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2019 KTM 690 SMC R: MD Ride Review

It’s hard to have more fun on two wheels than you can on a supermoto. Essentially a dirt bike with lights and street tires, they provide the ultimate in go-anywhere handling and performance. For 2019, KTM has a street legal supermoto with more engine performance than any other … the 690 SMC R.

Powered by the 693cc single KTM is famous for, the massive (for a single) 75 horsepower at the crank is delivered in a smooth, linear fashion thanks to new twin balancer shafts (one in front of the crank and the other in the cylinder head). We can’t imagine a single cylinder engine this big being any smoother.

With a revised steel trellis frame, KTM adds the latest WP APEX suspension components as well as adjustable ABS brakes (including a Supermoto mode) and traction control. The front fork is a massive 48mm unit which is highly adjustable (30 clicks of compression on the left fork and 30 clicks of rebound on the right fork). The linkage-mounted rear shock has both high and low-speed compression adjustment.

Top drawer Brembo brakes include a front radial-mount monobloc caliper squeezing a huge 320mm front disc, with a smaller 240mm disc out back. The wheels are seemingly bulletproof with CNC machined hubs and beefy spokes laced to rims holding Bridgestone S21 tires.

To help keep the bike low and the seat flat, KTM cleverly uses the fuel tank as the main structural element of the subframe.

In addition to the traction control previously mentioned, the 690 SMC R comes with two rider-selectable ride modes, including Street and Sport, the latter of which provides more aggressive throttle response and reduced intervention by the traction control system.

The six-speed transmission features a Quickshifter Plus system allowing clutchless upshifts and downshifts. Downshifts are rev-matched to the lower gear.

Ergonomic highlights include a tapered aluminum handlebar and a firm, yet comfortable seat that is a reasonable height for average-sized riders. Good leg room still leaves plenty of cornering clearance with the long-travel suspension.

Riding the 690 SMC R is a blast! From a comfortable perch, the power comes on smooth and strong, and the big single sounds great and feels great as it beats those big power pulses beneath you. This is all the character of a big single without the paint-shaker vibes!

The power is so smooth and controlable that more expert riders will be able to control slides in the dirt — even with the slick Bridgestone S21 street tires. This bike is capable of high speeds, as well, as highway travel is handled without breaking a sweat, and good acceleration is available below 100 mph (top speed is north of 100 mph).

The long-travel suspension can handle everything you throw at it. Adjustability allows the rider to stiffen up things for street riding, or change the settings to make the bike plush off-road. Both the fork and the shock are clearly high-quality items that move smoothly and with low stiction.

The Brembo brake package is hard to fault. Outstanding power and feel, and a good combination of immediate response on the street without being too touchy in the dirt. The brakes really reflect KTM’s supermoto tuning experience.

Not surprisingly, the lightweight 690 SMC R is very quick through corners on the street. Outstanding grip is available from the Bridgestone S21s, and the rider gets good information from the contact patches. If you throw in some bumps and potholes, the advantages this big supermoto has just increase, because the suspension just shrugs them off and allows the bike to track beautifully.

Off-road handling can be a bit dicey with the stock street tires, particularly for less-experienced riders, but the suspension can be adjusted to deal with just about any situation. The brakes, as previously stated, offer good feel and modulation, and we had no problem with locking the brakes in the dirt unless we intended to do so.

The flat seat allows easy fore-and-aft movement by the rider, which is essential for racing and beneficial for aggressive street riding. It was surprisingly comfortable on the street — not too narrow, but dedicated street riders might benefit from a broader, more contoured saddle.

The quickshifter and transmission work well, but the quickshifter likes higher revs and higher gears, where it operates more smoothly. Instrumentation is very basic and dirt bike-like, but legible and provides all the essential information.

Adjusting traction control was finicky — something we noticed when trying to set up the bike to allow power slides in the dirt. Just when we thought we had the TC turned off, it would intervene. Probably a learning curve issue for us that we didn’t have time to sort out during testing.

The new 2019 KTM 690 SMC R is a great ride. It might be at the top of the street-legal supermoto food chain — particularly with all that power and torque coming from the smooth, balance shaft-equipped engine. U.S. MSRP is $11,699. Take a look at KTM’s web site for additional details and specifications.


