I WISH it weren’t this way, but I’ve accepted that life on two wheels isn’t all track days and blissful rides on amazing roads. In fact, at the moment I seem to be spending all my time commuting, schlepping, and using my bike for, well… mundane s*** like rushing to the petrol station for a massive bag of Doritos before Strictly Come Dancing starts.
I haven’t yet talked about how the 690 Duke fairs at any of this because I’ve been busy enjoying it on a track day at Brands Hatch and getting a new exhaust put on; all very aspirational stuff. But if you’re going use a bike every day, then its real world performance, what it’s like when pressed in to the daily grind is crucial.
The 690 Duke manages to make my 14-mile commute into central London a fun experience, even when rampant traffic jams, phone-distracted drivers and erratic private hire cabs are conspiring to put me in a bad mood, or hospital.
I’ve already talked about how light and nimble the 690 Duke is on track and of course its low weight also means it’s as deft at navigating a gridlocked Elephant & Castle roundabout as it is a set of hairpins on Gran Canaria. In the quest for the next gap, fuelled by the burning desire to get to the office, the Duke is easy to thread between bumpers and can can turn nice and tightly with minimal effort. Because it’s light and nicely balanced, it’s easy to control at slow speed. All in all, its adept in traffic.
It’s narrow too and easy to gauge how big a gap I can fit through because my elbows are the widest point on the bike. The mirrors can sabotage the 690’s filtering finesse though because they’re at a similar height to a lot of vans’ mirrors, along with those of many 4x4s, so care needs to be taken when trying to pass between any cars sat next to each other with mirrors at that height.
While the 690 Duke manages to make my slog to and from the office more enjoyable than it’s got any right to be, it’s not a bike that’s at its most content in the city and on the two warmest days we’ve had this year, watching the 690’s temperature bar creep up before the LCD display throws up a warning has reminded me that it’s not 100% happy being sat in a snarl-up by Waterloo station. I’ll let you know if this becomes a regular occurrence when summer starts proper.
If you read my last report, you might remember that the LCD screen developed a line of dead pixels. KTM has just replaced the screen for me, which was covered under the warranty and because it plugs in to the bike, it didn’t take long at all.
While I was up at KTM HQ getting that done, I also asked them to add the ‘Track Pack’, which costs £244.54 and involves plugging the bike into a diagnostics computer to turn on the ride modes, traction control, MSR (Motor Slip Regulation) and skid mode (aka supermoto ABS, which disables the ABS at the rear). When it comes to the traction control on the road, knowing there’s a bit of a safety net at the rear wheel results in a bit more confidence to gas it out of my favourite bends. The system doesn’t feel particularly intrusive, apart from when it’s working overtime in the rain, when I’m glad to feel it. I can’t wait to properly try it out on track at some point soon.
So now to answer the burning question – what’s it like on fuel? I’ve got a mean average of 47.2mpg, which comes from the past four times I’ve filled it up and calculated consumption. Owing to the fact that the engine feels its smoothest when it’s spinning quickly, it never feels like a particularly economical bike, so I wasn’t expecting a figure in the high 40s. I expect I can get that figure higher too because I’m guilty of riding this bike with no sympathy for how much petrol its using, so I will be seeing what kind of economy it gives me when I’m sensible with it. If I can be sensible with it.
Next on the list is to tidy up some of the Duke’s styling a little, starting by reducing the mass of number plate hanger that’s dangling over the rear wheel and then maybe adorning it with some trinkets to make it look a bit blinged up. I’ve got my eye on a clear air box too, along with some crash protection. I’m also planning a long weekend away on it to really get sense of what it’s like when it’s bullied into doing something that requires a bit of comfort and practicality, and to see whether it can still enthral on a cross-country expedition.
Changes made so far
Akrapovic slip-on – £567.26
‘Track pack’ – £244.54
Previous long-term reports
#1 – Say hello to my little friend
#2 – First service and Brands Hatch
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