There is no bike more deserving of the “scalpel” cliché than the Duke 690. It is an unbelievably sharp tool, but also a specialized one.
The Duke 690 is most at home on a windy canyon road or ripping around city streets. It feels even lighter than its already impressive 337 lbs (wet) weight suggests.
The low weight paired with the strong torque leads to big wheelies and very strong acceleration through reasonable speeds.
The high quality WP suspension helps the Duke float over bumps, retaining poise where heavier, faster bikes start tying themselves in knots.
Street bike riders will be shocked by how fast the Duke changes direction. You have to reprogram your brain to suit, forcing yourself to turn much later than you would on a full-on sportbike.
Above 3,000 rpm, the engine is smooth and predictable. But, below that point, the engine shudders and the fueling is surprisingly jerky. We also experienced false neutrals, especially between 5th and 6th gears.
Despite the new balancer shaft, vibrations remain a huge issue on the Duke. You’ll be miserable after merging onto the freeway and maintaining a constant speed. All of my limbs were asleep 20 minutes into any freeway ride.
What Other’s Say
“The WP suspension strikes a good balance between performance and comfort with abundant cornering clearance.” – CycleWorld
“From the first moment you let the clutch out and roll on the throttle, you can almost hear that whisper in your ear coaxing you: ‘Come on, do it . . . no one is looking . . . I won’t tell.’” – MotorcycleMojo
The 2013 KTM Duke 690 retails for $8,999, which is $1,900 cheaper than it’s previous iteration. The Triumph Street Triple starts at $9,399, while the Yamaha FZ-09 costs just $7,999. The low price on the Yamaha is really tough to beat, especially when you consider it would be far more comfortable at longer ranges, however it would need a substantial amount of work to be as nearly as capable as the KTM in the canyons.
The KTM Duke 690 would be a perfect motorcycle, but only if your life fits its exact purpose and never varies outside its performance envelope. Do you live in a house at the bottom of a great twisty road? Do you only ride through the city, without ever getting on the freeway? If so, the Duke is the best bike you can own. If not, you’ll need something with more varied capability as your full-time ride.
RideApart Rating: 9/10