Tag Archives: KTM 690

Tested: a week on a Husqvarna 701 review


The first generation Husky 701 was a slightly toned down KTM 690: a bit less power, less fierce delivery and less suspension travel with different settings – but still plenty to be getting on with.
Until the old Husky TE 610-engined  SWMs, AJP PR7 and CCM GP450-replacement catch on, currently there’s nothing much like these two bikes since BMW’s Xchallenge was dropped in 2009. The short-lived Husky Terra and ancient XR650Ls and DR650s don’t compare. The 690/701s are hardcore, dirt thumpers where light weight (146kg dry) and performance trounce the comfort and equipment of your typical Tenere or KLR sofas, while still delivering excellent economy and RTW-usable service intervals.

Quick stats

  • 67hp with 3 maps + bad fuel map
  • 146kg dry
  • 10,000km oil changes
  • 36.6” / 927mm claimed seat height
  • 13 litre tank (~390km possible range)
  • ABS disengageable at the rear (or altogether with a widget)
  • 18/21-inch wheels
  • 2016 model £8000 / US$11,300 (or about two XR650Ls)
  • The 2017s are more powerful and much smoother.

  • husk-4Quiet pipe and motor
  • Impression of quality and solid build
  • Minimal transmission lash
  • Light for what it is
  • Usable low-down power
  • Smooth hydraulic clutch
  • Powerful but usable brakes
  • Great WP suspension on all but roughest trails
  • Great economy with a potential range of over 350km
  • 10,000-km oil changes
  • Vibration at >80kph
  • Seat height
  • Bit of a Picasso to look at, IMO
  • Fuel filler will be under a tail pack
  • Low-speed ABS gave me a fright, but it’s switchable

Husky’s 701 proves you can have nearly all your cake and eat it. It must be the lightest road-ready big thumper around, while not compromising on great suspension, brakes and response that can be mellow or a blast, depending on your mood or needs.


I’ve been curious to try out the 701 or its KTM cousin, and had a chance to rent one while on one of my Morocco tours. Although the trails we ride are easy enough, I was expecting it to be a handful, based on a short 690 ride a few weeks earlier.
In fact, once I got accustomed to the knobblies on the road (worn MT21 rear, Mitas Rockrider front) the 701 surprised me by being very manageable both there and on the trail. The thing would happily plod along at XR250 speeds (the bikes I rode with) without any impression it was straining at the leash. The suspension took it all in its stride and the brakes required no more finesse than you’d apply to any big thumper on the dirt.


The engine was torquey and felt much less harsh than what I recall of my BMW XCountry (some 10kg heavier with 20% less power). Like most modern, lean-burning engines it runs hot – the fan kicked in while pootling along on a warm 20°C afternoon at 1800m with a strong backwind, but the fuelling remained steady. (I don’t know which of the three engine maps I was on; the softest I suspect.)


There’s a switch under the seat – right). Only trickling along on a virtually closed throttle did it hesitate a bit, but that never affected the riding. The hydraulic clutch never varied in feel either, the gear changes were slick and even with a cush drive in the rear hub there was a welcome absence of the transmission lash commonly found on Jap equivalents. (This bike had around 5500 rental kms on the clock.)


When the time came, it was great to be able to blast from 100 to 130kph with confidence – a typical overtaking manoeuvre. And all this achieved while returning the high 70s mpg (27.3 kpl  – 77.3 mpgUK – 64.3 mpgUS). With the claimed 13-litre tank, that’s an very useful potential range of over 350km  when herding a bunch of feline XRs. A year later a customer rode the same bike as hard as he could to the point of crashing, and was getting about 50mpg.
This all makes it sound like a great travel bike now that the remaining Japanese thumpers: XR650L; DR650; the late XT660Z, Kawasaki KLR650 (some in production for over a quarter century) clock in at up to 200 kilos and with little more than half the Husky’s power, even if they are up to half the price.


