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2009 KTM Duke 690 Project Bike Part 1

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

2009 KTM Duke 690 Project Bike
KTM's Duke 690 has provided MCUSA with some great thrills in recent years. In the first part of our project bike we bolted on some performance parts to make it even better.
Love it or hate it, the last generation KTM Duke 690 was one of the most unique production motorcycles on the market. Part supermoto, part naked street bike and part something else, KTM’s big-bore Single was hard to classify. One thing is for sure though - ask anyone who’s ever ridden one, and you’ll get one response: The Duke is just plain fun.

Although KTM has recently introduced the next evolution of the Duke with the 2012 model, we can’t really say we’re fans of the new direction and styling. But our fondness for the last generation 690 isn’t only skin deep. We were thoroughly impressed with the Duke’s performance back when we put it head to head with the Aprilia Dorsoduro 750 in our 2009 Aprilia Dorsoduro vs KTM 690 Duke Comparison back in 2009.

However, the Duke still had some quirks. Since KTM has no current plans to import the new Duke to the US, it’s up to us tinkerers and third-party manufacturers to keep the progression going on this side of the pond. That's where our project 2009 KTM Duke 690 comes in. We wanted to take one of our favorite street bikes of recent years and see if we could make it near perfect. For the first part of our project, we will be heading straight for the motor to see if we can improve the 690’s overall ride-ability around town, on the highway and in the twisties.

Air Filter

The first upgrade we tackled was by far the easiest. K&N Engineering offers a High-Flow Air Filter for the KTM Duke 690 that replaces the stock paper filter. Simply open the airbox, pop out the OEM filter and pop in the K&N. This five-minute
K N Engineering offers high-performance replacement air and oil filters for the KTM Duke 690.
K&N Engineering offers high-performance replacement air and oil filters for the KTM Duke 690 - an easy upgrade.
upgrade couldn’t be easier and gives you better airflow than the stock filter which equates to slightly improved throttle response, power and fuel economy. Not to mention, the K&N filter is easily washable and re-useable so you’ll be spending less on replacements. K&N also offers oil filters, filter cleaner and filter oil as well.

While the performance gain from a filter won’t knock your socks off, it will make a difference in the fuel economy, especially if you’re logging heavy mileage. For us, the practice of throwing away used filters always seemed wasteful, so we’ll be glad to wash and re-use the K&N for years to come. Now with more air flowing into our Duke’s motor, it was time to address the air flowing out.


Since the Duke 690 is somewhat of a niche model, there are only a handful of options for slip-on exhausts and even fewer choices for full systems. Since we were trying to milk every last pony out of this 650 Single, we decided to go with a complete system. To follow KTM’s mantra of sourcing the best parts for the Duke, we decided to tap Akrapovic for their Evolution Titanium Header and Silencer.

The Akrapovic Evolution Exhaust System is truly a work of art.
The Akrapovic Evolution Exhaust System is truly a work of art.
The Akrapovic system is completely constructed from Titanium alloy, so it’s ridiculously light: Just 6.4 pounds versus the stock exhaust weight of 15 pounds. But with an MSRP of about $2400 for the full system, you’ll be shaving some weight off your wallet, too. We’ll agree the price tag is a little crazy for a Single cylinder bike, but with Akrapovic, you know you're getting one of the best made exhausts money can buy. The full Duke system is no exception. The muffler is really a work of art. With smooth lines and aircraft-grade craftsmanship, the Evolution exhaust wouldn’t look out of place under the body panel of an F-22 Raptor. Over the last few months we’ve grown accustomed to the Duke drawing attention in the parking lot, but lately, more strangers have been commenting on the exhaust than the bike itself!

Fuel Management

As with any new exhaust and intake, adjustments need to be made to the EFI settings to maximize the new set-up. For our application, the most basic option is to go with Akrapovic’s custom air/fuel and throttle maps that can be loaded to the stock ECU. This involves taking your bike to an authorized KTM dealer or service center to have them installed. Lucky for us, the guys at Motoworld El Cajon were more than happy to help us with this step since they are an authorized KTM Dealer and Service Center. They’ve got a really great service facility and the process only took a few minutes to plug in the bike, download the map, and run the bike through the reset cycle.

2009 KTM Duke 690 Project Bike
After getting EFI settings maximized, Lee's Cycle completed more than 120 dyno runs to custom tune the new intake and exhaust.
The Lees Cycle guys completed over 120 dyno runs to tune the Duke 690 ECU.
The Akrapovic ECU map gave us a respectable performance gain, but it wasn’t what we were hoping for with such a large investment in the exhaust. No fault to Akro though, their map is meant as a one-size-fits-all solution, and to really get the most out of any new intake and exhaust set-up, you need to do some custom tuning.

