A while ago one of my friends did an adventure trip to the Ardennes with his brand new Husqvarna 701 Enduro. While we were cursing and sweating on our heavy adventure bikes, the Husky followed, fingers in the nose. So when I was planning a new adventure trip, to the Morvan region in France this time, I took the opportunity to test the 701 Enduro and see for myself if it’s really such an easy bike to ride off-road.
The Husqvarna name may not mean much to the average biker. But motocross pilots and fans know better. The Swedish brand has a rich enduro and motocross history. In the sixties and seventies, it won one world title after another. But in the late 80’s it got in trouble. After Cagiva, MV Agusta and BMW ownership, Stefan Pierer took the brand under his wings. Yes, that’s the Austrian guy who’s also heavily involved in KTM. So it’s almost pure logic that the current Husqvarna motorcycles have some KTM blood flowing through their veins.
The single cylinder engine of the 701 Enduro delivers 74 hp and 71 Nm at 6,750 rpm, so a KTM 1190 Adventure or a BMW R 1200 GS is completely out of the 701’s league. But if you push it hard enough that slightly crazy KTM character instantly awakens. Open the throttle recklessly in second gear and the front wheel will go airborn guaranteed. The engine runs quite rough in low rpm’s, something I also experienced with the KTM 1050 Adventure and the 1290 Super Duke GT, which also shows the close KTM tie.
Because of the cross-fertilization between the two brands you might think that the Husqvarna 701 Enduro is just a KTM 690 Enduro in disguise. Don’t be fooled. The engine comes from the brand new KTM 690 Duke, and on other levels too you should rather see the Husky as an upgraded KTM 690 Enduro. For example, the WP suspension is better and longer. 275 mm of travel means that bumpy tracks can be tackled easier. The suspension’s standard setting was completely to my liking but if you want you can adjust both the front and rear suspension.
On the highway the Husky easily reaches 120 km/h without losing stability. It can go faster but the wind will become an issue at that point. I heard some complaints about the seat being too firm. Yes, it’s firm. But I’ve already tested 100% road bikes with less comfortable seats. A 1,5 hour ride with the 701 wasn’t torturing. One thing was a torture: cleaning the seat after a few days of off-roading. An almost impossible task, especially the white and yellow parts.
If you want to go off-roading somewhere a long way from home, then you could do the complete trip with the 701. But keep in mind: little comfort and zero wind protection. You better have some character if you plan long stretches of highway.
Obviously more fun can be found once you leave the highway. The Husky needs some encouragement to enter corners, so you’ll tend to handle the bike more aggressively. It doesn’t mind that. Acting like a hooligan is its favourite pastime. Leaving corners swiftly, fully attacking the next corner, that’s the way (a-ha a-ha) I like it (a-ha a-ha). And the bike too.
On off-road tracks the contrast with a heavy adventure bike is quite spectacular. My 800 GS weighs more than 200 kg, the 701 Enduro 160 kg with a full tank. Forty kilos that make a big difference. If your 1200 GS buddies call you a cheater when you show up for an adventure trip on a 701 Enduro, well, Continue reading