For me the fly in the ointment was vibration on the road. It may have been exaggerated by the knobblies, but you just can’t get away with it on any 690cc single banging out nearly 100hp/litre. Have I got so used to smooth bikes like 250s and Honda’s CB500X? It shocked me when I tried the 690 after riding my WR250 the other week – and it felt even worse on the 701 at over 80kph. My throttle hand was going numb, and you’d have to be in a real hurry or somehow immunised to want to sustain over 100kph for long. Softer grips might help. The seat while hard, but over a full day actually no less butt-numbing than the XRs I rode later. It’s the same on my WR – a narrow seat need not be a write off; it must be down to the foam. But when I took a well-used XR250 for a quick spin I was staggered by how smooth and cushy it was. A week earlier I rode everything the Husky managed with near equal ease and as much fun.


At rest I got my toes down OK but getting your leg over the 36-inch + seat height will become a pain when you’re on the road with all your clobber and getting tired. A weekend’s trail biking might not be a bother, but travelling for weeks or months it might just get on your wick.


As a travel bike I’d say it only suits those committed to uncompromising off-road touring but even then, do you really need 67hp to manage the BAM track; the gnarliest Sahara crossing or highest Himalayan traverse? Even on some sort of semi-competitive event or rec’ riding with your mates, using it to it’s full potential, the weight – modest though it is – would soon become hard to handle.


I’d be happy to lose 10-20% off that peak power if it corresponded to much less vibration and so a more usable travel machine which would still have amazing (or perhaps even better?) economy and oil change intervals with the light weight. That bike probably isn’t the SWM’s SuperDual 650X  but might be AJP’s PR7 or the forthcoming CCM GP600 – all use the old Husky red-top TE630 motor. But anyway, cushy travel bikes are not what KTM (Husky owners) do. These days it has to be all or nothing or an overweight Japanese dinosaur. Still, KTM/Husky at least prove that an economical, sub-150-kilo big thumper with a useful range and rideable engine can be produced.

A review from Dirt Rider (US).
Some pics by J-M and Y VdL

A weekend of WRing in Wales

WR250R 4000-km review
WR Introduction
WR250R Stage 1
WRing about in Wales
WR250R ready for the desert
Morocco 4000-km trip report, 1–9
Fuel log

I haven’t been trail biking in Wales since my 20s. Makes me wonder what I’ve been doing all these years. Part of the reason is I’ve not had a bike worth riding up there, and then there’s the issue of untangling where you can ride legally. Desert biking can spoil you, but Wales gets a lot more inviting with a light and pokey WR250R and knowing the right people.
Dan and Dave were on my 2007 Algeria tour along with their own trips to all corners of the globe. John, an old mate of theirs, works at the Yamaha Off Road Experience near Llanidloes, and generously offered to take us for a ride out.


We vanned up to Llani, lubed up the bikes and rode over to Geraint Jones‘ hill farm where the Yam school is based. Back in the late ’70s when I was dirt-bike mad, I remember Geraint Jones (left, old pic) was ‘Mr Maico’. He was to enduros what Graham Noyce was to motocross, Barry Sheene to GPs and Martin Lampkin to trials.
In amateur hands the big Maicos he rode had a reputation for being hard to handle. I remember the red devil machines flying overhead as I floundered about during the nearby Plynlimon Enduro in 1981 aboard a KLX250 – the original sheep in wolf’s clothing.


As I recall in Street Riding, I was so slow they were literally packing up as I rolled over the finish line. And if you ever wondered what happened to those red devil machines, this is an interesting read from our man, Rick Sieman.


The benefit of riding with John from the school was that he knew the lanes, which ones would suit the day’s weather and the groups’ abilities, plus he had special access to trails in the adjacent Hafren Forest. Hafren becomes ‘Severn’ in English and a few minutes into the ride we passed within a mile of the River Severn’s boggy source on the side of Plynlimon mountain. Dave was on his third and near-new 690, Dan was on a 100-kilo 350 EXC and John was riding a Yam WR250F, as used by the school. This is a full-on, super-light enduro machine and despite similarities is an entirely different bike from my heavier and less powerful 250R, below left.


For me it was a real eye-opener how gorgeous the Cambrian mountain of northern mid-Wales could be. I’d always considered it a No-Mans’s Land between the better know Brecons and Snowdonia to the north which explained why green laning (using off-road vehicles on unsealed but public roads) was permitted to survive here.


