First Ride: 2014 KTM 690 Enduro R review

Smooth, comfortable, easy to ride, and now as safe as ever with Bosch ABS

IT seems like KTM has a never-ending reel of tricks up its sleeve recently. Last year saw the release of Motorcycle Stability Control on the 1190 Adventure and the launch of the highly-anticipated 1290 Superduke R.  Add to that the soon-to-be-released RC sportsbike range and it’s clear the Austrian manufacturer is on some sort of mission. The 690 LC4 range hasn't been forgotten either, with the Enduro R receiving some tasteful revisions.

At the heart of the bike is a single-cylinder LC4 (liquid-cooled 4-valve) engine. With a design based on the same engines that KTM used to fit to its Dakar bikes, the LC4 motor is built to be lightweight, reliable, efficient and easy to manipulate over long rally stages. With this year's engine weighing only 38.5kg and the potential to return up to 80mpg, it's clear that the 690cc motor still has racing heritage.

However,"The times they are a-changin'" and for 2014 the Enduro R is now equipped with Bosch ABS as standard. If ABS on an offroad bike is not your style then fret not, the system can be fully-disabled. KTM also offer an 'offroad mode' PowerParts dongle that retains the ABS function up front but will allow the rider to lock the rear wheel under braking. The 2014 690 range includes the SMC R, the Duke and the Enduro, and each has their own tailored ABS package. This means if you want to fit 17” wheels from the SMC R to the Enduro you’ll have to either disable the ABS or get your PhD in ECU fettling.

A ride-by-wire throttle replaces last year's conventional cable system and gives you the choice of four different riding modes - Standard, Sport and Comfort, with a 'Bad Fuel' mode that KTM claim will allow the bike to run on fuel as low as 80 octane. The different riding modes only adjust fuelling below 4,000rpm, meaning the Enduro R will put out its full 67hp in whichever mode is selected.

The engine now features twin-spark ignition too, with individual maps for each plug. According to KTM it makes the Enduro R 8-10% more efficient than the outgoing model, helping it achieve that frugal 80mpg figure. It also helps to reduce engine vibration, meaning you can enjoy the 10,000kms (6,200 miles) between service intervals without being shaken to bits.

Our test route saw us through a mixture of terrain from sand and rocks to dust-ridden singletrack. With limited offroad experience under my belt it was the bike's job to get me up, over, and around the obstacles on our two-hour stint. Second gear became a close friend, serving me with a perfect blend of useable torque and crisp throttle response. Despite having to channel its way through large rocks, the 21” front wheel tracked effortlessly around corners whilst rear-end slides were easy to modulate off the throttle. It's worth noting our test bikes were fitted with Pirelli MT21 knobbly tyres, a much more offroad biased tyre compared to the Metzeler Sahara 3s which come as standard.

For its size and engine capacity the Enduro R handles itself offroad with elegance and grace, but weighing at 139kg without fuel, the Enduro R is a hefty mass to start throwing around tight lanes. Combine the weight with a lofty 910mm seat height and it’s not the easiest bike to remount after a tumble, which is bound to happen eventually.

Within 20 minutes of riding I decided I’d never been happier that a bike was fitted with ABS. Scaling down steep rocky sections I could feel the brake lever pumping away in my hand, telling me where there was grip and more importantly where there wasn't, it really is confidence inspiring. Combined with the ‘offroad mode’ PowerParts dongle installed on our test bike, getting the Enduro R set up for corner entry on the rear brake is more than feasible. It does require some finesse though, the rear brake function is sharp and needs only minor input to lock-up the rear wheel.

KTM say the Enduro R “feels just as at home in the city and on rural roads as it does on gravel and tough terrain”. This may just be quintessential PR talk but it holds an element of truth, many of the attributes that make it good offroad see it excel in urban environments too. Wide bars with ample steering-lock help you squeeze between traffic, the tall seating position gives you an unrivalled view of the road ahead, and small touches like the featherweight clutch-pull don’t go unnoticed. The six-speed gearbox also means you can comfortably hold 100mph without wringing every last morsel of power from the engine.

The Enduro R is the creation of a compromise between offroad capability and everyday usability. As a result, it’s no surprise there are better machines out there for pure road use, in the same way that a focused dirt bike will be superior offroad. However, the 690 Enduro R is a bike you can use to ride 100 miles to the trails, satisfy your offroad cravings, and then ride 100 miles back again, all in relative comfort. And for those familiar with high-maintenance offroad machines, you won’t need to carry out six oil and filter changes along the way either. It’s the thinking man’s choice of dual-sport bike and it’s a great one at that too.

Model tested: 2014 KTM 690 Enduro R

Price: £7,699

Power: 67hp

Weight without fuel: 139kg

Seat height: 910mm

Availability: on sale now

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