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2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701: MD Ride Review – Part 1

Husqvarna has certainly been willing to follow its own direction when it comes to styling the Svartpilen and Vitpilen models. So much so that many motorcycle enthusiasts will overlook the appealing riding dynamics of the powerful single-cylinder machines. It’s a shame … no, really, it is. Read on.

First, a bit about that controversial styling. Husqvarna has its roots in Sweden, a society known for its affinity to sparse, minimalistic designs. The four new models, including the Svartpilen 701 and 401, along with the Vitpilen 701 and 401, are, according to Husqvarna, intended to “challenge all current design trends and use a clean, smart and less complicated way of creating a motorcycle.” The simplicity and purity of the look is intended to carry over to the riding experience provided by these extremely lightweight singles (the Svartpilen 701 is claimed to be 349 pounds dry).

We have already tested the sibling of the subject of this review, the Vitpilen 701 with its café racer ergonomics, and came away impressed. The motor in both bikes is a gem, and is shared with a third model we have tested, the KTM 690 SMC R.

That engine is a 693cc single that is smooth (excellent use of counter-balancers), full of all the single-cylinder character you could ask for, and blessed with near perfect throttle response. It also makes huge power for a single … a claimed 75 HP at the crank, and 53 pound/feet of torque.

Sharing the chrome-moly trellis frame with the Vitpilen, the Svartpilen 701 gets unique, longer travel suspension (5.9″, front and rear), including a fully adjustable 43mm WP fork (thumb operated compression and rebound adjustment sit on top of each fork leg, allowing the rider to make changes on the fly). The rear shock is adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping.

The high quality suspension is matched by an excellent four-piston Brembo front caliper that operates on a single 320mm front disc for strong, controlled braking. Those brakes, and everything else, operate through the contact patches beneath 17″ rear and 18″ front Pirelli MT 60 RS tires, which have a semi-knobby pattern befitting the scrambler ethos of the Svartpilen.

The ergonomics of the Svartpilen are much more comfortable than the Vitpilen. The rider sits upright, as if on a dirt bike, with decent legroom. The seat looks impossibly thin, but proves comfortable and supportive. The reach is adjustable to both the clutch and brake levers.

Pulling away from a stop on the Svartpilen reveals a smooth, broad spread of torque combined with good top-end power. The distinct thump of the big single piston beneath you is combined with an almost eerie, unexpected smoothness.

As you start to rip off upshifts, the quality of the quick-shifter impresses. The clutch is rarely needed while riding.

From a near bolt upright position, the rider is surprised by the playful, nimble character of the 701. Together with the awesome motor, it made this author think about a natural, thorough progression (more than an evolution) of the sensations brought by riding a big British single from 50 years ago. The essence of motorcycling … sort of like Husqvarna’s tag line for the Svartpilen 701.

Dismiss these thoughts as reckless hyperbole, if you will, but I stand by them. I was less than 5 minutes into my ride home from Husqvarna headquarters when I fell in love with the Svartpilen 701. Granted, I have ridden every type of motorcycle, from supercharged Kawasakis with mind boggling acceleration to the Honda Grom, and I am far removed from the need to judge motorcycles by their outright horsepower, power-to-weight ratio … or even their aesthetic beauty. There is really one issue for me these days … how does it make me feel when I ride?

The scrambler-style Pirellis grip surprisingly well on the street. Indeed, we were surprised by the street cornering grip of the Ducati Scrambler 1100 with the same tires. When you get the balance right (we added 1 click of preload to the rear shock) the Svartpilen turns in with little effort, and allows you to precisely hit the apex and get on the gas early on the exit of corners. It has nearly the flickability of a Kawasaki Z400, but far more power, better brakes and suspension (that all comes with the price tag – see below).

The suspension is both supple and firm, with the slightly longer travel (5.9″, as stated earlier) dialed in nicely. It is far from sloppy, unlike some longer travel bikes can be on the street. Stiction, in the fork particularly, is very low, and the suspension components just exude a quality feel.

The front brake has enough power to save you when you enter a corner faster than expected, or need to make a panic stop, but still offers good modulation and feel.

The cornering is aided, of course, by the wide handlebar and the leverage it provides. The seating position places the rider’s weight almost ideally for both aggressive corner carving and straight line cruising. The rider rarely feels the need to shift weight forward or backward to suit the conditions.

As we said earlier, we were very pleased with the performance of the quick-shifter. The only problem we encountered was catching a false neutral between second and third, on occasion, which we attribute to the as-delivered positioning of the shift lever (it needed to be lowered, slightly). Quick-shifters keep getting better, and the Svartpilen has one of the best currently available. The six-speed transmission offers a good range of gear choices, and highway cruising occurs at a comfortable rpm level in sixth gear.

The Svartpilen 701 has the power to run with bigger bikes during group rides. The sport bikes may walk away from you on the straightaways (although, not as quickly as you expect), but you can easily make up for it on the brakes and through the corners. This motor provides more usable power than any single cylinder engine we have previously sampled, and highway cruising at elevated speeds doesn’t cause it to break a sweat.

Disappointments are few. First and foremost, in an age where TFT displays are becoming relatively common, the Svartpilen 701 has a dull, low contrast instrument display. Also, given the core abilities of the bike, we would love to see higher quality street rubber replace the dual sport tires, which are, to some extent, a fashion statement for riders who will never truly need their capabilities off-road.

At an U.S. MSRP of $11,999, many potential buyers will balk at the cost of this bike, admittedly a single-cylinder intended to be simple and unpretentious. But the “simple and unpretentious” aspect is really the whole point of this bike, isn’t it?

Take a look at Husqvarna’s web site for additional details and specifications. We will have a follow-up story after further riding.

See more of MD’s great photography: Instagram


  1. Jim says:

    I went to a Husqvarna demo event at a local dealer today. I rode one of these. First off, it looks much better in person. The ride was in an urban setting in Tacoma Washington. This bike does quite well in this environment. The engine is quite smooth. Power is acceptable. Comfort was good for me (5’11”). It is a quality piece of work, but I think people may balk at the price.

