Last week, KTM flew me to Gran Canaria to sample the 2016 KTM 690 Duke and Duke R. While these trips are usually grueling (think 40+ hours in a total of six different pressurized aluminum tubes for just a few hours of riding), I’m not complaining. The 690 Duke exemplifies why we get so excited over new motorcycles. Refinement is an annual event, but large-scale makeovers of an engine that so dramatically address the powerplant’s major shortcoming are relatively rare. KTM has managed, through some clever engineering, to address the biggest drawback of a single-cylinder engine – its inherent vibration – while maintaining and even increasing its strengths.
For 2016, the 690 Duke has a smoother, more powerful engine that even revs out 1,000 more rpm without rattling your teeth. Also making the scene are: ride modes (with the optional Track Pack), TC, strong brakes, and a well dialed-in suspension. Add those to the Duke’s signature light weight and maneuverability, and you’ve got a bike that can scythe through traffic, carry you on the highway out of town (without beating you up), and unkink even the twistiest of roads. The 690 Duke also has that rare, amiable, easy-going personality that can be uncorked at a moment’s notice to bring out the hooligan in all of us. Watch and drool…
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