Friday, January 17, 2014

Decision to buy a KTM 690 Enduro R


If I could only have one bike applies here. I CAN only have one. Reasons are many, parking space, insurance costs etc. That's not important, only thing that matters is that one bike would have to do everything.

What THE ONE is expected to be
- a daily commuter 7 months a year ( a short commute, but none the less)
- a gravel road adventurer
- a replacement second car to get the shopping and such done
- a day tripper for 300 - 400 km day trips
- a tourer for longer (1000-2000 km) trips maybe once a year
- track day bike once or twice a year
- a long termer, I need to be done with the constant bike changing

This means that versatility is key, reliability being a very very close second. KTMs don't have a reputation for being the most reliable bikes out there, nor does is the 690 Enduro R usually regarded as tourer by any of the bike rags. That said I was willing to take a chance on the reliability and trust the good people of ADVrider.com that the 690 will do everything I need it to do.

What was the other finalist

There usually is at least one other bike that keeps you mulling over the decision. In theory a KLR650, DR650SE, DR-Z400S or XR650L would all have fit the bill, but none of them are imported here. This left me with Suzuki DL650, Honda NC700X / NC750X, Kawasaki Versys, Yamaha Tenere XT660Z (previously had that one and like an idiot sold it), CB500X  . As a means of self punishment I was not going to allow myself to get the the Tenere a second time. After comparing all the figures, prices, reviews and forum commentary I decided that the NC750X would be the other finalist. It would presumably outperform all the others when it came to daily chores, value was good and Honda reputation is still excellent. Going fast on the public roads has never been a goal, so the diesel like sluggish character of the Honda was not a big issue.

What tipped me over to the orange side

Honda would no doubt be more reliable, many times better on longer rides and more practical given the built in storage space and low fuel consumption. Honda ticked way more boxes on the "sensible things that matter" list than KTM, but riding motorcycles isn't about making sense.

WEIGHT
The biggest deciding factor was the weight difference. Before ever riding either one, just sitting on both the Honda and the KTM on the shop floor, made the KTM feel just amazing. The Honda has a much lighter feel to it than it's over 200 kg weight would give reason to expect. But +200 kg is +200kg no matter where its placed. I would have preferred the KTM to have a little less power due to the effects the high power to weight ratio had on the insurance costs, but it is what it is. The KTM is much more bike than I can ever expect to be able to fully utilize, but I rather have that than the other way around.

The NC700X and 690 R have a surprisingly similar type of setup regarding the fuel tank placement.




WINTER OPTION
The KTM also has a potential to be a winter bike due to the low weight and availability of spiked wheels. While this weighted nothing when making the decision, its a fun option to have. To be able to get on the bike just a few times during the long winter months would be awesome.

TRACK DAYS
Track days was another thing that affected my decision. Surely the NC could be taken to the track, but the 690 with supermoto wheels would be awesome on the track.

TIRES
The 690 had a much much wider selection of tires. Everything from long lasting adveture type tires to knobbies and spiked tires.

CONCERNS PRIOR TO PURCHASE

Vibrations
Depending on the source the 690 is characterized from unbearably vibey to surprisingly smooth. It is a big single and it is going to vibrate, but how much? Some owners reported losing sensation on their fingers during longer rides due to the vibrations. Other said that the bars do not vibrate but the seat does and a lot. Then again many said it doesn't vibrate noticeably at all.

Reliability
If the forums are to be believed the KTM fuel pumps are made of cheese. Pick a story of any road going KTM and sooner or later you will see the words fuel pump mentioned and it's not good. Other than the fuel pump no serious issues seemed to trouble the 690 design, but a busted fuel pump is a BIG problem on the road to nowhere. Given that I am planning on buying a new bike with warranty and KTM road side assistance included I am not that worried. Besides the local dealer seems like really nice guy that apparently has a soft spot for KTM although representing few other brands too. If a reasonably priced used one appears and I'm able to sell my current one a used bike is surely an option. It just does not seem to be in the cards right now.

Height
The 690 is high, very very high. If didn't have pleasant memory of my also very high Tenere XT660Z I would have never even considered the 690. I always considered the Tenere to be way out of my league due to my short 5'8" stature, but once my friend bought one and I got to try it there were no real issues. I could not flat foot, not even close but I was able to adjust pretty quickly. I'd say two weeks of riding the 660 made me forget the whole height issue altogether. The 690 is a little higher but much lighter and narrower than the 660 so it felt easy to handle by comparison. I had tried lowering the 660 so I know that it's an easy thing to do if it ever comes to that.

Comfort
On this issue the forums & owners are nearly unanimous. The seat would kill me on longer rides. The price of an aftermarket seat will have to be calculated into the purchasing price. Wind protection is going to be non excstent, but no different from the previous naked bikes I've owned. In general no fairing will be better than a badly designed one (case in point the XT660Z)

Value
The 690 is expensive for a single cylinder enduro bike, no way around that. Prices on the used ones are bearable, but the condition of a used enduro bike compared to a street bike with similar miles is really apples and oranges some times. In order to buy a used bike, the challenge is to find a 690 with low miles that hasn't been used for it's intended purpose, but is ridden conservatively on gravel roads. I know. It also seems that the value of an enduro would depreiciate more than a street bike no matter the miles or condition. As the 690 is going to be a long termer this is not so worrying.

Electrics
Opinions on KTM electrics aside the 2014 690 Enduro R is going to have a ride by wire throttle taken from the 690 Duke. This concerns me greatly. Another non mechanical thing that would be very hard to fix in the middle of nowhere. The Duke has apparently worked fine so this is just something that has to be accepted if I'm going for the 2014 model. The best alternative would be to get a 2013 that some dealers have left, but for some reason I would have had to pay MORE for a zero mile 2013 than the local dealer wanted me to pay for new 2014.

Range
The 690 has 12 litre tank, driven conservatively the 690 would consume around 4,5 l / 100km (according to fuelly.com). That would equate a range of roughly 250 kms. Generally enough, but sprited riding would presumably shrink the range to about 160 kms. This added to the fact that running the fuel tank empty is suspected to burn the fuel pump means preparing the bike for some sort of extra fuel carrying capacity. Cheapest opion is a Rotopax setup of some sort and Safaritanks being the "out of my price range option".
We will see.

In short
The decision has been made. Now it's time to get rid of the old bike and either find a good used 690 or go for broke and get a brand new one. Riding season starts in about 4 months.

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