KTM’s 690 Duke is a do-it-all machine. It’ll commute, it’ll scratch and it’ll turn heads. Treat it with a generous amount of R therapy and there’s rarely a rider’s face that the Duke 690 R doesn’t bring a smile to.
It has six more horses (4kW) than its smaller-thanimplied 654cc R-less brother, which KTM achieved by lengthening the stroke by 4mm. And with the extra 36cc providing a total of 52kW, the 690 Duke R is the most powerful single-cylinder production motorcycle there is.
Add to the already edgy look, high-spec componentry, trick lightweight wheels and a mere 148kg of weight, and you’re leaving most sportsbike riders shaking their heads in your wake at lights with 70Nm of immediate single-cylinder torque.
The R package sees the Duke gain a blackanodised top triple clamp, a carbon-fibre front guard, titanium aluminium nitride coating on the forks, blacked-out Brembo calipers, a KTM-orange tubular frame, white bodywork and orange rim-tape to tie it all together.
It is suspended on fully-adjustable WP suspension both ends, stopped by high-spec Brembo brakes, and the smokey taillight lens on the rear-end is complemented by a modern vertically-stacked pair of halogen headlights.
The typical single-cylinder buzz isn’t as rampant as you’d imagine on the big road-going thumper, thanks to an effective central balance shaft, rubber inserts in the footpegs and the odd rubber-mounted component.
The fuel-injected donk employs a ride-by-wire throttle, a good slipper clutch and an under-engine exhaust. The airbox and the battery have swapped positions, with the air intake happening from within the subframe underneath the seat, while the battery is accessible from under the steering head without having to remove anything to access it.
The long 865mm-high seat allows you to adjust your riding position depending on your riding. It allows you to sit right up near the ’bar on a narrow, twisty road, though when it straightens out you can reposition your weight towards the rear and stretch out along its length. And despite being on the hard side, the seat has you sitting nice and high, providing excellent visibility of all that’s around you. The similarly high ’bar makes it naturally comfortable and highly equipped for outright hooliganism.
At $15,990, you might feel it’s a hell of a lot of your hard-earned for a relatively simple machine.
But the KTM 690 Duke R is such a generously diverse machine if you let it be. Not many machines will get you to work quicker through traffic, get you from one end of a tight and twisty stretch with more enthusiasm or get you more looks of approval from passers-by than the R-spec Duke.