First Ride: KTM 690 Supermoto Fly-By-Wire Sideways Slider

Moto GP Technology Comes To Supermoto

Just when you thought single-cylinder supermotos had been supplanted by the new generation of twins, KTM drops the bomb that is the 690 Supermoto. Admittedly, this all-new mega-Thumper displaces just 653.7cc, only slightly larger than the 625 SMC that preceded it, but the difference is night and day.

If you read last summer's "Swinging Singles" comparison (Motorcyclist, July, 2006), you may recall that we reported the 625 vibrated so badly, it would "shake loose change from your pockets." The 690, on the other hand, is astonishingly smooth, vibration manifesting only as the engine nears its 8000-rpm redline. This was accomplished via a sixth speed, a balance shaft and by ensuring the frame didn't amplify the vibes. Tune the frame to reduce engine vibration? Welcome to the 21st Century.

Following the same basic layout as the 950 Supermoto, the 690 is built on a steel trellis frame-so long, single backbone. The black, die-cast aluminum swingarm is unusual in that it has external reinforcement ribs that make it look inside out. The bodywork is unique, with a pointy beak that begs "Spy vs. Spy" jokes. And the rally-derived exhaust is a bit unusual, with twin smokestack mufflers oriented to prevent water from entering during stream crossings. Not that you'd do that on a supermoto bike.

Though the LC4 engine has been redesigned to make a claimed 63 horsepower, the parts around it are more noteworthy. To begin with, it's fuel-injected, which is a first for KTM and still fairly novel on a single. But what is truly groundbreaking is the Electronic Power Throttle (EPT) system. Not quite Fly By Wire, the twistgrip opens the throttle valve via a cable, and a servo motor can then close it to maximize torque or, should revs rise too quickly, control a wheelie or wheelspin. The system also holds the throttle valve open a tad when the twistgrip is shut to reduce engine braking. Add to that a slipper-style Adler Power Torque Clutch (APTC) like that employed on Ducati Monster models, and MotoGP technology is trickling down to the supermoto set.

I didn't notice any of this techno-trickery while riding the 690 at the press introduction at The Streets of Willow Springs in early February. In fact I didn't even know about it until the end of the day, when one of the engineers clued me in. And that's high praise: This sort of rider-assist technology is supposed to be transparent, and the KTM's is.

What I did notice is the dirtbike riding position, with a wide tapered handlebar, motocross-style footpegs and narrow fuel tank-at least in back; the farther forward you slide, the more it splays your legs. The seat is nice and flat, but as on most KTMs, it's too hard-I had a serious case of monkey-butt at day's end.

Handling is superb. Though the 690 weighs a few pounds more than the 625, it doesn't feel heavier. Feedback from the Bridgestone Battlax BT090 tires (more street-focused than the 625's Pirelli MT60s) is exemplary, the WP suspension is firm but compliant and braking power from the single radial-mount front Brembo is strong but not too grabby. Interestingly, the hydraulic clutch employs a Grimeca master cylinder that specifies mineral oil, as is common with mountain bike disc brakes. Though the brakes are strong enough to initiate hacked-out corner entrances, and the slipper clutch is well up to the task, the bike's soft standard suspension settings and high center of gravity made it difficult to get too sideways. Not that we didn't have fun trying.

Tech Spec
Evolution
The 690 is KTM's first new street-legal supermoto single since the 2004 625 SMC. Unlike its predecessor, it was introduced before the dual-sport/rally version instead of as an afterthought.

Rivals
The only other mass-produced supermoto single is Suzuki's DR-Z400SM, which pales next to the 690. Husqvarna and Husaberg's offerings are racebikes with lights.

Tech
Price: $8598
Engine type: l-c single
Valve train: SOHC, 4V
Displacement: 654cc
Bore x stroke: 102.0 x 80.0 mm
Compression: 11.7:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate, slipper
Transmission: 6-speed
Horsepower: 63 bhp at 7500 rpm
Torque: 48 lb.-ft. at 6550 rpm
Frame: Steel trellis with aluminum swingarm
Front suspension: 48mm inverted cartridge fork with adjustable rebound and compression damping
Rear suspension: Single shock with adjustable spring preload, rebound and compression damping
Front brake: Four-piston caliper, 320mm disc
Rear brake: Single-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire: 120/70-R17 Bridgestone Battlax BT090
Rear tire: 160/60-R17 Bridgestone Battlax BT090
Rake/trail: 26 degrees/4.4 in.
Seat height: 34.5 in.
Wheelbase: 57.5 in.
Fuel capacity: 3.6 gal.
Dry weight: 335 lbs.
Colors: Black or orange
Available: Now
Warranty: 12 months, 12,000 mi.
Contact: KTM North America, Inc.1119 Milan Ave.Amherst, OH 44001440.985.3553www.ktmusa.com

Verdict
The best street-legal single-cylinder supermoto bike yet.

They say: "The beginning of a new legend."We say: "What was the old one again?"
R IS For Radical
KTM 950 Supermo To R
If we have one beef with the 950 Supermoto, it's that it's kinda thick through the middle. The new R iteration addresses that issue by substituting the thinner seat and tank from the Super Enduro dual-sport model. So while you lose .8 of a gallon fuel capacity, you gain the ability to skootch right up to the tank to load the front tire for even more sideways-sliding stupidity. Available in a sinister-looking matte-black with orange frame, the 950 R retails for $13,998-$1000 more than the base model, and worth every penny.
The bigger single is a stressed member in the new steel-tube space frame.
KTM's new electronic wrist-assist helps put the power down.