KTM 500 vs 690: Dual Sport Bike Comparison

with 16 Comments



500 EXC or 690 Enduro R?

It is a common question. When it comes to dual sport or adventure motorcycles, they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Compromise is inevitable. There isn’t one motorcycle on the planet that does everything extremely well, therefore buying a dual sport can be tricky if you don’t plan to own more than one. I’ve found that a good majority of the ADV and dual sport community are weekend riders who just want to get out and ride some trails, but don’t want to load their bike up to get there. Some only have a short stretch of highway while others have to travel great distances to get to the trails. Many of these riders are dirtbikers at heart, but may want a street legal bike to go on longer rides and adventures. You need to start outweighing the pros and cons of each bike if you only plan on owning one. In a perfect world, we’d own one of our every motorcycle we wanted, but let’s face it, our budgets and garage space don’t allow for that to ever happen. Being a KTM guy, I currently own both a 2012 KTM 690 and a 2017 KTM EXC-F. I did not buy my 500 to replace my 690. I bought it because I wanted a bike that was lighter and more capable of technical terrain. Both bikes are similar in the fact that they cover many of the same types of riding, however each bike can do certain things that the other can’t.




The 500 EXC is a street legal dirtbike or as most call it, a dual sport. Don’t let the factory nerdy turn signals and horn fool you. KTM only puts this stuff on there so you can legally ride down the highway with it. (I took mine off and went with the barely legal look.) This bike is extremely capable off-road. Most people can’t out-ride this motorcycle. You will likely run out of talent before this bike will be pushed harder than it can perform.


  • Tons of suspension: With 12″ of plush WP XPlor suspension, it doesn’t get much better. Come up short or go flying off a huge dropoff. No problem. The suspension on the 500 soaks it up.
  • Lightweight: At only 240 lbs (for 2017), it’s light enough to throw around. Lighter than most 450’s on the market, it is extremely agile and can go just about anywhere.
  • Fuel efficient: I’ve gotten over 60 mpg with this bike. Even when pushed hard, it is extremely good on gas (still in the 40-50 mpg range).
  • Powerful: This bike can get away from you real quick if you aren’t careful. It’s got smooth power anywhere you need it.
  • Fuel Injected: Forget about changing jets. Ride at any altitude without a care in the world if your bike will run right.


  • Not a long distance, ADV bike: Although some guys outfit these bikes to be used as an adventure bike, it’s not one. It is a dual sport dirtbike. You can get some very long day rides in but you won’t be happy with this as an adventure bike for big trips. Without a cush drive and shorter maintenance intervals, it isn’t designed to be run at high speeds for long periods of time. Not saying it can’t be done, but ideally it’s not the right tool for the job.
  • Limited luggage carrying options: There is a company that makes a rack for this bike but there aren’t many options out there since it isn’t much of a motocamping or ADV bike. You are limited to soft bags like Wolfman Day Tripper bags or Mosko Moto.
  • Buzzy on the highway over 65/70 mph: I’m sure this bike can do almost a hundred mph or maybe more, but it will be screaming. I find the comfortable cruising speed is no more than 65 or 70 at the most. Faster than that and it is turning some very high rpms. Overall it is not too bad on the highway, but I wouldn’t want to ride more than 30-50 miles in one stretch.
  • Shorter Maintenance Intervals: Oil changes on this bike are every 15 hrs. That gets expensive if you ride alot.


KTM 690 Enduro R


When it comes to adventure bikes, KTM’s 690 Enduro is one of the most off-road capable dual sport bikes on the market. Don’t forget that keyword: adventure bike. It’s the closest thing to a dirtbike without sacrificing the ability to strap on some camping gear and go a five-day, 800 mile ride through the mountains of Colorado. It’s the do-it-all dual sport. If you are going to own only one dual sport motorcycle, this is the bike to have.


  • Versatility: From 90 mph on the freeway to singletrack, this bike is very adaptable.
  • Many luggage options: There are many ways to strap camping gear or other luggage on these bikes. There are plenty of rack systems available and the bike still handles great even with all the added weight. I rode down some fairly tight singletrack in ID with all of my camping gear attached.
  • Go Motocamping: The 690 has brought me on many multi-day motocamping adventures.
  • Torque for days: Everyone who has one of these bikes knows about the 690 permagrin. That torque is there for you anytime you need it.
  • Happy on the Highway: This bike has no problem cruising at 70 or 80 down the highway. The power and gearing is there to be safe passing trucks and getting through traffic.
  • Singletrack capable: It’s probably the one adventure bike that can actually do singletrack and have it still be fun. With it’s low center of gravity, it is very agile for a 300 lb bike.
  • Low maintenance: Oil change and valve adjustment intervals are much longer on the 690 compared to smaller bikes. It holds slightly more oil and is engineered to go long distances.


