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ADV Bikes2019 KTM 690 Enduro R – First Ride Review

2019 KTM 690 Enduro R – First Ride Review

The revamped 690 Enduro is now more adventure ready, but is it better?

Published on 07.22.2019

The 690 Enduro R is one of KTM’s longest running and most popular production models, harking all the way back to 2008. The platform has been revisited & revamped tastefully over the years and remains in a class of its own among similar large displacement thumpers. This can be credited to the bike’s great power to weight ratio and extensive aftermarket parts support. Even with the introduction of Husqvarna’s 701 in 2016 – based on the same platform with engine upgrades and slightly more fuel – 690 owners didn’t sell their bikes in mass, and now their patience may have paid off in a big way!

For 2019, KTM overhauled the 690 Enduro R with a new aesthetic, upgraded engine, electronic rider aids, improved suspension, more fuel capacity, and a chassis that enables a more rider-friendly seat height.


As noted in our earlier “Key Updates” article, when the new 690 was announced, it seems that KTM is progressively making this enduro more adventure ready out of the box while also filling an interesting gap in their product line.

KTM 690 Enduro R revamped for 2019

Let’s take a deeper dig into the nitty-gritty that has us excited about this revamped machine:

KTM 690 Enduro R – New for 2019

  • Resonator Chamber added to the intake tract of the engine to balance out pulses, smooth throttle response, and reduces vibration.
  • The Power Assist Clutch or PASC now requires less input from the rider due to reduced engine torque transfer to the clutch itself along with a slipper aspect that helps prevent rear wheel lockup and chatter under aggressive downshifting.
  • Electronic Engine Management has been further refined to increase fuel economy, make better power, and produce more horsepower. Along with handling the cornering traction control (MTC), motor slip regulation (MSR), three different fuel maps and precision dual plug ignition to further cease engine oscillation.
  • The suspension was completely revamped with WP XPLOR forks & shock originally developed by WP & KTM for their EXC line.

KTM 690 Enduro R new WP XPLOR suspension

  • Fuel Capacity was increased from 3.2 gallons to 3.6 gallons, giving this bike some much needed additional range.
  • Lean Angle Sensors are used on the new model to help the ECU make more precise traction control and ABS adjustments when the bike is leaned over on the tire’s edge.
  • Motorcycle Traction Control (MTC) is introduced for the first time on the KTM 690 Enduro R to help wrangle the raw power of this machine. It is a lean-sensitive system that calculates the rear wheel spin in comparison to rider input and bike feedback. This system intervenes at the throttle valves to slow wheel spin until deemed acceptable for the particular ride mode and lean angle.
handlebar controls
Traction Control is easily managed through a simple switch on the handlebars.
  • Second Balancer Shaft added to the engine cylinder head, to go along with the existing one on the crankshaft, to make this one of the most tranquil thumpers on the market.
  • Quickshifter+ enables faster clutchless shifting through the gears, cutting injection when upshifting and matching speed on downshifts.
  • Ride Modes are also brand new for the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R and are easily changed with a simple switch on the handlebars. Street Mode enables “sporty” throttle response while limiting rear wheel spin and preventing wheelies, while Offroad Mode produces more measured throttle response, allows slippage & wheel lofting.

First Impressions

Dual Sport Motorcycle Review

My first impressions of this new and improved KTM 690 Enduro R came in the form of a multi-day trek through southern Utah guided by Utah Enduro Adventures and tailor fit to test the capabilities of this new machine. The first thing that was immediately noticeable while rolling on the throttle, was how smooth the new engine felt compared to past generations of the LC4 and how linear the power delivery was. Gone were the on-off throttle struggles and numb right hand at highway speeds, replaced instead with predictable acceleration and deceleration not marked by choppy roll-off.

After adjusting to the new normal of this highly-refined thumper power plant, the revamped suspension was the next thing to catch my attention. With the same WP EXPLOR suspenders as KTM’s EXC line, the ride is plush when compared to the spongy/wooden ride familiar to any previous year 690 owner. It reminded me of an old friend that found a fountain of youth, obviously the same bike but younger and more toned.

