2016 brought about some fundamental changes in my riding style. I’ve gone from solely street riding to more of a dirt and adventure style of riding. The pair of KTM’s that I purchased at the beginning of the season to replace the K1600 GTL have completely transformed my riding.
With the switch to more dirt riding, my yearly mileage has dropped considerably. I was riding over 20K miles a year on the street but this year, I’ve only gone around 10K on the bikes. A day out on the 690R only results in 100 miles of exhausting trail riding rather than a 300 mile leisurely cruise through multiple states. When riding the 1190, I tend to seek out dirt roads that I was previously reluctant to explore with a big touring bike.
At some point, I’m going to need to take another cross-country trip so that I can follow some long and lonely dirt roads to remote places that I was unwilling or unable to travel to in the past. I think I’m going to need another season of practice and experience with my dirt and off-road skills before I set off on the next big adventure. I still have a lot to learn about choosing the right line when riding off-road and haven’t really learned how to ride in sand at all.
I’m guessing that by the summer of 2018 or 2019 I’ll be ready for the next epic ride. Until then, I just want to avoid any serious injuries so that I can once again explore the USA on a motorcycle. There’s no better way to see the world than on a motorcycle.
After a couple of hundred miles on the 690, there are a few things that need to be addressed in order to fully enjoy this awesome dual-sport bike.
First on the list of things to do was to add a RAM mount to the handlebars to hold my phone. I also went ahead and added battery tender lead that, along with the proper adapter, will allow me to plug in my heated jacket liner or 12V power socket.
The next area for improvement was to address comfort. The stock seat is hard and narrow. I don’t expect the seat on a dual-sport bike to be all day comfortable, but I found that the stock seat is only good for about 20 minutes of street riding so there’s certainly room for improvement. I decided to order a seat from Seat Concepts hoping that it would be better than the seat that came on the bike.
The 690 doesn’t come with any kind of windscreen which results in quite a lot of wind pressure on my torso at highway speeds. To address this, I ordered the KTM Powerparts windscreen. The KTM screen is short but I’m hoping it deflects enough air to ease the constant wind blast when riding on the street.
For storage, I ordered a Wolfman Enduro tank bag. The tank bag along with the Wolfman Wolf tail bag should be enough daily use and short day trips. I like to carry a few necessary items such as a small toolkit, a clear windscreen, a sweatshirt, some electronic gadgets and related cords as well as a bottle of water. These two bags should give me enough storage without taking up too much space or adding too much weight.
I’ll post the results of these upgrades once everything arrives and gets installed.
In mid-April, I went down to my local KTM dealer and picked up a 2016 KTM 690 Enduro R to satisfy my dirt riding desires. While the 1190 is good on dirt roads, I want to to able to get off the beaten path and 500lbs is a little too heavy for more difficult trails. The 690 is quite good at the rougher, more challenging trails that go through the woods.
At just over 300 lbs with knobbies and long travel suspension, the 690 seems to be quite good when the trail turns into a collection of ruts and rocks. As a beginner to dirt riding, I took the 690 places that were way above my skill level and the bike seemed to just plow through no matter how tough things got.
On my first day out in the woods, I only tipped it over once while trying to go through a 6″ deep mud pit. On uphill and downhill trails with loose dirt and gravel as well as some big rocks thrown in just for fun the bike was surprisingly stable. I was amazed that I didn’t fall more often.
The seat height is challenging and I can only touch the ground with my toes but I haven’t found it to be much of a problem. Because the bike is relatively light, even when it tips over to the side a bit it’s easy enough to hold it up and keep it from falling over.
On the street, the knobby tires take some getting used to as they squirm around a bit when cornering. Power is quite good and vibrations are tolerable for shorter rides. Wind protection is non-existent which limits how fast you can comfortably ride on the highway. The narrow dirt-oriented seat is certainly not intended for all-day comfort becoming uncomfortable within 30 minutes.
As the summer progresses, I expect that the 690 will be capable of taking me wherever I want to go. It could use a small windscreen and a better seat for longer rides but it sure looks like this is going to be a great bike for exploring remote areas.