- A new entrant noticed in the niche of fun and stylish roadsters
- Single cylinder, 692 cm3, 75 hp at 8,500 rpm, 72 Nm at 6,750 rpm, 157 kilos dry, € 10,290
- In the saddle
- Engine and transmission
- In the city
- On motorways and main roads
- On departmental
- Comfort and duo
- Consumption & autonomy
- Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 video test
A new entrant noticed in the niche of fun and stylish roadsters
Single cylinder, 692 cm3, 75 hp at 8,500 rpm, 72 Nm at 6,750 rpm, 157 kilos dry, € 10,290
Predicting that Husqvarna could well be the third European manufacturer in a few years, Stefan Pierer, the boss of KTM who bought the Swedish brand in 2013, is not lacking in ambition. Because, third European manufacturer, that means after KTM and BMW, but before Triumph and Ducati, which also means reaching or even exceeding volumes of around 60,000 motorcycles per year. It will be recalled, however, that the brand, created in the 17th century and which produced its first motorcycle in 1903, still sold 36,883 motorcycles in 2017, which gives an indicator of future expectations….
To do this, Husqvarna has a strategy: enter the niche of fun and trendy small and medium-sized vehicles, with simple but modern shapes. Motorcycles that are both easy and rewarding. The cornerstone of this strategy is of course the Vitpilen & Svartpilen combo available in 401 and 701 configurations. It is the latter that we tried around Barcelona..
Good game ! Between the prototypes seen three years ago at the autumn shows and this final version of the 701 Vitpilen, the similarity is striking and the engineers have managed to keep this line and these proportions that really stand out from the motorcyclist. It is obvious that these lines will play a big role in the commercial success of the bike and while everyone’s subjectivity must obviously be respected, the general opinion is that they are downright successful. They also prove that at Kiska we know how to draw something other than with a set square, which the design of KTMs would not let us imagine. Moreover, we owe the great authorship of the lines of the Vitpilen to a French designer, Maxime Thouvenin.
Beyond the lines, there is also the care taken by what is called, in the automotive industry, the "colors and materials" department. From the bulges of the tank subtly underlined by this satin gray paint, with the yellow mesh acting as a cutting line, through the pilot saddle made of a foamed coating, nothing to say, it’s clean, just like the LED lights and their integration, at the rear, in the saddle. We also admire the finish of the exhaust as well as the "701" logo engraved inside the wheel arch, or the "Z" separation of the two half-shells of the tank..
Admittedly, looking in the details, we find a few unsightly things: exposed fuse box, quite a few cables here and there. At the same time, you can’t praise a minimalist design on one side and claim on the other, full of caches that would weigh the whole thing down. And then the trellis frame does not allow to conceal much.
In the saddle
Even if the bike is quite thin and compact, it will not necessarily suit the smallest riders. The saddle height is still 830 mm; moreover this saddle is both wide and with very square ridges, so you need a bit of legs. An esteemed colleague of a competing publication, measuring a strong standard 1.78 m and in addition a (very small) little weighted by an immoderate love for fries, does not put both feet flat on the ground. At the same time, this is not prohibitive either, given the lightness of the motorcycle, which is balanced with a delicate toe of anorexic ballerina (pleonasm).
Likewise, and it’s a bit curious when you recall Husqvarna’s speech, which positions the bike as "street", the riding position is still tilted a bit forward. Admittedly, the flat handlebar does not break the wrists like on a hyper sports car, but you will see for yourself, you just have to lower your head to look like a runner.
In short: once on board, we discover a new digital dashboard, but not TFT or color, with fairly complete information, but small in size and housed in a somewhat cheap plastic support. On the other hand, we still have a gasoline gauge, a clock, two trips, a gear indicator engaged, a tachometer by baregraph not very precise to read (but there is an indicator light of shiftlight). Then, the commodos are both classic and not too loaded with buttons.
So we just have to put a determined finger on the starter button…. and the gromono starts in a fairly unspecified sound.
Engine and transmission
Did you like the latest engine generation of the KTM 690 Duke? Well don’t change a thing, because it’s the same. As a result, you benefit from a modern engine which is, moreover, the most efficient single cylinder on the market. This compact block, has two balancing pendulums, weighs only 43 kilos, develops 75 horsepower at 8,500 rpm and crashes at 9,000 rpm, in addition to balancing a fairly generous torque of 72 Nm at 6,750 rpm . Despite its good performance, it only needs a service every 10,000 kilometers.
It has an anti-dribble clutch and an up & down shifter as standard, which must however deal with the inertia inherent in a single-cylinder engine and which is only really pleasant when you are knocked out..
