2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 Review: Zombie Apocalypse Motorcycle
With the supplanting of the veteran KTM 690 Duke with the all-new 790 Duke, the platform was looking for a home. KTM handed the Duke to the closely related Husqvarna brand, and the cafe-style Vitpilen 701 was born last year. Now, we have the Svartpilin 701—an upright version of the Vitpilen. The 2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 takes inspiration from bare-bones flat trackers, reimagining the sporting Duke as a gritty urban motorcycle ready for the zombie apocalypse—both visually and functionally.
1. Husqvarna massaged the KTM 690 Duke into an urban dweller. After reprising the Duke as the canyon brawling Vitpilen 701 last year, the Svartpilen 701 gets modifications to make it a more effective motorcycle in downtown environments. Changes from the Duke that were carried over from the Vitpilen 701 include a larger diameter front wheel, quicker steering geometry, and supermoto-style rubber. For city battle, the Svartpilen gets longer suspension travel to make short work of potholes, plus fully upright ergonomics with a wide handlebar. Match the changes to the fabulous thumper motor, and you have an incredible motorcycle for city dwellers.
2. Handling is deft, with only a light touch needed to change direction on the 2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701. Weighing in at a featherweight 369 pounds with its 3.2-gallon fuel tank filled, the Svartpilen 701 is more than happy to change direction at the behest of its rider. Compared to the Duke, Husqvarna tucked the rake in 1.5 degrees to 25 degrees, and also shortened the wheelbase by an inch. Add in the narrower 18-inch front tire and the leverage offered by the off-road bend handlebar, and you get the message—the Svartpilen 701 is agility defined. It is pure fun when dueling with unpredictable traffic on cobblestone streets, as I did in Lisbon during the testing.
3. With a fairly tall perch, you get a good view of your surroundings. Part of successfully navigating urban environments is seeing and being seen. The Svartpilen 701’s seat is nearly 33 inches above the pavement. Even though I’m 5’ 6”, that wasn’t a challenge for me as I also ride dirt bikes. It’s easy to see what’s going on around you when you’re that high, and I’m less likely to be missed by the four-wheel crowd. Of course, when you’re on a motorcycle that routinely turns heads—that keeps you visible, and is one of the benefits of owning a Svartpilen.
4. The ergonomics are welcoming to a wide variety of riders. Unlike the Vitpilen 701, the Svartpilen 701’s rider triangle is relaxed and upright with a wider, sweptback bend to the bars and riser mounting. They are easy to reach with only a slight forward lean, and the footpegs allow a relaxed, natural bend for my 30.5-inch inseam legs. The low-profile seat is definitely on the minimalist side, but the firm perch is surprisingly comfortable for the around-town sprints and the short canyon runs the Svartpilen is most likely to engage in.
5. The 2019 Husqvarna 701’s short-stroke thumper works perfectly for bounding around town. With easy power on tap from idle on up, the 693cc motor pulls effortlessly from any rpm. It’s not quite an electric motor, but it has an almost immediate, linear acceleration that is quickly addicting. The Svartpilen 701 will make short work of commuting blues, delivering you to work with an uncaffeinated adrenaline high.
6. With 75 horses on tap, the 701 is absolutely highway friendly, even on the most competitive urban freeways. As a naked bike with a wider handlebar, the windblast will likely keep you from indulging in extra-legal digits for an extended length of time. The Svartpilen is nicely stable at these full speeds despite the shorter wheelbase, and you can get a reassuringly secure and comfortable grip around the bike with your legs.
7. The powerband on the torquey 701 is extremely wide, so shifting the six-speed transmission is infrequent, and easy when you need to change gears. When you’re on the gas hustling through busy conditions, you’ll find yourself taking advantage of the up/down quickshifter that Husqvarna gave to the Svartpilen 701. It’s mostly flawless, and a feature that’s easy to get used to and come to expect.
8. The suspension and tires do an excellent job of absorbing rough urban routes. Husqvarna gave the Svartpilen 701 longer suspension travel than the Vitpilen and the Duke—it’s almost six inches now—and that helps quite a bit in the city. The WP units are fully adjustable front and rear, though that adjustability seems like a bit of overkill for city riding. The taller 18-inch front wheel and higher profile tires are well-matched to worn-out city streets. The Pirelli MT 60 RS tires roll over rumpled asphalt, train tracks, and brick lanes with assurance.
9. A bare-bones vogue doesn’t mean unsophisticated. Despite the Svartpilen’s no-frills couture, the Black Arrow has upscale parts and the latest technological wardrobe to improve power delivery, handling, and safety. Ride-by-wire throttle enables traction control and the Bosch 9M ABS. Both are defeatable should you feel the need to do wheelies—perfectly understandable with so much available torque and a 369-pound motorcycle. Traction control and ABS are not intrusive in normal riding conditions and provide a welcome safety net, as does the slipper clutch during aggressive downshifts.