    Then for the surprise of the day. I jumped on the little brother, Svartpilen 401, and rode it around the same loop. This little bike literally put a grin on my face. It is a blast to ride. Not much power, but in the city that doesn’t really matter. Everything works well, the engine sounds and feels great. It even has better paint colors available than its larger sibling. I have ridden the KTM 390 Duke, but the Svartpilen seems to be a more thoroughly developed package. I really had fun on that little bike.

  2. Dan says:

    I’ve seen a couple around San Francisco and they look better in real life. It’s a small edgy urban bike for riders with disposable income and probably performs excellently at this mission.

  3. Jim says:

    The problem is the name Svart, which instantly brings to mind fart and shart.

  4. mickey says:

    I don’t think any one of the “piling on haters” said this was not a good motorcycle, I think most said it wasn’t an attractive motorcycle. There is a difference, and the latter is a matter of personal taste/opinion. Exactly what you would expect on a comment driven forum. If only the guys that loved the looks of this bike were allowed to post you’d have about 6 posts to read instead of 100.

    and that goes for every bike that MCD reviews

    If you have an opinion about a bike, it is expected, maybe even encouraged here, positive or negative. So don’t complain about those that don’t like something just because you do and realize that their opinion carries the same weight that yours does in the grand scheme of things. Zero except to the one posting the opinion.

    • Ralph W. says:

      Mickey, this is not the type of bike you would buy. You have no interest in it, so why rubbish it? Why not just refrain from commenting about it? Some riders, particularly those who are young and new to motorcycling, could be really interested in this bike but get put off by all of the negativity. Then they may miss out on what could be the best motorcycling experiences of their life.

      Want to know what bike is a real turd? It’s the FJR1300. Its weight is a huge handicap for the riding I like to do. It weighs nearly twice as much as a really good bike, the Svartpilen 701. No, I don’t actually think the FJR is a turd. In fact, recently I recommended it to a friend who is looking for comfort and an upright seating position, but it is not for me because I don’t like bikes that weigh that much. So if MD does an article on it I probably wouldn’t comment. I’d let the people who are interested in it discuss it. Why don’t you and all of the other negative people here do the same?

      • Anonymous says:

        Ralph W. – Highly skilled does not come close to being close enough.

        Ralph W. – The most intredasting man in the world.

        • Anonymous says:

          Ralph W. – proof that even the dull and the ignorant have their story.

          • Tonto says:

            Anonymous (WShart) and Ralph W, why don’t you two just get a room and have it out, and leave the rest of us alone. We’re not interested in your little lovers’ quarrel.

          • TimC says:

            Ralph had me at how women go for his finely chiseled features or whatever that Tank Concrete spiel was.

          • Anonymous says:

            Tonto, we “Anonymous” are not all “Wshart”. And I know who that is as much as I know who Ralph W” is. 🙂

      • mickey says:

        “So if MD does an article on it I probably wouldn’t comment. I’d let the people who are interested in it discuss it. Why don’t you and all of the other negative people here do the same?”

        Right, like these positive and encouraging comments you’ve made in some recent bike reports:

        “When testing Harleys journalists compare them to other Harleys and other cruisers, and quite rightly so. They are correct in saying new Harleys are great bikes, when compared to old Harleys. They are operating on a ‘low base’. I hate all cruisers because, compared to other types of bikes, most of them have poor performance, all of them handle poorly, and the feet forward riding position is just plain silly because it doesn’t give you the same control over the bike like a conventional position does.”

        “Until they produce electric bikes which have an acceptable range, charge times, price and battery life, I will always be negative about electric motorcycles”

        “ So we have to assume that if he had tried to push it hard he would have had to say it handles like and overweight pig and doesn’t live up to the image it projects. But then, bikes with an image but have poor capability is all that HD has produced for many decades.”

        “Some of us are more interested in riding than posing and the weight of the big Triumph is a real handicap when riding in an ‘enthusiastic’ (aggressive) manner. There is plenty of reason to not like this bike.”

        “but now because they have overloaded it with electronics I don’t want it anymore. I’m not interested in other people’s opinions on the electronics. I don’t want it, don’t need it, don’t want to pay for it, and that is not how I want to ride.”

        Nothing negative there.

        If I didn’t know better I’d say you were being a bit hypocritical.

        • mickey says:

          You were obviously interested in all those motorcycles or you wouldn’t have commented per your diatribe above, right?

          and for the record here is exactly what I said about this Svartpilen (post at very bottom of this page)

          “It may indeed be a great bike, but I couldn’t own one because I’d have to look at it when walking up to it in the garage. Just couldn’t do it. Hideous.

          Of course on a 150 mile ride day, it would look a lot better than pushing the Livewire”

          Hardly a disparaging and damning comment and doubt that it would keep any young people interested in this bike from making a purchase, although like you, I’m not above making a disparaging comment about a motorcycle if I feel it’s justified. However most of my comments are about looks simply because motorcycles mechanically and functionally are so good these days.

          If Dirck posts here and says POSITIVE COMMENTS ONLY and only on bikes you are sincerely interested in, I will be more than happy to comply, but I don’t think that is what he wants. What say ye Dirck?

          • Ralph W. says:

            Wow! I do get a lot of attention here. Keep it coming. It’s not my fault you guys have never learnt to ride, so have to base your bike purchases on looks.

          • Ralph W. says:

            Every time you guys attack me you invite me to respond. And I just love pointing out that you are a bunch of silly old geezers who have never learnt to ride properly.

          • Kermit says:

            I’ve been coming to this site religiously every day for over 19 years. Not once have I read where Mickey was a jackass or a jerk in any way. He gives an honest opinion and is quite diplomatic about it on top of it. If it becomes PC around I’m gone. People can get along if they choose too. Some just like to stir the pot. And WSharts kindred spirit aka Ralph W., might want to learn proper spelling.

  5. azicat says:

    I just discovered (through the great work of Adam Waheed) that this bike has no preload adjustment in the forks. Whaaaa?! Perhaps WP now stands for “wishful preload”

    • guu says:

      Is this something you would like to constantly adjust? Of course you can adjust the preload by adding spacers to the spring. I think there is a reason that quick-adjust front pre-load is so rare and almost never seen on mx bikes for example.