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36 Comments

  1. John says:

    Last August I purchased a new 2018 Husqvarna 701SM. At that time KTM did not import their Super Moto to the US. This appears to be an upgrade to my bike with the addition of traction control and quick shifter.
    I do like my color scheme better and have no regrets so far. Bike is a hoot to ride in the twisty Appalachian roads that surround where I live.

  2. Crazyjoe says:

    So I goes to KTM.com to remind myself how ugly KTM’s really are. You know even with their photography the moto still looks like a moto and the Super Duke still looks like a killer robot. But the 690 enduro isn’t that bad to look at. The naked and travel 790’s don’t look bad at all. After all these years are those bad looks growing on me? Maybe I’m a sucker for orange frames.

  3. Stinky says:

    Sweet little bike. I’ve got an 1100 Hypermotard with a 6 gallon tank that sits and rides a little like this. It’s a little sad that they feel the need to put traction control on everything. Cmon, traction control on 75 horsepower?

    • todd says:

      Let’s see; with a wet weight that’s about 100 pounds lighter than a 1100 Hypermotard but only 16 less horsepower this KTM will romp the Ducati. I bet it’s geared quite a bit lower too so with the weight and gearing changes, it will need more traction control than the Ducati while it also out accelerates it. This is no “little bike” unless you consider yours is a beginner’s.

      • Anonymous says:

        So this 690 single will “romp” a Hypermotard 1100. Got it.

        Bwaaaaaahaha. Add this one to Todd’s Greatest Hits!

        • todd says:

          Yes, this might be hard for you to understand (like how to add your name to a response…) but something with a much higher power to weight ratio will outperform something with a lower ratio. Engine capacity doesn’t play as big of a role as you think. Even little 500 and 650cc twins can out accelerate 1,200 and even 1,600cc twins. Welcome newcomer.

          • potoduc says:

            The weight difference is more like 70#s. This might also be the time to mention the 30% torque advantage of the Duc has. The 1100 makes as much torque at idle as the KTM makes peak. The 1100 also has a solid top speed advantage. I’m thinking that with the same rider, on the street and most tracks, the HM will consistently put down faster lap times than the KTM.

          • todd says:

            The 1100 Hyper is advertised as 443-450 pounds wet, the KTM is 350 pounds wet. Have you ever paid attention? Engine torque does not directly translate to performance. What matters is power at the wheel. Remember my whole point about 130 ft-lb bicycle torque? Top speed advantage? Ok, I give you that since the duc does have more horsepower and is geared higher, it will just take longer to accelerate out of corners.

          • todd says:

            Cool bike. It be a bike for todd peepses what adds they name to they posts. When yo’ adds yo’ name yo’ legitimizify yo’ postings on the interwebs. ‘n’ sheit. 😉

            Goot God todd. Jump back ‘n’ kiss yo’ bad seff. sheeeeeeeeit.

          • SHart's Still SHart says:

            Pointless AND racist. What a combo.

        • todd says:

          Ok, I take it back. Hypermotard, 450 lbs / 95 hp = 4.73 lb/hp. KTM SMC R, 350 pounds / 74 hp = 4.73 lb/hp. Both bikes have top speeds listed as 125.

          These things will perform the same in a straight line, the KTM will just be a bit easier to wrestle around a track.

          • Anonymous says:

            I respect that.

            Keep in mind, when you add a rider and his gear to the mix, it favors the Hyper.

            BTW, rider talent being equal, that old Hypermotard will give even 600 supersport bikes fits coming out of slow/medium corners. I really can’t see this 690 having an advantage in anything but super tight stuff. It just won’t.

          • jon says:

            You need to include rider weight when assessing power to weight, as it’s so large a factor with bike (as opposed to a car). Let’s go with a 180lb rider.

            Hypermotard – 450lb + 180lb rider weight = 6.63lb/hp.

            KTM 350 + 180 = 7.16lb/hp.

            You need a pretty light rider to make the ktm look stronger on this metric.

