I’ll say straight off that I’m a big fan of KTM.
The Austrian outfit produces some of the finest machinery currently available, with its 1290 Super Duke R one of my favourite bikes of all time.
My fondness for KTMs has continued to grow over recent years – as has my enjoyment of riding off-road.
So, it was with a keen sense of excitement that I received delivery of the 690 Enduro R that I am reviewing here.
For a company with a reputation for producing “hooligan” bikes, this one must be the ultimate trouble-maker – on paper at least.
KTM is well known for its excellent single-cylinder engines, but with a shift to twins for the Duke and Adventure ranges, I’m pleased that the Enduro R still employs the LC4 single.
This superb engine has been constantly refined since it made its debut back in 1987 as a 553cc lump in the 600 GS – which immediately won the European Enduro Championship.
The LC4 appeared in 598cc (the first Duke, in 1992), 640cc, 660cc and 690cc guises, also spawning the start of the Adventure series.
And let’s not forget this is the engine which took KTM to an unrivalled 18 straight wins in the Dakar Rally.
The pedigree, then, is undeniable, but how does it shape up?
This is a big-bore enduro/supermoto bike made road legal.
First impression is it definitely looks the part, especially when you swing a leg over – it’s high off the ground and the seat is like a – admittedly surprisingly comfortable – plank.
Not to worry though, as that seat and the bike itself are super slim, so it’s much more manageable than it might appear.
For 2021, the bike has some new refinements, including two new ride modes, on top of cornering ABS, off-road ABS, lean-sensitive traction control, a quickshifter and ride-by-wire.
“Street” mode applies ABS to both front and rear wheels, while the “Offroad” setting disengages the rear wheel ABS.
These can now be operated on the move – previously an aftermarket dongle was required.
The ABS can also be turned off altogether via a button on the all-new and much-improved dash, which also now has RPM and gear-selected indicators.
Traction control can also be disengaged.
Go easy with the throttle at first, as that motor is just raring to go – like it’s itching to get into full hooligan-mode as soon as possible.
The Enduro R is billed as a trail-to-trail bike and it’s surprisingly accomplished on the tarmac, cruising along perfectly comfortably at 70.
For a four-stroke single, it is incredibly smooth, with virtually no vibration.
KTM achieved this on the 2019 model by modifying the cylinder head to effectively turn the camshaft into a second balance shaft.
It made the engine super smooth, yet still characteristically light and compact.
On the road, the bike also eats up the bends with aplomb thanks to the combination of trellis frame and WP Xplor suspension – and despite the knobbly rubber.
The fork and rear monoshock are fully adjustable.
Of course, it’s on the dirt where this bike comes into its own.
And it’s a complete blast.
You can almost hear it yelling “come on, then” as it tackles all types of terrain head-on and with no fear.
Those rider aides perform superbly, only making themselves known when absolutely necessary and giving you the confidence to take on the rough stuff with a growing sense of fun and excitement.
But, as any psychologist will tell you, all this hooligan really wants is some love.
Treat the Enduro R with some respect and it will reward you with just about the most thrilling off-road experience you can have on a bike which you can also comfortably ride home at the end of the day.
KTM 690 Enduro R
Engine: 690cc single-cylinder
Max power: 74bhp
Max torque: 54ft lb