KTM 690 Enduro – Test Ride

After the woeful tales of how Team CMG fared at the P2D, we thought we should let you know how the KTM 690 Enduro and the 530 EXC did too.

Words: Rob Harris, Photos: Rob Harris unless otherwise specified

If you already read about Team CMGs pitiful attempt to finish the Paris 2 Dacre Rally, then you’ll know that although we didn’t officially make it, this wasn’t attributable to the two KTM motorcycles that we’d borrowed to try and increase our chances.

The new 690 Enduro and relatively-new-to-the-road 530 EXC didn’t let us down and for me at least, proved to be a huge eye-opener as to just how much better a good dual-sport can make you ride. So let’s take a look at the nuts and bolts of the 690 in particular with a brief look at the 530 as to how we thought both bikes worked in the dual sport world.



Watching Jim struggle with his KLR brought home the benefits of a bike built for the job.

After years of dragging an aging KLR 650 through impossibly arduous terrain only to either have the bike come crashing down on its side in the gnarly stuff or simply veer off into rocks because I was too tired (which also generally resulted in a crashing action too), the KTM showed me just what a difference a purpose-built tool for the job can do.
It was a revelation.

The difference was illustrated beautifully during the endless day that is the P2D as I swapped leader roles with Jim on his KLR650C. Although his C model has more compliant suspension than the gangly KLR650A, I watched with some amusement the beating he was getting over rocks, roots and fallen logs, as the KTM 690E seemingly floated above.

This is thanks to the company’s years of experience in the dirt (KTM was dirt-only until recently) and their use of high quality out-sourced suspension, wheels and brakes, and a new, smooth yet punchy 654 cc single of their own design. Combine this with a perfectly manageable (dry) weight of only 138.5 kg (305 lb) and all of a sudden you’re a damn sight better rider than you were just yesterday.



New motor is excellent.

Thankfully the new(ish) LC4 690 KTM motor (actually 654 cc) now comes with a gear driven balance shaft. The old 640 motor that it replaces for some unknown reason came sans any balance, which is odd considering that it’s a big-bore single and (as per the law of physics) it vibrated like a jack-hammer!

All I can think about is maybe racers don’t care about vibration, but as a result the old motor was just not usable for any kind of distance riding. Comparatively, the new 690 is like night and day, and although there are some hints of vibes present, it’s now in KLR-smooth territory and not intrusive at all.



The new motor also dumps the old carb and now comes with fuel injection, which is seamless and smooth in all conditions. Combined with the digital ignition mapping it also allows KTM to offer the rider three different power modes – Normal, Soft or High – selected by turning a dial located under the seat (though it would be much more useful at the bars so that the rider could select on the go).

Being me, I initially set it to High, which gives the throttle instant oomph and the spirit of an amphetamine pumped junkie. It’s a giggle, but is also rather flighty, requiring a chunk of rider concentration as any unintended jerk at the wrist saw me shooting off in whatever direction you happen to be pointing in at the time.


Jim also enjoyed the 690.

I’d choose this setting for less technical riding and for the street, but in the end I settled for the Soft setting for the Paris 2 Dacre event as riding through rocks and roots after 16 hours in the saddle is less alarming with a more gentle delivery. Still, it’s plenty usable and meant you could pin the throttle more often, feeling much like the torquey and friendly KLR motor, only with a bit more of punch when you need it.

Claimed max power is 62 horses at 7,500 rpm (just 250 rpm shy of redline) with a max torque of 47 ft-lb at 6,000 rpm. This might not sound like much, but is just about right for off-road and around town, and even sufficient to hold its own on the highway.

The six-speed gearbox and ultra light clutch were excellent save for a false neutral between 5th and 6th that was all too easy to hit. Oh, and the motor’s a little rattly, but the other 690s I rode with sounded the same, and after the abuse we gave it, it never got any worse or failed so I guess it’s just the way it is.



