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Revisited: KTM 690 SMC R

Published: 04 October 2018

MCN’s Senior Road Tester, Adam Child first rode the KTM 690 SMC R back in 2008. Here’s what he thought then: "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."

So what's the KTM 690 SMC R like now?

Gone are the days when we demanded our bikes to be do-it-all machines and in 2018 things are more about single-minded fun and that means the KTM 690 SMC R has become a big hit.

Ticking all the big-fun boxes with flat, wide bars, a punchy mid-sized single-cylinder engine, and motocross dimensions, the SMC is unashamedly about blasting through B-roads on a stolen Sunday morning.

KTM 690 SMC R can't fail to excite

It's a two-wheeled tonic for daily life, so much so that would-be owners are snapping them up as a second bike. Back when it was launched in late 2010, journalists and dealers tried to pitch it as super-commuter, extolling the virtues of its practicality and road manners.

Sure, the it’s a cinch to ride, but we'd draw the line at calling it practical. There's zero wind protection, sparse instrumentation, and only the tallest riders will be able to reach the floor from the ultra-high 890mm MX-style seat.

Then there's the price, bikes like this 9000-mile 2012 model make around £6500 on the used market, which makes it a bit rich for year-round to-ing and fro-ing to work. However, we are not going to hold any of that against it because the SMC is fun with a capital F.

What's the KTM 690 SMC R like to ride?

Long-travel suspension, a motocross riding position, slipper clutch, and an impressive 70bhp are all the ingredients you need for mental fun. The chassis geometry simply inspires accidently-on-purpose skids and slides, while the punch-packed single-cylinder motor gives you all the incentive you need to send the 17-inch spoked front wheel skyward.

KTM 690 SMC R Brembo brakes

KTM are the single-cylinder kings and despite getting a bit long in the tooth, the thumping engine inside the 690 feels fresh and modern; eager to rev and with amazingly few vibes. It's a really racy-feeling motor and performs as though it's had an aftermarket tune.

Combined with the instant throttle response, the motor sets the tone for the model's fun-factory attitude, plus it makes way more power than any of its watered-down rivals like the, frankly rubbish, 37bhp Honda FMX 650.

The SMC grabs your attention whether you choose to ride it sensibly (good luck with that) or hoon around the lanes like a nutty, French supermoto star - it simply can't fail to excite.

The engine is only part of the reason why the bike is so addictive and engaging though. The lightweight chassis also has a starring role and a clever design sees the 12-litre under-seat fuel tank double as the rear subframe and mudguard, whilst the fully adjustable WP long-travel suspension keeps things controlled and comfortable in all conditions.

That said, if you want to ride it quickly, you need to get busy with your body, as under power in the first four gears, the steering will go light. This means there is a need for body shifting to aid entry into fast-approaching corners.

Popular KTM 690 SMC R accessories

Our test bike, is in outstanding condition and has been cherished by the previous owner. It has been lavished with an amazing amount of genuine KTM accessories and aftermarket parts that easily add up to a few grand.

KTM 690 SMC R yoke set costs £400

The yoke set alone costs £400, whilst the exhaust is around £700. Owners tend to fit performance and aesthetic-enhancing extras such as these, rather than try to turn the SMC into a sports-tourer or commuter. That said, there is an official tail pack for £70 or a set of aluminium panniers for around £900.

Verdict

Sure, you could commute to work on the SMC R, but that's really not what this bike is about and to do so you'd be doing it a bit of a disservice. To actually ride a bike like this, as it was intended, you have to engage some pretty nifty riding skills, meaning that it's probably too outrageous for the road.

For the relatively low-speeds we can realistically achieve legally, this bike delivers fantastic performance. The riding position, light steering and agile, responsive chassis means there really is very little to rival it. It's a proper road-legal supermoto racer and it won't fail to make you grin.

The Mechanic: Jason Jones

Jason is the Owner of The KTM Centre, Hemel Hempstead.

"The 690 SMC R is really sought after as a second-hand bike. We simply cannot get enough of them. The owners usually already have a bike, so buy an SMC as a second bike purely to have a bit of fun on, which says a lot about the type of bike it is. There is a snag to this though, because the desirability of the SMC has made it popular with bike thieves, so you need to be careful where you park them if you do choose to commute.

"There are only usually a few for sale at any time and they often get snapped up very quickly. It's for this reason I value them individually. I certainly don't look at the values published because they all make over-book price. Plus, there are so many variations in terms of accessories fitted that can make a difference in values.

KTM 690 SMC R with Akrapovic exhaust

"The owners all tend to look after them very well. Almost all of them get fitted with another exhaust and it sounds so nice being a single cylinder. The stock system is quite heavy, so there is a weight saving to be gained, which only serves to make the bike even more agile!

"Most people go for a can, Akrapovic being the most popular, but the best thing to do is just fit the full system, which costs around £1100, or look for a bike with one already fitted.

"When it comes to tyres the most popular are Goldspeed street-legal Supermoto race tyres. They're treaded like racing wets but are a very soft compound. The rear tyres don't last long if they are ridden hard, though, a side-effect of that brilliantly punchy engine.

"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.

KTM 690 SMC R left side

"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.

"Servicing costs and intervals reflect that the engine is quite 'needy'. It needs a full service with valve clearances checking/adjusting every 6000 miles, and a yearly interim service - even if you've only done a couple of thousand miles in a year, it still needs servicing. 

"On balance the bike delivers a unique ride that is really enjoyable. All owners understand this, so they tend not to begrudge the expense of running a 690. The cost of servicing, tyres and so on is merely the price to pay for serious fun."

Find your next two-wheeled companion at MCN Bikes for Sale. We'd also like to say thanks to Fasttrack Motorcycles for the loan of the bike (0116 262 3099).

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