Why do KTM's have do be so FRIGGIN' COOL? I saw this KTM 690 while downtown the other day. Like many, I am amazed at how the KTM company thinks and creates unique products. For myself, the one thing that I do not care so much for (But I understand why this company is “Future-Proofing” with added technology) is all the added tech found on their bikes.
This is what I like about the KTM 690. It seems that this bike is the antithesis to that of the KLR 650 (Another incredible bike that doesn't need any intro or review here). It feels like the designers said “ Let's take every aspect of the KLR and turn it on it's Head!”. We'll make the 690 more tune-able, lighter in weight and feel, faster off the start, less width and girth, give it a sophisticated and articulated steel-tubed frame....etc....etc. All the while it still combines a more old-school instrument cluster, minor engine modes (which must be made by lifting up the seat and turning a knob), a more normal cockpit and keeping with their single cylinder heritage and sealed chain drive. Wrap up this bike with an assault to the senses graphics scheme, and you have a package that can't be ignored!
From what folks say, the KTM company is only second (or maybe even first) in all sales only second to BMW in all of Europe. I believe it. Their bikes are NOT dumbed down or castrated wanna-be lookalikes. These are all highly functional and well designed machines albeit VERY expense excluding some of their entry offerings such as the Duke 390.
BUT, (Here it comes) every time I spy an incredible KTM such as this, I will go on and on at how cool it is, how I would love to ride it and that the owner must know their shit and bikes in general..........BUT. Would I OWN one?
Ten years ago I would collect KTM catalogs and later download or visit their site info on-line. The old 690 Enduro really appealed to me. I wanted one REAL bad. The trouble was their was only a spattering of KTM dealerships within my area. Finding any of these bikes except for the occasional sighting of a touring couple through town on an orange 990 (If I remember correctly....they keep CC'ing these bikes like pumping steroids!), was, seemingly, rare. How could you test ride such unique bikes without any dealerships or “Demo-Bikes” available at the small Ma-N'-Pa or part-time tractor and lawn care dealers willing to sell them? It was an aberration better left go of, an experience provided only for the few and proud KTM owners who lived closer to a mysterious dealership!
That was then, this is now. So what is this Motosquirrels' beef now? Well, sure, there are definitely more KTM dealerships within my area (But still not close at all), but.........wait for it.....the reviews are in on their current bikes and it's a Mixed Bag. There are owner-reviewers who claim that this 690 as well as other KTM's are the gospel to all things dual or moto-sport! They seem genuinely puffed up or out and...... Happy! BUT, the big BUT, there are seemingly hundreds upon hundreds of reviews of KTM bikes which focus on their many failings. Engine lock-ups, terrible maintenance intervals, maintenance itself being a night-mare, overheating as well as warranties that not only boiler-plate a company AGAINST it's buyers but just may very well frighten you out the door before laying your hard earned money down.
Are many of these complaints most likely small, usually discover-able, easily fixed, regular wear and tear or completely BOGUS? (Reference the many videos of Idiots taking these bikes into 3 feet of quick sand like clay for 7 hours in the middle of 102 degree desert.....and expect the bike to survive without a race crew following!)- I bet many are!
Here's is the catch! Where there is smoke there is fire and not all of these complaints can be ignored. Is KTM growing TOO quickly? Unable to keep up quality control under high production demands? Too much overseas production?
I know one thing is for sure. A company who charges anywhere between 2-3 times as much per bike, conservatively, and makes engines for other companies as well as enjoying there own financial success CANNOT afford this many unhappy Moto Stories!
So my final thoughts on how I feel and the things I say to myself when I catch a glimpse of a bike as legendary as the KTM 690. I usually wrap up questioning why a few Japanese companies can make 600 class single cylinder thumpers that last longer than some Midwestern barns! I answer myself with this thought: Those same Japanese companies are NOT taking any design chances! That said, KTM MUST get their quality control act together NOW, or folks like myself will never buy one. KTM, I am talking to you! Your company needs to offer better and longer warranties, three years of rave reviews on durability (You can control this by ONLY making better bikes) and/or making motorcycles more easy for the layman to work on.
The Motosquirrel has spoken!
Addendum: The alternate final thought after seeing a well-riden, highly customized and well loved KTM.........is.........”He/She must have bought a good one!” I hate thinking this!
Got my riding boots- 'Check!, got my earplugs- 'Check!, got my house keys- 'Check!, got my water bottle- 'Check!, got my riding pants and jacket- 'Check!, got a chance to hug the Mrs. on the way out.......- 'Check!
I live near Lake Washington, more specifically, quite close to Seward Park. No, I do not live in one of the million or two million dollar wanna-be Bill Gates mansions- maybe someday!
To anyone not familiar with this area let's just suffice it to say that the more green you have the more blue you see.....and the less green you have the more 'Boys in Blue' you hear or see on a daily basis!
