Supermoto VS Sportbike
Fire the bikes up and the most obvious similarity jumps to life. Both bikes use a 690cc engine, but they are not the same. The Husqvarna has a tried-and-true single—which shares basic dimensions with the current KTM 690 Enduro R and previous 690 Duke—with a 102mm bore and cranking out 60 hp at 7, 400 rpm. Nestled in the 690 Duke’s trellis frame is an updated engine with a larger 105mm bore and reworked single-cam head that puts a balance shaft where the exhaust cam would be in a DOHC setup. The result is a higher redline, much smoother running, and more power. The Duke put down 70 hp at 8, 700 rpm. Impressive, given the identical displacement.
If you’re the skeptical type who thinks that they probably feel about the same, you’re pretty much correct despite the very different power figures. Firing out of our office park and pointed at the hills, we thought immediately that even with the updates to the 690 Duke engine the beating heart of these two bikes is their most direct connection. And they both deliver exactly what you want from a big single, which is punchy power everywhere in the rev range. Lug the engines too low and the chains slap like a crack-addled bass player, and if you spin these singles up near the rev-limiter they get a tad buzzy, but aside from that there’s power whenever you like.
That includes on the freest of freeways, our gargantuan California interchanges, where both the KTM and the Husky engines are perfectly happy to cruise anywhere between the speed limit of 65 mph and the typical commuting speed of 80 mph. Above that you’ll likely be distracted by the horrendous aerodynamics—especially on the 701, which vibrates more and offers zero protection from windblast. The KTM is a little better because you sit down in the bike more, and it feels like it’s geared taller, but that also could be because it revs higher and makes power farther up the rpm band.
Pretty obviously, neither bike wants to be ridden on the freeway for any amount of time. What they’re both clearly itching to do is swing from side to side on the tightest twists of tarmac you can find. That’s where you’ll forget about the weird seats (the KTM’s is better but still has some sharp edges, while the Husky’s is downright bony and 35 inches high) and distract yourself with cornering ecstasy. Even though the riding positions and suspension are much different, there is a very familial feeling of light steering and direct control between the two—quick to fall toward an apex and willing to carve nicely without much input.
Both use a WP fork, the Duke a 43mm and the Husky a beefy 48mm unit. What’s surprising is the tuning of the suspension—you might guess the dirt bike-y Husky would be softly sprung, but it is much stiffer despite having 8.5 inches of front travel and nearly 10 inches in the back. The 690 has a much more standard 5.3 inches of travel and is sprung quite softly, to the point that when the younger staffers provoked it the KTM bottomed the fork and shock easily. It seems a rambunctious 180 pounds is more than Team Orange had in mind for a 690 Duke rider.
Suspender calibration aside, either bike feels terrific on a curvy road. Click through the excellent gearboxes, flick them from side to side, and braaap! yourself out of corners. It’s stupendous fun on both, but the 701’s stiffer springs make it feel more capable when pushed hard. Sadly, the 690 Duke’s front brake also falls behind. We were unable to figure out the source of the soft lever and lack of power (we bled the lines and checked the pads, and we’re still not sure where the problem lies). The Husky’s slightly heavier-duty caliper bites the same-size rotor fiercely, providing lots of power and superb feel.
It took until lunch for us to trip over the most obvious of reasons that these bikes feel so excellent skimming front tires from turn to turn: weight. As in, not very much of it. Consider that the 690 Duke weighs 35 pounds less than Yamaha’s 400-pound FZ-07, which is realistically the king of the middleweight naked genre and awesomely compact. The 701 Supermoto, well, you kind of expect it to be light considering the dash has fewer functions than a motel alarm clock and it looks like a dirtbike. Still, it’s a fully capable streetbike that weighs 346 pounds, which is notable in this age of ever-growing machines.
On the subject of cockpit niceties (where the Husky struggles), KTM splashed the 690 Duke’s dashboard with a fat, juicy, full-color display and the same control arrangement as the 1190 and 1290 models. The system is time consuming, but it’s intuitive and easy to use, plus it offers a slice of KTM convention that might just steer 690 riders toward larger orange bikes. However, as sexy as the 690 Duke’s dash is, it brings us to a pretty long list of quirks that these two motorcycles have.
For example, within the 690’s display there are options for MTC (KTM’s traction control system) and ABS adjustment, but when the button is held to toggle modes nothing happens. Because there is no MTC and there are no ABS modes (just on or off). Not that it ruins the bike, but it’s an odd oversight. Also, we could set the clock on our testbike, but it never ran—forever 8:11 a.m.! The Husky has more. The minimalist dash works fine, but lines running to the front brake often sit exactly in the rider’s line of sight to the display. Then there’s the blinker that melted because it’s too close to the exhaust and the neon wheel-stripe tape peeling off. And that, unfortunately, is a good segue to discussing how many of your hard-earned American dollars it will take to ride one of these home.