doubt, in the right hands this motorcycle has the ability to really make fools out of Sunday warriors on their liter-class superbikes.

In terms of instrumentation, the KTM has a petite display that houses a swept tachometer bordered by a digital display providing speed, double trip meters and a clock. A horizontal bar graph-style fuel gauge keeps tabs on the 3.56-gallon fuel tank that gives the KTM roughly a 170-mile range. Despite the instrument cluster’s small appearance, it’s actually easy to read while riding.

The Duke only offers a single disc brake both front and rear, but braking performances are sufficient and fade-free, whether you’re blasting around the street or track. A front radial-mount four-piston Brembo caliper connected via stainless-steel brake line to the radial master cylinder offers great initial bite and feel. Though as you squeeze deeper on the lever, feel quickly dissipates even though power continues to ramp up. Conversely, the rear set-up is perfect, and when combined with the effects of the slipper-action clutch, makes hacking this bike sideways a thing of pleasure.

The KTMs single-cylinder engine has some serious grunt coming out of the corner.
The KTM’s single-cylinder engine has some serious grunt coming out of the corner.
After spending some time in the saddle of the Duke it’s almost impossible not to be enamored with this motorcycle. Not only is it light, fast and turns on a dime, it manages to be completely stable no matter what speed you’re rolling at. It looks awesome and its craftsmanship is something you have to see and touch to believe. If you’re looking for a performance Supermoto streetbike you’ll be hard pressed to find one better than KTM’s 690 Duke.

So which bike should be in your garage? Well, that depends on the type of riding you plan on doing the most. If the majority of your riding demands a motorcycle that can easily slice through city traffic yet still deliver an acceptable ride on the interstate, the Aprilia is it. However, if you are willing to compromise everyday street ability for a motorcycle more focused when you’re hitting your favorite backroad, it’s hard to argue against the KTM. Sure it is slightly more expensive, but you get what you pay for. Each part on the bike fits together like it was carved from a solid piece of metal and the sum of its parts pack a considerable punch. Its style blends the best of contemporary motorcycle design and is one of the most attractive motorcycles made today. If you’re looking for the better street-going supermoto, the KTM 690 Duke is it.

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2009 KTM 690 Duke Specs
2009 KTM 690 Duke
Engine: Liquid-cooled 654cc Single; 4-valve
Bore and Stroke: 102 x 80mm
Compression Ratio: 11.8:1
Fuel Delivery: Fuel-injection
Horsepower: 55.93 hp @ 7200 rpm
Torque: 42.76 lb-ft @ 5300 rpm
Clutch: Wet multi-disc with slipper action, hydraulic actuation
Transmission: 6-speed, chain final drive
Frame: Chromium-molybdenum trellis frame
Front Suspension: WP 48mm inverted fork; 3-way adjustable for preload, compression and rebound; 5.5 in. travel
Rear Suspension: WP gas charged shock; 4-way adjustable for preload, high/low-speed compression and rebound; 5.5 in. travel
Front Brake: 320mm rotor with radial-mount 4-piston Brembo caliper
Rear Brake: 240mm rotor with single-piston Brembo caliper
Tires: Dunlop Sportmax GPR Alpha-10 120/70-17, 160/60-17
Curb Weight: 352 lbs.
Wheelbase: 58 in.
Rake: 63.5 deg. Trail: 4.5 in.
Seat Height: 34 in.
Fuel Capacity: 3.56 gal.
MPG: 48
MSRP: $10,898
Colors: Orange; White; Black
Warranty: One-year, unlimited mileage