  • Heavy in the rough stuff & sand: Although the 690 can handle singletrack and some whoops, it starts to show it’s weight in larger whoops. The suspension has it’s limits on these heavier bikes.
  • Won’t hang with the twins or triples on fast or long highway rides: If you’re buddies are going to knock out 300+ miles of tarmac on their GS1200’s, you aren’t going to be happy trying to hang.
  • Factory fuel range is limited: At only 3.2 gallons of fuel, the factory range is slightly limited for a larger dual sport bike. You can expect about 125-135 miles before the low fuel light comes on. It does get good mileage though (45-65).



Let’s Compare

Below is a general representation of what the 500 and 690 are capable of and how they overlap in some areas.



Do I buy a 500 or 690???

As you can see, these bikes are both very good candidates for a dual sport bike. You just have to ask yourself what matters most to you. What kind of riding will you be doing the most? Do you want or need a street legal bike that’s fun to throw around and can handle hard enduro like hill climbs and boulders? Buy the 500. Or do you try to stay away from that stuff and just want a bike that can go hit some trails and still be capable of longer distance adventures? Then it’s clear that the 690 is for you.



Hit me up in the comments below and I would be glad to answer any questions. I scoured forums and reviews before purchasing either of my bikes and have first hand experience with each so chances are I can help you out.




Follow Pete:

Do more with less! That is my motto lately. I love getting outdoors and exploring new places, usually on my KTM motorcycle. My wife, Anna, and I recently bought and built out a Sprinter van to do more of the things we love. Traveling and seeing new places is always at the top of our to-do list.

16 Responses

  1. Sandy Mathies
    | Reply

    i h ave a 2011 690 and a 2014 1190 the 690 is like a big dirt bike with the only drawback being the seat height when you get in to the technical stuff you really need to ride on the pegs and power your way through it.I added the rade garage under seat tank and that has really helped in extending rides on forestry roads.I have the Seat concepts seat and this is a must for any extended rides on pavement.

  2. Ed Day
    | Reply

    Price difference?

    • Pete
      | Reply

      They are almost the same price. Check with your local dealer. I think my 690 was about 11,000 and my 500 was about that price as well.

  3. Matt Cox
    | Reply

    I currently have a 2105 300xcw 6 days love it. Now looking to get a dual sport bike. Just don’t know which one? 500exc or 690?

    • Pete
      | Reply

      It depends what you want to use it for most. If you are keeping the 300, get a 690 to expand your range of riding. If you want a street legal dirtbike and you are selling the 300, the 500 is perfect.

  4. Barry Krivisky
    | Reply

    I’ve been struggling with this decision. I am 68, have two street bikes, and have little dirt experience. I live far from any legal trails, with a tight woody style mx track exception. I also don’t have a truck or the ability to put a hitch on my car. The maintenance on the 500 is a bit off putting, but so is the weight of the 690. Thanks for any advice.

    • Tim
      | Reply

      If you’ve had little dirt experience I would question if either are necessary. What about the WR250R? It has surprisingly enjoyable power in tight dirt trails, especially for a beginner. I don’t think you’d outgrow it on the dirt for at least a couple of years. Maybe not a great option if skull jerking power on the highway is a must for you, but that’s about the only con I can think of. I’ve ridden the 500 when I was quite fresh on the dirt and it was too much.

    • Pete
      | Reply

      I agree with Tim. Don’t feel obligated to go with a 500 or 690. They are both alot of bike. A WR250 or even a 250 or 350 EXC-F would be a great decision for a dual sport, but it all depends on what you will be using it for. If you just commuting, I wouldn’t even buy a dual sport or dirt oriented bike. But if you want to hit some trails every now and then, don’t rule out the smaller dual sports.

  5. Cliffy
    | Reply

    Great write-up!
    Here’s my situation: sold my Hayabusa and my Rmz450, looking for the elusive “one bike”. Ive riden the exc500- loved it off road(its my rmz with electric start and turn signals), but on the highway it felt very light, twitchy and def reving high for my liking. Also dont see riding the pavement for much for than an hour with the “rock-hard” seat…. im leaning towards the 690, but fear im giving up the technical/pit riding…

  6. José
    | Reply

    Hi there, I star looking to the 690 as a possible replacement for my loved Honda XR650 …
    I’ll be turning 50 this year and would like to try something different before it’s too late ! LOL

    Since I started riding off-road late, I never got the skills that come with age (aka: not thinking when you’re young) and I’ll not win the Dakar either, so my riding is more on the “leisure” pace, although I often get the comments : “For the bike you have, you do some really amazing stuff”
    I guess in my case, IT IS about the bike ! 🙂

    Most of my riding is actually 2 or 3 days “tours” with an average of 220 to 250 km per day, and since I have some difficulty riding standing on the bike due to some leg issues I have, I know the XR can be a lot more comfortable than most of the newer bikes with their stiffer suspensions.

