2013 KTM Duke 690 Review

Reviews -

By

2013 KTM Duke 690

Bigger isn’t always better. With only a single-cylinder and weighing just 337 lbs, this little roadster from Austria falls behind the specs of most modern sport bikes. But that’s also what makes it more fun to ride in realistic street conditions. Find out why in this 2013 KTM Duke 690 review.

What’s New

Think of the Duke as a fun street bike that learns its lessons from KTM’s off-road history. The single-cylinder motor is very slim and very light, while the spaced-out explosions deliver power to the rear wheel with an even beat that helps the tire find traction. Little here is frivolous, there’s just a basic steel trellis frame, high quality suspension and a set of flat bars.

2013 KTM Duke 690
2013 KTM Duke 690

For 2013, the Duke’s been comprehensively updated, both to improve performance while working to keep it compliant with impending emissions standards. The re-worked fueling, dual spark plugs and ride-by-wire throttle improve fuel economy by a claimed 10 percent and, usefully, service intervals increase to 6,000 miles — unheard of for a single.

While this Duke is actually a little bit shorter — the wheelbase shrinks from 57.7 to 57.4 inches and the seat height is decreased from 32.9 to 32.7 inches — it’s also a little heavier. Blame the exhaust for increasing weight from 330 to 337 lbs.

Other additions to what KTM claims is a “90 percent new” model include standard ABS, altered cylinder heads and new suspension which, as with most KTMs, is made by WP.

2013 KTM Duke 690
KTM Duke 690

The Ride

As some of you may already know, MLB Angels pitcher CJ Wilson is a friend of RideApart. What you may not know is that the avid motorsports enthusiast also owns a number of car and motorcycle dealerships. He was kind enough to provide the Duke 690 for this review.

CJ and I spent a day riding and shooting the photos you see here. He then let me ride the bike for a week while he flew to England to test his new McLaren P1 on the Top Gear Test Track. Call that one good Karma for hooking up the bike for RideApart.

CJ lives in the Southern California coastal town of Laguna Beach, an area full of beautiful hills and perfect pavement. The road to the lookout called, “Top Of The World,” has three perfect curves. While it’s actually only a two-lane road, it’s as wide as four. The Duke’s incredibly fast steering made the tight transitions between those turns effortless. I didn’t realize how much so until I hopped on an S 1000 RR and was forced to work much harder for the same pace on the same road.

2013 KTM Duke 690
The 2013 KTM Duke 690

The same goes for lane splitting through congested traffic, where the Duke simply feels invincible. Not only is it slim and light, with an upright seat position, but the ABS brakes are also incredibly confidence inspiring. Handy when one of the throngs of expense Urban Assault Vehicles cuts you off.

The Duke’s motor produces just 69 bhp at 7,500 rpm, but making 52 lb.-ft. of torque at 5,500 rpm. It’s torquier than a 600, with both peak power and torque arriving much, much sooner. That makes firing it through gaps in traffic easy and immediate.

2013 KTM Duke 690
2013 KTM Duke 690 gauge

During the week that I spent on the Duke, I used it like I would any other bike. Trips from Long Beach to LA on the highway to visit my girlfriend or RideApart’s Wes Siler (who aren’t the same person, believe it or not), trips around town and through the SoCal canyons. Getting on the bike became an event I looked forward to all day, a feeling that was only rivaled by my desire to get off of it.

See Why – Page 2 >>

  • ookla_the_mok

    Good review. Bike sounds fun. Just making sure…. this is a review for a 2013 bike? (not 2014). Thanks!

    • Brian

      My guess is that the bike itself is a 2013, as I am guessing that the 2014 machine has not hit US shores yet. I could be wrong on that and I will stand corrected, if it should prove to be otherwise.

  • Nick

    would you say the vibes are more or less than a drz400?

    • Jason Curtis

      Its only vibey at freeway speeds, and not even all that bad. I ride it from NYC to Philly sometimes and is totally tolerable.

    • Brett Lewis

      That was my question! Those of us that have the DRZ as a reference point would like to know…

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      More.

  • Mark D

    Its odd that KTM can’t quite make this engine highway-capable, but BMW singles have been touring all around the world for years (apparently in comfort.) I’m assuming this is due to the lower weight, slightly higher displacement, and sporting-edge of the KTM, but it’s still too bad.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      although both singles, those engines feel quite different.

      • Miles Prower

        I rented a BMW thumper once. It felt like a tractor with a big-ass flywheel compared to the precision sewing machine that my (prev-gen) 690 Duke is. The LC4 in my Duke spools up and down almost instantaneously, with the distinct sound of a Singer.

        I’ve done many all-day rides on my Duke — I don’t find it too appendage-numbing — but I very much prefer the comfort (and greater carrying capacity) of my Multistrada 1200 for touring.

