Review: Husqvarna Vitpilen 701

Three years ago Husqvarna presented the prototype of the Vitpilen 701 at EICMA. We had to wait a long time for the final production model. Beginning of this year, at the Brussels Motor Show, it was love at first sight. Now, finally I had the chance to test if this Husky rides as good as it looks.

There’s no accounting for taste, but still: the Vitpilen is a stunner. Design-wise, it deviates very little from the concept model and usually that’s a good thing.

“Simple. Progressive.” That’s the motto Husqvarna uses for the Vitpilen line. This can be seen in the design of both the 701 and the 401: progressive. And unique in the motorcycle business. Just have a look at the odd shape of the tank. Or at “the split”, the yellow line cutting the bike in two. The LED lights, both front and rear, are true design wonders and stylish logos are strewn around without ever being too much.

It’s a shame they threw a GS style license plate fender on it. And how cool would it have been should they’ve kept the open air filter as seen on the concept model?

After all this drooling, it’s time to ride! No explanations beforehand needed because there are only three buttons on the small round dash. These allow you to adjust some menu settings and switch off the traction control or ABS. That’s it. Simple.

With a seat height of 830mm the bike is rather high. The saddle also has a wide shape, meaning that the vertically challenged could have issues putting both feet flat on the ground. Something to keep in mind.

When you start it, the dashboard shows that Husqvarna has been “pioneering since 1903”. The stationary sound of the big single cylinder engine is a bit disappointing. Almost uninspired. Luckily that changes into a real braaaap once you open the throttle.

Leaving the parking lot, a bit of finesse is needed when controlling the short clutch lever and below 3000 rpm it typically bucks quite strongly. However once passed those rpm’s the Vitpilen fluently races through the range. That is until the limiter warning light starts flashing . A tad later the limiter itself kicks in quite harshly. Both the warning light as well as the limiter are adjustable.

Because of the slim build, low weight and fluent accelerations, the Vitpilen is easy to maneuver through dense traffic. Obviously its style fits the urban environment like a glove. But it’s just as well at home on the curvy roads outside of town. This is where the Vitpilen shows that it’s more than just a design statement. It’s very easy to throw from one side to the other in the curves. Well, after you’ve adjusted the suspension, that is. Which is very easy to do, even while riding if you’d want to, by using the clickers on top of the WP suspension. In a comfy setting the bike bounces too much when riding it in a crisp way. Adjusting it to the sporty side the front end gives a lot of feedback and trust, making sporty rides a breeze.

The engine has 75 bhp and 72 Nm of torque, which is plentiful for a dry weight of only 157 kg. And even wet it won’t weigh a lot more because the fuel tank only holds 12 liters of fuel.

When riding the saddle presses the inside of your thighs. This makes you naturally sit more to the back. Only then your legs are aligned nicely with the odd shaped tank. This also puts you into a sportier riding position which suits the Vitpilen well.

The quickshifter allows you to shift both up and down without using the clutch. It’s not perfect and sometimes there’s a neutral between 5th and 6th gear. Something Husqvarna afterwards confirmed, but only on this test bike. Despite the single front disc the Husqvarna brakes surprisingly well thanks to the Brembo calipers.

I was curious about the vibrations before riding the Vitpilen. Although they are always there, they never bothered me. On the contrary, they fit the Vitpilen well, adding to its charm. They render the mirrors useless though, but that’s not really a surprise.

Conclusion

The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is an outlaw in motorland. You buy it for the unique concept, the progressive design and the pure riding experience it offers you. Simple. You’ll have to pay a hefty $11,999 for it but at least you’ll get a bike that dares to be different.

Photography: Kenny VH

Pros

+ That design!!!
+ Pure riding experience
+ High level components and finishing

Cons

– The seat needs getting used to
– Price

Tech specs

Engine

Design: 1-cylinder, 4-stroke engine
Displacement: 692.7 cm³
Bore: 105 mm
Stroke: 80 mm
Power: 55 kW/75 pk
Torque: 72 Nm at 6750 rpm
Starter: Electric starter
Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication with 2 oil pumps
Transmission: 6-speed
Primary drive: 36:79
Cooling: Liquid cooled
Clutch: APTC(TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
EMS: Keihin EMS with RBW, twin ignition

Chassis

Frame design: Chromium-Molybdenum steel trellis frame, powder coated
Front suspension: WP upside-down Ø 43 mm
Rear suspension:N WP shock absorber with linkage
Front brake disc diameter: 320 mm
Rear brake disc diameter: 240 mm
ABS: Bosch 9M+ two-channel ABS (disengageable)
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 x ¼”
Steering head angle: 65 °

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