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KTM 690 Duke lifts its sporty midsize to an unprecedented level

It’s amazing how far single-cylinder engine design has come. The introduction of the modern four-stroke motocross racer in the 1990s was the main driving force behind development, while the advent of the Moto3 class in Grand Prix roadracing in 2012 ushered in even more advancements. KTM was one of the first to take on the challenge of creating a modern four-stroke single streetbike, the Austrian dirtbike manufacturer introducing the Duke 620 way back in 1994. Twenty-two years and four different design iterations later comes the 2016 KTM 690 Duke.

KTM claims the 690 churns out 73 horsepower (a 7 percent increase from last year) and torque is up to 55 lb.-ft. (a 6 percent increase). That may not seem like much, but for a single it’s amazing.

KTM put a lot of effort into smoothing out the motor. For starters, there’s a new cylinder head with a second balance shaft to reduce vibration. The intake valves run directly off the single camshaft, while the exhaust valves are actuated by a rocker arm.

One of the key selling points of the 2016 Duke is its electronics package. Just like its bigger siblings, the 690 comes equipped with the latest Bosch two-channel ABS. It also has three ride modes: Sport, Street, and Rain. The former two provide the same peak power, although Street mode offers gentler delivery, while the latter reduces output. A four-way switch on the left handlebar lets you select ride modes and also control the new TFT dash display. Interestingly, the tachometer bar graph changes color according to rpm, and there’s a night display that aids visibility in the dark. That’s pretty high-tech for “just” a single, but it really makes the 2016 690 Duke shine.

Whether a single-cylinder streetbike is worth $9000 is a question buyers will have to answer themselves, but the fact is this is a great motorcycle for beginning riders and advanced enthusiasts. Whichever you are, you won’t be disappointed.

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The 2016 KTM 690 Duke comes in two colors: the classic KTM orange or white. There’s an array of Power Up Parts plus the Track Pack, which offers the same traction control, Supermoto ABS, and Motor Slip Regulator (MSR)

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