Husqvarna 701 Supermoto vs. KTM 690 Duke

European, Single, and New in Town

ktm 690 duke, husqvarna 701 supermoto
Husqvarna 701 Supermoto vs. KTM 690 DukeDrew Ruiz

Let's just get one thing out of the way: These bikes are made by the same company. When we popped the seat off the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto in the shop, the first thing we saw was a fuse box embossed with a KTM logo. Because we're going to spend some time talking about how these two machines are similar, there's no sense in pretending that this is Sweden versus Austria or that KTM and Husqvarna are rivals. Old-school Husky fans may shed a tear or two, but it's the reality we face in this age. There was a time when Lamborghini, Porsche, Bugatti, and Audi were all different companies, too, but those days are gone. It doesn't mean they don't still make cool cars.

There, we feel better. As for the exact differences and similarities between these two Euro-thumpers, let's start with the big picture. Even to the untrained eye, the 690 Duke and 701 Supermoto look pretty different. The Husky takes the shape of a dirt bike, with a flat seat, spoke wheels, and flared radiator shrouds, while the KTM's tall fuel tank, fender hugging the front tire, and underslung exhaust is more the figure of a modern naked machine. Perhaps your preference is already taking shape?

husqvarna 701 supermoto
The 701’s fuel tank is under the seat and fills at the back. Also, note the blinker on our testbike that melted in the hot exhaust fumes and then clouded with soot. Nice.Drew Ruiz

Fire the bikes up and the most obvious similarity jumps to life. Both bikes use a 690cc engine, but they are not the same. The Husqvarna has a tried-and-true single—which shares basic dimensions with the current KTM 690 Enduro R and previous 690 Duke—with a 102mm bore and cranking out 60 hp at 7,400 rpm. Nestled in the 690 Duke’s trellis frame is an updated engine with a larger 105mm bore and reworked single-cam head that puts a balance shaft where the exhaust cam would be in a DOHC setup. The result is a higher redline, much smoother running, and more power. The Duke put down 70 hp at 8,700 rpm. Impressive, given the identical displacement.

husqvarna 701 supermoto brake system
The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto has a powerful front brake.Drew Ruiz
husqvarna 701 supermoto bike review
The Husky’s front brake is quite strong, which comes in handy when there’s a photographer lying in the road.Drew Ruiz

If you’re the skeptical type who thinks that they probably feel about the same, you’re pretty much correct despite the very different power figures. Firing out of our office park and pointed at the hills, we thought immediately that even with the updates to the 690 Duke engine the beating heart of these two bikes is their most direct connection. And they both deliver exactly what you want from a big single, which is punchy power everywhere in the rev range. Lug the engines too low and the chains slap like a crack-addled bass player, and if you spin these singles up near the rev-limiter they get a tad buzzy, but aside from that there’s power whenever you like.

That includes on the freest of freeways, our gargantuan California interchanges, where both the KTM and the Husky engines are perfectly happy to cruise anywhere between the speed limit of 65 mph and the typical commuting speed of 80 mph. Above that you’ll likely be distracted by the horrendous aerodynamics—especially on the 701, which vibrates more and offers zero protection from windblast. The KTM is a little better because you sit down in the bike more, and it feels like it’s geared taller, but that also could be because it revs higher and makes power farther up the rpm band.

Pretty obviously, neither bike wants to be ridden on the freeway for any amount of time. What they’re both clearly itching to do is swing from side to side on the tightest twists of tarmac you can find. That’s where you’ll forget about the weird seats (the KTM’s is better but still has some sharp edges, while the Husky’s is downright bony and 35 inches high) and distract yourself with cornering ecstasy. Even though the riding positions and suspension are much different, there is a very familial feeling of light steering and direct control between the two—quick to fall toward an apex and willing to carve nicely without much input.

Switch controls KTM 690 Duke
KTM’s 1190/1290 switch cluster.Drew Ruiz
ktm 690 duke, husqvarna 701 supermoto, motorcycle comparison tests
KTM’s 1190/1290 switch cluster has trickled down to the 690—it looks bulky on the Duke’s tidy bar but controls the huge color screen nicely.Drew Ruiz

Both use a WP fork, the Duke a 43mm and the Husky a beefy 48mm unit. What’s surprising is the tuning of the suspension—you might guess the dirt bike-y Husky would be softly sprung, but it is much stiffer despite having 8.5 inches of front travel and nearly 10 inches in the back. The 690 has a much more standard 5.3 inches of travel and is sprung quite softly, to the point that when the younger staffers provoked it the KTM bottomed the fork and shock easily. It seems a rambunctious 180 pounds is more than Team Orange had in mind for a 690 Duke rider.

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Suspender calibration aside, either bike feels terrific on a curvy road. Click through the excellent gearboxes, flick them from side to side, and braaap! yourself out of corners. It’s stupendous fun on both, but the 701’s stiffer springs make it feel more capable when pushed hard. Sadly, the 690 Duke’s front brake also falls behind. We were unable to figure out the source of the soft lever and lack of power (we bled the lines and checked the pads, and we’re still not sure where the problem lies). The Husky’s slightly heavier-duty caliper bites the same-size rotor fiercely, providing lots of power and superb feel.

