We here at MD love single-cylinder street bikes, but I’ve always expected them to be a little slower, a little buzzier, a little less suited for prolonged high-speed riding. At least, I did until I rode a KTM Single. The orange company is great at building high-performance models that offer the same performance and reliability as a middleweight Twin, except with more character and a lot less weight.
The pinnacle of that gestalt is the outstanding 690 Duke, sadly only available in the USA market for a few short years. Under 400 pounds with a splash of gas in the tank and putting out over 60 incredibly smooth horsepower, it was a joy to ride. And now 2012 brings an improved version, with an upgraded motor, more street-oriented styling, and anti-lock brakes.
The motor makes the same 70 (the press release says 70, the tech sheet says 68, but the old model made 70 as well) hp as the outgoing model, but it’s all about quality, not quantity, right? Thanks to a new dual-plug cylinder head and new electronics, the new mill features longer 6000-mile service intervals and 10 percent better fuel economy.
The chassis gets some big changes, too. The styling is now more big-Duke and less off-road than before, with a lower seat (by more than an inch) and more orthodox left-exit exhaust. It also gets a cast radial-mount Brembo brake caliper with Bosch ABS and fully-adjustable WP suspension. Claimed tank-empty weight is 335 pounds — add about another 20 pounds when the 3.6-gallon tank is topped off. It’s about the same weight as the old 690 Duke, and I can personally attest to that being big fun with the 60-ish hp the bike makes at the wheel.
The bad news: it’s not available in the USA, and a leaked Powerpoint slide from a presentation to North American KTM dealers confirms it won’t be here for 2013 or 2014, either. But if you think a single-cylinder streetbike like this would have a home in your garage, you can reach KTM’s corporate HQ through its website.