USB outlet
A USB outlet is located on the left side of the headlight cover.
New instrument cluster
The instrument cluster looks more basic than before.

The bodywork was tastefully redesigned, and measures were taken to make the case that this is not just a dirt bike, like the increased fuel capacity, addition of a USB outlet built into the left side of the headlight cover, and a fairly simple Traction Control switch on the handlebars.

KTM 690 Enduro R Dual Sport Motorcycle Review
Rear brake light now features a LED unit.
KTM 690 Enduro R Dual Sport Motorcycle Review
Toolkit is easily accessible behind the side panel.

KTM also replaced the notoriously fickle tail light with a clean LED unit while simultaneously tidying up the tail section. One thing that did strike me as odd with all of the upgrades, was the ‘downgraded’ instrument cluster now resembling the dash of a 500 EXC. Overall the 690 Enduro impressed immediately and more than expected, leaving me excited to see what else it had to offer.

On Road

The pavement is where many of the new improvements to the 690 shined through. With the additional balancer shaft in the engine to quell vibrations as well as a new resonator chamber in the intake track to smooth throttle response, it has a much more sophisticated feel than earlier models. Additionally, the few extra ponies that they irked out of the LC4 just add to the lightweight flickable feel that has always made the 690 an epic canyon carver.

Dual Sport Motorcycle Review
Photo by Sebas Romero

The Power Assist Clutch and Quickshifter+ were great in sequences of tight turns and unlocked even more pavement potential. While I never actually tested the limits of the new lean angle ABS & Traction Control, just knowing that they were there gave me some comfort while pushing the limits of the stock Continental TKC80’s.

She still has no wind protection to speak of, and the ergos are clearly intended for rigorous off-road action, not long pavement stretches, but if that’s what you are looking for you might have arrived at the wrong platform. Highways speeds (and beyond) are still easily attainable, but they come at the cost of comfort and are more a test of fortitude than anything else. Although, the new engine felt much less jittery at 70mph than its predecessor with less of an on/off feel. Is it capable of highway travel? Yes, but with its capabilities, it literally begs and prods you to get off the pavement and tear it up in the dirt.

Off Road

 First Ride of the revamped 2019 KTM 690

Off-road, this iteration of the 690 Enduro R exudes the same familiar overgrown dirt bike feel that’s seduced many an overladen adventure bike rider in the past. The new WP XPLOR suspenders made this the first 690 I’ve ever ridden that didn’t make me want to ride directly to my local suspension tuner. Overall the bike feels more planted and more predictable with better dampening front and rear. While still a tall bike, the frame tweaks do make the slightly lower seat height noticeable when looking to dab or come to a stop.

The Quickshifter+ and Power Assist Clutch (PASC), were a game changer in technical terrain. In tight rocky switchbacks, being able to go between first and second gear without using the clutch lever added an extra ounce of confidence by way of convenience. The turning radius and tight steering stops seem to have ‘not’ been improved at all, leaving me with the: lock the bars over and hope for the best approach known to those that have spent time on a 690. The steering head angle may aid in stability at speed, but it’s still a major annoyance when trying to make tight turns or flip around in confined spaces.

2019 KTM 690 first ride

Offroad Mode worked better than expected reigning in the full power of the engine to actually improve performance in certain riding conditions. In mud, loose rock and similar poor traction situations, the MTC in that mode limited wheel slip on acceleration and noticeably helped me on my way. Even though the bike gained a few pounds on the stat sheet, they weren’t detectable at any stage of testing. The 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R is just as boisterous off-road as any that came before it -yet now with the upgraded suspension and electronics, it feels more well rounded than ever before.

Final Thoughts

This year’s model brings the 690 Enduro R even closer to the adventure bike class it has loitered outside of for so long. During testing, I was able to ride one hundred and fifty miles before the fuel light illuminated, which is excellent by enduro standards but still not optimal for adventure travel – if that is your intended purpose. In that same vein, the stock seat, while new, would not fit most riders’ comfort standards for any extended stretches in the saddle.