    Also, I know the XR reliability and I love it ! Although I have to replace the oil every 1000 km, I lost the count of the distance that I did on the last years. Bikes that use “hours” as a counter for service have always made me uncomfortable …
    To make my decision ever harder, I did a full engine / clutch / suspension rebuild last year, so it’s probably ready for another 20 years of abuse … more than I’ll ride, for sure ! LOL

    So, should I go for the 690, which I’m sure it will be a great improvement on the XR in most aspects, and stay away from the more hard core stuff (which I reckon, I should) or go for the 500 and have some more fun on the technical terrain, compromising some longer distance trips ?
    OR … should I save the money and go ride more often with the XR !??

    Thanks in advance for any advice !


    • Pete
      | Reply

      Hi there! That’s the age-old question I always get. It’s 100% up to you. The 500 is super capable and actually very smooth on the highway, but the maintenance intervals won’t be great for what you sound like you will be using it for. The 690 has been a great bike for me and never left me stranded or broken down. There are pros and cons to each bike. Sounds like the 650L might serve you well for years to come. If it works, then run it! I doubt you’ll get much more out of the 690. The suspension is actually kinda crappy in my opinion compared to the XR believe it or not. Good luck and happy trails!

  7. Ed
    | Reply

    Great article! I have spent the last few months debating what bike to buy, i wanted a crf300 rally, but they are hard to come by. Also, I tend to upgrade rather quickly, and I have been leaning towards getting more of a bike that will last me many years. I don’t have a lot of dirt bike experience, but I am an expert level mountain biker. I had an old Suzuki GS 500 is my only mode of transportation in San Francisco for several years and rode that all over California. I have been an avid mountain biker, riding downhill, extreme trails, and over the last several years riding long extended bikepacking trips on dirt with all my camping gear. Now that I am 51, I still ride mountain bikes often, but I am really looking for a motorcycle that will be good for five or six day trips doing BDR style rides as a retire from the torture that comes with riding a bike days on end. Also, I have a network of old class 4 washed out doubletrack roads and trails nearby in Vermont and would probably loop some long weekend trips with those and dirt/gravel roads in New England quite often camping along the way. I would generally stay off of pavement. I was leaning towards a 690, but I’m an ultralight long distance bikepacker, and the weight seemed cumbersome, although blasting down a dirt road and having electronic aids seemed like it may be a good choice for bigger trips. Then, of course I changed my mind and leaned heavily towards the 500 since my ultralight camping style and a lightweight dirtbike seemed like a good match and the bike would be easier to handle. Sooooo my long winded question is: for riding 5-6 day trips on dirt roads, doubletrack, bdr style stuff while camping ultralight style, which would you recommend? Many Thanks….

    • Pete
      | Reply

      Hey Ed! Thank you. I would have to say the 690 seems to better fit the style of riding you are mostly going to be doing, but the 500 is plenty capable too and much more fun offroad being lighter and easier to throw around. They are both great machines. I have been thinking of setting my 500 up for camping of off since there are plenty of soft bags that would work well for a light moto-camping trip. Keep in mind the 690 is better on maintenance for long trips and high miles since it holds more oil and has longer maintenance intervals. Either way, you can’t go wrong with either bike. Good luck on your purchase. I hope I helped somewhat. This class of bike is always difficult for many to choose.

  8. Ed
    | Reply

    Thanks Pete for the quick reply! I’m sure I’ll keep flip flopping between both, but I have some time before the snow melts so I appreciate your insight. I have my soft luggage picked out, so now I just the bike! Thanks

  9. Tim Brandt
    | Reply

    Wow great article. Maybe KTM needs to make a 590 for the ultimate unicorn.
    I love my 2017 690, it lived as a sumo for a while, even raced it, and then it turned into a full on adventure dual sport bike the past 4 years. I used to do much more 50/50 stuff, then covid happened. Nobody went out in groups anymore, and I started venturing out to local trails alone and once I broke through the fear I got hooked. I’ve never stopped and now it’s become a 90% off road weekly deal. So it would seem that points towards the 500 however, I thought maybe I could go even smaller and get a 250/350 and keep the 690. Or split the difference and just get the 500. Pity I can’t try any of these bikes where I live.
    I do have a well sorted 990 for the longer stuff, touring, 2 up etc.
    So have you tried the 350 for example? Could someone be happy having that combo of bikes (990/690/350), or kind of ridiculous to consider that and all the maintenance, maybe better to just keep things simple with the 500?

    • Pete
      | Reply

      Thanks Tim! Yes, absolutely. I always thought 3 bikes would pretty much fill every gap, but like you said the maintenance would be a bit stupid. haha I now have a 500 and a 300xcw. No-p adventure bike unless you count the 500, which could absolutely do adventure stuff, just not as good as the 690. I’m enjoying more of the tech lately and camp in the van instead of the tent. It’s pretty much the best of both worlds. Thanks for the comment!

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