2012 KTM SMC-R 690 VS 2012 KTM Duke 690

2012 KTM SMC-R 690 VS 2012 KTM Duke 690

Which bike is better, the 2012 KTM SMC-R 690 or the 2012 KTM Duke 690? It is a question I have been wondering since I first saw the bikes in the Kiska studio last year. It is a question I have been asked more times than I can remember, and it is a question which I can finally answer after riding the Duke for almost 6 months and after a month spent on the SMC-R. There is a catch though, and this is that the answer really depends on who you are and what you are looking for. To explain that a little better, I have two reviews for you. One from me, and one from my Colleague at Kiska Bjorn Shuster.

Riding the SMC-R is perhaps a bit like spending a night with a hot stripper. She makes you feel great and you get a serious buzz, but it also feels a little sketchy at times. It is invigorating and intoxicating, but at the end of it you don’t really mind parting ways. She looks amazing, a little edgy but with some nice aftermarket parts and promises of guaranteed fun, but as an everyday ride, it’s just too much.  She is just so hot and excitable you know it’s going to end in trouble.

The Duke is like finding a gorgeous girl who makes you relax straight away. A girl you would like to spend a lot of quality time with. A girl you could live with every day. I am writing this after just returning the SMC-R and arriving back home with the Duke (1 hour drive each way), and I can without any doubt at all say I was happy to be back on the Duke. You sit in it, rather than on it. The seat is super comfy, the ergonomics are brilliant and you can grip the tank nicely with your knees. It feels like it has more power but it is also much smoother, perhaps partly aided by the Akrapovich pipe. Whereas the SMC-R is nervous and jumpy with most of the power up top, the Duke is refined and has an amazing spread of power all the way through the RPM’s. The SMC-R is epic for wheelies, and on the tight and twisties I actually preferred it because you can flick it from side to side so fast. I live at the foot of the mountains in Salzburg but even so, less than half my time is spent on roads that are really perfect for the SMC-R. The Duke is great on the mountain roads, but is also happy cruising over 100km/h for an extended period of time. Long Journeys on the SMC-R are really not that comfortable. The SMC-R also has no ABS which at times is good, and times bad. Good for fun, but bad for safety. You can turn the ABS off on the Duke anyway.

So in summary, which bike is better? I am surprised because I come from a background of riding MX and had always thought the SMC-R would be much better, but I genuinely had more fun and felt safer and more comfortable on the Duke. I imagine that it would be a better option for most people, unless you like strippers.

Bjorn Shuster:

I’ve just been handed the keys to the 690 SMCr!!…Having been 2 years since I knocked myself out, and wrote off a 450smr during a amateur supermoto race, one might say I’m seriously under qualified to give any meaningful critique on this bike….Being a yank, it’s exciting to throw a leg over something that’s not available stateside. Walking around the thing, one can’t help but drool over the abundance of anodized metal. It looks the business, you won’t have to spend too much time customizing this one, Ktm’s taken care of the looks, just turn the key and start misbehaving…
First impression is that it’s quiet, I’m missing that nasty bark that upsets your stomach a little and makes you a little uneasy about the machine your about to mount. So if you’re like me and an angry engine turns you on, plan on forking out a little extra for something that sounds off like it’s got a pair ( or a single in this case..)

So I ride out of the parking lot under the pretense that I will behave myself. A. I’m dressed like a squid..B.. I’m on roads I don’t know. C…Its not mine, and who knows if my US license is really even valid over here……oh and D. I’m older and wiser now, or at least a lot slower…..

Well that philosophy lasted about 15 secs…..The bike might be a little heavier, perhaps a bit mellower, than say, a rip snorting 450 smr, but its still very motarded. It won’t take you long before you are acting like a teenager again, doing rolling stoppies, jumping off curbs, wheeling all the way across the Salzach in front of the police…whoops. I could go on and on about how well it handles and brakes and so on…but the real point here is this thing makes you feel like a kid again. The price of teenage immortality? About 10k, and a few points of your license, if you can manage to keep it ;)

With regards to the duke vs SMCr debate…..obviously one is a better ‘all around” machine and can do most of what the other can in terms of performance…and probably in much greater comfort…But I’ve never been a huge fan of the word “compromise,” so I say buy the SMCr




  1. Dunc 10 years ago

    Just a quick one – how does the new Duke & SMC-R compare to the old Duke?

