Husqvarna hits the target with its newest Arrow, the 2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701.
If you’re shopping for a street bike and you prefer the immediate power delivery and lightweight nature of a thumper, you can’t do better than Husqvarna’s 701 platform. It debuted in 2016 with the Supermoto and doubled in size last year with the café racer Vitpilen, which translates to “White Arrow.” The Vitpilen was stylish, lightweight, and engaging. It was also quite aggressive, which was tedious for in-town riding. Now Husky has bestowed us with the flat track-inspired Svartpilen, or “Black Arrow.” Thanks to a few tweaks, it’s the best overall package.
By Abhi Eswarappa | Photography by Husqvarna and Nathan May
To find out how these updates improved the riding experience, Husqvarna brought Cycle News to Lisbon for an 85-mile evaluation route that included city streets, forest backroads, crowded highways, and even a stop at the westernmost point in Europe.
While the Vitpilen and Svartpilen are similar, the latter gets a powder-coated black frame and cosmetic updates that include a new headlight fairing, fork shrouds, seat, and tail. The changes aren’t just cosmetic: the Vitpilen’s clip-ons have been replaced by a tall handlebar, and there’s a slight increase in suspension travel from 5.3 inches to 5.9 inches on both ends. The front wheel is now 18 inches (versus 17 inches on the Vit), and both wheels are wrapped with Pirelli’s MT60RS tires.
Most of the other components stay the same, and that’s just dandy because it’s all excellent equipment. You’ll get Brembo brakes with Bosch 9M ABS, adjustable WP suspension, up and down quickshifter, and a slipper clutch. The heart of the machine is a KTM 690 Duke-derived engine with dual counterbalancers that produces 75 horsepower and 53 pound-feet of torque. Spec-sheet hunters could discuss plenty of other numbers, but the most important one here is 349, the claimed dry weight in pounds.
That’s a dainty figure for a 650cc-plus motorcycle, and it’s the main reason why the Svartpilen is so much fun. When a street bike weighs this little, it makes the dynamic aspects of handling, acceleration, and braking much better. In town, the Svartpilen is a lovely machine. The new handlebars are tall and wide, providing excellent leverage to dodge potholes or find the best line through a corner. The power-to-weight ratio is good enough to beat out your competitors in traffic, and the power delivery of the single means you can wheelie to your heart’s content in the process.
If you want to leave town to explore the next town, the 75 horsepower and upright ergonomics mean it’s not a problem to eat up miles on the highway. The Svartpilen pleasantly surprises in its ability to handle all manner of street duties, though Husqvarna’s focus was clearly in urban environments.
There’s not much to complain about. The mirrors are still borderline useless, which is surprising, considering how smooth the rest of the bike feels—the dual counterbalancers do an excellent job. Plus, the gauge cluster’s a bit of a letdown for a bike that oozes such style.
The biggest issue is the price, which rings in at $11,999. That is a tough sell when the Duke 690 costs $8999. Is the Svartpilen $3000 better than the 690 Duke? No. But is the Husky $3000 cooler than the KTM? I think so. The Svartpilen is exclusive and will get attention from those around you. However, what’s most important is that it rides tremendously and will consistently leave you with a smile on your face. It’s the best single-cylinder street bike I’ve ever ridden, and, if you also love thumpers, then you owe yourself a visit to the local Husqvarna dealership to let this arrow fly.
The Almost Premium 2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701
Though Husqvarna markets the Svartpilen as a premium single-cylinder motorcycle, the included technology doesn’t necessarily back the claim up. On the positive side, the ride-by-wire throttle works flawlessly, and it’s paired with an excellent up-and-down quickshifter that Husky calls Easy Shift. Interestingly, the downshifts work flawlessly even with the throttle cracked open slightly. An annoyance is that the bike will auto-blip the throttle even if you’ve got the clutch pulled in and are shifting from second to neutral. A slipper clutch is also included, though we’re seeing that technology in bikes that cost less than half of the Svartpilen, like the Kawasaki Z400.
For the price, the dash is a genuine disappointment. The three buttons on the left are very difficult to use, even when at a stop. The circular shape, which doesn’t match the Svartpilen’s styling, is too small, and the limited space isn’t used efficiently. The salt in the wound is that the $3K-cheaper Duke 690 comes with a sizeable full-color TFT screen. Even the Duke 390, which is less than half the cost, comes with the same feature. Here’s hoping Husky can incorporate a TFT dash in the next version of the Svartpilen.
The 2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701’s Roots
While the Husqvarna name has a strong history thanks to its domination of off-road competition in the ’50s and ’60s, the last couple of decades have been a roller coaster. In 1987, Husqvarna sold off their motorcycle division to Cagiva—the start of a three-decade period during which the company had three different owners. BMW acquired Husky in 2007 but, by 2013, it had already sold it to KTM.
At the end of BMW’s ownership, Husqvarna was selling less than 11,000 bikes a year. But with a dirt-focused corporate parent, Husqvarna has been thriving. The first full year under KTM was 2014, and they sold 16,337 machines, setting a company record in the process. Each year since Husqvarna has set a new sales record. In 2018, there were 48,535 bikes built with Husky logos on their tanks, approximately 15,000 of which were street bikes.
Husqvarna’s Head of Global Marketing, Federico Valentini, had a bright smile on his face as he recounted how much Husky has grown since KTM took the reins. Looking forward, he teased the next generation of dirt bikes as well as the upcoming EE 5, Husky’s first electric motorcycle, and his smile grew larger as he summed up the future in just three words: “We’re being ambitious.” Federico has every reason to beam—things are looking very good for Husqvarna.CN
2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 Specifications
||Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, single
|Bore x stroke:
||105 x 80mm
||75 hp @ 8500 rpm
||53 lb-ft. @ 6750 rpm
||APTC slipper clutch, wet multi-plate
||Chrome-moly trellis frame, powder-coated
||43mm WP inverted fork
||WP Monoshock with linkage
|Front wheel travel:
|Rear wheel travel:
||Radial-mount Brembo 4-piston caliper, 320mm disc, ABS
||Brembo single-piston caliper, 240mm disc, ABS
||Pirelli MT60RS, 110/80 R18
||Pirelli MT60RS, 160/60 R17
|Steering head angle:
|Weight (dry, claimed):