      • todd says:

        People don’t actually use the adjusters, it’s just a feature check-box that is left blank when cross shopping this against other bikes.

      • Jeremy says:

        If you have to remove the forks and tear them down just to adjust preload vs. spend a couple of minutes with external adjusters, I consider that a fail. If it were a $9K bike, then you could argue no foul, but for a premium bike with one of its selling points being pristine handling, throw in the preload adjusters.

        • azicat says:

          Jeremy I did more research after this shocking find (teehee) and discovered that a lot of premium KTMs, including Superduke R, don’t have fork preload adjusters. Mind blown.

        • todd says:

          The bikes I’ve had, you don’t need to remove or tear down to change the preload spacer in the bike. You just spend a couple of minutes unscrewing the fork caps, changing out the spacer, and screwing the caps back on.

          • Jeremy says:

            I’ve done a few KTMs which I assume will be similar to this bike. The spring sits below the cartridge. Only way to get to the preload spacer is to tear the fork legs down.

  6. RD350 says:

    Something that seems to have escaped the writer .. and most moto-journalists it seems .. is that this bike’s styling is a direct response to today’s youth driven custom culture. Anyone who has spent any time on sites like Bikeexif or Pipeburn will look at this and know exactly where the influences came from. Its the new style. Or a new style. I’d call this variation a neo-street tracker.
    Was it meant for old nostalgia driven, retro enthusiasts .. ie old guys? Obviously not. To me it is a styling exercise meant to appeal to, and to excite, younger, hipper, well-healed riders who are not so connected to classic design. It is perhaps a rejection of the past generations and an fresh way forward for young and new riders. Whether it appeals to the 45+ crowd seems almost irrelevant. I bet many young riders love this bike. If it brings new riders into our sport we should applaud it or at least understand it and accept it.
    PS The shrill responses by some here resembles the motorcycling equivalent of a Leftist Outrage Mob, triggered over some imagined slight. The extreme responses are not only completely unwarranted imo but are also counter-productive for motorcycling in general.

    • DeltaZulu says:

      I’m with you on this one, RD350. There are a lot of bikes that I don’t like but, other than me, WGAF about my opinion!? It is one thing to offer constructive criticism but, destructive criticism is either just stupid thoughtlessness or being deliberately malicious and hurtful; either of which stems from immaturity and/or insecurity.
      And, “The shrill responses by some here resembles the motorcycling equivalent of a Leftist Outrage Mob, triggered over some imagined slight”, is dead, spot on.

    • VLJ says:

      Or, before you got on your soapbox and criticized the author for being one of those old men who waves his fist at the clouds, and for not doing his homework, you could have simply bothered to read the first two paragraphs of the story, in which the author specifically describes the genesis of this design language…

      “Husqvarna has certainly been willing to follow its own direction when it comes to styling the Svartpilen and Vitpilen models. So much so that many motorcycle enthusiasts will overlook the appealing riding dynamics of the powerful single-cylinder machines. It’s a shame … no, really, it is. Read on.

      “First, a bit about that controversial styling. Husqvarna has its roots in Sweden, a society known for its affinity to sparse, minimalistic designs. The four new models, including the Svartpilen 701 and 401, along with the Vitpilen 701 and 401, are, according to Husqvarna, intended to ‘challenge all current design trends and use a clean, smart and less complicated way of creating a motorcycle.’ The simplicity and purity of the look is intended to carry over to the riding experience provided by these extremely lightweight singles (the Svartpilen 701 is claimed to be 349 pounds dry).”

      Read…then respond. Don’t just skim through the story, and the comments section.

      Man, the self-importance and complete lack of self-awareness of many of the people on this site never ceases to amaze me.

      • RD350 says:

        So the author regurgitated Husqvarna’s advertising blather from their press release. The company sort of claims this is their original concept and style. My point, amongst others, is that it is not. This style of bike .. trimmed down .. the stubby tail .. the matt dark paint .. the fork shrouds etc .. have all been utilized in the custom scene for years now. I don’t skim. I understood exactly what I read. And I stand by the fact that the author did not recognize (or mention) the origins of this bike’s design cues. This style didn’t just now appear with this bike. Anyone who doesn’t recognize that fact has a total lack of current motorcycle design awareness.

        • RD350 says:

          To continue, the point of my post was not to run down Dirck Edge, who I greatly respect and completely agree with regarding the merits of this bike. My point was to challenge the mindless “piling on” in the comments section and to point out that kids are attracted to this style of bike. A bunch of traditionalists hysterically dumping on it is not going to help the “how do we bring in new riders to our sport” question. But what do I know? I lack self awareness and find myself to be overly important.

          • Jay Jonas says:

            Nice to know you’re the arbiter of “kids are attracted to this style of bike” so I suppose I’ll be seeing many in the streets bought by these ‘kids.’ As for “leftist outrage mobs”, good to know fox news and viewers don’t do outrage because it’s relegated to the ‘left.’

      • RD350 says:

        So Dirck .. are you going to post my response? I saw that it posted, then disappeared?

    • TimC says:

      Interesting points on the styling. I still think it’s a pile of svart but I see your point at least. Now, I think Yamaha has nailed the new-old look really rather better with the XSR-900 but perhaps that’s the old fart in me?

      Now, I must commend you on “Leftist Outrage Mob” – very bold but it’s time the truth starts being asserted.

      • Don says:

        Would probably make more sense if it was Conservative Outrage Mob, but yeah, the styling is intended to appeal to a new group of riders. If you only make styling to appeal to the current shrinking group of riders why would you expect for it to appeal to a new demographic. Gotta have the guts to try something new.

        I don’t like the flat piece of metal on the right hand side of the bike, between the seat and rear wheel. It’s looks much cleaner and nicer with the styling on the left side of the bike, but that’s a small complaint. It’s a fantastic looking bike.

    • Mick says:

      That’s hilarious. Like the people carping about any bike that doesn’t look like it is at least thirty years old are leftists.