It took until lunch for us to trip over the most obvious of reasons that these bikes feel so excellent skimming front tires from turn to turn: weight. As in, not very much of it. Consider that the 690 Duke weighs 35 pounds less than Yamaha’s 400-pound FZ-07, which is realistically the king of the middleweight naked genre and awesomely compact. The 701 Supermoto, well, you kind of expect it to be light considering the dash has fewer functions than a motel alarm clock and it looks like a dirtbike. Still, it’s a fully capable streetbike that weighs 346 pounds, which is notable in this age of ever-growing machines.

ktm 690 duke, motorcycle review
The 690 Duke’s header is a lovely piece but connects to a massive and ugly bread box underneath.Drew Ruiz

On the subject of cockpit niceties (where the Husky struggles), KTM splashed the 690 Duke’s dashboard with a fat, juicy, full-color display and the same control arrangement as the 1190 and 1290 models. The system is time consuming, but it’s intuitive and easy to use, plus it offers a slice of KTM convention that might just steer 690 riders toward larger orange bikes. However, as sexy as the 690 Duke’s dash is, it brings us to a pretty long list of quirks that these two motorcycles have.

For example, within the 690’s display there are options for MTC (KTM’s traction control system) and ABS adjustment, but when the button is held to toggle modes nothing happens. Because there is no MTC and there are no ABS modes (just on or off). Not that it ruins the bike, but it’s an odd oversight. Also, we could set the clock on our testbike, but it never ran—forever 8:11 a.m.! The Husky has more. The minimalist dash works fine, but lines running to the front brake often sit exactly in the rider’s line of sight to the display. Then there’s the blinker that melted because it’s too close to the exhaust and the neon wheel-stripe tape peeling off. And that, unfortunately, is a good segue to discussing how many of your hard-earned American dollars it will take to ride one of these home.

KTM 690 Duke bike review
KTM’s 690 Duke is maturing into a polished and versatile naked bike.Drew Ruiz
KTM 690 Duke
The KTM 690 Duke, priced at $8999.©Motorcyclist

It will be $11,300 to call a Husqvarna 701 Supermoto your own, which we find pretty surprising considering it’s basically a dirt bike with a big motor. Slightly more reasonable is the KTM’s MSRP of $8,999. To base this whole discussion on price or perceived value is to miss the point because with Euro quirks comes Euro charm. And let’s give credit where credit is deserved: They both stick to a principle. Thumping supermotos have been in Husqvarna’s stable consistently over the past three ownerships, and the marque continues to deliver. KTM’s Duke is the same story—this 690 is the latest in a line of single-cylinder streetfighters that dates back to the mid-1990s.

Compared to the previous 690 Duke, which pulsed like a paint shaker and never really felt at home on American roads, this new KTM is a huge improvement. It falls beautifully between the entry-level 390 and brutal 1290. As for rivals, there’s one that clearly stands out. The previously mentioned FZ-07 is heavier, a little less powerful, and lacks ABS, but other than that is a stupendous little bike (and sells for $2,000 less). The Husky, it’s pretty much one of a kind. Be startled by the price if you want, but truth be told it could make a good daily rider if your commute is urban or bumpy, and as a plaything it is unmatched.

husqvarna 701 supermoto
The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto, priced at $11,300.©Motorcyclist

Which gets back to the split between these machines. As much DNA as they share, practically they deliver very different slices of motorcycling. KTM’s new middle Duke is shockingly sensible, especially considering its radical roots. It’s smooth, comfortable, ultra compact, and is overall (aside from the spongy front brake) a first-rate machine. Wholly commendable and recommendable. Husky’s 701 is a more capable sportbike but also needs a more committed rider, both with ergonomics and bank account. We’re as fond of the Husky’s hard edge as we are impressed with KTM’s 690 Duke maturing into a polished and versatile naked bike. Which one do we want? Hmmm, one more ride and we’ll let you know.

ktm 690 duke, husqvarna 701 supermoto, motorcycle comparison tests

Dyno

Considering these two engines feel very similar on the road, the charts are a surprise. The Husky feels just as punchy, probably due to shorter gearing and a little less weight. Using all 70 of the Duke’s horses means flirting with the rev limiter!©Motorcyclist
Tech Specs Husqvarna 701 Supermoto KTM 690 Duke
Price $11,300 $8999
Engine 690cc, liquid-cooled single 690cc, liquid-cooled single
Bore X Stroke 102.0 x 84.5mm 105.0 x 80.0mm
Compression 12.6:1 12.7:1
Valve Train SOHC, 4v SOHC, 4v
Fueling EFI, ride by wire EFI, ride by wire
Clutch Wet, multi-plate slipper Wet, multi-plate slipper
Trans/Final Drive 6-speed/chain 6-speed/chain
Frame Tubular-steel trellis Tubular-steel trellis
Front suspension WP 48mm fork adjustable for spring preload, compression and rebound damping; 8.4-in. travel WP 43mm fork; 5.3-in. travel
Rear suspension WP shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 9.8-in. travel WP shock adjustable for spring preload; 5.3-in. travel
Front brake Brembo four-piston caliper, 320mm disc with ABS Brembo four-piston caliper, 320mm disc with ABS
Rear brake Brembo single-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS Brembo single-piston caliper, 240mm disc with ABS
Front tire 120/70R-17 Continental ContiAttack SM 120/70ZR-17 Metzeler Sportec M7 RR
Rear tire 160/60R-17 Continental ContiAttack SM 160/60ZR-17 Metzeler Sportec M7 RR
Rake/trail 27.0°/NA in. 26.5°/NA in.
Seat height 35.0 in. 32.9 in.
Wheelbase 58.8 in. 57.7 in.
Measured Weight 346/326 lb. (tank full/empty) 365/343 lb. (tank full/empty)
Fuel capacity 3.4 gal. 3.7 gal.
Fuel Economy 54/41/47 mpg (high/low/average) 66/43/55 mpg (high/low/average)
Range 160 mi. (including reserve) 204 mi. (including reserve)
Warranty 24 mo., 24,000 mi. 24 mo., 24,000 mi.
More Info At [husqvarna-motorcycles.com][] [ktm.com][]

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ON TWO WHEELS | Sea to Snow on the 2016 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto & Enduro