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Comparison test between the SWM RS 650 R and the Yamaha XT 660 R

Single-cylinder enduro bikes in a duel

Well-known technology, new money – financed by the Chinese motorcycle giant Shinray, SWM is relaunching the former Husqvarna models at affordable rates. A recipe for success? The Ernstlingswerk, the Hardenduro SWM RS 650 R, should prove it in a comparison test against the Yamaha XT 660 R..

Connoisseurs would accurately identify the single cylinder during the blind tasting. Because the fine ticking from the valve train that can be heard when the engine is idling, only allows one tip: Husqvarna. And yet the insiders would be wrong. Because where Husqvarna technology is still in it, it is now S.WM on it. Confusion? A look back brings clarification. In February 2013 BMW sold the loss-making subsidiary to KTM as the hapless owner of Husqvarna. The Austrians closed the plant and have been using the traditional name for a range of models based on KTM technology ever since.

Comparison test between the SWM RS 650 R and the Yamaha XT 660 R

Single-cylinder enduro bikes in a duel

The engine of the SWM RS 650 R comes from the Husqvarna TE 630

In this respect, it is not difficult to retrace the family tree of the SWM RS 650 R. The last time the single was offered in 2012, then as Husqvarna TE 630. There is a reason why the large single-cylinder was one of the first SWM models to be reanimated: It has become lonely in the once densely populated hard enduro segment. With the 67 hp 690 Enduro R, which costs 9,000 euros, KTM is focusing on the performance and image-conscious clientele, while Yamaha takes care of basic single-cylinder supplies with the Yamaha XT 660 R (48 hp, 7160 euros).

And the SWM RS 650 R? Somewhere in between. The sporty concept is similar to the KTM, engine output and price (54 hp, 6740 euros) are more on the level of the Yamaha. But because SWM declared the low-cost principle to be the mainstay of the company’s policy, the inexpensive Yamaha XT 660 R accompanies the Italian on her maiden tour into her second spring.

Yamaha XT 660 R significantly heavier

Even if it quickly becomes clear that the two will probably not get along well. Like a thin-legged calf next to its plump mother, the SWM stands at the side of the Yamaha. Exactly 30 kilograms separate the fully fueled 159 kilogram Italian from the 189 kilogram Yamaha XT 660 R. It feels even more. Because everything on the SWM RS 650 R got narrow.

Seat, knee joint, rear, motor housing, every single element reveals: the SWM RS 650 R was once a racer. Because until the triumphant advance of the small and light four-stroke engines at the end of the 90s, the four-stroke off-road freaks were digging their way through the undergrowth with thick steam hammers. The 600 cc single is derived directly from the Husky drive at the time.

The SWM wants to be conquered

The Yamaha XT 660 R is different, despite the 21-inch front wheel that is typical for off-road ambitions, signaling the tourist orientation the XT. With which she ingratiates herself right away. The leg is quickly heaved over the comparatively moderately high bench with 87 centimeters, and it sits snuggly on the softly padded seat. The single cylinder starts immediately, relaxing the mood with its gentle pulse.

The SWM RS 650 R wants to be conquered. A seat height of 92 centimeters, the side stand that immediately retracts when you sit up and the manual choke on the left end of the handlebars demand a sporting spirit and attention. It takes a moment until the Mikuni injection and the Italian Athena software find each other and the single chugs away with the said valve ticker. But whoever expects the boyish appearance to continue afterwards is mistaken.

Yamaha 660s don’t have to hide

Sound? Full and well steamed. Coupling? Two fingers are enough. Engage first gear. Not a bad chain slap. Switch through. The claws slide smoothly into one another. In general, the SWM RS 650 R is well behaved. For a thick stew that does not run smoothly per se, the drive in the lower rev range only picks up the chain cautiously, it feels no rougher than a 690 KTM. In the middle it pushes politely and ultimately benefits from its easy-revving dohc valve train working under the conspicuously red painted bonnet. The outdoorsman with such a sporting history never goes on a cuddle course. And yet the tingling sensation that occurs from mid-speed onwards remains bearable, at most annoying in the rarely used upper regions.