With that said, I am going to admit straight off at my own possibly perceived hypocritical frustration this morning. You see, about a quarter of a century ago if you asked me if car drivers had any rights I may have responded quickly and rudely with, perhaps, “F-*k NO!”. At that time I was absorbed in all things bicycle. I was living in NYC and had never owned a car. This is when Greenism (To coin a word) hadn't become a full-on and corporately accepted religion yet (Think early nineties).
Don't misunderstand, it is not that in this era I actually THOUGHT that cars (Let's call them 'Cagers' here on out O.K.?) shouldn't or didn't have any rights. It is just that as a Bicycle shop employee, sometimes bike messenger, and all around N.Y.C. Cyclist about town it was common among other cyclists to see the cars on the road as competition or the “Enemy”. We knew, at that time, that cars were the dominant mode of transportation whether they be bus, commuter, taxi or city work vehicle. We didn't ride in the middle of the road – never having any false allusions that our puny bicycles could compete with the tonnage of larger vehicles in the same lane. If you truly wanted to get anywhere within the city, as a cyclist, you quickly learned to ride on the severe left or right and sometimes feathering in between to get out front of traffic.
We took great pride in our own riding abilities and the skills of other riders to sort-of swim upstream through traffic. It was a fluid and more physical obstacle dance that tested the agility of all riders IN THE FLOW of traffic BUT never AGAINST IT!
I remember vividly seeing the fatal moments of a messenger friend catching a car door opening only to allow his final acrobatic as he triple gained to the ground ending his life. I also recall a ONE LEGGED messenger who, although I cannot remember his name, would ride all day only to get up in the morning, get himself and his bike on the train, get out and up the stairs into Manhattan to do it again the next day!
Without waxing nostalgic or reminiscing about the “Good Ol' Days”, I can, without a doubt, tell you now that not a single rider ever talked about or considered blocking traffic or expected the city to conjure or construct “Bike Lanes”. On the contrary, we took great pride in our abilities, athleticism, bike handling skills as well as accepted the risks very seriously but without expectations of compassion. Riding as a bike messenger, delivery person, private messenger, or bike commuter was a very dangerous but respected activity.
Did minor battles, arguments, accidents, shouting matches, physical confrontations ever erupt between Cagers and cyclists? Yep, all the time. But, we knew as smart riders that car traffic and transportation engineering and the city itself had evolved efficiently and more actively around the car and motorcycle- NOT the bicycle.
If you wanted to get anywhere as a bicyclist within the city, you needed to “Go with the flow”, without a bit of energy on your part or risks taken, there were no rewards!
Enter 2018 Seattle. Arguably the most liberal and expanding city in the U.S.A. , if you discount San Francisco, Los Angeles or Austin Texas. Here, within this military industrial mall, Greenism and Communitarianism is in full force! I could go on and on (Perhaps in a future blog post) about Seattle's more recent adoption and construction of bicycle lanes and their pathetic lack of use while clogging the real traffic of the Corporate Complex a.k.a. Downtown. But for this abstract, we are going to focus on my local neighborhood and what I am witnessing.
The once beautiful winding road that I use as a primer warm up route and segue into the city is also the one in which I learned to ride a motorcycle. Lake Washington Blvd. About a seven or so mile stretch that edges nicely with it's namesake Lake Washington. This road provides wonderful views and curvy flat places that entices all folks bicycle, motorcycle, tourists and shorty-shorts wearing runners.
So.........OK! I get it! We ALL love this area.
Hell, there are folks who have paid and will continue paying millions upon millions of dollars to live here.
Do I have a particular problem with the recent growth of traffic or tourism in the area? Well, honestly, we all do! But does this keep me from riding my motorcycle? Not at all (It will eventually make me move away- that's another story). Do I have a problem with the amount of “Lime Bikes” being discarded carelessly in the lake water itself, being hung on trees or left in taxpaying property owners yards? Well, it does get folks a bit bent out of shape thinking that one groups green business model is an others irresponsible multitude of discarded toxic trash heaps that we, as a society, are certain that we are co-paying for in some form or another. BUT, does this keep myself from riding my motorcycle? Nope! Do the addicts in parked cars keep me from riding? No, as a matter of fact they leave me alone and enjoy their own views as well. Do the wanna-be housewives looking for a “Quickie” wearing their teaser shorts while running along the lake as their husbands are at the office inhibit my Motorcycling? Why, of course not! I rather enjoy witnessing their scantily clad adornments while I BRAP in their passing!
So what DOES block and promises to further disrupt my motorcycle riding progression and pleasure?
It's this new Holier-Than-Thou attitude of the current crop of bicyclists! No, as a matter of fact, I am not only blaming the newer generations of spoke-heads, but also the many riders with a bit of gray at the temples who meet for a pseudo club ride on a Sunday as well. So how does this new attitude manifest itself you may be wondering?
