Search and retrieval of the King of enduros: the KTM 690 Enduro R. A journey from Sacramento to Seattle
After a few months of searching, a light interest in finding a killer deal on a 690 had gradually grown into a raging need to buy any example of the large enduro I could get my hands on; regardless of condition, cost or convenience.
With nothing but the same tired ‘deals’ available locally, I widened my search to outside Washington and immediately found a stunning specimen on ADVrider. Located in Oregon, it had the full Rally Raid kit including the tanks and front fender that I had let the internet convince me I needed to survive (or at least look cool, the primary point of adventure motorcycling). As a bonus, every conceivable part that could be made orange was. Maybe not ideal for keeping a low profile in places where my bike would be worth an average man’s yearly wage, but definitely critical for looking pro.
Sadly, this paradigm of Austrian style got snatched up just as I was falling in love. Rather than dissuade me to step back and wait for the right moment, I was in an even greater rush to get hitched before I found myself an old maid.
The very next opportunity I encountered was another 690 for sale by an ADV inmate. While this bike lacked most of the bling of the previous ones I had considered, upon closer inspection it seemed to have more of the trademarks of a well set-up and well maintained motorcycle: Professionally rebuilt suspension, moderate miles and ergonomic mods over performance or cosmetic mods were all signs this was maybe a wiser investment if an extended journey was in the cards. Additionally, after looking a little closer at the owner’s profile, I realized the bike belonged to a youtube channel I had just been watching videos from.
Convinced that everything was properly vetted and since this bike was much closer to my budget anyways, I was in quite a rush to put a ring on it before I was rejected once again. In my haste I may have been ignorant of one critical fact: this 690 was located in Sacramento, CA, 14 hours from where I lived north of Seattle. Luckily, the previous owner was gracious enough to offer to me a ride from the Sacramento airport to where the bike was located in Nevada City. When he elaborated that he would be picking me up in his private plane, I was doubly excited! Sadly, when the day rolled around to meet up, the weather was not conducive to flying and he instead trailered the bike to the airport so we could make the exchange there.
Everything looked as advertised and after shooting the shit for a while, I insisted I need be on my way if I was to make it to the coast like I had planned for that day. I strapped my duffel to the rear racks and headed southwest, wanting to swing through San Francisco and take the Golden Gate bridge to the famous stretch of Hwy 1 that winds down the Marin Headland to the pacific.
That first day riding was magical. I quickly learned to trust the bike as I wound my way up the coast on smooth Hwy 1 pavement, much to the detriment of the D606 front. These tires were definitely not designed to withstand hard braking and acceleration on tarmac but I was having way too much fun to care.
Eventually it got dark and I found a stealth spot to camp up an abandoned road. Since I didn’t have much in the way of camping equipment I had a cold dinner, drank a beer and passed out early in anticipation of two long days ahead.
The next morning I traded 1 for 101 and headed north. I had planned to get home via the Olympic peninsula, which, combined with the less direct coast riding, meant I had two 500 mile days ahead.
The rest of the ride home was a blur of feelings: alternating between wonder at the picturesque coastline, the rush of twisting the throttle on the 690 and, as the days grew long, groaning at how sore my butt was from the 2×4 KTM calls a seat.
As I made it to Oregon I was met with the shite that passes for weather in the PNW and I knew I was getting closer to home.
After a wet night and more rain as I continued up the coast, somewhere near the Washington border I made the executive decision that a hot shower and a dry bed was better than an extended tour of the wettest part of Washington.
200 hundred miles of riding through the cold rain in the dark on a crowded interstate finally brought me home with the realization that, at least in this part of the country, heated grips were not actually an extraneous farkle but rather a necessity of survival.
Luckily I had made it: now let the modifications begin!