KTM Duke R first ride

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KTM’s model line-up for 2010 will include this revised 690 Duke R which features a 7bhp power increase along with more midrange torque. 

This new machine’s first appearance was scheduled for the milan show next month – but MCN managed to persuade the Austrian manufacturer to open its factory gates for an exclusive first ride on a pre-production machine. The bike is lacking only its final colour and decal scheme.     

Along with revised suspension and graphics, the power and torque upgrades are credentials for the new 690 Duke’s ‘R’ tag. These adjustments underline the fact that this machine is a serious middleweight scratching tool.

Like the standard 690 Duke on which the R-model is based, the riding position is upright and comfortable. A slight lean to the bars sets you into an ‘attack’ riding position where either shoulder can be dipped into a corner. This is enough to make light work of the fantastic back roads around KTM’s Mattighofen home.

A big factor behind the Duke 690 R’s accomplished ride – we’re talking straights and their bumps as well as corners – is its revised suspension. The WP forks have slightly softer springs than on previous models, but revised damping rates give them a supple action that provides all-telling feedback. The rear shock, meanwhile, retains the spring from the 654cc Duke – but again with altered damping rates.

KTM’s prowess at building strong, single-cylinder engines also comes to the fore with the Duke 690 R’s new motor. A 7bhp power boost for a 600cc supersport would be considered marvellous – on a single, it’s close to incredible.

Careful development of fuelling and ignition maps led KTM to fitting a pre-determined three-way power-selector switch (hidden but accessible through the frame tubes). In ‘Standard’ mode the engine is so tractable in the lower revs it makes town work lurch-free. But tease the tacho past 4500rpm and the engine snaps forward and keeps driving until just short of the 8000rpm redline. In ‘sport’ mode the KTM offers a more aggressive power delivery that gives the full snappy terrier effect. The third mode position, incidentally, is effectively a fun dampener – for wet or slippery conditions or novice riders.

But as it is, from the seat of this pre-production bike, occasionally glancing at restyled clocks to check speed figures, this is a single-cylinder bike that provides fun by the bucketload while being totally serious at the same time. Good trick, that.

KTM 690 Duke R*, £7695
Engine: Liquid-cooled 690cc (tbc) single cylinder
Power (claimed): 71.4bhp
Torque (claimed): 50ftlb
Weight: 148kg (no fuel)
Seat height: 865mm
Fuel capacity: 13.5 litres
* Pre-production figures, subject to confirmation

Trevor Franklin

By Trevor Franklin