Introducing the 2019 SWM RS 500 R dual sport.
Often it is said when it comes to the price of something, if it looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Well, not when it comes to the new SWM RS 500 R dual sport.
True story. Someone I had never met before approached me in my driveway after having spotted a Beta dual-sport bike, one of our Cycle News test bikes, parked in my garage. He was drawn in by the Beta’s “exotic” looks. He had heard of the brand but had never seen one up close. He was impressed. Questions came flowing from his lips.
He had some knowledge of dirt bikes, had ridden them before, but had left the scene for a while. He was wanted to get back into riding again, and he eventually asked my advice on what kind of bike, a dual-sport bike, he should get. That’s not a simple answer, but, in not so many words, I said he had two options: spend good money on a high-performance off-road-specialized dual-sport bike, or spend a lot less for one more street-friendly and less technically advanced (and usually underpowered, too). There isn’t much else in between, I told him. He liked the idea of the higher-end bikes but not their price tags.
Two weeks later I heard the unmistakable sound of a single-cylinder four-stroke idling up my driveway. It was my new friend aboard a showroom new Yamaha WR250R dual-sport bike. I was a little surprised by his choice of purchase, only because he was not exactly a small guy. He said the price was right for the WR, he loved it, and he was happy. And so was I for him.
Two weeks later, there was a knock on my door. It was my new friend and parked in my driveway was a brand-new Husqvarna FE501! He said that he quickly learned that he needed something more powerful, so he bit the bullet and traded in the WR for the Husky and coughed up the difference in price.
I saw him a few more times after that, riding around the neighborhood on it, and we promised each other that one day we’d go for a ride together. Unfortunately, that day never came, at least not yet, because he got rid of the Husky after about month, saying he enjoyed the bike but couldn’t justify the money that he paid for it. I haven’t seen him since.
However, I get it. He’s in no-man’s land when it comes to dual-sport bikes. His full frame is much too large for an “affordable” dual-sport bike, and he can’t come to terms spending over five figures for full-size dual-sport bike with the performance and power that he requires. I hope I run into him again so I can tell him about the new SMW RS 500 that we just finished testing. This high-performance, big-bore dirt-focused dual-sport bike is designed for him.
I say that because the RS 500 R is that ideal “in-between” dual-sport bike. It has performance, power and, here is the key, a small $7795 price tag. Small against comparable dual-sport bikes like the $11,099 FE501, the $11,199 KTM EXC 450, the $10,399 Honda CRF450L, and the $10,499 Beta 430 RR-S.
What exactly is the 2019 SWM RS 500 R?
So, what’s the SWM RS 500 R, you ask? Simple—a Husqvarna.
When KTM bought Husqvarna from BMW in 2013, it bought just the Husqvarna name and left behind a perfectly good factory standing dormant in Varese, Italy. Ampelio Macchi, an engineer from Cagiva (which also owned Husqvarna at one time), acquired the factory with funding from an investment firm in China. Macchi picked up where Husqvarna left off, but he couldn’t call his new company Husqvarna, of course, so he came up with SWM, which had identity value in Europe. SWM, you might recall, was also the name of an Italian motorcycle manufacturer that made dirt and trials bikes in the 1970s and early ’80s before closing up shop in 1984. Macchi took just the SWM name, went through the lengthy homologation process, and here we are.
The 2019 SWM RS 500 R is essentially the same bike as the last purebred big-bore fuel-injected Husqvarna (pre-BMW) that rolled out of the Varese factory in 2010—the TE510. However, the RS 500 R features some differences, most notably suspension. The RS 500 R is fitted with updated and fully adjustable KYB suspension, front and rear; the TE510 came with a Sachs shock. The Brembo brake calipers have been upgraded, as well, and so have plastics and graphics.
2019 SWM RS 500 R Engine and Chassis
Internally, the SWM’s double-overhead-cam engine, complete with the very-Husqvarna bright red valve cover, has an updated piston, cam and Mikuni EFI system. The dual muffler design, however, returns as it was.
You might remember that, because of emissions, the TE510 came with a throttle stop, but not anymore. Nor does the SWM come with an ignition jumper like the TE did; the jumper was used to switch the ECU to performance mode. The SWM already comes in that mode. The charcoal canister, however, is still there in all of its ugly glory, but at least it doesn’t affect performance. Tires are DOT Michelins with Euro-spec knobs. What all this means is that the SWM is ready to ride right out of the crate.
