KTM 690 Adventure project bike – part 1

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.


Words: Costa Mouzouris. Photos: Costa Mouzouris unless otherwise specified

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).


Trying to get the BMW F650 GS (twin, not single) through the mud on the 2008 Paris-Dacre Rally illustrated the need for something more dirt-capable.
Photo: Rob Harris

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.


The KTM 690 Enduro had everything Costa wanted … until the quirks revealed themselves.
Photo: KTM

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.


In standard trim the 690 will happily tackle some pretty rough trails, but isn’t particularly suited for long stretches on the pavement.
Photo: Rob Harris 

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.


Duke rubber footpeg inserts help to keep vibes to a minimum but still allow quick conversion for dirt duties.

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.



Rox Speed bar risers with inbuilt damping should take care of any vibes coming through the bars as well as offering complete adjustability.

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.


KTM screen is minimal and mounts directly onto the bike’s fairing.

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


The Corbin  is about 80 mm (3″) wider, where seated, than the stock seat (top), providing true twin-cheek support.

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.



Since the pannier mounts were designed for European models, the
shorter American fender doesn’t fit over the crossover
bracket, allowing it to vibrate and
rattle. Adding a couple of tie wraps fixes this.

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.


Tailbag uses the pannier mounting system with the addition of a horseshoe attachment to hold it (left). Tailbag mounted (top right) and open (with KTM tools and more! – bottom right).

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 “tank bag” (technically, it’s not a tank bag, as it mounts over
the front of the seat and the airbox; the
fuel tank is rear mounted) is also a semi-soft type that expands to
24 litres. It attaches with straps that fasten to the frame tubes and
takes about a minute to install.

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.



Reduced vibration, comfy ergonomics and vast amounts of luggage space. The KTM690 ‘Adventure’ is 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.


KTM stuff


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

Aftermarket stuff


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


  1. Hi guys, I bought my SMC 690 3 weeks ago, I had the 640LC-$ before that (2007 model) Both awesome bikes, had a few disapointments with the 690 but now I just got 1k km on it, it seems to be running smoother (5th-6th gear was hitting neutral sometimes, engine cut out a couple of times)

    I’m doing another trip in 5 weeks….7,000km in 4 weeks from Belgium to 17 other countries…over to Romania, up to Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and back! I face all the problems you guys have. Fuel range, painful ass, storage. KTM panniers seem ok and cheaper tahn Touratech. ergo seat makes no differance

  2. Just got back from Costa Rica on tuesday. Me and a buddy di 1500 kms in 7 days on 690’s. Amazing bikes. I have both a klr 650 and a yz 250 and will absolutely consider dumping both of my bikes for a ktm 690 when the time comes. Right now my bikes don’t cost me anything. I would uge the peole who say they would be no good off road to ride one first. YOu might be surprised. i was.

  3. Hello
    Fantastic bike last year I started from Pakistan arrived in Italy, 11,000 miles, then in March I went on the desert in Tunisia, soon, October 31, will start from Lima Peru and I go up to Ushuaia.
    I also have a 990S with which I started 2 years ago from Cape Town to Italy, but the 690 is really a great bike with only one problem, the saddle is really hard, congratulations for the changes.

    My web site http://www.motorbiketravel.it

  4. Great bike! I just did 7000km on a 690 around lake victoria, africa. Only problem was that the bolts that hold the rear tank were broken. Especialy with the boxes on the bike I recomend to use m10 bolts.

  5. Loved the article and thought put into the bike. I look forward to reading Part 2. Replacing that huge catalyst with a lightweight muffler should be next. Costa, please send me a note after you’ve posted it.

  6. So where’s Part 2? I keep on checking back here and the second part of this article seems not to have happened. Stop keeping us in suspense, please.

  7. Hi Costa, your article gave me idea how to transform my 690. I used 17/42 ratio, and in case of offroad problems I can still change it to 16/42. Seat does not bother me (to soft is usually a problem). Everything elese I used.
    Well I have one problem: I can find Rox Speed FX: 3R-AV2PP Anti-vibe risers in europe and roxspeedfx.com dont deliver in europe. I was thinking if you could buy a pair for me, and I wire you the money for risers and ups.

  8. very cool project Costa.. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for your next installment. How about the gas tank? What kind of range do you expect?



  9. Looks good …… the only problem is adding a significant cost on top of already high priced product. I am guessing you are close to 14K all in?

  10. Spending $2600 making your KTM more road-worthy makes more sense than spending that much trying to make a KLR 650 more dirt-worthy. Nice set-up but I’d think a slightly bigger screen would be worth the increase in bulk – that little KTM thingie doesn’t look like it’d do much.

  11. I think it is beautiful … except the aluminum cases seem vulnerable … no?
    Can they survive a tip over without damage?

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