Thursday, December 10, 2015

KTM 1290 Super Duke R Dirt Bike

Jiří Heiník has built an enduro out of a KTM 1290 Super Duke R. And naturally once you do that, you might as well do a supermoto version too... I would pay a hefty sum to have go on the supermoto on track. It would most likely kill me, but it would probably be worth it.

More here:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

2016 KTM 690 Enduro R

Well...It seems that the 690 Enduro R will remain unchanged for 2016. Rumours about a twin powered 690 E may well be true, but not for next year.

Traditionally new stuff on the KTM's big single engines first appear on the 690 Duke. Within a year these changes have trickled down to the Enduro and SMC models. For 2016 the Duke will have a new cylinder head and a second balancer shaft. These changes will bring more power and reduce vibrations. IF and thats a big if, the Enduro will remain a single, the 2017 690 Enduro R will most likely feature these upgrades. That said, the twin engine featured in the spy shots will no doubt be mounted on something. Will it be the next generation Enduro R or something else, we will see.

2016 KTM 690 Duke

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mr Scheffer and his 690 Enduro at the Alps

Photo courtesy of Peter Scheffer
Check out a fellow 690 rider Peter's trip report from the Alps! Peter and his friend Roel did four day rather epic ride in Liguria and Piemonte and the photos sure are awesome.

Go check it out! >

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Husqvarna 701 Enduro

As expected Husky has introduced an Enduro version of the 701 Supermoto. It's essentially a white KTM 690 Enduro R with a ever so slightly larger tank. What this means for the 2016 KTM 690 Enduro R... I don't know. No info of the 2016 Enduro R has yet been released, but people have apparently succesfully placed orders for the 2016 models. Rumour is that the 2016 690 ER, will have little changes compared to 2015 model. I suspect we will see something new from KTM sooner than later. For 2017 the latest. There is no point two marques having the same bike, just rebadged and recolored.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

KTM 690 Enduro R 10000 km review

Two summers and 10000 kms ( or 9930 kms to be exact) later it's time to do a small review update. I have ridden the bike enough now to form a proper opinion. Me and the 690 are no longer newly weds and the rose tinted glasses have been off for a while.

Two years later the 690 E is still occupying a space in the motorcycle market that no one else has taken a proper stab at. The Husky will most likely make an attempt, but so far the Huskys competing models appear to be rebadged 690s.


I still like the things that originally made me buy the bike. It's light, made out of quality components and as I said offers a combination of qualities no other dual sport does. With some tinkerking this bike can be turned into Rally bike, extreme adventure bike or a supermoto AND it's pretty darn capable and versatile bone stock too.


The gas cap location is not ideal but other than that there is not much to complain about. I personally still don't like the agricultural noisy engine, but thats my personal problem. As a functional machine the engine works very well. I really can't complain about touring comfort or tall seat height etc. as they arent things that would not be blatantly obvius before ever doing a single mile on the bike.

The head shake is that often gets mentioned when one reads about the 690 E was absent until late summer of this year. A simple adjustment of tire pressure fixed it, but I suspect that the TKC 80s also played a part as the issue never came up with the OEM tires.


The bike has done "only" 10000 kms so maybe there are some major mechanical issues that appear later on, but quite frankly the bike has been very reliable and relative trouble free. The fuel breather hose issue is the only thing that has caused any grief and all things considered that's a rather minor issue. People riding the bike harder and/or in harsher conditions can of course encounter issues that candy **sses like me will never see.


Other than the narrow hardish seat comfort can't really be criticized too much. It's about as comfy as a 150kg dual sport can be. Vibrations never were nor have they become an issue for me.


The 690 E is a bike that shines when you have to ride the more challenging places. In other words if your adventures limits to pot holed gravel roads you MAY be better of getting something a bit more touring/asphalt oriented. The light weight and nimble character does not work in your favor on those long asphalt stretches. While the middle weight "adventure class" is somewhat crowded and varied,people with somewhat limited access to good adventure territory will likely get more bang for buck with a less hardcore bike.

