Costa’s search for the perfect do-it-all motorcycle led him to buy a KTM 690 Enduro. Trouble is, it’s much happier in the dirt than on pavement. Part 1 of the 690 Enduro to Adventure conversion.
I once owned several bikes, each one for a different use. I had a tourer, a dirt bike, a commuter, plus a couple of others thrown in just because I liked them. But then I moved and I found myself with limited garage space for just two and a half machines: my girlfriend’s bike, mine, and a moped for running errands (and as my ride in the next Mad Bastard rally).
So I sold off all of my motorcycles and the search for the ultimate do-all machine was on.
It had to be powerful enough to maintain highway cruising, be comfortable enough for extended rides, be easy handling for commuting, and it had to be a bona fide dirt bike (not just something that could handle occasional forays onto gravel roads). Big-bore dual sport perhaps?
Going through the choices was proving a little bleak; XRs, KLRs and DRs were slightly underpowered in stock form and their chassis weren’t up to snuff for serious trail riding. Big twins like the BMW R1200GS or the KTM 950/990 models were just too big and the F800GS wasn’t available yet.
KTM’s 525 EXC was way too focused, making a better enduro racer than a dual sport, and while 250s handled dirt riding extremely well, they were way underpowered for highway jaunts or for travelling two-up.
Goldilocks I’m not, but my porridge had to be just right.
Then, I attended the press launch of the KTM 690 Enduro — and the love affair began. This bike had everything I wanted: looks, EFI, a modern chassis and suspension components that performed as well on the road as they did off, and most of all, it produced a claimed (and relatively smooth) 65 crankshaft horsepower.
I came home and promptly ordered a brand new 690 Enduro.
However, as with every love affair, time reveals quirks.
Overall gearing was too short as the Enduro was meant to handle tighter trails rather than the open road. Then there’s the issue of the seat — which I noticed immediately while testing the bike at the press launch.
Frankly, this rock-hard strip of vinyl thinks it’s a thong; it’s so narrow it tries to creep up between your butt cheeks when riding, rather than encompassing them … like a pair of comfy old boxer shorts.
And finally, luggage. There’s not enough room to cache even the small tool kit that came with the bike, let alone some extra riding gear. Hmhh, maybe what I needed was an adventure-touring machine.
KTM once offered a 640 Adventure, based around the previous (and jack-hammery) version of the LC4 single, with moderate wind protection and available luggage, but the company has yet to produce a 690 Adventure — though plenty of people are waiting.
Well, the solution was obvious — transform my 690 Enduro into a 690 Adventure.
The goal was to improve the Enduro’s on-road comfort without compromising its off-road prowess.
The first step was to reduce some of the vibration, which was mostly due to a combination of short gearing (causing the engine to rev excessively at highway speeds) and a rigidly mounted handlebar.
A recent ride on a 690 Duke (which you’ll read about in a future CMG feature) revealed it had much taller gearing than the Enduro — almost too tall — with a 16/40 final drive ratio compared to the Enduro’s 15/45. This reduced engine revs and, combined with the Duke’s rubber-mounted handlebar and rubber inserts in the footpegs, produced a remarkably smooth ride.
A quick search of KTM’s online accessory catalogue produced most of what was needed (including aluminum panniers, a semi-hard rear case and a tank bag, as well as a small windscreen, and — through the Duke’s parts catalogue — the rubber footpeg inserts), and a call to Corbin revealed that they had a replacement seat that promised to reduce the wedgies.
Project 690 Adventure was a go.
In order to preserve some off-road ability, I compromised on the final gearing, choosing the 690 SMC model’s 16/42 ratio (a 12.5% raise), which reduced engine speed by about 500 rpm at 110 km/h.
Rubber-mounting the handlebar proved a bit more challenging, because usually the top tripleclamp must be designed for this feature. This is where a unique product from Rox Speed FX came handy.
Rox makes anti-vibration handlebar risers, which incorporate rubber mounts. They mount into the stock handlebar clamps, raising the handlebar while providing fore and aft adjustability. These items not only reduced handlebar vibration considerably, but they also allowed for a more upright seating position, as well as an easier grip when standing while negotiating rough trails.
The windscreen installed in about 30 minutes, as it required that the headlight fairing be removed and drilled for mounting. Touratech makes a similar screen, which uses a complex mounting system that eliminates the need to drill holes into the headlight fairing, but I prefer the cleaner look of the KTM screen.
It is on the small side though, providing some wind protection to mid-chest level.
Fortunately, Corbin saved my ass (yes, literally) by providing an accommodating and stylish perch. You can select the material (leather or vinyl) and the texture of your choice at no extra cost when ordering a Corbin saddle; I got carbon-fibre textured vinyl.
The Corbin was an easy fit, just requiring the removal of the stock
forward seat mount (two screws). Once removed the seat installs in
It fits very well, contouring the bike’s lines better than the stock seat, and looking like a factory item — not some tacky custom add-on.
An initial ride that lasted a few hours was accomplished without sneaking a cheek off to one side, something that was a necessity after just 30 minutes in the stock saddle.
The Corbin does add 1.8 kg (4 lb) to the 690, so the stock seat was saved a trip to the dumpster for those tough Rally-Connex off-road rides, where weight is no ally — and where lots of time is spent standing on the pegs.