Transmission is a six-speed with a hydraulic clutch.
Like the TE510, the SWM is a pure dirt bike. No effort went into making this bike comfortable on the pavement. So if you’re looking for an around-town cushy dual sport to commute on, this isn’t the motorcycle for you. Instead, it’s a legitimate high-performance off-road bike that just so happens to have a license plate stuck on the back.
The SWM RS 500 R is a lot of motorcycle. Despite its dimensions, like seat height and wheelbase, all being within the range of comparable bikes, like the KTM 500EXC and Beta 430 RR-S, it feels big and long, and not exactly light. It has tons of power and torque, along with some minor vibration residue. Many moving parts are spinning away inside that big engine, too, creating unwanted inertia. Our SWM rep tells us—honestly—that the RS 500 R weighs around the mid-280s without fuel (SWM’s tech sheet says 255.7 pounds dry; don’t believe it). Add it all up, and the SWM just feels—well, like I said, big. It takes muscle to maneuver it around and requires a tight grip on the handlebar every time you grab a handful of throttle because it has so much power.
Riding the 2019 SWM RS 500 R
Regardless, the SWM handles and corners quite well on the trail, even on tight single-track, and the suspension is solid. Initial stroke is soft at both ends, but, by mid-stroke things stiffen up significantly and quickly to soak up the hard hits nicely. The bike is also extremely stable and takes a Volkswagen-size boulder to knock it off course.
As mentioned, the liquid-cooled 501cc four-valve engine makes tons of power and torque. It doesn’t necessarily hit hard off the bottom; in fact, on the contrary. It pulls smoothly down low, revs up slowly (compared to a modern-day Husqvarna) and then hits with significant authority in the middle of the powerband. And it doesn’t let up any time soon afterward; you’ll do that way before the engine does.
Our test bike had some stalling tendencies but rarely did it while moving, only when the throttle was close to idle, and the wheels weren’t turning. Luckily, the electric starter means we didn’t have to kick. It doesn’t have one, anyway.
The hydraulic clutch has a light pull and held up well during our testing. We didn’t have any issues with fading.
Brakes are excellent in both performance and feel. No surprises here.
To save us some grief, SWM was kind enough to give us our test bike with a four-tooth larger rear sprocket already installed, admitting that stock gearing is way too tall for anything tighter than the I-405 freeway on a Sunday morning.
Fuel capacity is a little stingy at 1.98 gallons.
While on the trail, I often thanked SWM inside my helmet for fitting the bike with a nice set of handguards and giving it a pair of handy grab handles. SWM also gave the RS 500 a beefy rear tail section that didn’t fall off and probably won’t anytime soon. The blinkers aren’t going anywhere, either. They, too, are well built and compact. The kickstand, however, is the evil spring-loaded type that retracts automatically.
Everywhere you look, you see high-end components on the SWM. You might not be familiar with the bike’s name, but you will be with 90-percent of the bike’s components.
In case you’re wondering, yes, SWM does have a RS 300 R version of the TE310 coming soon. I’ve seen it.
Where to find the 2019 SWM RS 500 R
Motoman Distributing is the exclusive U.S. distributor of SWM motorcycles, and it says the bikes can already be found in more than 80 dealerships across the country.
Overall, I’m pretty excited about the RS 500 R. Performance-wise, it can hang on the trail with the more modern hard-core group of dual-sport bikes from KTM, Husqvarna, and Betas of similar displacement. When it comes to price, however, they can’t touch the SWM’s $7795 MSRP which is more in line with older-school dual-sport bikes, like the Suzuki DR-Z400 and Yamaha WR250R. The SWM RS 500 R does an excellent job of bridging the gap between the two ranges of dual-sport motorcycles.
Hopefully, I run into my friend again so I can tell him about the SWM RS 500 R. Maybe we’ll get that ride in, after all.CN
2019 SWM RS 500 R Specifications
|COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
||Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-stroke, single
||Chromoly steel, perimeter
||Kayaba, USD fork, fully adjustable
||Kayaba shock, fully adjustable
|FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL:
|REAR WHEEL TRAVEL:
||Brembo, single 260mm disc
||Brembo, single 240mm disc
||90/90 x 21 in., Michelin Enduro
||140/80 x 18 in., Michelin Enduro
|DRY WEIGHT (claimed):