For more in depth opinions, read my one year review.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Test riding the Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt R Spec

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt R Spec test ride
The Bolt is a nice looking bike, there's no denying that. While the Bolt is not exactly my dream bike, I have been wanting to test ride one for a good while now. As a former Sportster owner I was dying to find out what Yamaha has come up with. I've read several test reports comparing the Sportster and the Bolt and apparently at least the suspension is better along with the brakes. Both of which are not hard to beat on a Harley Sportster.... All in all, most of the reviews seem to come to the conlcusion that technically the Bolt is the superior bike.

The Bolt has been around for a couple of summers now and while I don't know the sales figures, it is interesting that the recently announced 2016 Sportster models now have improved suspension on both ends...

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt R Spec factory cowl at the front (2014)

Ok, let's ride (This particular bike is a used one ridden only about 5000 kms.)

First thing I noticed was the sound. It has a nice deep thumping very Harley like sound without being too loud. This particular bike has an Acrapovic factory accessory exhaust and while I like all my bikes quiet, this wasn't too bad. I would not feel embarrassed to ride this around town. One thing I absolutely hated on my Sportster was the loud Vance & Hines pipes. TOO loud.

Comfort & ergos
The seat is shaped nicely, but much harder than I expected. Some of the video reviews claim that the seat is very plush, I don't think so and I ride an enduro for god sakes. The airbox cover on the right side is annoying as hell, I don't think I could live with that in the long run. It feels that even if the bike had highway pegs I could not get my legs comfortably extended because of the airbox. (may not be a problem in reality). I'm 5,8, but one would have to be very short legged not to have the right leg hit the airbox. On the other hand, it may be that if you have longer legs the airbox is actually less of a problem.

The left side is not nearly as bad even though the engine protrudes out a bit from that side. Whether I could extend my legs comfortably from this side either is a bit of a mystery. It may bee that the protruding engine would produce a problem.

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt leg ergos

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt airbox

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt engine heat guard 

Yamaha XV950 / Star Bolt engine & airbox
The bars feel a bit thick but otherwise very nice. The only problem is that they are a bit too far away resulting in too much forward lean for my taste. The BIG problem is that neither Star/Yamaha or anybody else for that seems to sell extended cables for the ABS models so changing bars will be problematic. While the ergos are quite ok for short rides, I was not 100% happy with them and especially the apparent limitations to getting them fit me is a bit of disappointment.

I've read that the engine is solidly mounted unlike the on the modern Sportster that have rubber mounted engines. One would expect a lot of vibrations, but there were absolutely none that I felt unpleasant. The V-twin is supposed to have some. The bike felt alive, but cruising speed at 100km/h was an absolute pleasure. The was enough power for everything one would ever like to do with a cruiser.

Star/Yamaha Bolt with Acrapovic exhaust
Suspension & handling
The Bolt has a good, slightly firm suspension for this type of bike. To me it was plenty comfortable and performed as expected. Handling is cruiserlike with good slow speed manners. At 100 km/h the bike feels planted and engine unstressed. Clutch, brakes and gears all work without drama. Predictable and a bit cruiserish as they should. Changing direction is very sluggish compared to the 690, but then again high speed stability is much much better in return. Scraping the pegs was not really an issue unlike on my old Low Sporty.

Overall the bike feels very solid and well made. Nothing feels cheap or "out of parts bin". I've read a lot about the speedo being hard to read in the sunlight, but I ques the day wasn't bright enough to highlight the problem. If the ergos were right for me, I would not hesitate to buy this bike as far as performance, handling and build quality.

Ergos part II 

The Bolt ergos bothered me so much that I made a stop to another bike shop that had a Sportster on the floor. I had a Sporty in 2009, but I didn't remember a having that much discomfort on it than I had on the Bolt. After sitting on the Sporty ( 2009 883 R) it was immediately clear that the leg ergos are much better (for ME) on the Sporty. The airbox is still on the way but much less so and the left side is clear of anything that might bother me.