    • Reid

      The Duke’s motor is high-capable. The speed limit on the interstate is 70mph, right? Go 75 (5,000 rpm in 6th). It’ll do it all day, but without fairings you won’t want to.

  • Clint Keener

    I live in Laguna too. That pic of the parked 690 is right by my office.

    I need to make friends with CJ so I can get a ride in the P1.

  • Jason Curtis

    I have this bike, been riding it around NYC since the summer. Yes it is buzzy on the turnpike and tends to run a bit hot in traffic, I swapped out the thermo switch to turn the fan on at a lower temp.
    It has tons of torque and handles very well, it dives into corners and weaves thru the terrible traffic.
    For day trip type riding its amazing, I definitely have a lot of fun with it.
    No bike is perfect for everything but the KTM makes me very happy.

  • Adin

    What jacket is that? ICON 1000? Aether?

  • metric_G

    Is the engine still have 2 separate oil filters?

  • metric_G

    Is the engine still has 2 separate oil filters?

    • Von

      Derp

      • metric_G

        Derp..my first question did not show then it did, oh well, the question still stands.

    • Gomer Pyle

      actually it has 4 “filters” ,, 2 different size paper oil filters [ in 2 different locations on motor]….. and 2 separate oil screens that need cleaning..

      but not a big deal,,,, i very much enjoy owning it for the last 11,000 miles

  • Von

    Fueling issues are unacceptable in a modern car or bike. Isn’t that what fuel injection is for? Deal breaker.

    • Stuki

      100 hp/liter from a high compression single with virtually no flywheel…… in a featherweight bike….

      “Fueling”, as felt at the helm, includes much more than simply getting the mixture right in this kind of corner case. It also encompasses breathing (intake/exhaust resonances etc), ignition/flame control, plus the fact that a millimeter movement of the throttle can mean the difference between +15hp forward and similarly powerful engine braking in a featherweight bike. Weight/inertia hides lots of this, as does smaller, faster spinning multis where each explosion or lack thereof has less felt effect.

    • Justin McClintock

      Fuel injection and electronic spark (which we’ve had half of forever at this point). But yeah, I completely agree. My DRZ doesn’t have that problem…with it’s CARB!

      • Ken Lindsay

        My DR650 never had the surging problem as it was detuned to be bullet proof. My WR450 has that same low RPM issue as the 690. I think its the high strung singles that have this issue. Not saying it should be that way, but it seems like they are like that at times.

  • HeDidn’tWeDid

    Depends on where you live, but many KTM dealerships will come down on that price quite a bit. I suspect KTM gives the dealership incentives to move old stock.

    • Brian

      It seems to me that most KTM dealers seem to be so rooted into the dirtbike lines, that the streetbikes fall easily by the wayside and those dealers end up blowing them out at or near invoice after 6 months of sitting just to be rid of them.

      • HeDidn’tWeDid

        My dealer here in Little Rock usually gives very good deals on the street bikes and holds the prices higher on the dirt bikes. The 2014 500EXC is in and I have stopped to drool a few times. Sigh.

  • JP

    Jesus, for $9000, you can’t even take it on the freeway, and its jerky under 3000 rpm, but it’s still a 9/10?

    • Gordon Pull

      How do you figure you can’t ride on the freeway? Plenty of folks commuting on buzzy 250s and 650s with no issues. I can’t wrap my head around the price tag though especially when the Street Triple is so close in price. Kinda apples to oranges, but still.

    • Arin Macchione

      They aren’t comparing it to every bike on the planet. It’s a 9/10 in its natural habitat. Cheetahs are kickass, but not in Antarctica.

    • Jonathan Berndt

      Vibration?? God, when did we get to be such babies!?? i had an LC4 and i took it on Freeway all the time, loved the bike, any vibration wasnt bad, never noticed it to be honest. loved that bike and rode it exclusively for 6 years. take a ride on one and tell me it isnt a fantastic bike.

      • 80-watt Hamster

        Vibes vary even within a model line, along with people’s thresholds and tolerances for it. When your extremities start to go numb from the buzz after an hour, it kind of sucks a lot of the fun out of a ride.

        • Piglet2010

          Numb fingers from vibration are a control and safety issue also.

          • Jonathan Berndt

            then perhaps you people should stay off motorcycles and stay in your cars, good lord!

            • Piglet2010

              Ever ride a TW200 with stock gearing at 65 mph? – then you might understand instead of being snarky.

              Some vibration (such as that in the grips of a Honda Deauville at 75 mph) does not cause numbness – other things will make me want to stop before it becomes an issue.

              • Jonathan Berndt

                now why would i want to ride a 200 on the highway, or at 65mph for that matter?

