While this bike can tempt your inner hooligan to emerge, it can also deliver an adrenaline-inducing ride without misbehaving
Story by Costa Mouzouris
Photos by Daniel Langevin and Costa Mouzouris
Some motorcycles are like that scruffy kid who used to live down the block, who always egged you on to do mischievous things. You know, the wild child your mom always told you to stay away from; the one who always got into trouble at school, maybe sometimes with the law. And yet, you couldn’t be apart, because there was a certain complicity and understanding between the two of you.
The 2013 KTM 690 Duke ($9,999) is exactly that bike, well, except maybe for the scruffy part. From the first moment you let the clutch out and roll on the throttle, you can almost hear that whisper in your ear coaxing you: “Come on, do it . . . no one is looking . . . I won’t tell.” The urge to wheelie the bike or dart between cars in traffic is almost too big to resist. But age brings wisdom, at least for the most part, and unlike my younger, impressionable self, I didn’t pay heed to the Duke’s persuasive ways.
KTM refreshed the 690 Duke in 2012, and it received a few significant changes. Europeans enjoyed the bike last year, but it only came to Canada this year. A reshaped fuel tank, seat, tail section and front fender give it a slightly less spaceship-like, angular appearance. It also got a much shorter headlight nacelle, and the tail end no longer ends in a point. This results in a more streamlined profile and makes the machine look smaller, even though the wheelbase is unchanged at 1450 mm (57.1 in.). The seat has been reshaped and (thankfully) widened, and it also sits 20 mm closer to the ground at 835 mm (32.9 in.). The exhaust has also been redesigned, and now comprises two main chambers, a catalytic converter and muffler located beneath the bike, and a resonator that’s located in the more traditional location on the right side, adjacent to the swingarm. The swingarm itself is a carryover item from the previous Duke, a very unusual, inverted design, with all of its structural ribbing on the outside.
Bear in mind that the bike’s last makeover, in 2008, was a major one. The Duke then received an all-new, 690 cc, single-cylinder engine, and with it came a counterbalance. KTM’s previous single lacked this vibration-reducing device, and it was downright painful to ride any of the company’s machines equipped with that powerplant. Canadians had to suffer the bone-shattering vibration for another year before KTM decided to import the revised Duke.
Another major change that year was the addition of ride-by-wire throttle control, KTM’s first application of the technology. This allowed engineers to include three different throttle maps (soft, standard and advanced), with different power delivery and different peak power outputs to match varying conditions.
All of these engine features are retained on the latest Duke, though revised engine mapping has smoothed the somewhat choppy throttle response in the most aggressive of three throttle settings, and an additional four horsepower has been added, bringing the maximum output to 67 hp. Now, ponder that number for a minute. Sixty-seven horsepower is very impressive for a single-cylinder engine; it is about as much as Suzuki’s SV650 V-twin produces, and just eight horsepower shy of the 800 cc parallel-twin powering BMW’s latest F700GS. It also produces 51.6 ft-lb of peak torque at 5500 rpm. It’s that bountiful torque and the Duke’s ultra-nimble handling that makes you feel like misbehaving.
The first thing you notice when slinging a leg over the Duke is its condensed dimensions and compact seating position. A wide, tapered aluminum handlebar is just a short reach, and the lowered seat provides a surprisingly close relationship to the footpegs. The new seat is also deeply scalloped and it holds you in one position, more forward than on the previous Duke. The seat provides better support than before, and although it’s still rather firm, you can endure several pain-free hours in the saddle.
Clutch pull is surprisingly light, but tall gearing means you’ve got to slip it a bit to launch the bike from a stop. That tall gearing also means I used only first to third gears around town, and only got the bike into sixth when speeds rose above 110 km/h on the highway. Shifting into top gear below that speed causes the bike to shudder. Some buzzing vibration comes through the foot pegs and handlebar at highway speeds and blurs the mirrors. The vibration is not insufferable, as it was on the older, non-counterbalanced engine, but it’s more than I remember experiencing on my 2008 690 Enduro, which had the same engine.
|WARRANTY||2 years, unlimited mileage|
|ENGINE TYPE||Liquid-cooled single|
|POWER||67 hp (50 kW) at 7500 rpm|
|TORQUE||51.6 ft-lb (70 Nm) at 5500 rpm|
|BORE AND STROKE||102 x 84.5 mm|
|FUEL DELIVERY||Electronic fuel injection with 46 mm throttle body|
|FINAL DRIVE TYPE||Chain|
|FRONT SUSPENSION||43 mm inverted fork, non adjustable|
|REAR SUSPENSION||Single shock adjustable for preload|
|WHEEL TRAVEL||Front: 135 mm (5.3 in.); Rear: 135 mm (5.3 in.)|
|BRAKES||Front: single 320 mm disc with four-piston caliper; Rear: 240 mm disc with single-piston caliper|
|WHEELBASE||1466 mm (57.7 in.)|
|RAKE AND TRAIL||26.5 degrees/115 mm|
|TIRES||Front: 120/70R17; Rear: 160/60R17|
|WEIGHT (WITHOUT FUEL)||149.5 kg (330 lb)|
|SEAT HEIGHT||835 mm (32.9 in.)|
|FUEL CAPACITY||14 litres|
|FUEL ECONOMY (CLAIMED)||4.6L/100 km|
|FUEL RANGE (ESTIMATED)||300 km|