Husky Has Its Own 390 Duke

Husqvarna is known for a lot of things — dirtbikes, chainsaws and such — but the marque looks to add “entry-level streetbikes” to the list this year with the Vitpilen 401. The so-called ’White Arrow’ brings a unique interpretation of the classic café racer look to the table in an effort to draw in the newest generation of riders without actually being a café at all; more of a roadster, really. A 375 cc thumper packs 43 ponies with a user-friendly delivery that should fit well and feel fairly non-threatening to the apparently bike-shy Millennials with a catalyst in the exhaust to make the bike meet the emissions expectations of same. Exciting, fresh and new, the Vitpilen range (and its sibling the Svartpilen) looks to be coming out of the hole strong in an otherwise sluggish market, evidenced by the fact that they’re already oversold in the U.S. market before they even hit our shores. I’m itching to find out what other see in it, so join me while I dig into this interesting little machine.

Continue reading for my look at the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401.

  • 2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    373 cc
  • Price:
    6299
  • Price:

Design

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- image 778043
All-in-all, a very unusual-looking bike, but at least it's an attractive one.

While there isn’t anything else quite like it in the world, Vitpilen roadster nevertheless manages to convey a café-tastic vibe that is hard to define in scientific terms, but certainly has a certain Q.W.A.N. all the same. As cool as the design is overall, it’s the bodywork that draws the eye as a moth to the flame. Sure, plenty of sportbikes have bobbed rear ends, but the Vitpilen’s subframe takes it to the extreme with barely enough room for a p-pad, and a not-very-spacious one at that. It sticks out into thin air over the rear wheel and is content to let the hugger take care of the fling control rather than adopting a subframe-mount mudguard that would absolutely destroy the whole bob-tail thing the Vitpilen has going on.

Speaking of looks, we can start to see some café influence in the abbreviated rear end and kicked-up exhaust. The guy with the cutting torch was as relentless up front as well with a chopped-down front fender that reinforces the vague custom-performance connection that also ties into the café mindset, however obliquely. At the fuel tank, the rider’s padding continues up onto the rear slope for a nice junk pad, but it’s the rest of the tank that makes the real statement.

Up top, the flat-top tank mounts an aircraft-style filler cap, but on each side, a stubby little wing-like thing sticks out to form a sort-of knee pocket a la café. Clip-on bars pull the rider forward over the tank with jockey-mount footpegs that further encourage an aggressive riding posture/style. A round headlight housing uses LED technology to slice the night with a shape that also compliments the single round instrument display. All-in-all, a very unusual-looking bike, but at least it’s an attractive one.

Chassis

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- image 778025
The Vitpilen has a sporty profile that encourages deep cornering angles with the promise of great contact-patch grip and excellent stability under the stress so you can count on consistent tracking and predictable handling.

A Trellis frame serves as the main structure with chrome-molybdenum members that work with the engine as a stressed member to complete the assembly. The subframe comes made of the same material, but the steel bones don’t overcome the other weight-saving measures as the whole bike weighs in at 330 pounds, dry. WP suspension products float the Vitpilen front and rear with a pair of 43 mm usd forks and a coil-over monoshock that give up 5.6 and 5.9 inches of travel, respectively. Laced wheels make a nice old-fashioned touch that seems to compliment, rather than clash, with the ultra-modern panache that dominates the bike.

Aluminum rims mount 17-inch, Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR hoops, and it leads the way with a 110/70 and follows up with a 150/60 with a sporty profile that encourages deep cornering angles with the promise of great contact-patch grip. Frame flexion and suspension support combines to provide excellent stability under the stresses of said maneuvers so you can count on consistent tracking and predictable handling.

Needless to say, that’s just what you want when first making friends with machines of the two-wheeled persuasion. A single 320 mm disc and four-piston, ByBre caliper hauls down the front wheel with a 230 mm disc and single-pot caliper to slow the rear. Bosch supplies the safety equipment with a two-channel ABS system ready to intervene when a wheel-speed differential due to overbraking/poor traction is detected. Again, in this day and age of electronic augmentation, the ABS safety net is just the thing to protect a new rider during the skill-building phase of their riding career, but if you’re past that you can turn it off entirely and break that rear end loose whenever you like.

Frame: Steel trellis frame, powder coated
Front suspension: WP upside-down Ø 43 mm
Rear suspension: WP monoshock
Suspension travel (front): 5.59 inch
Front brake: four-piston Bybre caliper, 320 mm disc
Rear brake: 230 mm
ABS: Bosch 9M+ two-channel ABS (disengageable)
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 x 1/4"
Steering head angle: 65 °

Drivetrain

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- image 778028
It uses input from the ride-by-wire control to manage the engine but without any other fandanglery such as rider modes or TC, and that's OK on a bike that targets riders who are likely just learning to ride.

Though the streetbike package is a new thing for Husky, the marque has a solid reputation as an engine builder so the engine should be confidence-inspiring even if the rest of the design is a relative unknown. It’s a four-stroke thumper that delivers the goods with 43 horsepower at 9,000 rpm and 27 pound-feet of torque that comes on fully at 7,000 rpm. If you shudder at the thought of winding up a single-cylinder to nigh 10 grand, you’re not alone, but the factory took pity on us (and our hands/butt) with a balancer shaft that takes the edge off the shake.