I can now see it as a great destination its own right – a compact Scottish Highlands but without their near-total ban on green laning, and without the rambling crowds of Snowdonia. And never mind the trails, much of the fun to me was cruising the deserted single-track backroads that snaked across the moors – the yellow C roads on the map you could do on any bike.


After Machynlleth, heading up the gnarly ‘Happy Valley’ green lane reminded me my WR was still without a proper bashplate (the OE one is seized on). In the meantime I was amazed how well the unfashionable Bridgestone TW301/302s tyres were managing. These came with the bike in 2008, were refitted by Hyperpro on selling it, and I can say did not miss a beat.
My snazzy Hyperpro suspension soaked up the easy pace too, just as you’d expect, though I dare say I could have refined it by playing with the knobs. Like the TTR250 I used in Spain in the summer, I never wished for more power on the trails or backroads – but then we did cheat by vanning the 200 miles up from London. The good thing with modest power is the tyre won’t spin out readily, but if caught in the wrong gear that WR still had enough to chug its way out – I never stalled it.


After reading so much about them, Dave let me have a quick spin on his 690 (recently fitted with Evo 2 aux. tanks) but can’t say I’m a convert yet. The KTM’s thumping vibration really struck me, soon followed by realising how quickly the sharp brakes and more than double the WR’s power could turn on me if tired or not concentrating. But the bike had a solid feel that even a new WR might not match, and out in the open desert I bet it would be in its element. A quick spin on Dan’s 350 EXC (right) on soft power setting was much more like it, but that bike needs new oil every 1000 miles so isn’t a contender as a travel bike. What I’d like is a 450 version of the 690, but pitched as a less tyre-shredding travel bike. Press the red button if I’ve said this before.


There sure are a lot of gates on the green lanes of the Cambrian mountains. It was rare to ride more than five minutes without doing the gate dance – and sometimes less than a minute. It breaks the rhythm of the ride but they contain the sheep which can easily jump a cattle grid if spooked. The trail north into Dolgellau between Cader Idris and the Barmouth estuary was a notable exception – a good ten minutes riding or more between gates.
We came across a few ramblers and dog walkers who didn’t look too put out – they’re walking along a ‘road’ after all, even if they don’t realise it. And we nearly ran into a big group of lads bursting out of the forest on unlicensed dirt bikes. Damage wise, their impact was minimal and who knows, the new Geraint Jones could be among them, but I bet they’d all rather be legit. Wouldn’t be it be great to have a huge trail park out here where people could roll up and ride round at their own pace, instead of the scurrying around on wasteland or dodging the rangers.


It poured overnight but day two actually dawned even brighter, apart from a well-timed downpour as we ate lunch in Talybont. Either the riding was easier or I was getting to grips with the WR. On rougher trails I did find it hard to ride smoothly; balancing the jerkiness of the engine with the right gear and the rebounding suspension while looking at what’s coming up and steering away from rocks, but this is just the nature riding a light, small-capacity bike at slow speeds. Turn up the wick if there’s room and things would smooth out. After the rain there were some bigger puddles today too. Initially they were a worry as I’d read the WR was prone to cutting out in a splash, but even with the engine note muted in two feet of water, it never even coughed.
I don’t know if it’s been a dry spell – in Wales, what are the chances? – but the ride John led us on was pleasingly free of mud and to me was all the better for it. My recollection of bombing around Rhayader on XTs 30 years ago was plunging into one peaty morass after another which just makes a mess of you and the landscape.


It would be great to do more riding around here on my own, as it’s as wild and extensive as you’ll get in the UK (there’s virtually no green laning in Scotland). But unless you live nearby or do the research, it would be hard to get a handle on which trails are legal and then put together a satisfying two-day route like the one we followed with John. Now of course we have the TET (see map below). Every year more and more green lanes in England and Wales get downgraded to paths. I haven’t a clue which of the trails we did were open to all, but promisingly I only saw one ‘no vehicles’ sign. Lacking a local pro like John, the answer is to hook up with the TRF or join an escorted tour from £50 a day with four of you. That’s just the way it is living in a small, crowded country and why I set off for the wide open Sahara in the first place – and why I’m off to Utah next week!

TET in Wales