Sportster airbox

Sportster leg / knee room

Monday, August 10, 2015

High speed wobble / head shake

On the way to see the races I noticed that the bike started to have the shakes at around 110 - 115 km/h. This was a new issue as it never happened with the Sahara 3s. The TKC 80s have now done around 2000 kms, but they still have plenty of thread left in my opinion.

The head shake on the 690 is an interesting phenomena as some people suffer from it and some people don't. It's usually "solved" by adjusting the suspension, adding a steering damper, changing tires etc. None of which seem to be the end all solution to the problem.

As I didn't have any tools or time to mess with the suspension I decided to check the tire pressures on the nearest gas station. The front had 1.2 bars and I decided to up the pressures (to 1.8) on the front first to see what happens.

Interestingly the head shake disappeared and the bike became instantly less twitchy at high speeds! You might want to try messing with the tire pressures first before buying expensive dampers etc.


Reading the reports around the net from people experiencing head shake blames the problem on several different things or a combination of them. Which ones you believe in is up to you.

1. Bad tires: some tires when worn will start to induce head shake and some seem to do it even when new.

2. Incorrect tire pressures for high speeds. Raising front pressure made a big difference for me.

3. Suspension not adjusted correctly (preload, sag etc.)

4. The amount of load (luggage) on the bike and how it's placed. Mine seems more stable the more suff I pack on. This is ofcourse related to suspension setting.

5. The bike's steering geometry in general. (I don't agree as the problem is not with ALL the 690 Es)

6. Wheels not balanced correctly

7. Wheels not aligned correctly (rear especially)

8. Heavy inner tubes. I personally find that the heavy Michelin UHD tubes feel a lot different than regular thin ones and might very well be a contributing factor to the problem.

Many people attempt to fix the problem by installing a steering damper which in my opinion only mask the original problem and is not a proper fix.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Motorcycling trip camera (Fuji X100T) & photo gear

Fuji X100T (OEM thread protector not on)
I've got several e-mails asking about my camera equipment so rather than answering them from time to time I'll make a short post about my camera, gear and my reasoning for carrying it.

I used to own a DSLR system (Nikon) that I loved, but I found that the times I wanted to take pictures the most, I couldn't / didn't want to carry around the bulky DSLR stuff. Also, most of the times I'm shooting with my helmet on and the Nikons (D7000) live view wasn't working well enough for it to be used for shooting. I decided to sell all the DSLR gear to fund my road camera purchase and without going into much detail on the other options I decided upon getting a Fuji X100T for my main camera. If you are interested in camera specs and such has a good review.

a sample shot
Factors that led me to choose the Fuji X100T
- USB charging - this is an absolute must on the road
- good IQ, the Fuji certainly has this
- small size, well... the Fuji really isn't.
- important controls can be operated with gloves on (power, aperture, shutter speed, focus area, exposure compensation)
- fast to operate (no servo operated lenses to extend / retract, no lens hoods etc.)

What the X100T lacks
- image stabilisation (haven't missed this once)
- zoom
- weather proofing

Fuji X100T, modified MeFoto DayTrip, JJC Lens hood, Fuji 50mm tele converter and IShoot grip
Once I got my hands on the Camera it became obvious that I needed some sort of lens protection especially when I was never ever going to use a lens cap on it. Another thing was that the camera wasn't very grippy and I did not feel confident it would not slip my hand when operated one handedly.

The lens protection was solved with a combination of Hoya 49mm UV filter and a JJC  LH-JX100II  49mm Lens hood. The JJC hood is needed because the filter needs to be moved away from the moving lens element. The filter WILL screw right on the camera too, but by doing so you risk damaging the camera as the lens element moves back and forth and it will touch the UV filter.

I also bought a screw in 50mm tele converter, but I haven't used it really and I don't see it in my future either. It's just too bulky and the camera won't fit in the bag with it either.

For the grip issue I bought Quick Release Camera Holder Grip from eBay. That fixed the gripping issue and also allows me to quickly attach the camera to a arca-swiss compatible tripod.