Liquid cooling deals with the waste heat and helps the mill meet emissions standards while also attenuating the sound pollution that escapes the engine cases. An 89 mm barrel and 60 mm stroke gives the plant its 373.2 cc displacement and sizzlin’ hot 12.6-to-1 compression ratio. A Bosch EMS controls the fuel injection system that rides in the 46 mm throttle body. It uses input from the ride-by-wire control to manage the engine, but without any other fandanglery such as rider modes or TC, and that’s OK on a bike that targets riders who are likely just learning to ride. ABS is enough to prop them up for the time being. A slipper clutch couples the six-speed transmission to engine power with another layer of non-electronic traction protection.

Engine: Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, 4-stroke engine
Displacement: 373.2 cc
Bore x Stroke: 89 mm x 60 mm
Power: 43 hp
Starter: Electric starter
Lubrication: Wet sump
Secondary gear ratio: 15:45
Clutch: PASC™ antihopping clutch, mechanically operated
EMS: Bosch EMS

Pricing

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- image 778032
The models aren't even here yet and already they are all presold, and even oversold.

Official word is still hard to find, but it looks like U.S. dealerships are listing the Vitpilen 401 for $6,299. Under the table, apparently, as the models aren’t even here yet and already they are all presold, oversold even. Part of this is because of popular demand, but largely it’s a function of the decision to limit the U.S. allotment to a few thousand units, thereby creating an artificial vacuum. Perhaps next year they will trust us with more bikes, and then they can find out how they really perform in our market.

Competitors

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- image 778051
2016 - 2018 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
- image 773311
The Sixty2 comes with some light off-road capabilities that Husky can't match here. I know, the irony is irresistible, right?

As far as the looks go, it’s difficult to find something quite as fresh and modern as the Vitpilen, but to find something aimed at the same target? Not so tough. Ducati provides a quick match with its fun little Scrambler Sixty2 that is more of a modern interpretation of a classic design, hence more mainstream in its looks.

The cut-down front fender and blackout treatment throughout ties into the custom culture with a clear emphasis on performance, not unlike the Vitpilen, but of course the Duc comes with some light off-road capabilities that Husky can’t match here. I know, the irony is irresistible, right?

Both use Trellis technology to provide the bulk of the structure with the engine as a stressed member that completes the assembly. Suspension is likewise similar with nothing beyond the obligatory preload to be found, but that’s hardly surprising on bottom-tier bikes. Large brakes and ABS coverage abounds, so these two are a wash in that department as well.

Rather than going the one-lung route like Husky, Duc stuck with its popular L-twin configuration for less primary vibration and a lot more character in the exhaust note at idle. Most importantly, the 399 cc Desmodromic powerplant falls a tad short with 40 horsepower and 25 pounds o’ grunt versus 43/27 from the Husky. How ya’ feelin’ about that engine now?

Husqvarna picks up another win (so much winning) at the checkout with its $6,299 sticker against the lofty $7,995 tag on the Ducati Scrambler. If that’s going to be the regular price and not some introductory give-away to try and buy some brand loyalty, then it’s safe to say that Husky’s street bikes pose a real threat to the status quo.

He Said

“Fun, good-looking and modern, what’s not to love? The Vitpilen 401 looks to be an all-around contender for the entry-level and budget-commuter folks, and if this is indicative of what we can expect from the brand as far as street machines go, then the future looks bright indeed for Husky. Heck, I applaud them for having the moxy to even market such crazy-looking rides, but it was a gamble that seems to be paying off.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “Husqvarna has been in the motorcycle business for decades. They’re just now putting lights and plate holders on some of them. Since Husky is under the KTM umbrella now, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’ve ventured into the street scene and it shouldn’t be a surprise that the engine from the 390 Duke crossed over to the Vitpilen. In fact, spec-wise, the Vitpilen is a 390 Duke and we know the Dukes are popular.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: Liquid-cooled, single-cylinder, 4-stroke engine
Displacement: 373.2 cc
Bore x Stroke: 89 mm x 60 mm
Power: 43 hp
Starter: Electric starter
Lubrication: Wet sump
Transmission: 6-speed
Primary drive: 30:80
Secondary gear ratio: 15:45
Clutch: PASC™ antihopping clutch, mechanically operated
EMS: Bosch EMS
Chassis:
Frame: Steel trellis frame, powder coated
Front suspension: WP upside-down Ø 43 mm
Rear suspension: WP monoshock
Suspension travel (front): 5.59 inch
Front brake: 320 mm
Rear brake: 230 mm
ABS: Bosch 9M+ two-channel ABS (disengageable)
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 x 1/4"
Steering head angle: 65 °

References

Ducati Scrambler Sixty2

2016 - 2018 Ducati Scrambler Sixty2
- image 776319

See our review of the Ducati Scrambler Sixty2.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

2018 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401
- image 773412

See our review of the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401.

KTM 390 Duke

2015 - 2016 KTM 390 DUKE
- image 778069

See our review of the KTM 390 Duke.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Husqvarna and KTM Image Credit: R. Schedl - Image Source: husqvarna-motorcycles.com, ktm.com, suzukicycles.com

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