      How about fearful of everything right wingers afraid of anything that isn’t either old and stodgy or hopelessly corrupt.

  7. Grover says:

    It’s looks like a cobbled together Chinese bike available for sale at Pepboys but has world class performance. For the money their asking it should also have the aesthetic appeal of a world class bike. A few riders won’t care, but most of us will. Good luck selling a bike that is the ugliest, most expensive but best performing thumper on the market.

  8. Hot Dog says:

    A couple of weeks ago, I was in a real bike shop, you know the type, where you could smell oil, see old posters of past racers and a bit of dust here and there. Heck, I went into the biffy to water the horse and there was even a signed Rossi poster on the wall. This was certainly no bad boy boutique but more of an escape to more of what a bike shop should be. I was there buying a side by side for ice fishing and I was pretty pumped about it. Right beside the desk where we were signing papers was a Svartpilen 701. My eyes covered every inch of the machine and I was stunned at the details and small size the bike. It looked beautiful in every aspect, from the headlight to the rear fender bra. I started to realize I wasn’t paying attention to my purchase, sort of like going out to a bar with my gal and some hottie comes up and jiggles body parts in front of me. No way in hell would I be able to take them both home, be it either babes or bikes. I finished the paperwork and walked out of the store but not before I looked back at her, a dalliance unfulfilled, a corner uncarved.

    • RD350 says:

      Thanks for that well written impression Hot Dog. Most who see these in the flesh also report being very impressed.

  9. wjf says:

    That thing has a face only a mother could love….on pay day

  10. mechanicus says:

    I take Jeanette everywhere with me – she is a professional passenger – she knows a comfortable seat when she sees it. One look at that seat and she’s “uh-uh, no”.

    I watched the old movie “Footloose” the other day and was struck by the comparison of today’s bike and the ones the kids were riding around in that movie. All had a seat for a passenger and they were riding and having fun together. That seems to have been lost today with these butte-high designs they are trying to force down our throats.

    • stan says:

      It would be an interesting study to plot yearly motorcycle sales for the last 10 years as a function of new models introduced with no rear fender and the high minimalist passenger seats. Long blamed on demographics, maybe it is the market deciding after all.

    • fred says:

      How much does a professional passenger earn? Inquiring minds want to know. There have been a lot of uncomfortable bike seats sold because people thought they could tell a comfortable seat by looks or by a quick dealership test-sit.

      Having said that, the pillion doesn’t look comfortable to me, either.

  11. Bob K says:

    I definitely can appreciate the lightness and what it can do for you in a place that can take advantage of it. But light and agile isn’t ALWAYS what’s best for a given type of riding. Racing and bombing through mountain passes, sure. I and many others don’t live in a place where we have twisty roads and mountain passes. So, we have other needs and a 350 pound single motorcycle doesn’t necessarily do the trick. I’ve ridden the Vitpile at AF1 Racing in Austin. As I said, it suits a purpose and place. Texas isn’t the place.
    A bike like that tranfers so much road and motor feedback that it’s unpleasant to ride for long periods of time, no matter what the quality of suspension and effectiveness of the counterbalancer. I only rode the Vitpile 20 minutes and found its minimalist design to not absorb and isolate the rider from road and motor vibrations as well my newest 570 pound H2 SX SE. Riding 1000 miles in a day, a too light bike gets blown around on the road by crosswinds, windblasts from even midsize pickups, road hazards like potholes will toss the bike sideways, etc requiring the rider to fight the bike to stay upright and in control. I don’t need a full body workout when I ride. 20 minutes in, my biceps and foreams were pumping in the crappy roads of the Austin hills. A heavier bike is more resistant to being tossed around. An 85 mph commute in Houston traffic can blow a 350 pound bike out of your lane. When I was last in the LA area coming from Vegas on I-15, I almost got blown off the road between Alray and Keenbrook. The wind was so bad through the mountain pass that night, my 510 pound Ninja 1000 plus full hard cases was being blown into other lanes. The Svart would have been picked up and tossed off the freeway and landed 40 ft below.
    Take an 8 hour ride non-stop and if you can do it on the Svart, you’ll be more fatigued than you would on a heavier, less nimble bike. In fact, I’ll continue on for another 8 hours before retiring for the night.
    I’ve ridden 3 bikes to Alaska from Houston, TX. A Buell, HD Super Glide Sport and BMW R1100S. And a R1100GS to Panama. The Buell was the most difficult to go that far on. Too flickable for the road conditions. The HD riding position was hard on the spine and my grip was tired from holding on from being ripped off the bike at speed for that many hours a day. The BMWs were easiest to do 1000 mile days or more. Because of it never gets dark in the summer that far north, I did 40 hours in one sitting on the R1100S, it’s like bedtime would never come.
    Sometimes heavier bikes are better. Just depends on the riding being done. I certainly wouldn’t. As for Ralph and his superior riding skills, don’t brag, there’s always someone better than you. After 15 years of racing in the CMRA, I quit 8 years ago, but I was pretty darn good. Plenty were better than me though. But none of them commuted in the city daily and toured the north American continent like I have. That’s a different set of skills.
    And I certainly wouldn’t have taken a 350 lb bike on my recent 9000 mile trip from Houston to Vancouver, across Canada to Halifax to North Georgia and back to Houston. Only north GA required a more nimble bike but for less than an hour of my whole trip. The H2 SX SE now has 15,000 miles on it since the end of January. I’m thinking that single would have blown up long ago.

    • Ralph W. says:

      I don’t brag. I just explain to people what I can do and that if they put some effort into learning and buy a suitable bike, they can do it too if they want to. If I didn’t explain it, they may never know what they could achieve.

      I have never had any interest in how I rate as a rider. Was I better than other riders or not as good? I’ve never cared about that. I’ve spent my whole life just trying to be better than myself. That has resulted in a lifetime of continuous improvement. Don’t complain about it. Try it!

      There are only two things that are important. 1) You can ride safely. 2) You enjoy it. Stop getting offended when you find out others can ride better than you. It is not important.