The Yamaha XT 660 R almost missed the lightning start. The 660, which at first seems inconspicuous, does not have to be so modest. Because: Up to 6000 rpm (see performance measurements) the big pot outstrips the Italian stew. Even if hardly anyone can believe him at first, given the appearance smoothed by the lush oscillating mass. The XT drive, which is equipped with only one camshaft, doesn’t make a big fuss about its quality. Everything works, everything runs smoothly in the best possible single running culture. It may not be thrilling, but it is always trust-building.

Chinese influence is limited at SWM

Speaking of trust. SWM has to build this up against the background of the Chinese commitment, which is scratching its image. And in this respect the SWM RS 650 R shows that it is aware of its responsibility. From the high-quality stainless steel exhaust system, the neatly welded frame tubes, to the electrics carefully stowed under the bench, to the lever, which is even provided with grease nipples, the men at Lake Vares have visibly worked hard. Especially since the Chinese influence is limited anyway. Only the engine housing halves, the gearbox, the plastic parts and the clutch fitting – by the way, a one-to-one copy of a Magura master cylinder – come from China.

The Korean original tires, on the other hand, stir up doubts about Far Eastern product quality. With stubborn steering behavior and poor grip, the Golden Tire GT 201 tires are good for nothing more than driving to the nearest tire dealer. The potential of the SWM RS 650 R can be exploited much more effectively with the Pirelli MT 90, which have been assembled on a trial basis and are already aged in their construction. Like the proverbial bicycle, the SWM then dangles through alternating curves, steering easily and precisely with its narrow tire dimensions. However: You shouldn’t be too brash. The front floating saddle bites rather cautiously into the three millimeter thin disc and only provides a spongy pressure point. But the suspension vote was successful. Despite the reserves necessary for off-road use, the damper (from Sachs) and the fork (from Marzocchi) also swallow asphalt wrinkles sensibly, and with the likewise neatly padded bench make the trip bearable even over a longer period of time. Of course this is not the case for a more off-road oriented concept like the SWM.

Which enduro has the edge??

In contrast to the Yamaha XT 660 R. remaining true to its moderate orientation, the XT also takes the country road ride with its left, can be driven completely relaxed through the country with a soft basic set-up, neutral handling and the good Metzeler Tourance tires. Even the extra pounds are much less of a factor than feared. Especially since the Yamaha bought a good part of its suitability for everyday use with the extra ballast. Anyone who wants to transport luggage and passengers or is planning a vacation tour cannot avoid the XT in this comparison. However: While hardly anyone expects an ABS from the SWM RS 650 R, the Japanese, who have only been carefully modeled since 2004, are reluctant to forgive the lack of an anti-lock device. Small consolation: The front stopper does not work particularly snappy.

Which at least benefits her in the field. Because the Yamaha XT 660 R also stands out better than expected off the road. In a species-appropriate environment, i.e. on dry country lanes or coarse gravel, the front 21-inch model guides you precisely, only hits the progressively tuned suspension when there are wild holes and pushes the gently onset single forward easily controllable. That it has to admit defeat to the SWM RS 650 R despite all the merits is not surprising. Because as soon as the first crumb of earth gets under the front wheel, the RS remembers its dusty nursery. Then she celebrates the Powerslide on gravel, balances neatly along ruts and is even fun on moderate cross-slopes. Basically only the choice of tires limits the ambitions in the grassland.

And thus completely differentiates the range of uses of the duo. Because ultimately the single-cylinder pair only overlaps on the country road and pulls the individual joker in everyday life, on travel (Yamaha XT 660 R) or off-road (SWM RS 650 R). But what is much more decisive: The RS 650 R proves that the new flag under which the venerable huskies are now sailing is obviously blowing in a fresh breeze. Workmanship and technology fit – the price anyway.

Technical data and measured values

Yamaha XT 660 R and SWM RS 650 R.

Motorcycle readings

SWM RS 650 R Yamaha XT 660 R.
Top speed * 160 km / h 160 km / h
Acceleration at 0-100 km / h 5.0 sec 5.3 sec
Acceleration at 0–140 km / h 10.1 sec 11.6 sec
Pulling speed at 60-100 km / h 4.8 sec 5.3 sec
Pulling through at 100–140 km / h 6.7 sec 6.7 sec
Consumption country road / 100 km 4.3 liters 4.9 liters
Reach country road 279 km

306 km

* Manufacturer information

Performance measurements


Performance measurements SWM RS 650 R and Yamaha XT 660 R.

