Julian Challis hits the trails on the KTM 690 Enduro R
To say I’m a fan of KTMs would be an understatement. I’ve owned at least one for the last 18 years, so the prospect of adding another to the fleet as the Adventure Bike Rider long-termer was the best news possible.
Originally, we’d been hoping to get hold of the new 790 Adventure R. I certainly wasn’t going to object to that as an option, it’s a stunning bike, but in the back of my mind, I was a tad concerned that on a lot of the tighter trails and lanes I ride both around my home and on my ongoing TET-conquering project, the 790 might not be ideal.
Luckily this wasn’t a worry I needed to entertain for too long as the plan changed and the lovely folk at KTM had put aside a 690 Enduro R for me. I was as happy as a dog with two tails. The 690 R was introduced to the KTM range back in 2008, the punchy LC4 slotted into a bespoke off-road frame to produce a purposeful and highly enjoyable machine.
Compared to the usual power of the smaller enduro bikes, the 70-plus ponies available from the compact lump made for some lively performance on the muddy stuff, but the additional weight of the 690’s bigger bones and motor tamed it back a little – muscling a 150kg bike through snotty conditions takes far more effort than the waif-like EXCs!
But for those wanting a bit more range, power and adventure capability without heading to the big bikes, the 690 Enduro R made an obvious choice. When I was KTM brand manager a few years back, the 690 was always a popular model and, with limited production runs each year, we sold every single bike we got hold of.
The dreaded Euro 4 regulations kicked the bike into the long grass with KTM clearly assuming that potential buyers would buy the Husqvarna 701 if they wanted a big trail/ small adventure bike.
But dealer and buyer pressure appeared to change KTM’s mind, and with a U-turn worthy of any politician, KTM relaunched the 690 for 2019 equipped with the new LC4 motor.
The addition of a balancer shaft, resonance chamber and top-end fettling has smoothed out the power delivery a tad, but with the bike in the more aggressive of the two power modes, the 690 still delivers a delicious donkey kick of power. And with an all-new and tweaked chassis and bodywork, the 2019 incarnation of the bike ticks all the boxes.
I collected the new bike from the ABR offices on Good Friday in glorious sunshine and with all day to enjoy the bike, I didn’t need any persuasion. A brief blast on the A roads and then motorway confirmed the bike’s mile-munching capabilities, not to mention the rock-solid road holding.
But the real joy came once I picked up the Trans Europe Trail just to the south of Cheltenham, the 690 devouring the tinder-dry trails with ease and proving beautifully adept and planted on the rocky descents and climbs.
As a first test of the bike, 150 miles of prime adventure trail in the sun was just about perfect. So, am I going to love living with this bike? Hell Yes!