Allow me to edify. This current crop of bicyclists seem hell-bent on making anti-vehicle statements to Cagers as well as all other four wheeled and two-wheeled motorcycles by which they may encounter on the boulevard. They make these statements by riding directly in the middle of the road, grouping together so not a single car or other vehicle may pass, stopping (Yes, I know that this is hard to believe- I couldn't myself until I personally witnessed it!) and parking their bikes whether owned or rented in the center lane of the road, riding as a single cyclist in the middle of the lane or AGAINST traffic on the other side as well as leaving the current swarm of borrowed lime bikes everywhere.
There have been many occasions where a single cyclist is holding back twenty or so cars while they sleepily gaze into their smartphone while pushing their pedals at ten mph.!
But, here is the deal! They have the right to! Yep, and I agree whole heartily. You see, all the way towards the end of the parkway (Or the beginning depending on where you start) there is a small parking sized sign close to the ground upon which inconspicuously reads “Bicyclists Have the Right Of Way”.
So there we have it. “Bicyclists Have the Right Of Way”. Small sign to be sure, but do we need to look up it's legality? No, this is Seattle and as long as this sign underscores this city's commitment to Greenism, Communitarianism or the supposed environment; it cannot be questioned.
But, I do have questions! Does the right of way permit a bicyclist to slow down traffic or even that of emergency vehicles (This I witnessed first hand, also keep in mind that although there are walking paths along the lake, parallel to it is still a viable road upon which a whole neighborhood was built and was originally designed by the Olmstead family to accommodate....wait for it.........CARS!- gasp!). Does the Bicyclists Right of Way intend to protect the rights of the new crop of uninsured 35 mph electric bicycles that are all the rage and are menacing car lanes, pedestrian traffic as well as speeding by quietly without any drivers license or registration? Does this same right-of-way grant these wanna-be category team riders to carry over their gaggle of cyclists to outside of the park and onto NON Right-of-way streets and hog up a whole lane while shooting-shit about work? Only to then look back and laugh at the long line of cars attempting to get home or to their own employ? (Why must these same Cyclists assume that people within those cars which they stall or are gaming can NOT be cyclists themselves? Perhaps having to dress that very day or for any other reason cannot be on a bicycle at that very moment as the cyclist in action?). Does this same Bicyclists Right-of-Way give them the right to leave there GPS rented Lime Bikes where Geese or other wildlife gather? Does this same Right-of-Way permit a rented bike rider to ride at night on the yellow lane divider line, in complete darkness just 'Cuz it was fun while they were high?
None of these behaviors make me want to, as a motorcyclist, support their own “Greenism”. I ask myself often whether they realize that many who are Cagers-for-the-day may ALSO be cyclists at other times? I wonder if they ride motorcycles!
Without lane splitting and the City of Seattle's illustrated contempt for all things 'Motorcycle', there really isn't much for a motorcyclist to do but just follow behind the super rude cyclists while they have there fun. If you are lucky and not stuck between cars and mega on-coming traffic on the other side, you MAY get the chance to break free and curse your abusers as you weave away to or from the city.
This morning I was pissed. As I took the little ninja through it's morning weaves and turns it groaned as usual hooking or engine breaking hard around many obstacles both mean and clueless. This I didn't have a problem with. What I DID have a problem with is that, after riding downtown, I decided to take on the Lake and it's marvelous boulevard on the way back. But, guess what! I not only couldn't enter the road due to newly posted signs (Probably put up twenty minutes prior!). The signs read: “ROAD CLOSED DETOUR (Arrow pointed away) Bicycle Day from 10 am to 7 pm”.
Well fancy that! I thought that everyday was Bicycle Day on Lake Washington Blvd.!
Here is the deal. Why couldn't the city post a warning sign to the early risers, or neighbors who live there and tourists who might get caught in between the signs? Why couldn't the signs have been posted the night before?
Here is my theory why they weren't. The city, in all of their blind Climate Control, wanted there to be maximum impact for the evil combustion engine vehicle driving class. They wanted, like myself, to have a multitude of scurrying vehicles trying to figure out how to gain access to their own neighborhoods and living areas. The desired effect would be a swift, surprising kick in-the-pants as your regular middle class Joe and Mary try to figure out how they get back home........! Hey, I bet they may have also been forced to rent a Communitarian Green rental bike and ride along with everyone else!
Look, there are a myriad of concerns which I bring up here. Regardless of what YOU the reader thinks, I LOVE BICYCLES. I love bike design. I wanted to start a bicycling museum for cripes sakes! What I don't love is this new 'As long as it involves a smartphone, is tech or considered “GREEN”- It's A GO!' philosophy or hipster ideal.
You can argue the merits of my little Ninjas exhaust on the world. But I can argue PLENTY about the billions of phones (Mini Computers), electronics, batteries, and caustic bicycle materials that add up to trillions in caustic cubic inches of damage and debris on the environment.
My little ninja and I just wanted to get home without harassment and safely on two wheels!
Designer, artist, writer Motovlogger