                • Piglet2010

                  Sometimes a divided highway is the only reasonable way from here to there.

      • Reid

        I second, third and fourth this.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      it’s a 9/10 for what it’s intended for.

      Fueling issues don’t scare us because we know we’ll want to re-flash the fuel maps anyways and that takes care of it 99% of the time.

  • Fresh Mint

    So 690 vs Hypermotard SP ….SP wins?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Yes, but it’s also nearly twice the price.

  • Arin Macchione

    Are those two separate mufflers on one exhaust, or some CA. only emission stuff underneath?

    • http://RideApart.com/ Wes Siler

      Collector and canister. That’s what most exhausts look like these days, under the fairings.

      • Brian

        or catalyst converter and muffler…but yeah, what Wes said.

  • Brian

    from what I have experienced as a KTM owner, fueling issues and surging down low seem to be common. They also seem to be easily fixed with a TuneECU cable and downloading a better fueling map, as it is commonly believed that part of the problem is the conservative tuning by the factory for the Euro emission standards. This is also aided when you do start modding the bike with full exhaust or other changes that most decide to make.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      this.

    • Reid

      that junk is EXPENSIVE though. The shop quoted me at $2,900 for the full Akrapovic exhaust + airbox + cams + Akrapovic tune.

      • Brian

        the Akra system in person is nice and understandable why it costs what it does when you look at the materials and build quality. That being said, that is why I went with the Leo Vince, because I wasn’t and am still not made of $$$. Had a friend who bought the cable for tuning his 690 Enduro, and we downloaded the maps and turned off the SAS stuff and I was more there than not in terms of end point. Doing the cams is going to give you the full accentuated punch out of the deal though, and that is the biggest portion of that in terms of labor. Break it down bit by bit, and then price the whole shpiel piecemeal and see what it runs you in terms of $$$ not as a package!!!

        • Reid

          Good point. How do you like the Leo Vince system? I was thinking of going with that or the Remus underbelly system.

          • Brian

            I think the Remus is going to be louder, but it is also a better looking system in terms of initial quality looking at it. The Leo Vince is a great system though, and I take nothing from it. It will more likely be the quieter of the 2 though, that is if you have neighbors to consider or things like that.

            • Reid

              I live in the middle of a 40 acre cotton field with my nearest neighbors being a quarter mile away on either side :) in the country nobody cares how loud anything is.

              Thanks for the advice. I will probably save up for the Remus kit and then maybe down the road get the cams and tune.

              • Brian

                Make sure you either buy, or make a TuneECU cable so that you can download and reflash the bike after you go through each step and also to turn off the SAS stuff !!!

                • Reid

                  I have zero aptitude when it comes to that kind of thing. I’ll probably end up paying through the teeth to have it all done, won’t I? Also, at the risk of showing my utter n00bishness, what is the SAS stuff?

                • Brian

                  Paying through the nose? maybe, maybe not, as I couldn’t even begin to tell you. SAS = Supplimentary Air System, which takes excess air pressure from crankcase and recycles it through the intake for cleaer emissions. Some of that “surging” is from that “burping” the air back into the mix, so turning it off and blocking it off and/or removing that componentry helps correct some of that issue.

  • Joe Bielski

    OK, so this might sound like a loaded question, but what bike would have similar handling to the Duke 690 and include long range comfort/drivability?

    • tobykeller

      SM-T?

      • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

        what he said…except the gas mileage blows.

        • Brian

          Gas milage only blows if you are VERY spirited with the throttle, as Ash on Bikes said in his write up I previously quoted on that machine. It can be much better, but it is hard to not twist the throttle. It is comfortable for long range and for the drivability in general.

      • Brian

        I Love mine!!!

    • Adam

      Honda CB500X?

  • TP

    FINALLY!!! the duke review!

  • Mark Vizcarra

    I have this bike and the review is spot on. Fuelling issues aside, it runs very lean. That’s why is surges at low rpm. There is a O2 sensor fuel mod for about 100 bucks that fixes this issue.

    You also forgot the 3 power modes that are set by a toggle in rear seat. Rain, normal, and awesome.

  • John

    It would be a far more interesting motorcycle if it were a long stroke twin. KTMs are dead sexy, but they’re also uncomfortable and tall. I’d MUCH rather have the Yamaha MT07 short of a fatal flaw.

    • Reid

      The Duke is neither uncomfortable nor overly tall. It’s a real peach of a bike. A 450cc dirt single is way different than this 690cc plant. The idea was to keep maintenance low and service intervals far apart, not achieve absolute performance. Besides, who wants to pay close to $9,000 for a 450cc street bike with a dirt bike engine, even if it does make only few horsepower less than the much larger LC4 in the Duke? I bet there wouldn’t be many takers on that proposition.

