When I look at the most common selection of bikes going into the Sibirsky Extreme part of the world, taking on the BAM Road, Old Summer Road etc, usually after blasting through Mongolia, there are three models that stand out as the most commonly used and in my view, they are three of the most logical bikes to take for those challenges. The KTM 690, the BMW G650 X-Challenge and the Suzuki DRZ400. The latter two are not made any more (or at least availble in Europe), so I will begin a look at suggested adventure bikes for this part of the world with the only one of the three that still is in production, the KTM 690.
As one of the first KTM bikes to feature EFI, the 690 did pick up a reputation for fuel pump related issues in its early years (2008 in particular). In the half dozen years since the bike was launched, there have been countless small refinements and current versions enjoy a much more trouble free reputation. The bike is exceptionally light (138 kgs) for its power (65hp), and remarkably fuel efficient, both for its power level and for KTM in general. In many ways, it just doesn’t fit in KTM’s catalogue as an EXC (Enduro / Cross-Country) bike. It’s around 25 kgs heavier than all the other EXC bikes. Unlike all the other EXC bikes, it’s not built for racing (it has an economical engine and 10,000 km service intervals). Unlike all the other EXC bikes it has lower quality suspension, and much shorter suspension travel. It really does not belong in KTM’s EXC line up and consequently, I would not be surprised to see KTM offload the 690 to a sister brand. But some of those qualities that clearly mark the 690 as NOT a competition bike, are exactly what make it suitable as a base for an adventure bike. The long service interval, the efficient engine, the sturdy frame are an ideal base for an adventure transformation. The last 12 months or so has seen the range of adventurisation products for the 690 expand considerably. For the first 3-4 years after its introduction, the challenge of adding fuel capacity and wind protection to the bike was one without options.
Safari Aqualine in Australia made a heavy, fat, ugly 14 litre blob that took the place of the side panels, and added to the bike’s internal 12 litre tank. 26 litres in total was more than enough fuel, but the tank was ungainly, held the weight of the fuel both high and forward, and the feedback I head from many 690 riders was that it seems to contribute to front wheel washouts.