Thankfully, the motor mad scientists at Lee’s Cycle in San Diego were up to the challenge. In order to get the most out of the increased flow of the exhaust and intake, they did a full ECU tune. This includes a completely custom fuel/air map, throttle map, and engine timing for the Duke 690’s stock ECU. The Lee’s Cycle technicians completed over 120 runs on their in-house dyno to systematically dial in the optimal settings.

The benefit to a custom ECU tune such as this over a simple flash or plug-in adapter is the ability to tweak all the various maps within the bike's computer, not just the fuel and air mixture.

“We really got the most performance gain by adjusting the throttle and timing maps” explains Lee’s shop manager, Quentin Robles. “The stock throttle map has some limits on delivery that we were able to eliminate, and the timing adjustments helped us maximize the overall power output.”

The best part though is Duke owners out there can take advantage of all our R&D time on this project bike. If you’ve got a Duke with an aftermarket exhaust or intake, the guys at Lee’s Cycle can give it a full ECU tune just like we did for this test, for $450. Just bring in your bike with your aftermarket parts either installed or separate, and they will give it a full tune to make the most of your set up. They are also able to disable the O2 sensor and secondary air intake warning lights if you are going for a full-racing set-up.

With all our performance parts installed, it was time to test the Duke out on the road.

The Result

On the Dyno, our modifications gave us a 2-plus horsepower boost, or about a 4% increase. While that may not sound like a lot, when you couple that with the 3% weight savings, the result is a noticeable seat-of-the-pants power increase out on the road.

2009 KTM Duke 690 Project Bike
The Duke's new intake and exhaust netted a 4% increase in horespower and provided a major boost to its mid-range pull.
2009 KTM Duke 690 Project Bike
The Duke now has some serious mid-range pull. While the big Single was never really hurting for bottom-end, it now has that arm-yanking and grin inducing mid-range acceleration that's mostly found on multi-cylinder machines. The main problem now is trying not to rip away from every stop light like I’m trying to holeshot the Toyota Sienna next to me.

The top end is much improved as well. The Duke will now comfortably cruise at 80 mph, where before the 650 Single didn’t want to maintain anything higher than mid-70s for sustained highway rides.

We aren’t quite sure what physics are involved here, but after installing the Akro system, we’ll swear that the engine vibration is also reduced at high speed as well. The cockpit doesn’t feel quite as buzzy at freeway speeds, and is actually quite tolerable now. Our guess is the reduced weight of the exhaust results in less mass being thrown around by the engine’s vibrations, thus less inertia for the vibrations to be carried to the rider. This, of course, is all based on our B.S. degree in Motorcycle Physics. Either way, the Duke is now much more tolerable on the highway, making it an even more well-rounded machine.

The Akrapovic system sounds amazing, too. It has just the right amount of deep raspy tone, it’s not overly loud or snappy like some Single cylinder exhausts can be. The note lands somewhere between that of a factory motocross bike and a Ducati Twin. It is a vast improvement over the stuffed up sewing machine sound of the stock exhaust.

Was the Akrapovic Evolution System worth the price? If straight horsepower numbers are your thing, maybe not. There are other systems out there that could give you a similar gain in HP for a lower cost of entry. But all things considered: fit, finish, weight, power and sound, you won’t find a higher quality exhaust on the market for the Duke 690 than the
2009 KTM Duke 690 Project Bike
With just a few small additions the Duke has already been made more versatile.
Akropovic Evolution. And who knows, maybe with the 2008-2011 Duke lineage coming to an end, you might be able to snatch one up on clearance in the near future.

Overall, the improvements we made to the Duke's motor department make it a much more versatile bike. The extra power gives it that little bit of extra zip it needed for the highway and the mid-range boost is just plain fun no matter where you ride.

Make sure to check back for Part 2 of our KTM Duke 690 Project, where we will fit the Duke with a custom seat, tires and some other bolt-ons in our mission to make it the ultimate hooligan commuting machine.
'09 KTM Duke 690 Project Bike Gallery
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2009 KTM 690 Duke Dyno Chart
2009 KTM 690 Duke Project Dyno Chart.
Lee's Cycle - Your Sportbike Experts
San Diego  California-based Lees Cycle helped us do final race prep including safety wiring primary fasteners and swapping out the engine coolant for race-approved Red Line Water Wetter.
When it comes to finding a motorcycle performance tuning shop you have plenty of options. However none are better than San Diego, California-based Lee’s Cycle. The crew at Lee’s has plenty of real world tuning experience and are experts at setting up bikes for racing or trackdays. Don’t believe just ask owner, Jeremy Toye who routinely smokes the competition at the Willow Springs Motorcycle Club on his BMW S1000RR superbike. Whether you’re looking for an exhaust, tires or full race prep, Lee’s Cycle can do it all at prices that won’t cause you to have a meltdown.
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2009 KTM Duke 690 Parts List
K&N High-Flow Air Filter - $51.99
Akrapovic Evolution Titanium Header - $2384.90

