First of all, that's me in the main picture on top. I'm only joking, but that's how it felt like every time I rode this Duke 690 R, generously lent by our friends from KTM BGC. It is no secret that I also love dirt riding, and with a power of 74 Ps (or about 72 hp) in between my legs, the 690 Duke felt like a very huge dirt bike that just wants to wheelie all the time, or powerslide on corners with its massive torque.
Although the actual model (pictured abve) is a 2016 model year, not much has changed for the past 3 years, except for maybe a few tweaks to meet certain Euro emissions standards. When the Duke model range was first introduced back in 1994, KTM was only making off-road motorcycles and the Duke 620 was their first street bike at the time. It clearly has a lot of resemblance to a dirt bike, clearly influenced by the growing popularity of supermotos at the time.
The 690 Duke's TFT screen was the inspiration for the current 390 Duke's TFT display.
Riding up to the mountains of Sierra Madre, the 690 Duke was fun even on the tight corners of Marilaque, thanks to its WP inverted forks and rear mono shock absorber, with both of them having a 135 mm of travel. It also felt at home on the little off-road portions that we encountered. Its 4-piston Brembo caliper has tons of bite on the 320 mm front single disc, but since I'm used to riding on dirt, I preferred using the 2-piston caliper rear brake more often. It, too, has superb stopping power.
4-piston caliper Brembo brakes in front with ABS.
While the 690 Duke has (obviously) greater displacement over the 390 Duke, their seat heights are almost identical and the latter is actually heavier by half a kilogram. That being said, riding the 690 Duke in and around the city and in heavy traffic is nothing like riding a typical middle-weight bike. It was so light that filtering through the standstill traffic (with the smaller scooters and underbones) was a walk in the park. As with other 'big bikes', the only hard part when riding the 690 Duke in and out of traffic is enduring the extreme heat coming from the engine, especially around the exhaust header.
I would say that the 690 Duke is not a beginner-friendly motorcycle. I would compare it to the feel of a 450cc motocross motorcycle where it practicaly flies with just a little input from the throttle. Its heart — the short-stroke, high revving LC4 engine — packs almost 75 Nm of torque. It is also equipped with a slipper clutch to manage the engine's back-torque when the throttle is abruptly closed. The 690 Duke is a wild bike. So wild that if you're an experienced rider, you will be smiling until bedtime and even hear its "braaap" in your dreams.
This massive can emits a loud "braaap" as it should.
The 690 Duke is a performance street bike; it corners well and can propel you like a rocket. From 2016 to the current model, there were no design updates, except for the graphics. It is not a comfortable bike to ride. But as I have said before, if you want a comfortable ride, buy a scooter or maybe a tourer motorcycle that weighs more than 300 kilograms. I also did not bother to check on the 690 Duke's fuel economy because, again, if you want an economy, that's not what this bike was intended to do.
As with the price, we hope that KTM can lower down the price tag of the 690 Duke. After all, the newer twin-cylinder 790 Duke has already arrived. Currently, KTM BGC only offers the 690 Duke R variant (PhP 720,000). It is the same bike but is loaded with lots of KTM Powerparts accessories.