The only drawback is that it contours the bike’s lines so closely, the
gas cap — located at the rear of the bike — can only be removed once
the seat is unlatched at the rear.
Pulling the seat’s release cable sufficed for this, so it proved a
minor inconvenience, especially when considering that my butt’s initial
impression was very positive.
SOMEWHERE FOR THE KITCHEN SINK
The pannier mounting hardware proved to be a trouble-free installation,
taking about an hour to complete. You have the choice of installing the
mounts with or without the passenger footrests (with for me), and you
will have to drill four holes into the tailpiece if you haven’t already
done so to install the passenger grab handles that come with the bike
(uninstalled). If you did install them, they fit atop the pannier
The KTM aluminum panniers are sourced through Touratech and are available in 35- and 41-litre capacities. KTM Canada provided me with two 41-litre panniers (prices listed below), which make the Enduro about as wide as an Escalade, though they provide SUV-like capacity. You can get an equivalent pannier system through a Canadian Touratech dealer, though pricing is a bit higher at $1,685.
I must admit, I wasn’t too keen on them initially, but with use have become quite fond of them. They’re easy to load (KTM offers fitted inner liners, though duffel bags work quite well), and after a couple of bike washes, have proven watertight.
They’re also easy to remove, and can carry tons of stuff — heck, never mind the kitchen sink, you can bring the bathtub with these babies. I think that unless you’re planning a trip of McGregor-esque proportions, the slimmer 35-litre panniers (p/n 60012024000) are a better choice.
The semi-soft rear case (it is made of a Cordura type, padded fabric, with plastic inner panels so it keeps its shape when empty) is expandable to 18 litres and features a “quick-lock” mounting system.
SW Motech makes the case, and its horseshoe-shaped mount works very well; pulling a tab beneath the bag releases it in seconds and it snaps back into place without fuss. The mounting bracket must be purchased separately and can be installed with or without the pannier mounts, also using the passenger grab-handle holes.
The tank bag is a very handy item that can be removed from its support
by unzipping it, though the support prevents removal of the seat, which
you’ll only need to do to access the Enduro’s power-mode selection
switch — or to replace it for something more Corbin-like.
THE RIGHT RUBBER
North American 690 Enduro models come equipped with Pirelli MT21 tires. These tires are aggressive knobbies, and will work very well in tight woods, but on pavement they slow down steering, reduce traction, and add vibration and noise. They also wear rather quickly on blacktop.
So I installed a set of Metzeler Enduro 3 Sahara tires, which are the tires used on European-issue 690s. These tires improved street handling considerably, while providing a smoother ride to boot. Wear seems to be their Achilles’ heel, and with just 2,500 km on the odometer, the rear is about halfway done.
Unfortunately, the 690’s 18-inch rear wheel limits tire selection to mostly knobby DOT rubber, though I’d prefer a tire with an even less aggressive tread pattern than the Sahara’s for street use. Continental’s Trail Attack dual-sport tires are available in compatible sizes, and they have a street-friendly tread pattern and claim excellent mileage. A pair have been ordered and will be put to the test shortly.
READY FOR THE ROAD
With the transformation complete, the 690 Enduro has become a very versatile all-rounder. I expect that long distances can now be covered quite comfortably (I’ll be testing that out later).
City travel is effortless (with panniers removed for clearance, of course), and I now have enough room for my entire tool chest, let alone the Enduro’s tool pouch. With the Contis installed — or maybe even a set of 17-inch wheels — paved twisties should be a blast too.
The items installed, however, have added weight to the machine — almost 16 kg (35 lb) in total. But if the trails beckon, I just have to pull everything but the luggage mounts off, remount the knobbies and stock seat, and the Enduro will be back within 5 kg (11 lb) of stock.
Total cost for the project is $2,542.00, though a big chunk of that ($1,292.00) is for the panniers and mounts alone.
All this, and there’s even a little room to spare in the garage.
In part 2, I’ll be covering how the 690 Adventure copes with the long haul with a ride down the Blue Ridge Parkway.
PROJECT 690 ADVENTURE TOURER – PARTS
76508065000 windscreen – $85
58033029116 16T front sprocket – $29
58210051042 42T rear sprocket – $39
76512020000 pannier mounts – $302
76512027050 tail bag mount – $105
60012024100 41L panniers – $495 each
60012078000 tail bag – $205
75012019100 tank bag – $165
60003040010 footrest rubber, LH – $21
60003041010 footrest rubber, RH – $21
Rox Speed FX: 3R-AV2PP Anti-vibe risers – $149.95 US (approx $165.00 CA)
Corbin: KTM-690SMCEN-8 seat – $379.00 US (approx $415.00 CA)
TOTAL = $2,542.00
Other gear I added
GPS City : 010-00421-00 Garmin GPS 60Cx – $329.00, RAM-B-149-GA12U Ram mount – $32.95
Saddlebag brackets – 9 lb.
Top case – 2 lb (plus 2 lb for the bracket)
Aluminum panniers – 18 lb (9 lb ea.)
Corbin seat – 7 lb (4 lb over stock)
Total weight added = 35 lb