      • Ralph W. says:

        The real issue on this page is that people are saying this bike is rubbish just because they don’t like its looks. I’m trying to explain why it is a really good bike. It is still ‘early days’ but everything I’ve seen and heard about it says it is a brilliant motorcycle for its intended purpose.

    • Dave says:

      Nobody believes this bike is for touring. It is going to be better than any heavy bike at what it’s intended for.

    • TimC says:

      Ah er, if you’re being blown out of your lane it indicates 1) conditions are truly too terrible to be riding and need to stop and wait it out, or ride slower, or 2) a lack of skill in riding in wind.

      I’ve been caught on the 1 on my 250 with RIDICULOUS crosswinds and it was a non-issue (hint: I didn’t have to slow down, let alone stop). Technique matters….

    • Ralph W. says:

      “my 510 pound Ninja 1000 plus full hard cases was being blown into other lanes.”

      Obviously a bike with a full fairing and hard cases will be more affected by cross-winds than a small naked. In MotoGP, at Philip Island where the cross-winds can be really bad they sometimes drill large holes in the fairings.

  12. todd says:

    To me, the bike is really nice except for a few design details. The rear side panel, headlight surround, and license plate holder are really unfortunate. I can’t help but wonder if I could clean that stuff up and then have an amazing bike. If it looked more like the 401 Svartpilen but with a longer tail section, they’d sell twice as many.

    The Vitpilen looks better but has clipons. Maybe I can just get that at the current discounted $8,999 and swap the triple tree and bars from the Svartpilen.

    • Don says:

      Exactly, that rear side panel really doesn’t do it for me. Do you notice how much nicer and cleaner the bike looks on the left hand side without that rear panel? I think the license plate holder issue could be easily fixed. It is a really good looking bike.

  13. Mikey says:

    It looks more like a tool than it does a motorcycle. Maybe a good performer but without soul.
    I think I’ll go to IKEA and check it out.

  14. Josh B. says:

    Yeah, except the ~$5000 difference in price between this and the MT-07 will buy a better suspension than BOTH, as well as better brakes, tires, a full exhaust system + tune, and a quickshifter. This thing should be $10k.

  15. azicat says:

    Nice review Dirck. It’s a unique bike – nothing comes close except its twin sister, the Duke 690R with full fruit (which is no longer available new).

    The bicycle design triad is fully active here: “light, strong, cheap – pick two.”

  16. Artem says:

    AFAIK stul about 10$ – better.

  17. RD350 says:

    I have owned older KTM Dukes and have spent a good deal of time on the latest 690 version, both on the track and on the street. This motor, for short tracks, back roads and urban riding, simply rocks. It is the highest tech and highest HP single ever produced. This Husky version is much nicer looking than the standard 690 Duke and comes with higher end suspension which the standard duke does not (at least in the USA). If Husky could change the seat section and offer some brighter paint, this bike would be much more visually appealing imho. I would take this bike over the cheaply suspended and super fugly FZ-07 any day of the week. I’d also take this over any Ducati Scrambler, a bike which I wanted to like (I owned an RT450 back in the day) but ultimately thought looked cheesy and highly inauthentic.

  18. Jim says:

    Someone here mentioned the weight issue for older riders. Often I see older riders trading their sport bikes for cruisers. I have a friend who did just that and struggles with the 800 pound weight of his motorcycle. Comfort and no longer feeling the “need for speed” are often the reasons given.

    As a 60 something “older” rider I have thought of giving up one of my bikes (Speed Triple, and SuperDuke R) but not for the reasons given above. I still feel the need for speed and I love riding both of those motorcycles, however at 475 pounds or so I feel they are heavy. I have been considering moving to a lighter motorcycle for some time now and the Husqvarna is certainly a contender. I kind of like that they don’t follow the crowd when it comes to styling and by all accounts it is an excellent bike. I think the only immediate change would be to swap the tires out for some that are more road focused. Yes it is pricey and there are certainly other contenders on the market. I definitely feel that a lighter motorcycle could extend my riding another 10 or 15 years.

    • VLJ says:

      790 Duke.

      • Mark R says:

        1290 Superduke R.
        Perfect street bike for the aging sport bike rider.
        Delighted with mine!

        • Jim says:

          I love mine too. Plush ride, enough leg room to keep my old knees from complaining too much, and really fast. Oh, and the best feature of all, heated grips. I kind of use it a sport tourer.

          • VLJ says:

            But you said you’re looking for something lighter, that’s still comfortable. You also said you like unique styling, and you like the Super Duke 1290R.

            All your roads lead to the Duke 790. Tiny, narrow, ridiculously light, upright seating position, still a powerful Twin, albeit a P-Twin instead of a V-Twin, and still a uniquely-styled KTM.

            Sounds like exactly what you’re describing.

  19. Ralph W. says:

    Some people don’t fully understand the advantages of riding a bike that is light and agile. We all know it means later braking and higher corner speeds. They accelerate better than expected for a bike of their engine capacity, and their higher corner speeds give you a ‘head start’ out of the corners. But another big advantage is the confidence they give you to push the limits.

    You’ve probably heard people say, “If you try to push the limits eventually you will find them, and by then it is too late.” That is true on heavy bikes. But on light bikes you can exceed the limits a little, save it, and stay upright. That is because the control you have over the bike in an emergency situation is very dependent on the ratio of the rider’s weight to the bike’s weight. For example, if the rear wheel steps out in a corner and the bike flicks violently, on a light bike you can absorb the movement with your body-weight much more successfully than on a heavy bike which will just spit you off. But of course, first you have to learn the correct reactions (that is another story).

    Knowing you can save it if you exceed the limits on a light bike gives you the confidence to push harder than you ever have before. Most riders on big bikes never ride close to the limits of their bike’s capabilities except in a straight line (I’m talking about on the road, not the track). For safety they have to ride conservatively. This is another reason why you will be quicker through the twisties on a light bike.

    Mickey mentioned that the Ducati Monster 696 has about the same power and weight as the Svartpilen 701. But the upright riding position of the Husky gives you more freedom of movement over the bike increasing your ability to ‘save it’ when things go wrong. This also gives you more confidence to ride harder.

