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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