          • todd says:

            But the pictures always show the bikes without a rider…

          • fred says:

            I guess I’m getting old. While speed and skill contests are still fun, my riding enjoyment is no longer based on “winning”. If both the bike and I are still functional at the end, it was a great ride.

            If you have a rider weighing 190 on the Hypermotard, and one at 150 on the KTM, the power-to-weight ratios still stay in balance.

            My guess is that the two bikes are close enough in capabilities that you could have a lot of fun riding with a friend who had the other one.

            I don’t have a dog in the fight, as neither one particularly appeals to me, but it’s great to have choices.

          • Ralph W. says:

            An important thing to remember here is the 1100 Hypermotard is a very light bike for its engine size. Compared to typical bikes of 1100cc the KTM690 has some serious handling advantages which are very useful in the real world. The idea that “bigger is better” is very old school thinking. Other 1100cc bikes may have more power than the Hypermotard, but that is only useful in a straight line which isn’t where the fun is.

      • Ralph W. says:

        I agree with Stinky. No need for traction control on a bike like this. The 1100 Hypermotard (one of the best bikes ever built) has more power and more weight to move, so I think it would have a greater tendency to convert its power into wheel-spin instead of forward motion when compared to the KTM. Neither bike needs traction control. It’s just a waste of money.

        And I do love this KTM690. Bikes like this are awesome fun and are capable of doing amazing things, in the hands of skilled rider, of course.

  4. John says:

    This bike with an extra set of off road wheels and tires (smaller front rotor w caliper adapter)

    OR

    The enduro version and buy super Moto wheels and tires????

  5. Anonymous says:

    That is one goofy looking motorcycle.

    • Reginald Van Blunt says:

      The rider pictured, doesn’t help the goofyness sitting where a fuel tank with a chrome gas cap should be, and legs bent like he was on a crotch rocket. Is this a wheelie monster or just another tick away from a 60’s open desert sled ?

    • Brian says:

      Agreed, it is ugly and I am not a fan of KTM’s styling in general. Maybe it works in Europe but not here in the US. I am in the market for their 350 SFX and am not liking the weird graphics and black frame. Normally I don’t sweat a bikes looks if it works well, but at their price I don’t want it to look used when I go to pick it up.

    • Anonymous says:

      It wasn’t designed for you. It was designed for people who know how to ride.

  6. todd says:

    I want to afford this bike.

  7. motowarrior says:

    It’s a lot of bike for a lot of money. Really prefer the look of the 690 Duke, if you are going to primarily ride it on the road. The motard looks a bit like it is wearing a skirt. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…

  8. azi says:

    Interesting how this is closer to the original 1994 620 Duke concept than the most recent 690 Duke. The Duke is dead, long live the SMC?

  9. steveinsandiego says:

    couldn’t find a wet weight.

  10. mickey says:

    Looks a little wide in the hips with that body work, but I’ll bet it’s a hoot to ride.

  11. RD350 says:

    Love this motard! BUT, please KTM, give us a color option. Ready to race orange is a bit too loud for my .. ahem .. mature sensibilities. Something from the Penton catalog perhaps??

    • Jeremy says:

      Lucky for you, it also comes in a nice blue and white color scheme with yellow accents. 🙂

      • RD350 says:

        Touché!

      • RD350 says:

        I’ve often thought KTM might sell more bikes, especially to older guys that can actually afford them, if they offered their bikes in colors that were a bit more classic. Silver frames/solid colors rather than day-glo orange .. that sort of thing. Motards, which I consider to be the most fun and most practical street bikes for everything except highway riding, dont need to look like motocross bikes.

        • JVB says:

          I liked the Duke 690 from a few years back. Just hard to swallow 10-12K for a single, when a lot of bikes are at that price point.

  12. Michael says:

    Very cool bike, I’d sure prefer one without all the rider aids at a reduced price.

    • Roadrash1 says:

      KTM doesn’t really do reduced price.
      I did pick up a new 2018 690 Duke last Fall. Love it. But, when I got
      around to trying to unlock the TC and other features of the Track Pack,
      It was no longer available in the good old USA…..
      It blows to have all the functions that you can’t use.
      Looking for a work-around for that issue. Maybe an ECU from overseas?

  13. falcodoug says:

    Nice ride.