Stripped of bodywork, shows the simplicity of the trellis frame, stressed motor and gas tank ‘sub-frame’.
Photo: KTM 

The 690 Enduro uses a steel trellis frame chassis (weighing in at 18 lb) with the motor hanging below, acting as a stressed member. The 12 litre gas tank is the rear subframe (keeping it low for better handling), with an aluminum swing arm at the rear and a pair of WP 48 mm USD forks up front, providing a healthy 250 mm of travel at both ends.

KTM’s race-orientation is ever present however, and if you’re foolish enough to ride any of their bikes in standard set-up then expect a rather jarring experience.

For some reason KTM seems to think that you should be a professional level racer to ride its equipment and so just set everything to ‘hard’. As a result the multi-adjustable suspension has to be backed off to the minimum, then back up a few notches to make it even remotely acceptable to the plebes such as myself.


Clever air-box design allows for stress-free crossings.
Photo: Jim Vernon

Since the gas tank is at the rear, the airbox can be located up front, and takes advantage of this position by locating its intake just below the seat. To drown this ride in a water crossing you’d have to have the water coming up pretty damn high.

At a seat height of 910 mm, that’s one deep water crossing, but also means that if you’re not 6 foot plus, you’ll find the 690 rather lofty. In fact if you are 6 foot plus it still requires a good old fashioned goose-step to get your boot up and over!

Wheels are DID Dirtstars (21 inch front and 18 rear), and finished in a very attractive black (though slightly less so after a few tire changes). Thankfully they seem to be a lot tougher than the previous generation wheels used by KTM which would seemingly dent just by coming close to a rock.


Front and rear brakes are perfect.

Standard tires are Pirelli MT21s, which took me a while to get used to but seemed to get better as they wore down. We also had a set of Scorpion Pros, which are much more aggressive knobbies and were superb in the dirt, though a tad unnerving on asphalt.

Brakes are Brembos with a two piston caliper and a 300 mm wave-style disc up front. with a single piston caliper and 240 mm disc at the rear. Lines are braided and the resultant action is sharp and predictable with excellent feed-back. Simply put, they are the perfect brakes for this bike.



Mud in gas (top) and
hot pipe (below).

I was so impressed with the 690 Enduro that it seems almost sacrilegious to point out its minor faults and niggles, but there are a few of them and they can prove annoying.

For starters, since the fuel is at the back (it’s actually the rear subframe of the bike), you need to fill it at the back. KTM have opted to locate the filler right behind the seat, which looks cool, but due to its location and design, it acts as a perfect mud collector.

No matter how well you try and remove the mud, once you open the cap, some inevitably falls in! I found that strapping a bag over it worked well, although obviously it had to be unstrapped every time I needed gas.

Talking of which, there’s a lack of points to attach bungee cords and the high mount exhaust muffler lacks heat protection and so will quickly burn errant bags, bungees and fingers!

Oh, and the indicators on NA models have the lights mounted higher than the euro-spec bikes, which puts the lhs one right in front of the pipe opening (melty, melty)!


Fitted with Obus seat.

And finally the seat … oh, don’t get me started! You know how step-ladders come with a “This is not a step” warning on the very top, err, non-step. Well the 690 should come with a “This is not a seat” warning, otherwise the rider might be under the impression that it’s okay to actually sit on it. It’s like sitting on a shaped 2 by 4, although I’d hazard a guess that a 2 by 4 might be more comfortable!

This has led to a thriving market in aftermarket KTM seats, although thanks to the newness of the 690E, they haven’t got anything yet. I found a usable solution at a medical equipment store (a place I find myself visiting more and more often sadly) in the form of an Obusform gel wheelchair pad. Strapped over the KTM’s seat it acts a bit like a horse-saddle, but the extra width didn’t go amiss either.



Ironically it was a simple topple that broke off the end of the clutch lever and rear indicator.

Despite a few niggles, KTM have done a superb job with the 690 Enduro. It tackles the off-road world with ease and simply makes you a better rider in the process. Compliant suspension, not too much weight, excellent handling and a punchy eager motor combine to make it the dualie to beat.

I did manage to put the Enduro on its side a couple of times in the dirt. Once when I got a little too fast on a slippery trail and low-sided when I washed out the front end, the other when I parked it up on some less than stable ground only to come back to it looking rather sad lying on its side.