Like any single cylinder, it’s obviously not super smooth at the bottom: let’s say 3000 rpm in first gears and almost 4000 rpm in sixth. It’s normal. Nevertheless, it is however the kind of engine which reconciles you (although as a personal matter, I was not angry, moving on a daily basis in a Royal Enfield Bullet 500) with the single cylinder: torquey, lively in the towers, having with a good length, it is a real treat and which, moreover, has good performance.
A final word on its sound: it is double-edged. When you’re on the bike, it’s not terrible: it doesn’t sound metallic, not greasy, not deep, you even have the impression of being on a smaller displacement. There are even a few scraping noises when starting up. On the other hand, when you hear him pass, it farts like a big enough sporty mono. And if necessary, Husqvarna has a complete Akrapovic line as an option.
Finally, note that this engine is controlled by a ride-by-wire type accelerator: at the same time, the electronics are not as developed as on a KTM 790 Duke, for example. We don’t have any drive modes (at the same time, with 75 horsepower, is that necessary?) And traction control, as standard, is on or off. In short, you don’t have a choice between 9 different levels ….
For young drivers, this engine can also be clamped A2 by a new mapping.
In the city
Interesting chapter because Husqvarna positions this bike as a fairly street and trendy machine. Urban, yes by its finesse, its lightness and its compactness. On the other hand, the driving position is still quite sporty, the turning radius is correct without being exceptional and the machine still lacks practical aspects (where to put a lock?). And the big single-cylinder, by definition, isn’t the most flexible powertrain on the planet. It requires a small stream of gas to start smoothly and pounded a little under 3000 rpm. Suddenly, on the boulevards, we naturally tend to cruiser at 3500 rpm in 3rd at 50 km / h.
And, one certainty: it will look great on the terrace of cafes !
On motorways and main roads
Looks like nothing, this little bike is good for a 200 lap time on the Autobhan. For a “small” motorcycle, a single cylinder in addition, it pedals all the same seriously. In France, of course, even if you feel such a thought, you risk Cayenne, collective opprobrium, tar and media feathers. Suddenly, we will stick to a more reasonable 5000 revolutions "and a few" (the tachometer is not super readable), which puts you at 130 km / h in sixth and therefore safe from everything. incident.
Good news: if the bike is compact, the good ergonomics allow you to tilt your head forward, step back a little in the saddle and face Eole, god of the wind. The vibrations of the single cylinder remain contained at this speed and the Vitpilen investigates the limits without flinching, with more beautiful times, even on the last report.
We didn’t ride long enough in these conditions to test the saddle, which does seem a bit firm at first. And there are only 12 liters in the tank. Morality, if on the one hand, the motorway, it is your great passion and on the other, you absolutely want to send a check to Mattighofen (Austria), think of the KTM 1290 Super Adventure S.
Be careful, on July 1st, it will be complicated. Because thanks to E. Philippe, our beloved Savior, the man who is flashed at 150, but who is "determined" that everyone, except him, goes dragging at 80 km / h, the 701 Vitpilen is not going to flourish. Because at 80 km / h, on the last report, it is a bit below 3500 rpm and it stamps on the rear axle. Suddenly, you have two solutions: want to save the planet, end up sinking a connecting rod and send the bill to Matignon, or rather, consume more, but roll in fifth or even fourth so that the piston is more comfortable in its shirt.
This reservation expressed, that this does not distract you, on the contrary, from the secondary network, often considered, and rightly so, as the cradle of motorcycling pleasure. And here even more than elsewhere, thanks to two figures that we remind you, as the famous Herbert Leonard sang so well: for fun. 75 horsepower, 157 kilos, that’s good! This is not to insist, but it will be recalled, for example, that a Suzuki 250 V-Strom is 188 kilos ….
Suddenly, the good news is piling up: agility, liveliness, precision, punchy engine, instant revs, very decent suspensions and good braking. Because if the Vitpilen agrees to stroll on a little trickle of gas, at mid-speed of course, it becomes nicer and the driving position lends itself to it, when you push it around a bit. Ultimately, the profile of the Brigestone Battlax S21 makes the front axle a bit heavier and the Vitpilen deserves more sporty compounds. Finally, here we quibble.
Still, we are presented with a motorcycle with a slightly urban and trendy vocation, that we note all this carefully, but it would still be a waste not to take it out for virolo regularly.
Did you like the chassis of the 690 Duke? Well don’t change a thing, it’s almost (but really almost) the same. Frame, wheelbase, geometry: they are identical and therefore a very high level of balance, precision and lightness.