    • Author
      admin 10 years ago

      old DUke had better brakes although no ABS and suspension was also a bit better, slightly stiffer. New SMC-R has amazing brakes and suspension is fully adjustable, also better than the new DUke and old duke. I still like the new Duke best though :)

  2. Dunc 10 years ago

    Old Duke 690 – should’ve qualified that :/

  3. Dunc 10 years ago

    Thanks for the insight – I think I’m trying to reassure myself my bike is still ok compared to the latest models… doesn’t stop me lusting after one though.

    Just a though, would you say the ‘rail seat’ of the SMC-R benefits taller riders? Just thinking about your comment about the DUke being ‘sat in’ rather on.

    • Author
      admin 10 years ago

      i think with the drive by wire it is night and day between yours and this. Yours is maybe similar to the way the SMC feels, where it is not always easy to ride it smoothly and low speeds. The new Duke doesnt have this problem and is a league smoother now. I am 5 ft 10 and stand on tip toes on the SMC at a stop. If you were any smaller it would get a little tricky getting on and off and putting the stand up. It’s ok on an MX bike where you are always going full speed but with a bike where you have to stop at lights and stuff it’s quite high. I am not sure if it is a benefit to taller riders or not, but it is certainly easier.

  4. Dunc 10 years ago

    Ah yeah never thought about the progression in electronics. Be interesting to do a back to back test of all the iterations of the 690 engine since it was launched… There’s a magazine article just waiting to be written right there.

    Got any GFX on the boil for the new adventure?

  5. Christian Eldridge 10 years ago

    I’ve got the gorgeous girl at home that makes me feel relaxed…..that means it’s the stripper for me :)

    • Author
      admin 10 years ago

      hahaha, well put.

  6. fauzi 10 years ago

    I plan to buy 2012 KTM Duke 690.I am in Malaysia.Can you tell me how much the price?I want to pay cash but in 2 months i will get back to you.please reply to my e mail.

  7. furygnu 10 years ago

    Is this a exclusive or custom sticker kit for the Duke ? It’s quite nice, where can I get the same ?

    • ptsp 10 years ago

      Hi, just a one off I made for my bike, not for sale unfortunately.

    • Author
      admin 10 years ago

      You could always try and hit up Crispy designs in the UK if you dont like the powerparts kits KTM make. He makes some custom kits to order.

  8. Daniele 10 years ago

    finally i’ve got my hands on 690 smc r(now with kit evo2).
    i can only say that after many years riding on sportbikes this is the most fun bike i’ve ever had.
    hot and sexy like…tori black???

    • Author
      admin 10 years ago

      Congratulations man. Welcome to the other side!

  9. Bern Brown 10 years ago


  10. Lou 10 years ago

    Is there a chance that the SMC R MY 2014 will have ABS?

    • Author
      admin 10 years ago

      not sure. Possibly…

  11. Lou 10 years ago

    Will the SMC R 690 MY 2014 have ABS?

  12. Greg 9 years ago

    I have to admit the pictures here are one of the best I’ve come across online as these shots of Duke 690 are simply mind blowingly crisp and vivid. Can you please mention what camera has been used to click these pics. Oh and if any special filters or focus settings have been used whilst shooting.
    Many thanks.

  13. Greg 9 years ago

    Checking these links right away. Double Thumps-up mate…keep clickin’ & ride safe.

  14. Geoff Brown 9 years ago

    Well I have had my 2013 690 SMC-R a week now and I'm a Born-again Hoon !
    Over the years I've had Super Bikes, 950 and 1200 Adventure Bikes, but this SMC-R is really great. p.s. I'm 62 next month!!

  15. Derestricted 9 years ago

    best comment ever man! The SMC-R is a blast indeed! Congratulations!

  16. Shawn Poorman 9 years ago

    Ride on, sir. Ride on.

  17. matija 7 years ago

    i thing 690 smc-r is more hotter and more for fun….but which one is faster ?

  18. Knee-grow 7 years ago

    All you basically described was that the SMC has shorter gearing than the Duke; cause in essence they are the same engine, with the same body weight.

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