10. With the Duke’s pedigree, impress your friends in the twisties on the weekend. The Svartpilen 701 is a fully capable sportbike. It doesn’t have the planted feel of the Duke, but the 75-horsepower motor is magic. The wide bars and upright seating give excellent leverage. Although the Svartpilen 701 is not nervous, quick handling means you’ll need to be on your toes. Tighter conditions will make the best use of the chassis.
11. I had been worried about the blocky Pirelli tires—much as I love their look on the Svartpilen 701—but they’re happy to go all the way to the edge. If you like to back it in and shut off the ABS, the MT 60 RS tires will be more than happy to indulge you—that’s what they’re designed to do. You’re less likely to light them up, though, due to the inherent tractability of the thumper’s power delivery and traction control. While they aren’t pure sport tires, and with the 18-inch front rim, options are limited, the MT 60 RS rubber works fine for the intended usage.
12. Don’t worry about the single disc up front—you’re not stopping a freight train. The Svartpilen 701 weighs 369 pounds, so the single 320mm disc with a radially mounted Brembo caliper gets the job done, even with less than the stickiest tires. Feel at the front lever is perfect. You can get hard on the brakes and slow the bike quickly; there is no snatchy first bite, just reassuring power the harder you squeeze. Initial engagement of the rear brake is appropriately soft and is a useful addition to the authoritative action up front, especially in heavy traffic.
13. The solar-eclipse-style daytime running light is a distinctive look for the Svartpilen 701. Husqvarna describes it as the branding face of its street bikes going forward. LED lighting at the headlight, taillight, and turn signals keep the Svartpilen 701’s looks spare and contemporary.
14. I know a TFT display wouldn’t fit the steampunk/flat-track aesthetic, but the big round clock could be better. It is a considerable improvement from the almost-horizontally-mounted, glare-magnet dial on the Svartpilen 401, and the buttons are large enough to operate with gloved hands. Still, the Svartpilen 701 is a premium priced motorcycle and the LCD dial doesn’t reflect that.
15. The mirrors are still buzzy and next to useless, just like on the Svartpilen 401. There are dual counterbalancers in the 701 and they do a decent job of offsetting much of the big single’s buzz. Vibration at the seat and bars is not excessive, but the mirrors catch the brunt of it and will be no help when the zombies come.
16. At $11,999 the Svartpilen 701 is a premium ticket, so Husqvarna is clearly selling more than just a well-handling city prowler. It’s a motorcycle that returns you to the roots of why you ride—the rush, the fun, the freedom, as well as the identity that sets you apart from the crowd. The Svartpilen is not shy about making a statement and either you buy into the look or you don’t. It’s not sexy, it’s not a muscle bike—it’s a cool, offbeat head-turner and I love it.
17. The 2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 is the perfect step-up bike for the post-millennial urban zombie hunter. Whether coming from a Honda Grom or even Husky’s own Svartpilen 401, the Svartpilen 701 represents the pinnacle of urban motorcycling. It’s menacingly stylish, wonderfully light and agile, and intoxicatingly responsive. Catch me if you can.
Action photography by Rudi Schedl
- Helmet: HJC RPHA 11 Pro
- Camera: Sena Prism Tube
- Jacket: Joe Rocket Ladies Classic ’92
- Back protection: Alpinestars Celli
- Gloves: Racer Women’s Short Sport 2
- Jeans: Alpinestars Daisy
- Footwear: Alpinestars Jam Air
2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701
- Type: Single cylinder
- Displacement: 693cc
- Bore x stroke: 105 x 80mm
- Maximum power: 75 horsepower @ 8500 rpm
- Maximum torque: 53 ft/lbs @ 6750 rpm
- Compression ratio: 12.8:1
- Fueling: Keihin EFI w/ 50mm throttle body
- Lubrication: Pressure lubrication with two pumps
- Clutch: Hydraulically operated slipper
- Transmission: 6-speed w/ quickshifter
- Chain: X-Ring 5/8 x 1/4″
- Frame: Powdercoated chromoly trellis w/ aluminum subframe
- Front suspension: Fully adjustable inverted 43mm WP fork; 5.9 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable WP shock; 5.9inches of travel
- Wheels: Cast aluminum
- Front: 3.00 x 18
- Rear: 5.00 x 17
- Tires: Pirelli MT 60 RS
- Front: 110/80 x 18
- Rear: 160/60 x 17
- Front brake: 320mm disc w/ radially mounted Brembo 4-piston caliper
- Rear brake: 240mm disc w/ Brembo two-piston floating caliper
- ABS: Bosch 9M
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Rake: 25 degrees
- Wheelbase: 57.7 inches
- Ground clearance: 7.6 inches
- Seat height: 32.9 inches
- Fuel capacity: 3.2 gallons
- Curb weight: 369 pounds
2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen Color:
2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 Price:
- $11,999 MSRP
2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 Review | Photo Gallery