KTM 690 SMC R (2019 - on) Review

At a glance

Power: 74 bhp
Seat height: Tall (35.0 in / 890 mm)
Weight: Low (324 lbs / 147 kg)

Prices

New £9,599
Used £8,000 - £8,300

Overall rating

Next up: Ride & brakes
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Supermoto isn't dead. But unless you have a kart track in your back garden, or you happen to live in the Alps, extracting the best from the SMC R will be tricky.

There’s very little to moan about, except the gearbox, which is nothing new to these LC4s. We experienced plenty of false neutrals and not even the excellent Quickshifter+ system could mask this.

But you can almost forget about these trivialities. The 690 SMC R is an absolute riot to ride at any speed and the electronics have done nothing to dilute its rawness.

2019 sees the latest generation LC4 motor slotted into a tweaked chassis, with the added bonus of electronic rider aids and a quickshifter/blipper, and KTM claim 65% of the bike is all-new.   

Ride quality & brakes

Next up: Engine
4 out of 5 (4/5)

I’d be lying if I said the frame’s revised flex properties and tweaked geometry felt particularly tangible, but there’s no denying the 2019 model feels slightly sharper than the previous incarnation.

This is the ultimate road scalpel; a sublime mix of water boatman agility and assured stability that brings endless smiles and accommodates a range of riding styles. 

New WP suspension is perfectly at home soaking up rough road surfaces or laying rubber down on a kart track, and adds a more executive feel to the 690’s ride.

Unlike most manufacturers, KTM chops and changes between tyre brands to suit particular models. Bridgestone S21s are fitted to the 690. Why? Because their test rider, Rudi Bauer, preferred them to other rubber options as he could drag the bars during extreme cornering.

Needless to say, I didn’t mimic his research skills. The sporty all-round hoops proved excellent on both road and track, heating up quickly and bringing confidence to push immediately.

Engine

Next up: Reliability
5 out of 5 (5/5)

KTM (and sister company Husqvarna) are the only manufacturer genuinely persisting with single-cylinder technology, and huge amounts of work has gone into making the LC4 engine more useable and less vibey.

A second balancer shaft has been added, which has significantly reduced vibes and made the whole ride far smoother. Anything just above idle is a chain-clattering mess – as you’d expect from a mono pot – but the rest of the delivery is silky, enthralling and highly addictive.

The engine is punchy

With a bigger bore and shorter stroke, plus a forged piston and cylinder head work, the Mattighofen engineers have preserved that archetypal bottom-end grunt, yet the 690 now revs with serious vigour all the way to the redline.

KTM claim 7bhp over the previous version but, given the engine’s intensity, it feels like more. 74bhp has never felt so exciting.     

Reliability & build quality

Next up: Value
4 out of 5 (4/5)

Although hard to say at this stage, reviews of previous incarnations would suggest nothing to worry about. 

MCN's Bruce Dunn spoke to KTM mechanic, Jason Jones, about the previous machine, who said: "As far as reliability goes they are generally good. Most owners understand the nature of the engine - it's highly tuned single-cylinder four stroke, so it needs to be serviced correctly. This includes using the correct grade and type of synthetic oil.

"Any engine problems that surface can often be traced to poor maintenance routines or owner neglect. For example, it's not a mildly tuned CB500 that would probably go for years without the oil being checked - the 690 is a high-performance bike and needs looking after."

Value vs rivals

Next up: Equipment
2 out of 5 (2/5)

Yes, the SMC R is a focused supermoto, but for a bike that costs nearly £10,000, it’d be nice to peruse a dash that doesn’t look like it’s been hiding in a parts bin since the 1980s.

The dashboard is basic

Equipment

3 out of 5 (3/5)

Practicality isn't usually a noun associated with supermoto, or KTM for that matter, but by managing to add an extra 1.5 litres to the fuel capacity, the SMC R has certainly become a tad more practical – even if it is a super-thirsty supermoto. 

As before, the fuel tank is a load-bearing part of the chassis, so there’s no subframe as such. And there’s even a USB socket to charge phones and other devices. What’s next? Heated grips?

Some would argue the new SMC R is just a rebadged – and uglier – Husqvarna 701, and they’re not a million miles away.

Anti-wheelie can be switched off

However, what really sets the pair apart for 2019 is the KTM’s electronic suite; MTC (Motorcycle Traction Control, which also incorporates anti-wheelie – no idea why you’d want this on a supermoto) and cornering ABS are both safety nets and performance enhancing, although I rarely felt the TC functioning thanks to the mass of mechanical grip.

Both, thankfully, can be turned off completely with just a touch of a button, and there’s an aftermarket Power Parts dongle to activate Supermoto ABS.   

You get two modes; 'Street' and 'Sport' – the former boasting higher levels of electronic intervention and a softer throttle response, while the latter has more relaxed rider aids and a more direct throttle response. The Cornering ABS was a palpable ally on track, allowing hefty braking whilst carrying committed lean angles.

Specs

Engine size 690cc
Engine type Single-cylinder four-stroke
Frame type Trellis frame
Fuel capacity 13.5 litres
Seat height 890mm
Bike weight 147kg
Front suspension WP 48mm fork, fully adjustable damping and preload
Rear suspension WP monoshock, fully adjustable
Front brake 320mm disc with Brembo four-piston radial caliper
Rear brake 245mm disc with Brembo single-piston caliper
Front tyre size 120/70x17
Rear tyre size 160/60x17

Mpg, costs & insurance

Average fuel consumption -
Annual road tax £93
Annual service cost -
New price £9,599
Used price £8,000 - £8,300
Insurance group -
How much to insure?
Warranty term -

Top speed & performance

Max power 74 bhp
Max torque 54.2 ft-lb
Top speed -
1/4 mile acceleration -
Tank range -

Model history & versions

Model history

First ridden in 2010, when MCN first rode the KTM 690 SMC R we said: "The Supermoto version of the 690 is effectively derived from the Enduro version, so naturally there are plenty of similarities.

"Obviously the suspension and brakes are different, with shorter travel suspension and more powerful brakes. Looks-wise they are quite different, too. Overall, the SMC is so good, I’d feel confident entering one in a race in standard trim."

Other versions

KTM 690 Enduro R: The latest KTM 690 Enduro R gains the same engine, electronics and chassis upgrades as the above SMC R, however uses them to help explorative riders conquer the rough stuff. Masked by an updated seat and sharper bodywork is an all-new chassis mated to full WP XPLOR suspension adapted from the firm's fully off-road EXC models.

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