On the KTM 690 Enduro, we left Bangkok behind us, crossed the range, tooled around on some back roads and now, finally, we'd reached the dirt-road turn-off into wilderness. Tracks and trails led in all directions, some to town or villages I will not even try to pronounce. I'd skirted around the edges of this area many times, and occasionally dipped in a little way, but never really explored it properly. With a quick nod from my girlfriend, we took off down the road.
The next turn took the KTM 690 Enduro and the BMW G 650 X-Moto into thicker vegetation. The next into steeper country. The third into fields of rice weaving in the wind. The road had given way to muddy-red-brown-clay 8 or 10 kilometers back, and the track was getting worse as rapidly as our hearts were pumping.
A bit of air here, a satisfying power-slide there, and a plenty of weaving and dancing. The KTM 690 Enduro is just super.
The last time I had been so far from any form of tarmac or paved road in the wild country, was on a 450cc Honda Enduro machine. I'd ended up riding like a pussy and blamed myself for it, but now I realized I was only half at fault; this time I was comfortably aggressive and loving it. And it was all because of the KTM 690 Enduro.
The KTM 690 Enduro is a superior machine in this class compare, but I haven't ridden them all to make an accurate call, and there's no doubt that all the lesser, cheaper options aren't even getting close.
For a start, the KTM engine's a blinder. It has grunt everywhere if you avoid the very bottom, and really gets going the more you rev it. The short-stroke single loves to rev, too, spinning up like it has no limits. Even though the lower gears are too tall for comfort in tight off-road terrain. The power still want to lift the front-end up in first, second and third. The KTM 690 Enduro piles on speed so quickly it's sometimes frightening if you're not looking far enough ahead, and the gearbox smooth gear-changes are without ever letting you fall out of the go zone.
The KTM 690 Enduro throttle response is excellent, the fuel-injection working seamlessly.
Under the seat, you find a little switch allows you to choose three engine maps. You'll mostly stay in the fast one and fang along with the characteristics I've just described, but you can knock the edge off it with the next setting or pull it right back for truly treacherous conditions with the gentlest program. Given how punchy the KTM 690 Enduro is, I can see times when many riders will back it off.
But flat-out is where the KTM 690 Enduro is at, and the Enduro sounds great doing it, its stock intake and exhaust releasing just enough of that glorious, guttural big-single bellow to avoid sterilizing the the experience. You get the impression that uncorking it would make all water-buffalo's in the field look at you...