First Ride: 2007 KTM 690 Supermoto

A user-friendly KTM supermoto with a 150-mile tank range? Jon Urry wonders what the world is coming to.






In 1998 KTM launched what it claims was the first production supermoto, the 620SM. It wasn't a revolutionary bike - the supermoto scene had been gaining strength in Europe for quite a while - but this was the first time a manufacturer had unveiled a dedicated supermoto.

Fast-forward nine years and the supermoto scene has changed. Where these bastardised off-roaders were once solely the products of specialist off-road manufacturers such as KTM, Husqvarna and CCM, the Japanese have turned the trend mainstream. And that can be a problem. As soon as a fashion becomes recognised by the masses it inevitably gets diluted. The supermotos around today such as the Suzuki DR-Z400SM, Yamaha XT660X and Honda FMX650 are a distant shadow of the converted CR500s of yesteryear. Which is where KTM could always be relied upon.

The Austrian firm stood true to the roots of the sport and kept making extreme, hardcore supermoto bikes, rather than mere visual imitations like the Japanese. Well, until now...

As well as being a completely new bike from ground up, the new 690SM also signifies new thinking from KTM. According to the firm it is aimed at "a broader target audience for city use as well as fast mountain roads, that is fun from the moment you leave your garage". Does that sound like a hardcore KTM supermoto to you? No? Good, because it isn't meant to be.

Despite the 690SM having an all-new motor - the most powerful single-cylinder production motor KTM has ever made - it's anything but a beast to ride. I was expecting a roarty, vibrating, rip-snorter of a single, but what you get is a gentle, smooth and relatively vibe-free engine. In the redesign, along with performance modifications such as a slipper clutch and lighter valves, KTM has added a balancer shaft and ride-by-wire throttle system to make the bike more user friendly.

Open the throttle and the cables from the twist-grip only move a sensor, which in turn decides how much to allow a servo motor to open the throttle butterfly, much like the system on Yamaha's R6. No matter how hard or fast you open the throttle the computer will only allow the optimum amount of fuel into the engine, decided by pre-determined parameters, which has muted the performance slightly.

Rather than the usual KTM supermoto instant hit of single-cylinder power the 690SM feels restrained, but not really in a bad way, just more controlled. Fans of previous models of KTMs will almost certainly think the new bike's engine isn't anywhere near as exciting as the old motor but, I tell you what, in the real world it is a million times easier to live with, and it isn't slow either.

And it may not feel it, but the new 690 is quick. KTM claims a top speed of 117mph and with its new six-speed gearbox the new single rips up to this figure without much effort. The revs build quickly and I reckon that, while the peak torque of 48lb.ft is at 6550rpm, there won't be much of a difference between the torque at 2000rpm and 6500rpm, the delivery is so linear.

To match the 690SM's new engine KTM has also created a completely new frame. Although it has stuck with the trellis design of previous models the geometry has been altered to give the bike a 50:50 front-rear weight distribution for neutral handling. And check out that swingarm! Never mind that it's longer to help traction, just look at the stunning inside-out open trellis design with its strengthening ribs on display for all to see.

This new frame, combined with the 690's 152kg weight (and that's a ready to rock wet weight), make it a top handling bike for tight and twisty roads. Like all supermotos the trick it to simply bung it around and treat it quite aggressively, but do this and it really does work well. On the Spanish launch of the bike we rode on tight twisty roads as well as being let lose on a kart track, and although the forks could do with a bit of stiffening the bike acquitted itself very well. And it's even stable at speed, unlike most other supermotos. KTM has designed the beaky front fender to act as a bit of an aerodynamic aid to improve high speed stability. I hit an indicated 112mph with not a wobble in sight, and that was in strong winds.

Should you need to stop rapidly the single Brembo radial brake is more than man enough to deal with the job. Although the initial bite is lacking a bit of ferocity (in keeping with the whole nature of the bike) the braking force increases linearly with lever pressure and the whole setup is very impressive.

The 690SM is a supermoto with real credibility that can actually be used every day. It may be missing the bite that is usually associated with the Austrian firm's previous bikes, but it's a much better road bike for it. The price tag is quite high when compared it to what Japan has to offer but the 690SM has a far higher specification and is much more fun to ride. If you have a hankering for a supermoto, and accept the limitations that ownership of this style of bike brings, then I would pick the KTM over its rivals everytime.

VERDICT 3/5


Soft enough to be useful but still a KTM at heart and in style.

SPECS


TYPE - SUPERMOTO


PRODUCTION DATE - 2007


PRICE NEW - £5895


ENGINE CAPACITY - 653cc


POWER - 63bhp@7500rpm


TORQUE - 48lb.ft@6550rpm


WEIGHT - 152kg


SEAT HEIGHT - 875mm


FUEL CAPACITY - 14L


TOP SPEED - 117mph


0-60 - n/a


TANK RANGE - N/A

IN 1998 KTM launched what it claims was the first production supermoto, the 620SM. It wasn't a revolutionary bike - the supermoto scene had been gaining strength in Europe for quite a while - but this was the first time a manufacturer had unveiled a dedicated supermoto.

Fast-forward nine years and the supermoto scene has changed. Where these bastardised off-roaders were once solely the products of specialist off-road manufacturers such as KTM, Husqvarna and CCM, the Japanese have turned the trend mainstream. And that can be a problem. As soon as a fashion becomes recognised by the masses it inevitably gets diluted. The supermotos around today such as the Suzuki DR-Z400SM, Yamaha XT660X and Honda FMX650 are a distant shadow of the converted CR500s of yesteryear. Which is where KTM could always be relied upon.

The Austrian firm stood true to the roots of the sport and kept making extreme, hardcore supermoto bikes, rather than mere visual imitations like the Japanese. Well, until now...

As well as being a completely new bike from ground up, the new 690SM also signifies new thinking from KTM. According to the firm it is aimed at "a broader target audience for city use as well as fast mountain roads, that is fun from the moment you leave your garage". Does that sound like a hardcore KTM supermoto to you? No? Good, because it isn't meant to be.

Despite the 690SM having an all-new motor - the most powerful single-cylinder production motor KTM has ever made - it's anything but a beast to ride. I was expecting a roarty, vibrating, rip-snorter of a
single, but what you get is a gentle, smooth and relatively vibe-free engine. In the redesign, along with performance modifications such as a slipper clutch and lighter valves, KTM has added a balancer shaft and ride-by-wire throttle system to make the bike more user friendly.