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Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 versus KTM 690 Duke

Single-cylinder naked bikes in a comparison test

As a powerful single from Matthighofen, you now have exclusivity claims. Hardly anyone else trusts large-volume single cylinders. So it’s all the cooler that the 690 Duke has now had a sister company. One that looks adorable. But the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 also drives better?

With the first combustion noises of the KTM 690 Duke and Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 flashes the memory again. About how as a little steppe you took a makeshift seat on the huge fender of the tractor equipped with a simple seat cushion, whose mighty single cylinder the farmer next door cranked manually with a skillful turning movement, and drove into the field together on a hot late summer day to pick up the grain to catch up. That always made my heart warm. Not just because of the stinging heat in the blazing sun, but because of this monstrous machine, whose sheer power and background noise could not be understood as a child.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 versus KTM 690 Duke

Single-cylinder naked bikes in a comparison test

Video of the comparison test

Hard to tell apart when it comes to sound

Admittedly, the largest and most modern series stew that can be found in both motorcycles has happily little to do with diesel single-cylinder agricultural machinery. But they share some traits. The power, for example, with which the power hits the rear tire like a hammer. Or the understandable, because simple, technology. The same goes for the characteristic banging and shooting from the rear silencer. Noticeable with the motorcycles: the acoustics of the Austrian sister companies differ as little as in any other point. And this despite the fact that not only the engine, but also the basic construction of the steel space frame was pulled from shelves that were close together. Compared to the KTM 690 Duke, the steering head of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is two degrees steeper, the caster is 13 and the wheelbase is 32 millimeters less. The Duke is already banging quickly through the track!

The Vitpilen is more stable around the corner, more agile and easier thanks to the wider handlebars the Duke. Both are handy.

Externally, the KTM 690 Duke clearly embodies the traditional, angular, accentuated design that has already been further developed in all other, smaller and larger Duke models. The 690 looks classic, functional like a clockwork, for some it may be a bit conservative. With the flat front, the raised cladding of the 14 liter tank, the steep stainless steel silencer and the front and rear 135 millimeters of spring travel of the non-adjustable WP fork and the WP shock absorber that can only be adjusted in preload, you can see the supermoto -Gene on. There is no question about it: the Duke has always been a fun bike, a rebel in the ranks of mostly Japanese mid-range motorcycles – and it wants to stay that way.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is almost 1,600 euros more expensive

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 makes it difficult for an art student. The unusual shape of the twelve-liter fuel drum that plays with light reflexes, the crisp, stubby rear end and the glistening bright round headlights attract the driver to gently stroke them. Husqvarna celebrates the attention to detail: every component, no matter how small, seems to have passed through designer hands, and hardly any of them fulfills just one function. That has consequences. As soon as you put the fully tanked bike, weighing 165 kilos, on the side stand, the first passers-by are ready to chat. Despite all the euphoria, you have to confess to them that the Swedish-inspired, matt silver dress requires a bulging wallet. Around 1,600 euros in addition to the 8,955 euros for the KTM 690 Duke have to be leafed through on the counter to enjoy an avant-garde interpretation of the modern two-wheeler. The Vitpilen, which translates as “white arrow”, cannot show that much in terms of equipment. Okay, the WP fork offers a wider range of applications with adjustable rebound and compression damping. The same applies to the shock absorber, which can be adjusted in preload and rebound according to the driver’s preferences. But beyond that, you have to see the added value in the design, the high-quality workmanship, the nominally 3 HP stronger Single and the built-in shift assistant – and maybe in the prestige. You know it from the automotive sector, and whether you like it or not: an Audi isn’t a Skoda, a Husqvarna isn’t a KTM either.

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is a real eye-catcher.

Two-channel ABS from Bosch and traction control ensure safety on both motorcycles. In the case of the KTM 690 Duke, the former can even be switched to a supermoto mode (deactivated ABS on the rear wheel), while the latter can be regulated in three sensitivity levels. In addition, the response behavior of the Duke can be influenced by selecting three mappings (Street, Sport, Rain). The modern and sharp TFT display, which is difficult to read due to the too flat angle of inclination to the driver in direct sunlight, is easy to operate after a short training period. The round LCD of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, on the other hand, does not raise any questions, at most whether it really goes so well with the character of the otherwise stylish 701. Well, the range display reassures the pilot that despite the small tank, more than 290 kilometers are possible in a row before it goes back to the gas pump – thanks to the economy of the well-behaved single. The fact that you can go a long way with the KTM fits in with the ergonomically more relaxed seating position. An open knee angle, the wide handlebars, the comfortable bench at a height of 830 millimeters and the good freedom of movement take away the horror of long stages. The footbrake and gear levers are surprisingly high in series production: If you don’t wear motocross but normal motorcycle boots, you almost have to lift your foot off the notch in order to move into the next gear of the 167 kilo 690.