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Rob -Love my 690 SMR...  January 8, 2010 06:38 PM
I have the 690 SMR, which is basically the same bike as the 690 Duke with the only real differences being the exhaust, seat and bodywork... I personally find it great for about anything including highway, the only real drawback IMO is there isn't much wind protection, and it's not that great for passengers (has plenty of power, just not that comfortable for them). And the 690s eat tires, you'll want to get some Dunlop Roadsmarts if you are planning on putting any real miles on, they still grip fine and last WAY longer than pure sport tirs. I use mine mostly for commuting with a lot of highway and a little sport riding when I have time. I also have a 950 Adventure which is a better highway bike for sure and I take that on most major road trips, but for 98% of riding I'd rather be on the 690. Also, not a single real problem in over 12K miles except for the issue with the clouding gauges, which KTM replaced under warranty. Anyway if you're thinking about a 690, I say GO FOR IT, you won't be disappointed!
tuono rider -the breaks  December 10, 2009 08:45 PM
something people don't typically consider is the additional weight increase with the second front rotor. Consider the centrifugal force of the wheel and the additional momentum created by that weight while stopping. When the bike is light, it makes little sense to have the additional rotor. Think about the Ducati injection molding process of the wheels, there is a reason they want to decrease rotating mass, it is easier to stop, so in order to stop the bike, you have to stop the wheels from rotating. It is easier to stop something from rotating if it weighs less, so if the wheel weighs less, including the rotational weight of the rotors, it could arguably stop just as fast as a wheel with two rotors. It is a matter of whether the additional weight of the rotors is neccessary for effective stopping. The same theory would apply to hot rod engines vs. rock crawling engines. The Hot rod wants high revs so they would use a light fly wheel, where the rock crawler using the same engine would use a heavy fly wheel so the centrifugal force of the fly wheel assists with the burden of the additional load of the obstacle. The additional weight of the rotor would perpetuate the motion of the wheel and actually require more break cylinder pressure to stop. So basically the single rotor will stop the lighter bike just as well as a double rotor will stop the heavier bike. It's a simple matter of weight ratios. A three ounce swallow cannot carry a one pound coconut...
toni -seating position  September 14, 2009 06:06 AM
me again, i looked more closely at the pictures of the duke and it seems to me that you're sitting way back too much, try sitting more to the front front end will feel and grip better thats what sm rider told me but they all ride 450exc with sm kit, 690sm and such
toni -power  September 14, 2009 06:02 AM
how come that u say aprilia has 75hp when it has 92hp, and ktm has 63hp instead of 56 in the text?? if thats the power on the wheel than ok, but make sure next you write that in the text i rode dorsoduro and liked it very much, still waiting for someone to lend me the duke i'm from europe, sorry for grammar mistakes if there are any
JORDI -Should I buy the Duke 690 ?  September 8, 2009 09:11 AM
Hi, It was a much better article comparison than most out there, because Adam Waheed really says who is the winner. Not like other articles paid buy manufacturers, where they don't really say what's bad about any of the bikes. Myself, I sold my ktm 690 SM last year and bought this Aprilia. I really miss the suspension, the brakes and the weight of the ktm. I don't miss riding below 4000 rpm and vibrations, Aprilia is better for that. PS: I have been to KTM factory once. Excuse my English, is not my native language.
ted beers -KTM-690-Duke-Comparison  August 1, 2009 11:24 AM
Interesting but what I want to see is a comparison between the Super-moto 550 Aprilia , 690 Duke and the BMW 450 enduro w/ Supermoto s' 17's
Jcrocker -Duke  July 27, 2009 03:21 PM
I've got 8k on a duke it's fine for just about anything, unlike the SXV I don't have to service it after every ride :). I've ridden the aprilia as well, feels like a big sports tourer in comparison
Lawrence -Aprilia  July 9, 2009 10:18 AM
If Aprilia put their bike on a diet (75-100lb?) and up-graded the suspension a bit, they would have a much more desirable motorcycle on the hands. Despite that, I still like it a lot. I also love the Duke 690 and have heard only good things about it from owners. One of these 2 bikes will be my next ride ...
thewall -Good choice of bikes to compare  July 8, 2009 09:02 PM
Nice article. You don't read a lot about these two bikes it was fun to read this. Good job pointing out the pro's and con's of each bike. Nadolski I think you missed the point of the article. It was to compare to manufacturers STREET bikes developed with a supermoto theme. The SXV isn't street legal- it's designed exclusivly for the track
Nadolski -This is an Unfair Comparisom  July 7, 2009 10:16 PM
Had you compared the Aprilia 550 to the KTM the bikes would be much more similar in terms of power and weight. The Aprilia would have won in every respect.
karma dog -close but not ther yet  July 7, 2009 09:58 PM
I have ridden the 690 enduro and love the motor but I found it just didnt have enough power for me once the speed picked up.If Aprilia would put just a little more love into there 750s i would buy one in a heart beat but the suspension always seems to be a few notches below that of the competition. So i guess ill wait and watch and save my money till somebody hits the mark with there moto.
Frankie -Brakes?  July 6, 2009 03:59 PM
milwaukee, did you read the article? The author has written a whole paragraph about the brakes for each bike.
milwaukee mike -ktm brakes  July 6, 2009 02:02 PM
Do the brakes stop this bike? C'mon lets get a little resposible journalism here,...OK?