The difference lies in the setting of the suspensions, as well as in the general feeling provided by the radically different ergonomics. As for the suspensions, therefore, we have very logically elements from WP: inverted fork 43 mm in diameter and deflecting 135 mm, with separate compression and rebound settings easily accessible by pawls at the top of the fork tubes. At the rear, the mono-shock absorber also debates on 135 mm and it is adjustable in preload and rebound.
The tire dimensions do not overdo it, with 120/70 x 17 in front and 160/60 x 17 behind which, combined with the light weight, guarantees agility.
We find Brembo with a radial four-piston caliper at the front plucking a 320mm disc, aided by a 240mm disc at the rear plucked by a single-piston caliper, all under the control of an ABS Bosch. The ABS, which can be disconnected, is very sensitive at the rear. Up front, the bite is progressive and the power is good, then, once you grip the lever well.
In short, whether in part-cycle or brakes, the settings are a little less radical than on a KTM 690 Duke R.
Comfort and duo
Is Geraldine really in love? What’s cool is that this is a real test. Because already, she will have to be petite and accept the idea that the duo will be of the Spartan type. Because the shiny piece of plastic there, yes, is the saddle. What about the handles? Well there is none.
We took too many breaks during this test to gauge the comfort on a long trip. There is nothing cartoonish about the suspensions. It remains to be seen the saddle. Anyway, thanks to the paragraph below, we will have time to take breaks ….
Consumption & autonomy
Compact, the Vitpilen has a 12 liter tank. There is a fuel gauge and a range indicator, but on several of our test bikes, this one was fanciful, taking a long time to calibrate and then reasoning in the short term, depending of the last gas stroke. Suddenly, the advertised autonomy can exceed 250 kilometers, then shrink like hell on the first rather cheerful climb of the pass. We were unable to refuel ourselves and calculate the consumption, but at the end of a 140-kilometer day, we returned to the reserve.
Like astrophysics and micro-cellular biology, marketing is becoming an increasingly mature science, so one day we will have to think about creating a Nobel Prize for marketing. And Husqvarna will be able to compete, because throughout the press conference held in a beautiful marina in the port of Barcelona, all the speakers were perfectly successful in avoiding uttering the word "Duke". Good game. The 690 Duke engine, the 690 Duke frame, the 690 Duke geometry: all of this was as carefully as it was masterfully evaded.
Which does not make the 701 Vitpilen an uninteresting motorcycle, quite the contrary! Already because going to take as an organ bank a KTM 690 Duke, with the most punchy single cylinder on the market and a frankly well-designed chassis, not only is there worse, but above all, there is no better.
Then, the driving position and the general feeling of the bike, its level of performance, its beautiful agility mean that the essential is there: a beautiful driving pleasure as soon as it turns a little and a reminder of the essential values that are the lightness and precision. And the essential can very well accommodate what is becoming less and less superfluous, for no doubt the Vitpilen will turn many heads and be rewarding for its owner, more than a Duke, even. And that matters when it comes to photos posted on social networks (yes, my good Lucette, it’s more like before!). Hashtag Ilovemyfollowers.
Either way, Husqvarna is going to forcefully advance by sharing the KTM organ bank. The leaders of the brand do not hide it: 125, 801, 1301, multiple avenues are explored in addition to this 701 and 401 which are in the dealerships. What happens next will depend on the combination of priorities and industrial capabilities in both Austria and India..
After that, everything will also depend on the intensity of the reception and the ability of Husqvarna to impose this design, admittedly successful. It is also true that at € 10,290, the 701 Vitpilen is in the high price range of mid-capacity roadsters. But it brings something new, fresh, different and, in that sense, can also appeal to anyone who, for example, rode a Harley-Davidson 883 Iron four years ago, then a Ducati 800 Scrambler four years ago. two years old and want to explore a new, quite chic way of riding motorcycles.
- Aesthetics and attention to detail
- Punchy single cylinder with plenty of reach
- Driving pleasure on small roads
- Equipment (shifter, traction control)
- A2 license possible
- Spartan duo
- Sound perceived quite ordinary
- Sensitive ABS at the rear
- Sporty driving position for the city
- Autonomy (and autonomy indicator in the cellar)
- Fairly premium price
- Dashboard not mega readable
The technical sheet of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
- Itinerary: a day of testing with a little town, a small mountain road and a bit of motorway, around Barcelona (Spain), 140 kilometers in all
- Motorcycle mileage: 1400 km
- Problem encountered: the old smell of mass graves, on the urban photo spot, it was something !
Competition: Ducati Scrambler Full Throttle, Harley-Davidson 1200 Roadster, KTM 690 Duke
Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 video test
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