Want to spark a heated discussion among adventure riders? Ask what the perfect ADV bike is! Some say fast and light. Others make a mockery of anything with a capacity below 800cc or a brand name larger than three letters. The issue per se is that perfection is a relative thing, needing to be defined within context to be truly appreciated. With that said, in the context of the perfect lightweight adventure bike, I’m putting my money on the KTM 690 Enduro R.
Handling & Performance
Let’s cut straight to the heart of the matter – how does the 2015 KTM 690 Enduro R ride? To give a point of reference, I’m 6’1″ and well north of 100kg with riding gear on. In other words, not a small guy! Yet the 690 hardly notices my weight. Lack of power is not one of this bikes shortcomings.
Compared with earlier models, the fly-by-wire throttle and engine tuning improvements see the 2015 model 690 dramatically improved. Power delivery is smooth at all but low speeds and the 690cc single almost feels like a twin in respect to motor vibrations, but with the engine braking of a big single.
Most of my adventure riding is solo. Generally by choice, as I love the chance to be alone with my thoughts and have the freedom to poke along taking in the view. Stopping for photos or, when the mood strikes, give it some power and hand on for dear life! As such, a vital part for me is a bike that no matter what track I head down can be recovered by one person. Be it from a bog hole or to get over or around a fallen tree. The 690 is about as heavy as I am comfortable with based on that at around 140kg (just over 300lbs).
Change the tires to something more dirt orientated (my picks are Pirelli Scorpion Rally or Dunlop D606) and the 690 will handle just about anything you point it at. The limitation is going to be your skill as a rider. I’ve ridden with guys on KTM EXC 350 and 500s, Yamaha WR450s, a Husqvarna TE 300 and a few other similar class enduro bikes. The KTM 690 Enduro R will keep up with the lighter bikes, even on harder enduro tracks. Its main issue here is more to do with gearing than anything – 1st gear is way too high!
I dipped my toes into the ADV riding world a couple of years ago with a cheap and cheerful KLX250s. Discovered I loved it but realised after 7,000km that I needed something that could do the speed limit without a tailwind! Where am I going with this anecdote? Well…
The KTM 690 does not suck on-road! With more than enough power to do the speed limit, the challenge for me now is keeping my licence! With a blip of the wrist, it launches forward with seemingly never-ending power. OK, that might be stretching it as I’m sure it would run out of power – however, in 6th gear and at closer to 200km/h than wise, I decided I didn’t need to find out.
KTM 690 – A Conclusion
After riding the KTM 690 Enduro R for 15,000kms across every terrain possible: sand, hard clay pack, loose gravel backroads, many 100’s of kilometres on enduro tracks, long days on the blacktop and some commuting thrown in for good measure. My initial feelings remain the same, I love this bike! Every time I’ve ridden it there has been a smile on my face.
Is it the perfect bike? No. However, the 690’s strength is in its breadth of capability. The old adage – jack of all trades, master of none rings true here. If all you ride is enduro tracks, this bike is way too heavy and powerful. If your adventure looks like blacktop with the occasional stretch of dirt, this bike probably won’t have enough comfort for your taste. But if you want one bike to ride anything you can point your front wheel at, this bike will do it all and come up asking for more!
Disclosure Statement: I privately purchased the 2015 KTM 690 Enduro R used in this review. KTM Australia has not offered me any monetary or in-kind payment. All opinions expressed are my own personal ones. We value transparency highly, read more about this on our authenticity statement.