      • John

        Relatively, it is. For around down, a 450 would be just fine. Or even the 390 Duke. The 390 Duke probably vibrates less.

        • Piglet2010

          KTM should make a bike like the Aprilia SXV 5.5, but with more reasonable maintenance intervals.

          • John

            ^^^^^^^^

  • http://krtong.com/ Kr Tong

    i ride with a guy who has one and the thing absolutely rails.

  • Mr.Paynter

    This thing is $1900 cheaper than the previous iteration and it’s a footnote?!?
    Gosh darnit I would have lead with that!

    Will pre-gen owners feel robbed? Probably, but wowsers, thats pretty good shuffling in the ledger for KTM to bring the price in line!

    • Gomer Pyle

      the tester forgot to mention the fact that this cheaper version does NOT have Fully Adjustable front and rear suspension [like the 2008 version], does not have dual projector beam headlights [ like the 08 ] does not have a very cool looking aluminum Sidestand [ like the 08 ], the front Master Brake LEVER is NOT a radial design,,, [the 08 is a Radial brake lever design}...[ the Brake CALIPERs are the same]……
      add all that up and THERE is your difference in price

      • Mr.Paynter

        Ah, that makes sense then, I could live with all of that but the adjustable suspension is a bit of a sad turn of events, if the reviewer hadn’t mentioned how good the suspension is I’d be dubious but in our currency that is a huge saveing which I hope we see!

        • Reid

          I wish that, if they were going to consciously try to keep the price down, they would have skipped the big-name brand brakes and all. If it had KTM’s Own store brand brakes or Nissins or something like that it would probably be less than $8,000, which is still too much for a single, no matter how good, as anybody with some skill will just buy a two-year old 600cc sporty anything and embarrass you. It happened to me lol

          • Piglet2010

            I would expect the Duke 690 to out accelerate any super-sport with stock gearing to at least 50 mph, and to be significantly quicker through tight corners and over broken pavement.

            • Reid

              If it can do that then I must be the wussiest rider there ever was, not taking advantage of such a burly machine. Now, over broken pavement, sure, but I don’t see it out-accelerating anything with three or four cylinders.

              • Piglet2010

                Remember that a super-sport with stock gearing will not get to peak torque until somewhere around 50 mph – certainly on roads or a track that allows 3-digit speeds a super-sport will run away and hide from a Duke 690. But put both on the paved part of a supermoto track, and the Duke will eat up the super-sport.

  • phoebegoesvroom

    Vibration?? Ha! Clearly you’ve never ridden a Blast on the highway doing 75mph for hours ;)
    I really like this bike a lot, but my concern is that it’s too tall for me. I have a 30″ inseam, but the slimness of the bike might help cancel out the tall seat height for me. Unfortunately there’s a lot of bikes I can fit on just fine…if I don’t want my feet to touch the ground.

    • http://www.twitter.com/seanmacdonald sean macdonald

      You’ll have no problem on this bike. It’s one of the most accessible seats I’ve sat on. It’s so slim and so light that it’s really easy to control at standstill.

      • phoebegoesvroom

        Awesome! I hope I can do a back to back 390/690 comparison when I shop :)

  • Guest

    Can you compare the

  • Marc

    How would you compare this 690 to the previous gen, especially the suspension? On the old one, the suspension was shockingly harsh… both overspring and overdamped for a sportbike, let alone a supermoto-inspired bike with 6″ of suspension travel. I have no problem with non-adjustable suspension as long as the base settings are decent. I expected to love the Duke, but my favorite of the previous 690s by far was the SMC.

  • Adam

    I think the RideApart score should be broken up in to a few components…Touring/Highway, Commuting/Traffic/City and Canyons/Track/Fun. Based on the article I would rate this bike 1 for Touring, 4 for City (ABS, acceleration, maneuverability, fuel & service economy but not good at low revs or highway) and 9 for fun.

  • Braden

    Great review! I’ve heard differing views on the buzziness at highway speeds. It almost seems that those coming from riding other single cylinder bikes find it better than most, whereas those who do not have found it unpleasant. Don’t know if there’s any truth to that. Now to find a dealership that sells them less than 5 hours away and has at least some interest in taking my money.

  • Piglet2010
  • thegreyman

    I wonder how this would compare to the husky tr650 strada

  • Asyraf Mus

    “But, below that point, the engine shudders and the fueling is surprisingly jerky. We also experienced false neutrals, especially
    between 5th and 6th gears.” yup… experienced that too… anyhow.. I have no regrets owning this monster..

  • Van Doan

    “What Other’s Say”

  • is4u2p

    Thanks, had tons of false neutrals on my Honda CB500F and seeing that this bike does it as well, I’m hesitant to invest so much money in the bike.

    Also, the highway riding issues, that might be a deal breaker as well.