    Riding a light, agile bike also gives you the opportunity to learn much more advanced skills than you ever will if you only ride heavy bikes. If you don’t try it you will never know the level of riding skill you are capable of achieving. Remember, Marquez rides a light, agile bike. Sadly, it is too late for you, Mickey. You’re too old and too stuck in a rut to learn advanced skills now.

    • paul says:

      Thank you for the pedantic lecture.

      I have a light and agile motorcycle, so I fully understand and appreciate its attributes.

      Thankfully, it doesn’t mean that I have to settle for and pay a premium price for what amounts to a light and agile rolling rubbish tip.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Aside from taking a personal shot at Mickey, which I don’t condone, I agree with much of what you said. As I stated in the article, there are subtle things about every bike that don’t boil down to an analysis of power-to-weight ratios, but some readers will never understand or appreciate that. Reciprocating engine internals, a single disc (with far less rotating mass than a dual disc), mass centralization (something Ducati has always struggled with thanks to the 90 degree v-twin), chassis rigidity and tuned flex, etc. Riding this bike was special for any number of reasons, including the ones that can’t be quantified, like “magic”.

      • Dirck Edge says:

        I should add that your point about finding the limit is also correct IMO. This 701 communicates the limit to the rider extremely well. I am getting ready for a group ride this morning, for instance, and I have 2 more powerful bikes in the garage I am testing. I had to decide which bike to take out, and I am choosing the 701 precisely for this reason.

        • Anonymous says:

          Remember, Ralph is a highly skilled rider. As to communicating the limit? What’s that supposed to mean on public roads, the limit at which you’re only risking your own life and property?

          This 701 must really st(r)oke the ego.

      • Ralph W. says:

        I just treat Mickey the way he treats others. If he can’t take it he shouldn’t dish it out.

        • Anonymous says:

          Gosh, you really are highly skilled.

        • VLJ says:

          mickey has never dished out anything on this site but pure class, non-offensive observations, and well-reasoned opinions. You do not treat mickey as he treats others. You do nothing but brag about yourself while condescending to others, neither of which mickey has ever done here, not even once, to anyone.

          mickey is the Mister Rogers of this site, but you’re too onanistic to notice.

          The sad thing is you really aren’t fast, you really aren’t any sort of ladies’ man (other than at the buffet line at your local Escaton retirement home), and, per usual, you have no idea when you’re barking up the absolute wrongest of trees.

      • TimC says:

        Aside (re: personal shot): No-one’s been calling the Hondas “agile.” That’s generally Yamaha and now, especially, Suzuki. But anyway.

      • Ralph W. says:

        Just so readers don’t think unfavorably about 90 degree V-twins;- The problem with Ducatis is because they use an L-twin. That means the engine has been positioned with one cylinder almost horizontal and the other almost vertical. It makes the engine longer therefore it is more difficult to make a well balance motorcycle. It is a good idea on the air-cooled engines because it allows sufficient airflow to cool the rear cylinder, but isn’t necessary on liquid cooled engines. It’s a good example of the problems that can be caused by adhering to tradition.

  20. fred says:

    I understand the negativity about the looks and the price, but I really don’t understand the hostility. As far as I know, Husky is not forcing anyone to buy their bikes, nor is anyone being forced to read the articles.

    At 365lbs and 75hp, it should be a lot of fun to ride. If the owners are happy with the looks and price, we should all be happy for them. One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is that fun vehicles (and people) get better looking as you spend more time with them. The lustre wears off pretty quickly when vehicles (or people) are hard to live with.

  21. Skybullet says:

    Having owned a GB500, a Motoized DR650 and KTM 1290 SDGT, I can fully appreciate the feel and increased performance in a light bike. The new Huskies sound like the next step in improving the category. I haven’t warmed up to the styling either and I wish they had gone retro to the original Red/Chrome tank some of us remember. Maybe, just maybe they will offer a Retro version I couldn’t resist.

  22. todd says:

    To be fair, I have seen the Vitpilen (white, “street” version if this bike) on sale, new, for $8,999. Starts to make a whole lot more sense at that price.

  23. Rhinestone Kawboy says:

    It looks fairly unanimous, most agree this may be one of the most dumbest looking bikes ever to be produced from a fairly well known OEM. But I bet you that some day, long after these have been discontinued for having less than expected sales, they will be well in demand then for more than they retail now. Kind of weird, but the way these things go these days. Regardless, they can have it as far as I’m concerned, future revered or not.

  24. Peter says:

    I think it’s a great looking machine. Still, I’ll wait for a used white 690 duke to come my way.

  25. Michael says:

    I had a 17 Duke 690 and a 15 Yamaha FZ-07, I know the Husky has some better bits than the Duke but my FZ-07 was a pretty darn hard bike to beat for the money and IMO a better bike than the Duke, it’d be a hard $12k pill to swallow buying that Husky.

    • Dirck Edge says:

      Did your Duke have the new, counter-balanced engine , or the old paint shaker?

      • hipsabad says:

        2017s have the new engine

      • Edbob says:

        2017 would have the counterbalanced motor. I also own a 2017 690 duke. Walked to my garage with svartpilen photos on my iPad. They’re identical except bodywork (and whatever they did to the shocks and electronics ). I’m not putting the bike down, mind you. The KTM is the fastest road bike I’ve ever had. No one will be able to keep up with you below 70 mph and when the straights do come up you’ll be far enough ahead that it won’t matter. And no matter where you are you’ll be having more fun than your friends on their bikes that weigh 120 lbs more.

        • Dirck Edge says:

          The suspension is quite a bit better on the Husky, but they are similar and share that fantastic motor.

    • Mick says:

      I rented a bumble bee livery MT-07 (EU version of the FZ) from a dealer in Strasbourg, France in 2015. I must say that it did work quite well. We rode the twisty bits around western France and the Black Forest in Germany.

      Me and the rear ABS didn’t quite see eye to eye. But that wasn’t too troublesome. What stood out to me was the suspension. I rate the suspension as “good cheap”.