IShoot grip fro the Fuji X100T
For a tripod I bought the Mefoto RoadTrip model, but once it arrived it was clearly too big to be lugged around on a motorcycle. I then bought the MeFoto DayTrip and swithed the ball head from the Roadtrip to it so it would fit the quick release grip already on the camera. * The DayTrip ball head has a smaller camera plate so the Arca-Swiss plate or grip will not fit. Oh, and a word of warning make sure you get a grip designed for the T model. The X100 and X100S look very similar, but the body shape is slightly different.

All the photo gear I'm willing to lug with me on a motorcycle trip
For a bag, I needed something that would allow for a quick access to the camera while on the bike. After crashing with the camera dangling on me in the bag, I've tried to avoid it though. It's much more convenient to have the camera on the tank bag, although the BlackRapid SnapR 35 bag works even for that as it keeps the camera in place while it's in the tank bag. The SnapR is a very good solution for being off the bike too as it has some very convenient strap options and fits the X100T size wise pretty well. The SnapR is configured so that you can pull the camera out of the bag and it slides along the neck strap, but it can also be quickly detached via quick release buckle. The neck strap can also be used as stand alone as the end male and female buckle snap together. Very clever.

Trip report

From the northern part of the old postal road

Roughly 1500kms of very varying roads in Northern Finland, Norway and Sweden. Last years trip was more of a sightseeing run partly because everyone didn't have the appropriate equipment to go off the paved roads. This time my buddy "Jack" had moved from a Versys to a Honda CRF250L so we could pretty much go anywhere we wanted as far as bikes go.

Last year we traveled up north under the cover of darkness by train and rode back down. This time we went by train both ways. Doing hundreds of miles of boring tarmac still didn't seem tempting and besides that we were yet again on a tight schedule.
strapped in again

The route

Thursday evening/night
Turku - Rovaniemi by train

All Friday
Rovaniemi - Kautokeino (Norway) by bikes

All Saturday
Kautokeino - Alta - Storslett by bikes

All Sunday
Storslett - Kaaresuvanto (Finland) by bikes

Kaaresuvanto - Rovaniemi by bikes

Monday afternoon/night
Rovaniemi - Turku by train

The good parts
Saturday, The old postal road from Kautokeino to Alta
Sunday, The mountain road from Birtavarre to the foothills of Halti / Guolasjávri
Sunday, The Kalkkoaivi road (an old wartime service road)


The train arrived at Rovaniemi some time after 10:00 AM. We unloaded the bikes, filled up and pulled away from the city. We tried to stay on the gravel as much as possible, but the friday's ride was honestly just a mandatory transition to get to Kautokeino, where we would be starting on the old postal road. We had ridden about half of the route last year going south. As before, mosquitoes were plentyfull and the roads a bit boring outside the few gravel stints. 

Once we arrived at Kautokeino Norway, the weather had cleared up and it was down right warm. Actually warmer than 1200 kms south where we started from. We checked in a hotel (Thon Hotel Kautokeino) and went for a short ride to look around and take some photos. We found an old decommissioned ski jumping tower on the river bank that was a good place to get a few photos of the area. 

Town of Kautokeino

After the short sightseeing We inhaled a couple of local kebabs, took a few beers and went to bed.
Thon hotel Kautokeino at the hilltop


The old postal road to Alta starts 10 kms from Kautokeino so after only 15 mins from the hotel we were in business. We had high expectations of the road, that supposedly had some water crossings, beautiful scenery and challenging run down parts. The old postal road was the so called "main attraction" of this trip.

start of the postal road
The road began as pretty well maintained gravel road and continued as such for a good while. The scenery was good to begin with but improved still as the road progressed deeper into the wilderness. Nothing but fells, lakes and rivers as far as the eye could see. 

Pretty easy as bad roads go
Some rocky parts, but really not much of a challenge 
The only water crossing, the water seemed to be down 
The old postal road is cut in two by the tarmac main road leading to Alta. This southern part was the more challenging to ride, but the northern part had even better scenery.

Is it real adventure if you can stop for coffee half way through...?
The road itself was a bit of a let down in the sense that it never really got properly rough or difficult. I don' t know whether it was recently renovated or something, but we could have ridden all of it with much "lesser" bikes. The only river crossing was also rather tame didn't really provide much of a challenge. That said, the old postal road was certainly one of the greatest rides of my life.  