The practical impression is deceptive. Although the Yamaha XT 660 R gives a rather tame impression, the performance of the single up to 6000 rpm is clearly higher than the engine of the SWM RS 650 R. The fact that the Italian stew still looks livelier is mainly due to its lower flywheel mass. The RS engine also owes the 1500 rpm higher speed limit to the dohc valve train.

Interview with Jose Zupin (SWM importer)

Peter Mayer

Jose Zupin (69), owner of Zupin Moto Sport, was a Husqvarna importer from 1975 to 2012. The Bavarian company is now importing the SWM models.

MOTORCYCLE: For you, SWM is, in a sense, has already seen experience. The technology is identical to the Husqvarna machines before 2012, and so are the people involved. What is the attraction of importing SWM??

Jose Zupine: I believe in SWM’s business model. Motorcycles, especially off-road machines, have become too expensive. Almost 10,000 euros for a sports enduro surpass the pain threshold. We will only charge 60 percent of this price and still offer reasonable technology.

MOTORCYCLE: How many dealers do you work with?

Jose Zupine: There are currently around 40.

MOTORCYCLE: They all come from their former Husqvarna dealers?

Jose Zupine: Only about 50 percent. Some dealers are not allowed to include us in their range due to pressure from competitors. So far, other dealers have only represented Japanese manufacturers and are new to us. And still others are only interested in the retro models. We can cope with this mix. We don’t see SWM as the first brand for a retailer, but as a complement.

MOTORCYCLE: This means that there will also be SWM dealers who only have off-roaders or only the retro models in their range?

Jose Zupine: Exactly. We are flexible there.

MOTORCYCLE: The key question on the subject of SWM naturally relates to quality. Are the SWM machines qualitatively at a similar level to the former Husqvarna??

Jose Zupine: Without lying: yes. Take a look at the test machine. The SWM RS 650 R is made tip-top. It is also made in Italy with many European components. Only the motor housing, the gearbox and the plastic parts come from China. Their quality is also right. Besides, you don’t have to fool yourself. All major manufacturers source parts from the Far East, some even manufacture some models entirely there.

MOTORCYCLE: SWM realizes the price advantage through the currently hardly existing development costs. In the foreseeable future, however, new models will have to be created. How do you intend to work profitably then?

Jose Zupine: A new 250cc sports engine and a 125cc four-stroke for an entry-level supermoto are currently in the pipeline …

MOTORCYCLE: … both of which were developed in the BMW era.

Jose Zupine: Yes, for the most part, but new ideas from engineer Macchi and designer Zacchanini have already been implemented here. The parent company Shineray has to decide on the model and price policy based on in-house developments. But you have to see that SWM currently works with 64 people, in the BMW era the workforce numbered 240. The cost structure differs considerably and will also allow for in-house developments financially.

MOTORCYCLE: There are rumors that SWM would like to use the Husqvarna Nuda’s engine, which is based on the F 800 Twin from BMW, for a two-cylinder model. Is that correct?

Jose Zupine: I can’t say much about that. But discussions with Rotax about where this two-cylinder will be built have been going on for some time. I hope that those responsible for SWM get the deal right.

MOTORCYCLE: You have followed the eventful history of Husqvarna up close. How many changes of ownership have you seen??

Jose Zupine: We worked with the Swedes until 1986, with the Cagiva Group in Italy from 1987, with BMW from 2007 and now we’ve come full circle with SWM. We saw everything and we all survived (laughs).


The Yamaha XT 660 R secures the sympathy of the tourist-oriented single lovers, the SWM RS 650 R attracts the off-road-oriented hardenduro fans to its side.

The intersection of the two single cylinders is small. The Yamaha XT 660 R secures the sympathy of the tourist-oriented single lovers, the SWM RS 650 R attracts the off-road-oriented hardenduro fans to its side. What is decisive, however, is that SWM’s debut work honors Husqvarna’s legacy. Above all, the fact that the processing quality is right will give the Sino-Italian joint project a boost.

Price comparison of the two single-cylinder enduros

Used SWM RS 650 R and Yamaha XT 660 R in Germany

The SWM RS 650 R also competes against the Yamaha XT 660 R on the used motorcycle exchange. A direct price comparison shows which one can claim the best price-performance ratio: Used SWM RS 650 R and Yamaha XT 660 R in Germany

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