My 690R was my first dirt bike and I found it was just fine with some good handguards. I put on Cycra Pro-Bends and different mirrors and rode it...18,000 miles the first year and a half. The factory plastic skid plate was just fine for the few times I actually hit something. If you start tackling harder stuff, you may want radiator guards. Other than that, I had no issues with mine...its was a great bike. I just sold it this summer in favor of picking up something smaller (500exc?) because I got tired of picking up something bigger (690R)!
I also like the body armor comment. Falling over will happen and you want to be the least damaged as you can be...you'll need your health for heaving the big girl up.
Man, thinking about it...it was a really frickin' awesome bike. I miss it.