Some shots from the northern part

reindeer gates, one of many
a perfect place to camp 

Alta - Storslett

After the postal road, we grabbed a quick lunch and continued on to Storslett where we would spend the night. The Norwegians are really making an effort as far as the roads. There was large scale roadwork being done on many parts of the road.

Some shots from the Alta - Storslett road


Sunday had two routes planned. First we would ride to the foothills of Halti from the Norwegian side and after that we would ride the Kalkkoaivi road near Kaaresuvanto in Finland. Halti is the highest fell (we don't have any real mountains) in Finland so it's sort of big thing for Finns. For Norwegians it's probably not that big of a deal as they have real mountains everywhere you look. The Kalkkoaivi road is an old german built service road from WW2 time. Nowadays it's mostly used by fishermen and hikers going to the fells, rivers and lakes.

The road to Halti / Guolasjávri (lake Guolas) starts from a town called Birtavarre. There's still a 6 km hike to the mountain from where the road ends, but that's as close as you can get, legally at least. The fun part of the road starts after crossing a bridge over a gorge and the road is rather scenic all the way through. The roads is also in reasonably good condition and any family sedan will get through just fine. 

the bridge over the ravine

end of the road
There was a very interesting hint of a road starting from the end of the road to lord knows where, but we weren't all that sure that it was legally okay to ride it with motorcycles so we did only a few hundreds meters, parked, and "jack" cooked us coffee from the stream water.

After coffee we moved on and pushed towards Kalkkoaivi only to stop for late lunch at a gas station near the Saana fell.

Highest point of the Finnish road network...
The Kalkkoaivi road also started tame, but turned in quite rocky towards the end. In dry conditions, it was very manageable, but might be tricky if wet. We kept the speeds low to minimize the risk for a puncture that seemed to be the biggest risk on this road. We did have spares and tools with us, but changing tires on the road would royally screwup our schedule. The place was also totally off the cell phone grid so should an injury occur, we might find our self in a bit of a situation.

Entering danger zone... Kalkkoaivi road starts with a shot up sign

Amazingly neither one of us went down even once. Not that the road was that demanding, but we were pretty worn down from riding all day and the Kalkkoaivi was our last hooray for the day. By the time wegot back on tarmac and in to the cabin, we were pretty beat. The cabin had a sauna which was a heaven sent at that point.

Some photos from the Kalkkoaivi road


As usual, monday sucked a tiny bit. The only thing on the agenda was getting back to the train in time. We tried to take the scenic route and stay of the main roads, but the roads and scenery were hardly a match for what we had seen on the past few days. We made a point to cross the border to the swedish side and ride along the river for a while buut that didn't really do it for us either. 

All in all

A great trip. It really did deepen my love for the 690. Not that it's capabilities were fully utilized, but it's just a great machine in many respects. Riding roads like the old postal road has pretty much ruined me for tarmac riding. The asphalt roads were spectacular in every way, but all I could think of is getting off from the paved stuff and even now when the trip is over I don't feel any desire to ride the twisties near or far. 

Technical problems

On the Honda... none. On the 690, a clogged fuel breather hose vent. Apparently there is a tiny valve on the part that the fuel cap screws on to and where the breather hose originates from. I thought that the hose was obstructed some wehere where it disappeared inside the bike and promptly cut it in two, but that didn't solve the problem, There was still a vacuum forming in the tank. Blowing and sucking on the breather hose cleared the valve and the problem went away.

road side repairs somewhere in Sweden

About gear

Nothing failed during the trip. Even my modified attachment system for the Wolfman bags worked as planned. The dehorning method also seemed to work as the straps showed no signs of wear after the trip. Fuel cans were completely leak free and even the new Macna Jura jacket worked as expected.

As usual, none of the "just-in-case" stuff was not needed. Lot of stuff that was just dead weight, but I guess it's better to have it and not need than the other way around. At times I wished I had warmer gloves and a helmet with a flip up sun visor, but those are not really problems.