      I have never bought a street bike from KTM. But I have been buying their dirt bikes one in a while since 1990, my latest being a 2017 300XC. I have always thought that the suspension on a KTM is at least “decent” and never “cheap” anything.

      So I guess my question for Michael is exactly why he would rate the FZ over the Duke?

      I haven’t ridden any of KTMs 690/701 powered bikes. But my personal street bike is an Ohlins suspended XR650R supermoto. It could easily be argued that I am a singles guy. But my experiance with the MT-07 and BMWs parallel twin is that they have pretty cool, entertaining engines that are hampered by cheap chassis. You can upgrade suspension. But if you prefer a parallel twin. Then that’s what you prefer.

  26. Walter says:

    I meant Husaberg 501/600, not Husqvarna.

  27. tom.g says:

    I know I am not comparing apples to apples but give me an MT-07 for half the price all day long and twice on Sunday.

  28. Walter says:

    “Together with the awesome motor, it made this author think about a natural, thorough progression (more than an evolution) of the sensations brought by riding a big British single from 50 years ago.”

    And we all know where big Brit singles went LOL

    I think these sized bikes with excellent performance would be naturals for older sporting riders from a weight perspective- but the styling is such that it’s probably the age demographic that finds them most unappealing.

    I don’t know what the “right” look is, but suspect it’s somewhere between the old fogey look of bygone Brit and this

    I’ve had some really nice singles- 62o Duke, 640E, and Husqvarna 501/600. Everything you say about how much fun the singles are is true- but what you (but not most bike buyers) fail to realize is that you can pretty much duplicate the experience with a twin and have a better highway bike which for many of us is necessary to get to/from the fun stuff. As someone mentioned, the 10 year old Ducati is very close in spec. In my case, I haven’t seriously considered a street single since I bought a 950SM in 2006. It’s sold now (after 65,000 miles)- but replaced with 990 Superduke.

    And re those MT60s– they have been terrific tires for a long time– iirc they used to be used as rain tires in Supersport Production classes.

  29. Ricardo says:

    For $12K I can buy a better looking and better performance Ducati Scrambler or Monster…

    • Peter says:

      They’re way uglier, heavier, and not singles. I mean since we’re throwing around opinion like fact. I mean for 12k I could get a gsx s1000f and burn the ducs all day every day forever until the end of time itself. Not sure that’s the point.

      • Curious George says:

        Obviously, you’re entitled to your opinion, but if you polled everyone here, I’m guessing at least 90% would say the Scramblers are better looking – indeed, much better looking – than the Svartpilen.

        As with the Livewire, looks are subjective (though I do believe the Livewire would score a better approval rating than the Husky by a factor of about three).

        Say what you will about performance and price, but on looks alone I personally think the Livewire is a very good looking machine. The Svartpilen, not so much. At all.

        • todd says:

          I, for one, do not like the looks of the Ducati Scramblers. They look more like an over-characterized cartoon version of a vintage scrambler. The LiveWire looks incongruous and… lame.

          • Grover says:

            I tried to like the Scrambler, I really did. I test rode the thing and still couldn’t bring myself to like it enough to buy it. I agree, “Cartoonish” looking pretty well sums up the aesthetics. Also, the throttle was an on/off switch that nearly caught me off guard.
            It’s very hard to like the Svart even if it weighs less and goes faster. Not every bike should be judged solely by weight and speed, but rather as a total package that includes aesthetics as well.

        • Don says:

          The Scramblers always looked like cheap toys. I wanted to like them. I really liked the GT1000, but instead of looking classy and retro, the Scramblers looked more cheesy and like a cheap caricature of a retro bike. Like it was specifically made for hipster posers to ride to the coffee shop, like a Harley for the skinny jeans crowd.

          These bikes actually look good instead of a like a cartoon retro bike.

  30. SharkGuitar says:

    Give it the looks of a BMW R-Nine and the price just under $10K and I’d be interested.

  31. RyYYZ says:

    Can’t say I’m a big fan of the looks. I would have said a 690 Duke would be the obvious alternative, as it shares (shared) many of the same components, including the suspension being very similar, and it had an even lower dry weight. Alas, it appears that KTM has discontinued it in favour of the 790 Duke. The only current 690s I can find are the SM-C supermoto and 690 Enduro R.

  32. TimC says:

    I’ve always thought losing my sight would be a real annoyance at very best, but the more I see this pile of svart the more I wonder if I have this right.

    • Peter says:

      Are you using a braille keyboard or taking to your computer. If it can read this to you: it is a very handsome machine – don’t believe the other posts – they are very very wrong.

  33. Mick says:

    I must say that I am rather surprised at the almost uniformly negative aesthic comments. These bikes do not photograph well. I’ll give you that. In the flesh the proportions make everything look about right.

    But then I am a weight weenie and I puke at the very thought of the cruisers that some of the guy’s here are all fired up about.

    What I don’t like is the 18 inch front wheel. 18s are useless garbage. 17 or 19 is OK. Street or dirt track rubber. 18s are just plain user hostile.

  34. mickey says:

    Just thinking about the article and the specs given

    75 hp 359 pounds single disc front brake

    My son’s Ducati Monster 696 specs at 78.9 hp and 355 pounds with dual front discs ..and that bike is 10 years old. Other than being a single, what’s the advantage here?

    • Ralph W. says:

      You got the weight wrong. It says here the Husky is 349 pounds. Only a small difference but it does mean it is lighter than the Ducati. For me the biggest advantage the Husky has is a riding position which is suited to aggressive road riding which is what I do, while the Ducati is better suited to track work. Both bikes are great fun to ride because they are light and agile and riders with advanced skills will be very quick on them. The important thing is, both bikes are a lot more fun than the big overweight Yamaha you ride, Mickey. But without the advanced skills required to get the most from a light, agile bike you will never understand that.

    • Jeremy says:

      Ducati was always a bit to optimistic with their specs. The 696 weight 410 lbs wet and made 65-ish rwhp. The 701 weighs about 370 wet and dynos at 70 rwhp.

      • todd says:

        I think the Monsters are way over-rated. My 900 was beautiful but was an ill-handling, uncomfortable, obnoxious pig to ride… pretty much the opposite of this.

