At the beginning of the 20th century, there were literally hundreds of companies around the world building motor-cycles, all vying to capitalize on the burgeoning new industry of powered, two-wheel transportation. Unfor-tunately, despite intense passion and wild seeds of invention, manufacturing proved to be an ephemeral pursuit for most—the list of still-active brands that can boast a 100-year anniversary is excruciatingly short.
Sharing the mantle with Harley-Davidson in this rare milestone is Husqvarna. Founded in Sweden in 1689 as a weapons forge specializing in muskets, Husqvarna built its first motorcycle in 1903—the same year the Wright brothers took to the air at Kitty Hawk. Devoted to the importance of racing in the development of its machines, the company won numerous off-road world championships as well as national titles around the world in everything from Swedish motocross to American desert racing. However, serious opposition from the Japanese and a shift in corp-orate focus in the 1980s Husqvarna had remained a widely diversified company with a range of products from sewing machines to chainsaws—caused Husqvarna motorcycles to find itself on the brink of succumbing to the same fate of many of those other erstwhile machines.
Enter Italian-based Cagiva, the company that later resurrected the vaunted MV Agusta marque. In 1987, Cagiva purchased Husqvarna and set out to revitalize the legendary brand. The rapidly growing supermoto market segment is the platform for Cagiva’s latest attempt to restore the Husqvarna name to its former greatness. (Click images to enlarge)
The Husqvarna SM 610 is a street-legal supermoto-based motorcycle intended for daily commutes and light transportation, as well as a fun weekend canyon-carving tool. If you have ever ridden a motocross bike, you can imagine the end result of combining feather-light weight, sharp handling and explosive motor response with tires designed for on-pavement stickiness.
The razor-thin Husqvarna feels alien to what most of us have come to expect from a road-going motorcycle. The slim profile, wide motocross handlebars and agile handling makes riding the Husqvarna on tight canyon roads akin to slalom skiing, as it is capable of producing an engaging rhythm—flicking the machine back and forth through corners in a kind of sinuous ballet.
In fact, in the case of the SM 610, you will find yourself seeking out those tight canyon roads you may have traditionally avoided in the past, on a slower turning, less maneuverable sport machine. As the SM is based on an off-road machine with long-travel suspension, it is open to exploring roads with less than stellar surfaces, though you must remain aware of the pure-street tire selection.
A 576cc liquid-cooled single cylinder four-stroke engine with the expected double overhead cams and four-valve head powers the SM 610. The engine pumps out 53 hp at 7,000 rpm, which may not sound like much, but you have to consider it is only pushing 312 pounds of motorcycle. Also benefiting from the low weight, the single 320mm front brake disc and Brembo caliper is more than adequate to get the 610 stopped in a hurry.
In keeping with its heritage, Husqvarna uses the finest components and craftsmanship throughout. Hefty 43mm Marzocchi inverted forks handle the suspension on the front with a progressive-linkage Sachs shock at the rear.
The Husqvarna SM 610, though certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, is more than capable of delivering a thoroughly enjoyable experience for those who want to give Supermoto style riding a go. Most who have, found it to provide a good deal of fun. However, you may need to invest in a pair of high-end off-road boots, for added ankle support, if you plan to ride foot-out, which is the preferred style for tight corners.
The SM 610 carries the same DNA as the machine Husqvarna used to garner the 2005 Supermoto S1 World Championship, proving with a vengeance that Cagiva intends to perpetuate the legendary brand’s penchant for world titles, which now stands at an astonishing 69 and counting.