Ironically the more dramatic low-side saw only a slightly bent brake lever and minor scuff on the bashbar. The static drop in contrast saw a broken clutch lever and rear right indicator!


690E gets the CMG thumbs up!

On road it’s workable but loses out in the comfort department thanks to lack of wind protection, an awful seat and low gearing. Of course, this opens up the possibility of a more road-orientated ‘Adventure’ version – something that is already heavily rumoured on the web.

MSRP for the 690 Enduro is $9798.00, which puts it level with the BMW X-Challenge but about two to three thousand above the Japanese equivalents. But then how much do you need to spend to get the others as dirt ready as the KTM is out of the box?




654 cc

four-stroke sohc single,

(crank – claimed)
62 hp @7,500 rpm

47 ft-lbs @ 6,000 rpm
12 litres

Keihin Electronic Fuel Injection

Final drive
Six speed, Chain drive



Single 300 mm disc with dual-piston

Single 240 mm disc with single-piston

910 mm (35.8 “)

1498 mm (59.0 “)

138.5 kg (305 lb)



For the Paris 2 Dacre our original intention was to fit Team CMG with
all KTM bikes in the hopes that we might actually be able to finish
this year. Of course, it’s Team CMG so it didn’t work out, but we did
manage to get two KTMs, the 690 Enduro and a 530 EXC.

For the P2D we gave the 530 to JP Schroeder to ride and here’s what he though of it.


The 530 EXC is a looker, but is also a highly strung competition machine with lights.

It should be very clear that the 530 EXC is a race bike that has been
made road legal to allow you to use it in dual-sports events. It is
about as right for the street as a 1098 is. Yes, you can do it, but
what’s the point? You need track days to make sense of the 1098 and you
need enduros or rallies to make sense of the 530.

The first thing I did was set the suspension to full soft in
compression as well as rebound, front and rear. Even then the ride was
still quite stiff but the bike would simply roll over obstacles with
minimal fuss and the 380 mm of ground clearance meant that the bash
plate never once took a hit. Although with that comes a ride height of
925 mm and with my 80 cm inseam (plus the gel seat), it could get
comical at times.



JP found the 530 very capable but not too comfortable.

The motor has low gearing and huge torque, and is very forgiving in
deep mud, water crossing and the slow climbs that peppered the P2D in
the afternoon section, with excellent clutch and brake controls. It’s
also a very smooth motor – much, much better than the 640 Adventure I
used to own!

Much like with the 690 Enduro, the 530 has big issues when it comes to
seat comfort. If you weigh 150-160 lbs and wear heavy duty cycling
shorts it is bearable for a little while but the addition of a gel seat
proved invaluable for the Paris 2 Dacre ride.

In the trails, the 530 is an exceptional motorcycle – an expert bike
that can be driven by mere mortals. However, it is not for everybody,
and I think it is safe to assume you need to be committed to get the
most out of the bike.

verall, even at my modest level, I would entertain getting such a
machine, especially if I were to do equal numbers of track days to
enduro/rallies, though it wouldn’t cut it as my only ride as it’s just
too specialized.

[Editor’s Note – we had the 530 for just over three weeks, but had it
back to KTM for half of that after it sprung an oil leak at the clutch
cover. An easy fix, but one that had us wondering as to the durability
of the bike as a whole.]


KTM Canada
for the extended loan of the 690 Enduro and 530 EXC.

Roxspeed FX
for the 690 bar risers.

Calabogie Peaks Resort for providing the very plush bed prior to partaking in all this chaos.







  1. Great article. I’m riding my 690e since 1 year, and laughed a lot during the review. Everything what was said is absolute true. The good things and the bad things too. The hard and narrow seat is really a story. And at this time I’m buying the third set of rear turn indicators. For the dirt in the tank cap, KTM provides a Foam Rubber wich helps a lot. (Part 76507008060). Nevertheless, I have to say it’s a great bike and it’s capabilities are endeless, far more than mines. Greetings from Chile.

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