KTM 690 Duke R: Review

Last year I got the chance to ride KTM’s European Junior Cup 690 Duke, a bike that left me grinning from ear to ear. Light and agile, the EJC bike was hysterical to throw about on track. Armed with some super sticky tyres and pointed at a twisty circuit it was a serious track weapon – especially when given to a bunch of aspiring young racers who were all trying to catch the eye of a WSB team rather than a fat git like myself. Having ran all year, the EJC and KTM parted company at the end of 2012 as Honda wanted to promote its CB500 range and this seemed a good platform to display the sporting prowess of the CBR500R. But all was not lost on KTM’s side as for 2013 it took the parts that made the EJC bike such a hoot and created the 690 Duke R, basically a hotted-up 690 Duke.

EJC racer whetted Jon's appetite for the Duke
EJC racer whetted Jon's appetite for the Duke
Open wide and say R
The Duke R comes with the traditional KTM orange frame but in addition the 690 gets anodized orange yokes, fully adjustable WP suspension, an Akrapovic exhaust, single seat cover, crash bars, altered airbox and upgraded brakes. Alongside the Ducati Panigale, the 690 Duke R is the only bike to use Brembo’s monobloc M50 caliper while the master cylinder is also higher specification than the stock 690 Duke’s item. Somewhat disappointingly the R doesn’t get the EJC bike’s altered profile cam and therefore power is only up 2hp on the stocker at 70hp while torque remains the same 52lb ft. The true EJC bike made nearer 79hp, although it had a race exhaust as well. The cost of these modifications? £8,795 which is a boost of £2,000 on the £6,795 stocker. Is it worth the cash?

Damn you rain!
The stock 690 Duke is a cracking little bike for blatting around on and its single cylinder engine is remarkably peppy. The most powerful single cylinder on the market, KTM’s use of ride by wire technology and an extremely refined fuel injection system mean that the usual roughness you get with a big single is missing while the thumping character remains. It’s a charming engine that with 70hp isn’t exactly lacking power as long as the road conditions suit it. Hit the motorway and it can all get a little dull as there is minimal wind protection and the riding position is upright and exposed, however attack some back roads and the Duke makes sense.

Hearty thumper and crash bars both welcome!
Hearty thumper and crash bars both welcome!
Keep the throttle open, hurl it around and the KTM just keeps on getting better. It’s a brilliant back road blaster and with such a low weight (claimed 149.5kg dry) is remarkably nimble. What does the R add to this party? Basically a bit more refinement.

The upgraded suspension delivers a slightly plusher ride while the brakes are also stronger. As the road was damp I didn’t get the chance to really hammer the single caliper, however the ABS seems responsive and I didn’t fall off so I’m guessing it worked well enough. Is it that much of a difference? Unless you rode them back to back I reckon you would be hard pushed to split them on the road, however if you are planning a few trackdays the R would certainly shine.  Styling-wise I have to say I’m not a huge fan of the anodized orange yokes, but each to their own.

£2,000 or an R model?
The stock 690 Duke is a brilliant bike and while I liked the R, in the cold light of day I’d probably get the stocker and pay a few hundred quid for the altered cam to boost its performance. I’ve got nothing against the R, which is a very cool bike, but unless you are planning on trackdays the stock Duke is every bit as good for 90 per cent of the time. If you add up the individual additional components (I also quite like the different seat) the R is good value for money, but I’m not quite sure it justifies £2,000 over the base model and I reckon you could upgrade the standard bike’s motor as well as sorting its suspension for less. That said, I’d certainly invest in a set of KTM crash bars as you can easily get a bit too excited!

2013 KTM 690 DUKE R
690cc single
Power: 70hp@7,000rpm
Torque: 52lb ft@5,500rpm
Top speed: 130mph (est)
Weight: 149.5kg (dry)
MPG: 42 (est)
Price: £8,795


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Comments (20) Join the discussion on the forum

  • George29 12 Jun 2013

    Can't wait to have a test ride on one of these, seriously considering swapping the Daytona for one. They look such good fun cool

  • trickywoo 12 Jun 2013

    £9,000 for a single cylinder eek

    It'd need to come with a stack of track day vouchers to make it worth that.

    Depreciation will be spectacular IMHO so might make a good used buy (if anyone buys new).

  • Vapour 12 Jun 2013


  • Thermonuclear 12 Jun 2013

    Too much money. Looks good but needs to be 1k cheaper IMO.

  • MC Bodge 12 Jun 2013

    I would definitely have one of these in my collection, if I had a collection.

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