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marc99   November 24, 2012 05:17 PM
I just tuned a 690 R with TuneECU. As far as the buzziness at high rpm the stock tuned bike had - When an engine is lean, the engine produces sharp, uneven power impulses. Causing that annoying buzziness. As the engine is richened, the power impulses become stronger and more even and a less "sharp edged" pressure rise. Lessening the "buzz". When the engine is overrichened, it gets slightly smoother and power drops off. The 690 R I did - It had a ton of detail changes - Like Lee's said - it's a lot work, but the reward was a bike with way improved on/off part throttle - and more power. Not a lot at full throttle - but def better at low and mid and upper mid part throttle.
RayG   June 27, 2012 01:07 AM
@Momo1970 - No problem. The best bang for your buck would be a slip-on for sure. Buying the Akro system is sort of like buying a Ducati: It may not be most practical way to spend a few extra grand, but it's loud, beautiful and sure to get noticed...and sometimes that's exactly what you want.
Momo1970   June 25, 2012 08:44 PM
Thanks for the confirmation. You might just saved me from spending $$$$ on the supper expensive system.
RayG   June 25, 2012 04:38 PM
@Momo1970 - The "Before" dyno run is bone stock. Trust me, we expected to see a 4+ horsepower gain as well. The first problem (although not really a problem) is that KTM has wrung almost every last pony out of that single-cylinder 649cc engine as is. Almost 60 HP stock is pretty crazy when you compare that to a Honda XR650, which maxes out around 45 HP in stock trim. So just bolting on a pipe isn't going to bring the huge gains like we've come to expect from Japanese bikes. The other problem is that the intake is fairly restrictive to get maximum HP gains. If we had sprung for the Akrapovic EVO 2 Kit (which includes a new intake and camshaft) we would probably have seen a 4-5 HP boost. But that's a little overkill for the street IMHO. Hope that answers your question.
Momo1970   June 22, 2012 05:43 PM
Does the dyno before mean with Akrapovic full system or stock? If by custom map you added 2hp over Akrapovic + generic map that is pretty good (then what is the stock hp without Akrapovic full system?) If the before is completely stock, something does not look right, I would expect at least 4-5 hp gain with full system map and k&n filter.
RayG   June 21, 2012 09:54 AM
@Klayton21 - The mirrors are accessory attachments for the PowerMadd Star hand guards. Check them out at MotorcycleSuperstore.com. They are blind-spot (bubble) style mirrors, so not perfect, but they work decent and you can't beat that low-profile look. The tail tidy is from eBay, unfortunately I can't find the original seller anymore for this specific one. We also swapped out the stock tail light and blinkers for an integrated LED unit, also from eBay. We will be posting Part: 2 of this story in the next month or so, I'll get you guys all the details for the bolt-on goodies then, so check back soon!
Klayton21   June 20, 2012 08:58 PM
What are the mirrors you guys are running here, and also what did you do to clean up the rear fender where the license plate mounts? Thanks in advance. -Klayton
dmckiwi   June 15, 2012 04:13 PM
I agree the factory tyres don't last long and never get that hot, I changed to Pilot One's and being the stickiest tyres I could find they have no issue getting hot and on the Duke last surprisingly well. The touring screen makes a big difference and you'll find its much better to ride with it, not to mention it looks really cool.
ba690d   April 20, 2012 08:24 PM
anyone else notice a pulsing in between 4 and 5 thousand rpm when riding this bike? im about to get the akra pipe and evo 2 kit as a result of my stock muffler cracking. does the new pipe and map smooth the power delivery any? and does anyone know what the evo 2 kit does to the air box?? my crf250 has an intake thats like 10x the size of the dukes coffee straw inlet. i agree the 690 destroys those back tires! only got just over 1000 mi on the stock tire 2500 with the bt003s and 3500 with the bt016s. no i dont do burnouts
themountain   March 21, 2012 03:57 PM
120 dyno runs and zillion dollars to have a 2HP gain..?? LOL
I got more out of my pitbike in two runs for 50 bucks
phxrider   March 19, 2012 10:59 AM
TuneECU is a good tool. It's really simple to make the cable, I definitely recommend it just to be able to experiment with different downloaded maps (and make sure you're using the most recent one for your bike) and to turn off the O2 sensor. There is no EPC setting for the 690 like there is for the 990, so you probably need to do the wire mod to disable the power & response neutering in 2nd and 3rd gears. I actually keep the O2 sensor turned on with no problems, the FI is still very well sorted and I figure it helps with mileage.
Jazzor   March 15, 2012 11:09 PM
