2016 KTM 690 Duke Review

The 2016 KTM 690 Duke is more appealing than ever with more power and less vibration

They say: Versatile, but full of character. We say: Loads of thumper character, minus the vibration!

2016 690 duke
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist

The Duke family has been in the KTM lineup for two decades, with models ranging from 125cc to 1290cc. The KTM 690 Duke resides in the middle of the displacement spectrum, and for 2016 the model has been significantly refreshed. With changes to a quarter of the bike's components, this new machine has more power, fewer pounds, and less of what was the previous model's biggest flaw: vibration. All this adds up to a bike that's fun around town and more than up to a sprint through the twisties.

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The updated 690 Duke retains the same 690cc displacement as it’s single-cylinder predecessor, but does so with an increased bore (up 3mm to 105mm) and decreased stroke (down 4.5mm to 80mm). The piston, crank, intake, and valve train were also updated to accommodate the new cylinder dimensions as well as reduce weight, friction, and vibrations. The new engine has a higher redline—boosted from 8,500 to 9,500 rpm—and makes more power. KTM says horsepower is up 7 percent and torque has been increased by 6 percent, for peak figures of 73 hp and 55 lb.-ft. of torque.

2016 ktm, 690 duke
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist

Throwing a leg over the KTM 690 Duke was easier than I would've thought, given the bike's 33-inch seat height. Despite being on my tippy-toes at standstill, the 327-pound weight (dry, claimed) makes the midsize Duke feel small and totally manageable. No extra squats at the gym needed, as pushing this single off its kickstand made me think of KTM's lightweight dirtbike roots. The riding position follows the class standard with a comfortably upright posture. This, along with a redesigned two-piece seat, make for a comfortable setup that should prove agreeable for daily riding.

2016 ktm 690 duke, seat
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist

Speaking of daily riding comfort, the engine is remarkably smooth for a single thanks to the newly designed camshaft which doubles as a balancing unit to counter piston and crankshaft inertia. It’s still a big single so there’s no eliminating the vibes entirely, but this bike is quite a bit smoother than the previous model.

2016 ktm 690 duke engine
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist

The roads of Gran Canaria served as a perfect playground to put the 690 Duke through its paces. The WP suspension includes a non-adjustable fork and shock with adjustable spring preload. It's simplistic but refined enough to allow the 690 to glide over cobblestone and broken pavement without punishing the rider, yet firm enough to provide a good feel for the road. High in the mountains where the roads tightened into switchbacks, the WP setup and Metzeler Sportec M7 RR tires kept the 690 pinned to the road.

brembos, brakes, 690 duke
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist

Bringing the 690 to a stop is a Brembo four-piston caliper gripping a 320mm disk up front and single-piston caliper and 240mm disk in back. Overall the brakes felt strong enough in most situations, though initial bite felt soft, compelling me to use the rear brake at times that I normally wouldn’t.

Part of the bike’s 2016 update is the addition of all-new rider aids such as the optional Ride Mode Technology, which offers Sport, Street, and Rain engine modes, adjustable on the go (off throttle) by a switch on the left handlebar. Throttle response proved a bit touchy in the default Street mode, jumpy in Sport mode, and smooth as butter in Rain mode. The Sport and Rain modes are optional with KTM’s Track Pack (estimated to be $300). Also included in the Track Pack is TC and Motor Slip Regulation, which manipulates the throttle plates during deceleration to prevent rear-wheel hop. ABS comes standard, and can be disabled (TC can be turned off too). An optional Supermoto mode maintains front ABS but leaves rear-brake control fully in the hands… er foot… of the rider.

2016 690 duke, tft dash
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist

Besides the smoother engine, one of the most appealing features of the new 690 Duke is its full-color TFT dash, which replaces the outdated LCD unit on the previous model. The screen has a digital speedo and bar-graph tachometer plus a gear-position indicator, as well as the usual ride-data displays. Additionally, the screen automatically changes from day mode (white background) to night mode (black background) based on ambient light levels.

Considering the plethora of features on this mid-sized KTM single, a base price of $8,999 feels like a steal. Compared to its rivals it’s certainly lightest in its class. And considering there are no other single-cylinder naked bikes with this sort of displacement and power, the 690 Duke stands alone. Or perhaps it’s forging a new category altogether. Either way, this is one single I wouldn’t mind taking home.

streetfighters, naked bikes, 2016 bikes, ktm 690 duke r
2016 KTM 690 Duke R©Motorcyclist

690 DUKE R
As if to tease us KTM gave us time on the up-spec'ed 690 Duke R, even though the bike won't be coming to the US for 2016. The R model shares the same engine as the standard 690, but comes with some upgraded components. Fully adjustable WP suspension offers 15mm more travel and allows the R's compression and rebound to be independently fine-tuned on the left and right fork legs, respectively, while the rear shock offers tuning not only to the pre-load and rebound damping, but also high- and low-speed compression as well.

new bikes, naked bikes, ktm 690 duke
2016 KTM 690 DUKE R©Motorcyclist

The Duke R comes standard with the Track Pack, which includes the 3-stage Rider Mode (Sport, Street, and Rain), Traction Control, Motor Slip Regulation, and ABS with disableable Supermoto feature. Cornering performance on the R is enhanced by Motorcycle Stability Control (MSC) that incorporates a lean angle sensor’s input to collaborate with ABS, MTC, and MSR. The front caliper is upgraded to a machined aluminum monoblock unit, and the footpegs and handlebars are set to a more aggressive riding position. To quickly distinguish the R from its standard 690 sibling, look for the orange powder coated frame and wheels and Akrapovic muffler. That is, if it ever makes its way to the states.

tech SPEC

EVOLUTION  
A smoother, more powerful motor and modern amenities like traction control and ABS bring KTM’s mid-size Duke up to speed.
RIVALS  
[Aprilia][] Shiver 750, [Ducati Monster 821][], [Kawasaki Z800][], [Suzuki GSX-S750][], [Triumph Street Triple][], [Yamaha FZ-09][], [FZ-07][]
TECH  
PRICE $8,999
ENGINE 690cc, liquid-cooled single
TRANSMISSION/FINAL DRIVE 6-speed/chain
CLAIMED HORSEPOWER 73.0 hp @ 8,000 rpm (R model: 75.0 hp @ 8,000 rpm)
CLAIMED TORQUE 54.6 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm
FRAME Tubular-steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION WP 43mm fork; 5.3-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION WP shock adjustable for spring preload; 5.3-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo four-piston caliper, 320mm disc with ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo one-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 26.5°/NA
WHEELBASE 57.7 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.9 in.
FUEL CAPACITY 3.7 gal.
CLAIMED WEIGHT 327.4 lb. dry
AVAILABLE Spring 2016
CONTACT [ktm.com][]
VERDICT  
A fun and surprisingly sophisticated addition to the growing midsize naked-bike class.
2016 KTM 690 Duke
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist
2016 ktm, 690 duke
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist
2016 ktm 690 duke engine
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist
brembos, brakes, 690 duke
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist
2016 690 duke, tft dash
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist
2016 ktm 690 duke, seat
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist
2016 690 duke
2016 KTM 690 Duke©Motorcyclist
new bikes, naked bikes, ktm 690 duke
2016 KTM 690 DUKE R©Motorcyclist
690 duke r
2016 KTM 690 Duke R©Motorcyclist
streetfighters, naked bikes, 2016 bikes, ktm 690 duke r
2016 KTM 690 Duke R©Motorcyclist