Last week, KTM flew me to Gran Canaria to sample the 2016 KTM 690 Duke and Duke R. While these trips are usually grueling (think 40+ hours in a total of six different pressurized aluminum tubes for just a few hours of riding), I’m not complaining. The 690 Duke exemplifies why we get so excited over new motorcycles. Refinement is an annual event, but large-scale makeovers of an engine that so dramatically address the powerplant’s major shortcoming are relatively rare. KTM has managed, through some clever engineering, to address the biggest drawback of a single-cylinder engine – its inherent vibration – while maintaining and even increasing its strengths.

2016 KTM 690 Duke & 690 Duke R – First Ride Review

For 2016, the 690 Duke has a smoother, more powerful engine that even revs out 1,000 more rpm without rattling your teeth. Also making the scene are: ride modes (with the optional Track Pack), TC, strong brakes, and a well dialed-in suspension. Add those to the Duke’s signature light weight and maneuverability, and you’ve got a bike that can scythe through traffic, carry you on the highway out of town (without beating you up), and unkink even the twistiest of roads. The 690 Duke also has that rare, amiable, easy-going personality that can be uncorked at a moment’s notice to bring out the hooligan in all of us. Watch and drool…

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  • Dootinbob

    What modern bike doesn’t at least have rebound adjustments on both ends? I am 225 pounds and as such, I would have to ride a bike which was probably tuned for a 170 pound rider. For $9k, this is unacceptable to me and now i don’t even have an option to buy a Duke “R”, which is too much money for me to spend for it anyway. KTM is wise not to offer the “R” in the US for that amount of money. The standard should be priced at $6999 and the “R” for $8999, because after all, KTM owns WP suspension and I am sure they pay a lot less for it as a result.

    • Kenneth

      “The standard should be priced at $6999…” Yeah, and then I can hear the complaint about it being built in India (or Korea, Thailand, China, etc.). If you can’t afford a European bike, that’s a shame – but it’s not KTM’s fault. They are offering a bike with no real competition at this price – which is commensurate with its outstanding abilities.

  • Buzz

    I thought you were gonna say you crashed the R.

    But yeah, it’s still a tragedy.

    • Old MOron

      Ha ha, Duke 690, crash tested: yes, it has all the refinement and comfort of a multi-cylinder street bike, but it still survives crashes like a dirt bike.

  • Old MOron

    I like how KTM opens the video with the “roar of a lion,” then they drown it out with that lame music. Oh well, good work, Evans.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      You mean opens the video, not KTM. This is not a KTM video.

      • Old MOron

        Well, Dennis can set the record straight, but I would be very surprised if the first 30 seconds weren’t provided by KTM.

        • Evans Brasfield

          There is a ton of KTM supplied footage in there. Anything that involves a wheelie or backing the bike in, clearly is not me. ( hanging head in shame)

          The editing was all done by an editor we hired for this job. Sean Matic is extremely talented.

          • Old MOron

            So did KTM cover the roar of the lion with music, or was that Sean’s colossal non sequitur?

            We did get to hear the bike in other segments of the video, but that opening sure is a laugh.

          • Evans Brasfield

            That’s the music credit that (Band: Audio-ology, Song: Roar of a Tiger), I believe, is required for using the song in the video.

    • gdbizns

      Nowadays, I always turn off the sound because in youtube-world, there most likely is just always that same mus… no, it isn’t music. I don’t know what to call it. Music is in the machine, could listen hours of a good machine sound. Ujnfortunately you have to work a little to get some of these machines or have a well-placed mic there… Maybe I don’t represent the target group (what is it, the 12-14 year olds?)… I ride KTM but no wheelies, no burning rubber and yes, ride not cramped but relaxed-position… Must be terrible, but… Maybe I’m the sole survivor of the dinosaurs…

      Yes the industry creates fearfully stereotypics… You have to be brave to be not alike all others.

      Anyhow, interesting 690 is under constant development so maybe in a few years will buy one (the older you get the lighter bike you need). Or the slightly larger parallel twin sibling, if there will be. If I live to see. Time to wait for direct injection or smth…

  • Shlomi

    I want my sport bike with fully adjusted and good quality suspension. KTM you lost me when i had the Duke 690 and you didnt bring the R, when you didn’t bring the SMR to the US, and now when you don’t bring the the 690 R. Don’t tell me that its number games as i’m sure the Duke 690 R will sell here more than in Australia, New Zealand or Canada. It will not be a hit, but i will buy one for $11K. I had the none R and it smoked everything (i mean everything) in tight canyons.

  • Alexander Pityuk

    I would love to have a blast on those awesome roads.

    • Evans Brasfield

      They were insanely good and mostly super smooth.

  • Reid

    The orange wheels and rearsets are pretty nice indeed. $8,999 is no more than the old model either.

    • Sayyed Bashir

      $8,999 is for the standard version without orange wheels and rearsets. R version with these features costs much more and is not coming to the U.S.

  • Ducati Kid

    KTM Management –

    A 500cc KTM ‘Duke’ R would do well as there Global markets and riders …

    Reasoning? Gives a forthcoming V-Twin market!

  • john phyyt

    Brilliant ; very high standard moto journalism. I really got a lot of information Thank you:
    Was the rear wheel lock up captured a bit of panic going into hair-pin? or was that cornering ABS ? In another article it was indicated that this tech hasn’t been fully trialed by … maybe time to to go to a track

  • Craig Freger

    I want an ADV version of this bike… and the R.

    • Patriot159

      Can’t wait for this motor in the 690 Enduro R as I enjoy offroad fun as much. A few additions and voila, Super ADV.


    Anyone else thinking FZ09 with aftermarket suspension?

    • appliance5000


  • appliance5000

    I’m happy with my bike, and I still have payments, and you have to go and write this?! It’s not fair – wonder if I can get a testride……..

  • Andrew Capone

    I have a jones to get one of these, as opposed to a used supersport, as a fun little track day bike for NJ Motorsports Park. Whaddaya think?