Thanks for the reply, that was everything! Those handguards look like a good future mod. Yea the mapping being different is the vortexs downfall at the moment, I would want it to definetly be an upgrade. I'm sure the tuneecu site wouldnt't say no to more maps if that is the case with the dynoing then :p. That is not a simple tool to play with, no wonder it took so many attempts!. Did they try with the airbox snorkel in/out?, I have taken it out of mine and it feels better, but someone elses dyno results are always handy. Cheers!
RayG   March 15, 2012 10:31 PM
@Jazzor - No problem, glad you enjoyed it! As far as I know, Lee's Cycle used TuneECU. I also believe they were able to remove the 90% throttle limitation on 2nd and 3rd through TuneECU, but I will try to get one of their techs on here to verify. I've read that a lot of people will drop a tooth on the Duke, but I didn't want to loose the top speed since I planned on doing a decent amount of highway riding. If I was going to be on the track, or staying on tight roads, that would be the ideal setup for sure. We're with you on the touring screen, we've already got one on order! The hand guards are PowerMadd Star Series, you can check them out on Motorcycle-Superstore.com, but I will give you guys the full scoop on those in Part 2. I happen to know that the Vortex ECU for the SMC/Enduro will plug right into the Duke 690. It works pretty well, but needs some refinements like a longer cable to mount correctly and possibly some smoother mapping for the street. Unfortunately, I don't know if there is enough demand for them to ever produce it. I agree that the EVO 2 is tempting, but I think it will be overkill for our street-bound project, definitely a hot setup for the track though! Phew...let me know if I missed anything!
RayG   March 15, 2012 09:42 PM
@phxrider - You're reading my mind...seat and tires are definitely en route for Part 2. Thanks for all the suggestions for tires, after about 2,400 miles, the stockers are pretty much toast. As for the exhaust, like I said, to each his own ;) Glad you enjoyed the story.
Jazzor   March 15, 2012 05:27 PM
Thanks for doing an article on a great bike that doesn't get a lot of attention by magazines!, I have a few questions :) Did Lees Cycles use the ktm dealer only tool to adjust the maps or tune ecu?, if it was tuneecu im sure others out there would appreciate the maps :). If it was done using the ktm tool then im not 100% sure they are compatible. KTM owners can also change the maps to the aftermarket ones themselves and disable the O2 & SAI with tuneecu if they desire. Have you disconnected the wires to improve 2nd and 3rd, I belive they are restricted to ~90% throttle opening for emmisions/noise testing. Google will return some results. Going one tooth down in the front is a common modification you may want to try. What hand guards/mirrors are those?, very similar to the hypermotards! I have the touring screen on mine and found thats it is a bit better for highway miles and the back straight on track days too :). I'm mainly waiting to see if vortex makes a ecu for the duke, that on the smc/enduro has had some great results, mainly faster revving than the stock ecu can produce. The evo2 kits air filter setup is also something to look at. I'm looking forward to part 2, Cheers!
phxrider   March 15, 2012 04:25 PM
Bah, pull the plug out! My 690 SMR (very close brother of this bike) sounds awesome with 'em out (with Akra slip-ons)! Seeing as the same seats fit this bike and mine, I'll be watching what you do there. I have wanted to try the stock Duke seat to see if it's better, contact me if you want to get rid of yours after you upgrade. Hint: Pilot Powers rock on this bike, they're cheap, work great and wear surprisingly well. The 690 is a tire-eating machine, I got ~2.5K on the stock rear, 3K on BT016s, 5K on Roadsmarts, and 7K on Pilot Powers. That's right, better mileage on the Pilots than Roadsmarts! Anyway, good luck and hope you enjoy this totally under-appreciated bike, and I'm really glad to see an American publication take one on as a project bike.
RayG   March 15, 2012 09:02 AM
@22AaronW - Good eye. Yes, the power increase we recorded was with the plugs in place. On the dyno, we found the Duke didn't make much more power with the plugs out because they aren't very restrictive. So it really came down to personal preference. To me, the exhaust was too loud without the plugs. Blasphemy, I know. But it sounded really hollow and almost like a tuned up Honda Civic. With the plugs in it's still plenty loud, just not quite as obnoxiously loud.
RayG   March 15, 2012 08:42 AM
@guambra - the Duke maxed out on our dyno at about 60 hp, (62 hp with the modifications), but KTM lists it closer to 65 hp stock. Either way, it's only about 320 lbs, so the power to weight ratio is awesome. The closest comparable models would be the Aprilia Dorsoduro 750 or the new Beta Strada 650. It's basically just a big-bore street supermoto bike. Thanks for the comment!
22AaronW   March 15, 2012 03:55 AM
I can't help but notice that in the pictures of the bike on the street the exhaust noise reducer inserts are in place, but they're not when it's on the dyno. Do you really have a 2hp gain with those things in?
guambra2001   March 14, 2012 06:23 PM
So how many horsepower and torque does this beast have? And what is it comparable to? Anyways great write up!