Which wins the duel on the road?

On the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, your feet will find their way more easily. The length of the brake and shift levers can even be adjusted in two stages. In addition, the bike requires taker qualities. Not only because of the rather hard rather than sporty, taut seat at a height of 845 millimeters, but also because of the somewhat stretched seating position over the long tank to the handlebars mounted on the upper fork bridge. The weight of the upper body is heavier on the wrists, which is particularly noticeable at slow speeds. No, none of this is entirely uncomfortable. The Vitpilen is just a chic roadster and not a luxurious travel steamer. Speaking of roadsters: hit the road! The Vitpilen’s clutch lever, which is too short, can be pulled easily. The gears lock into place exactly as on the Duke. The shift assistant on the Husky, however, has a lot of trouble with the design-related performance peaks of the single-cylinder, only under light load does it change gear sufficiently smoothly and without any noticeable interruption in tractive power. One should not expect miracles here.

Compared to the Vitpilen, the Duke looks more angular.

After the first few meters in city traffic, this is also evident with regard to the engine. Even today, a modern, large-volume single-cylinder prefers higher than lower speeds. Duke and Vitpilen chop up to around 3,000 revolutions on their chains, in the higher gears they find it even better 1,000 turns later. In concrete terms, this means that third gear is the measure of all things in built-up areas, and sixth only from 90 km / h. But you forgive that immediately. Anyone who thinks that the two singles only have a narrow speed range in which power can be accessed is wrong. How the maximum measured 78 or 79 PS and 76 or 75 Newton meters are served, makes you quickly weak and take a first look at your own savings account. From 3,500 turns, at least 60 Newton meters are available, which, when the cock is cocked, evenly and with witty revving of the single cylinder up to just under 7,000 turns to its maximum. Their singles shoot so powerfully, act so fun-loving, that you like to let the gas stand up to the limiter. But don’t worry: anyone who wants to drive the KTM 690 Duke and Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 quietly, for example through towns, has all the options. When driving at constant speed, the single-cylinder potteln civil and low-vibration. Anyway, the Mattighofener have taught them great manners, whereby the 690 takes it a touch more gently on the gas. The two balancer shafts and the dual ignition also effectively calm the engine down. Only after the second half of the rev range do the rear-view mirrors of both bikes begin to shake more strongly and you can no longer see too much. But what should be seen in them? More powerful motorcycles?

KTM 690 Duke easier to drive

Well, the closer the streets wind, the more the KTM 690 Duke is in its element. Thanks to the wide handlebars, it can be easily thrown into an inclined position, straightened up and then turned down again. The Supermoto genes are undoubtedly created in it, the Metzeler M7 go along with any gimmicks without complaint. In an inclined position, especially on bumps and potholes, however, unrest can quickly affect the chassis. The Duke pays for its agility to some extent with a loss of stability. Both the fork and the shock absorber should also respond more sensitively. Does that make any fun? Definitely not! The 690 appeals to beginners and experienced pilots alike, and remains manageable even at the limit. And what about the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701?

On the whole, the two don’t give each other much. In the end, however, the Duke narrowly prevailed.

Where the track opens up, the bends get wider and faster, that’s where the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 comes in. It can also be turned jaggedly, but requires clear impulses on the clip-ons, which is why it requires more power at a brisk pace despite the sharper chassis geometry. Once brought into line, it arrows stoically through the curve. Their higher quality chassis components pay off especially on wrinkled asphalt surfaces. They skilfully dampen bumps and potholes, making the Vitpilen a sportswoman among the group sisters, also because of the sitting posture. Enormous cornering speeds are possible thanks to the narrow 160 mm rear tire (Bridgestone S21) and the great freedom of banking. But: The Husqvarna requires a more knowledgeable hand for this. If you don’t mind, the 701 will be just as happy as the KTM 690 Duke. Except that the art student just looks so much nicer. With their fat single cylinders, both delight and fascinate equally – just like the neighbors’s old tractor back then.

MOTORCYCLE test result

1. KTM 690 Duke
She is a fun bike, a bully, but with civil manners. It spontaneously folds into the corner, hammers forward skillfully, makes life difficult for stronger motorcycles on narrow streets. The chassis is not perfect, but the potential is huge.

2. Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
A study for the street. Beautiful, attention to detail, avant-garde. And then it drives well and quickly through corners. The single cylinder suits her perfectly. The ergonomics, however, require compromises, the narrow handlebars a lot of power for the quick dash.

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