Friday, July 27, 2007

A all-new model showcased at KTM’s Willow Springs press day was the 690 Supermoto. Looking beyond its rather, er, unique “Spy vs. Spy wedged in a Peterbilt grille” styling, the 654cc Single offers further proof that KTM aims to stay at the forefront.

Making its debut in the 690 SM’s engine bay is KTM’s new-generation LC4 engine, a thorough modernization of the familiar liquid-cooled, sohc, four-stroke powerplant that’s still utilized in a number of current on- and off-road machines. The new LC4 delivers a healthy boost in power, with claimed figures of 63Bhp and 48 foot-pounds of torque at the crank. It’s also the first KTM Single to utilize fuel-injection, and while the throttle body has only a single throttle valve, its opening is influenced by a ECU controlled servo motor to maintain optimum intake velocity.

Road Test Editor Canet dips a toe in the waters...or asphalt...of a high-performance street Single at the Streets of Willow.

Perhaps the most notable improvement this compact engine brings is a substantial reduction in vibration credited to its use of a crank-driven, centrally located counterbalance shaft. Good news for anyone who’s endured the pounding its predecessor dished out when ridden for any great length on the freeway.

This is also KTM’s first production Single to make use of a trellis frame like that of the LC8-powered models. Its full-featured instrument cluster, tapered handlebar, long-travel WP suspension, radial-mount Brembo front caliper/320mm floating rotor and Behr rims shod with sport-radial tires are sourced from KTM’s shared parts bin, too. Unique to this model is its one-piece diecast-aluminum swingarm, a visually striking bit of technology certain to see more use on future models.

I’d ridden the 990 Super Duke most of the day, and 690 SM presented a bit of a surprise when I climbed aboard for some hot laps. At a claimed 335 pounds dry, it does feel light; however, steering effort is actually heavier than the Duke’s due to a slight tendency to stand up in corners. Power delivery is smooth and broad, with nice shift action through the six-speed box and a very light-effort clutch.

While the 690 SM’s styling may not be for everyone, its roomy ergonomics, comfortable saddle and smooth-running new-gen LC4 engine offer plenty of reasons this Single deserves a second look.