KTM 690 Enduro R revamped for 2019

These are the only real detractors to this machine, both easily rectified by the aftermarket, which has always been the saving grace of this platform. Few dual sport motorcycles can match the 2019 KTM 690 Enduro R’s off-road capability and performance, and it’s one of the best candidates for serious backcountry travel available from any manufacturer.

As upsetting as it may be to some riders with an older 690, KTM built a very convincing argument to upgrade. With the new responsive suspension and advanced electronics, this iteration feels better rounded than ever before and even more capable. Despite any of its minor defects, the bike as a whole is well worth the price of admission.

KTM 690 Enduro R Specifications

Engine Type: Single Cylinder, 4-Stroke, SOHC
Displacement: 690 cc
Bore/Stroke: 105 / 80 mm
Starter: Electric; 12V 8.6Ah
Transmission: 6 Gears
Fuel System: Keihin EFI, 50 mm Throttle Body
Lubrication: Pressure Lubrication, Two Oil Pumps
Cooling: Liquid Cooling
Clutch: PASC Slipper Clutch, Hydraulically Operated
Ignition: Keihin EMS with Ride-By-Wire, Dual Ignition
Frame: Chrome-moly Steel Trellis
Subframe: Self-supporting Plastic Tank
Handlebar: Aluminum, Tapered, Ø 28/22 mm
Front Suspension: WP USD Ø 48 mm
Rear Suspension: WP Monoshock with Pro-Lever Linkage
Suspension Travel Front/Rear: 250 mm / 9.8 in; 250 mm / 9.8 in
Front/Rear Brakes: Disc Brake 300 mm / 240 mm
Front/Rear Wheels: 1.85 x 21”, 2.50 x 18”
Front/Rear Tires: 90/90-21”; 140/80-18”
Steering Head Angle: 27.7º
Wheelbase: 1,502 mm ± 15 mm / 59 ± 0.6 in
Ground Clearance: 270 mm / 10.6 in
Seat Height: 910 mm / 35.8 in
Tank Capacity: 13.5 l / 3.6 gal
Dry Weight, Approx: 146 kg / 321.9 lbs
MSRP (USD): $11,699

Author: Spencer Hill

“The Gear Dude” has been fueling his motorcycle addiction with adventure since first swinging his leg over a bike in 2010. Whether he’s exploring his own backyard in the Pacific Northwest or crisscrossing the United States, Spencer is always in search of scenic off-road routes, epic camping locations and the best gear possible. He began writing shortly after taking up two-wheel travel to share his experiences and offer insight with his extensive backpacking, camping and overland background.

Author: Spencer Hill

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July 22, 2019 11:10 am

What about the crappy rockers arm that must be replaced every 15 000 km and that screwed so many guys on long trip ? also a better system or same weak pieces ?

July 22, 2019 8:52 pm
Reply to  Bob

Bob, the rocker arms were improved on the 2015 version which can be put on older models. They aren’t hard to replace either so you can bring a spare set if your going somewhere remote.

The Gear Dude
The Gear Dude
July 23, 2019 9:05 am
Reply to  Ken

Thanks for jumping in Ken!

The Gear Dude
The Gear Dude
July 23, 2019 9:04 am
Reply to  Bob

Like Ken stated below, the rocker arm issue that affected a limited number of 2014 models was corrected in 2015.

July 22, 2019 5:43 pm

LED tail light, but crappy halogen headlight and turn signals. :/

The Gear Dude
The Gear Dude
July 23, 2019 9:00 am
Reply to  Guest

A little odd, I agree. The aftermarket has the solution for the weak headlight and bulky turn signals though.

October 28, 2019 9:41 pm
Reply to  Guest

Cyclops has great LED headlight bulbs for KTMs.

Daniel Bonnér
Daniel Bonnér
July 27, 2019 10:32 am

In Europe we have our bikes delivered with LED turn signals.

August 2, 2019 1:06 am

Appreciating the commitment you put into your site and detailed information you provide. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same outdated rehashed information. Excellent read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.


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