  35. joe b says:

    I cant wait till some of the aftermarket custom people take this machine and make it look normal.

  36. Anonymous says:

    It looks like something only Ralph W. (see his missive somewhere down the page) and Yoko Ono would like to be seen on. And a few bazillion flies.

  37. bmbktmracer says:

    To those who claim they don’t care about the looks… I’ve seen people like you, with your house blighting a full city block and no one wanting to park anywhere near your car. Claiming to not care about looks is ridiculous, as humans are an artistic species. So, love it, hate it, or meh, no problem. But to not care…that’s just weird.

  38. Anonymous says:

    How many here are married to a genuinely fugly man or woman? Looks matter.

    The Shitpilon is FUGLY. It’s fuel tank is stupid dinky and as previously stated, this thing better keep in motion because as soon as it stops it and the rider will be covered in flies. It is an overpriced, fugly machine and to say otherwise is to play the role of tailor to the Emperor.

    For those that claim to “love” this bike? Talk is cheap. But for $11,999 you can buy this pile of crap. I doubt many, if any, will.

    • Ralph W. says:

      Looks matter to people who don’t know how to ride. But to highly skilled riders, performance is more important.

      • Anonymous says:

        “,,,But to highly skilled riders, performance is more important.”

        Can’t ride past a mirrored storefront without admiring yourself, eh? 😉 You must be a (in)famous road racer. The bike is fugly and way overpriced. Way overpriced. Did I mention it’s fugly and expensive? Well it is.

        “Highly skilled”…LOL! Have a great day, sire!

        • Ralph W. says:

          Probably you’re so fugly, Anonymous, that you need a pretty bike to attract any attention. Throughout my whole adult life women have always pursued me. I’ve always been the one who stood out in the room and attracted the attention of the females. They like rugged masculinity. So I’d look cool on any bike. Your problem, not mine.

    • Anonymous says:

      “How many here are married to a genuinely fugly man or woman?”

      Given the age of the readers here, I’d say most of you.

  39. Kermit says:

    I won’t take anything away from the performance, 75 hp for a single! But it does make me wonder about the longevity of the engine. The looks though I just can’t get past. I’ve seen this family of bikes at a dealer and they don’t look any better in person. And for $11,999? Wheres the value in that.

    • Dave says:

      That’s a valid concern, but there are numerous twins of the same displacement that produce that hp figure in a fairly under stressed tune. Presumably KTM/Husky’s metallurgy is good enough to make up for the extra stress.

      Everything I’ve read about it says it’s the most fun you can have in public and if it wears a little faster than a multi, then at least there’s only one cylinder/valve train to service on it.

  40. Lawrence says:

    The 70’s Husky dirtbikes with the red tank/polished knee pad and fenders, silver frames and black motors were very handsome machines. If they let those be a primary influence in streetified style… and clean up all the various wires/plumbing around the engine bay too. A real mess in person.

  41. gpokluda says:

    You know the motorcycle industry is in trouble when the highlight of the past 7 days is an 1980’s Honda CBX.

    • Reginald Van Blunt says:

      There was a time in human design when the grace of the natural, or animal world, was the model for machines that enhance our human abilities, while extending the possible horizon. Not now.
      The teardrop tank, smooth side covers, complementry lines and curves, a sense of flowing action while still, all gone now with the advent of scary eyes, and transformer cartoon mechanicals. These Huskys are UGLY and do nothing to celebrate graceful function. I do not care how smooth the thumper is if it can not EVEN accent the single cylinder, as many previous thumpers have. Black engine hidden behind black kitchen pipes with a huge drag brake casserole pan in front offer no satisfaction after the puking of over 11 grand for a two wheeled vehicle.
      The fake bumps on the tank and ‘ side coves ‘ add insult to ugly.

  42. Dman says:

    I’m confused by seemingly conflicting statements about the Pirelli tires. First, they’re described as semi-knobbies befitting the bike, then described as gripping surprisingly well, then finally criticized as a fashion statement. What’s up?

    • Bob K says:

      Perhaps Sweeden has crappier roads that need tougher tires from frost upheaval and mudslides with snow melt.

      Also, the front is a 18″. Why? All the best rubber comes in 17″. A bike this light and spirited, I’d want some serious sport rubber on it instead.

  43. JC says:

    Would love it at $7000. Sure, it’s ugly, but it sounds like fun….at $7000

    • Bob K says:

      Dude, get real. The market hasn’t even offered a performance 450 single for the dirt for $7000 since 2004. Why would you expect that price 15 years later?

  44. falcodoug says:

    Sure it’s ugly and costs too much. Would love to have this bike, light and enough juice to enjoy everyday. I already have a pretty bike.

  45. John Bryan says:

    So, what are the advantages of the Husky versions of bikes versus the KTM versions? Or the other way around? I’m not talking about styling since that’s subjective (I don’t care for look of either version though I’d say the KTMs are less objectionable) but are there substantive advantages of one brand over the other?

    • Ralph W. says:

      I don’t remember where I read this, and I’m not going to research it for you now. You can do that yourself. But I did hear that in comparison the KTM is like a lower spec budget model of the same bike, and the Husky is the upmarket version with all of the best components. Some people are heavily influenced by looks. Others, including me, are only interested in performance. I love this bike, except for the price, but the best doesn’t come cheap and it is well worth its money.

      • fred says:

        It was my understanding (perhaps mistaken), that the mechanicals are very similar, but the accoutrements were more expensive/upscale on the Husky. It seemed that Husky was seeking out connoisseurs rather than pragmatists.

  46. gpokluda says:

    I love thumpers but this thing is hideous.

  47. paul says:

    This rolling rubbish tip makes the H-D Livewire look like a masterpiece work of art.

    • mickey says:

      lol agreed.

      It may indeed be a great bike, but I couldn’t own one because I’d have to look at it when walking up to it in the garage. Just couldn’t do it. Hideous.

      Of course on a 150 mile ride day, it would look a lot better than pushing the Livewire

      Think I will avoid them both.

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