2020 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto Review | Jailbait
Want a bike you can ride straight into the big house? Husqvarna has just the thing.
Photography by Kit Palmer
Perhaps the headline is a little dramatic, but it’s nonetheless true. The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is like the two-wheeled version of The Joker—it calls you to pull another wheelie, another stoppie, in ever more dangerous and daring places.
I’d lose my license way faster on this than I would a full-blown superbike, that you can be sure of.
Be that as it may, it’s my job to at least test this bike in a somewhat responsible fashion and report back to you, dear reader, as to whether you should spend your hard-earned cash on it.
The answer to that question will come later.
I am an absolute convert of supermoto riding. The only motorcycle I currently own is a 2019 Husqvarna FS 450, and whenever I need to put a smile on my face, I just walk into my garage with a beer, stare at it and dream of the next time I’ll ride it. This motorcycle gives me more joy than any I’ve ever owned.
But mine is a race bike, not a street bike like the 701, and this year marks the first time since 2016 Husqvarna’s unruly animal of a street bike has come in for a facelift. Back then, I said, “It doesn’t ride freeways well at all, doesn’t feel that great going to the shops for the milk run, and doesn’t take two people. If buying for these reasons alone, a Husqvarna 701 SM would be about as far from the top of your to-do list as a hot-tub rendezvous with Kathy Bates and Donald Trump.”
However, I countered it by saying, “But, if buying for the reasons we, certainly I, ride—such as face-splitting laughter, fear and adrenaline—a Husqvarna 701 SM would be about as close to the top of your to-do list as a hot-tub rendezvous with Miranda Kerr and, if you’re that way inclined, Ryan Gosling.”
I’ve got to be honest and say my feelings are pretty much the same. Highway riding still isn’t great, but it has been somewhat improved with the fitment of the latest edition KTM-derived 690 Duke single-cylinder—a far smoother motor than what was in the last generation 701.
Husqvarna claims a stout 74 horsepower from the 692cc motor, wrapped in the same steel trellis chassis as before. That’s a claimed eight percent/eight horsepower gain over the old one, with torque now sitting at 52.3 ft.-lbs.
If you haven’t ridden a large capacity single before, it can be an odd sensation, especially when going fast. That massive piston measures 105mm wide, thumping up and down an 80mm stroke (by comparison, a Ducati Panigale V4 S has a bore and stroke of 81 x 48.4mm, and even though it has four pistons, doesn’t create anywhere near the gyroscopic force of the massive Husky single).
It’s funny in that this motor feels completely different to the same (albeit more tuned) version that I raced in Minnesota last year–the Krämer HKR-EVO2 R. The Husky’s is a lumpy motor, and at low traffic speed revs is not much fun at all. You need to get the single spinning up, hunting around the 3-5000 rpm mark for the ride to smooth out. The range of power spreads from about 1500 rpm to 7000 rpm before the vibes really start to take over again. That’s an extremely impressive spread of power, and Husqvarna claims peak power won’t kick in for another 1000 revs until the tacho hits 8000 rpm.
Throttle response is greatly improved from what I remember five years ago (yeesh, can’t believe it’s been that long). The 2020 edition gets a Keihin 50mm throttle body, compared to the 2016 model’s 46mm unit, with the twin-spark ignition governed by a new engine management system.
The gearbox too has been upgraded with an up and down quickshifter so you don’t need to use the clutch when changing gears. Husqvarna calls this the Easy Shift system, although I had repeated issues on the down change and resorted to using the clutch. I’d call it the Moderately Helpful Shift system (still, I think they should have fitted this system to my FS 450, if for nothing else than the quick upshifting).
You also have the APTC slipper clutch (Adler Power Torque Clutch) at your disposal, meaning you can ram back down through the gears and not lock the rear wheel. This is joyous for backing it in, as you play with the chassis balance on the rear brake, slide the back tire right to the apex. Most of the time, I screw this part up, but it’s still more fun to back a bike in than to do wheelies—in my opinion.
My FS 450 has given me a bit of prior knowledge for the 701’s new traction control and dual throttle map settings. As on the 450, I preferred to switch the 701’s map settings to level one for a smoother initial hit of power (especially so given the massive single piston between my legs), and turn traction control and ABS off. Traction control inadvertently works as a wheelie control on the 701, so if you launch the front wheel skywards with the system on, the computer says “no” really quickly and brings it back to terra firma.
The two-channel Bosch 9.1 MP cornering ABS is pretty unobtrusive, but it does kick in a little early for my liking when you’re really hammering the brakes. Feel at the lever is decent, as is the stopping power from the four-piston front caliper.
The 48mm fork is set quite stiff and can make the Husqvarna a little hesitant to begin the first part of the corner. Backing off the compression damping can help here, but the ride is a little harsh from the front, especially when hitting hard-edge bumps like potholes at speed.
The rear, by contrast, is set up quite well. It’s on the softer side compared to the front, but much more suited to general traffic work than the almost race-spec front. It’d take more time than we had on this test to get it sorted, but I feel with a nice piece of road—and an hour to spare and test on the clickers—you could turn the 701 into a real canyon carver.
So, back to the original question. Should you go buying a 701 Supermoto? For me, I’ve been so spoiled by the incredible performance of my 450 that I just can’t dig the 701 as much as I’d hoped. The 701 is extremely narrow in its capabilities, but, having said that, if you’re after a unique canyon scratcher—or you live in stop/start city conditions—the 701 could be a good solid choice for you.
Or, if you want a bike with no pretenses other than being an absolute hooligan machine with no real concessions for comfort, long distance riding, or any other practicalities, the 701 is definitely the bike for you.CN
2020 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto Specifications
||Liquid-cooled, four-stroke, single
|Bore x stroke:
||105 x 80mm
||74 hp at 8000
||52.3 ft.-lbs. at 6750 rpm
||Wet multi-disc, slipper
||48mm WP APEX fork, fully adjustable
||WP APEX shock, fully adjustable
|Front wheel travel:
|Rear wheel travel:
||Single 320 mm discs, Brembo M4.32 4-piston calipers, ABS
||240mm disc with one-piston caliper
||Continental ContiAttack Supermoto 120/70 ZR 17
||Continental ContiAttack Supermoto 160/60 ZR 17
|Steering head angle:
|Weight (curb, claimed):