Funky Contemporary Style And A Race-Tastic Vibe

The Vitpilen 701 joins its diminutive 401 sibling to double the number of Black Arrows on offer this year from Husqvarna. Like its little brother, the 701 packs all of its cubage into a single cylinder to the tune of 692.7 cc with a respectable 75 horsepower on tap and ready to go. Contemporary style and a race-tastic vibe give the 701 even more of what makes the 401 so popular, and it’s clearly targeting mature/experienced buyers while simultaneously trying to appeal to the Millennial buyers who, thus far, have largely shunned the two-wheeled lifestyle but seem to be crazy about the ’Pilen range. I’ve wanted to dive into this ride since I first saw it revealed at Milan, and today I get my chance, so join me whilst I dissect this mid-size ride that’s enjoying so much success in its inaugural year.

Continue reading for my review of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701.

  • 2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
  • Year:
    2018
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    single cylinder
  • Displacement:
    692 cc
  • Price:

Design

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
- image 779324
The 701 fully embraces the roadster look with nothing in the way of the superfluous to weigh it down or give it unnecessary bulk.

Not since the Silver Arrow of the mid-fifties has Husky enjoyed such a presence on the streets — I’m talking about proper streets here, not closed-circuit supermoto courses — and it looks to be an auspicious start for the Austria-based manufacturer. Part of the new “Real Street” initiative, the 701 brings what the factory calls a flat-track-inspired design to the market, and given the resurgent popularity of flat-track racing and the stellar year Indian motorcycles just had, it seems like really fortuitous timing on Husky’s part. As a side note, it’s worth mentioning that Indian falls under the Polaris umbrella now, and that’s one of KTM/Husqvarna’s competitors both on and off the road, so the three ’Pilens (two Vits and the Svart) should be viewed as the continuation of that ongoing battle for supremacy, just through other means.

The 701 fully embraces the roadster look with nothing in the way of the superfluous to weigh it down or give it unnecessary bulk, and that pays off in the end with the 346-pound, wet-but-unfuelled weight and slim build. A round headlight can leads the way with a horizontal divider that sports the brand name and logo, and splits the LED light for a bit of extra style. Around the outer edge of the light is a round DRL that adds to the overall coolness of the visage and a bit of safety to boot.

The cleanness of the front end continues into the command-and-control area with short, clip-on bars and forged aluminum tripletrees, both in blackout to match the inverted fork struts. A single round display lumps all the critical instrumentation together in a cluster with a series of buttons set on the left side for easy access with your off hand. The 3.17-gallon fuel tank sports the same stubby winglets as the 401 off each side with an aircraft-style aluminum filler cap to make a double aviation connection and lend the bike a rather unique flavor.

Behind the tank, a shallow-scoop seat contains the pilot quite nicely, but the passenger’s amenities leave a lot to be desired with only a short p-pad between your passenger and thin air. Let me put it this way; if you weren’t close friends to begin with, you probably will be by the end of the ride.

A recessed LED taillight forms the terminus of the subframe with mudguard-mount winkers to finish off the rearward lighting with a hang-down tagholder that doubles as a fender extension for spray control. The upswept exhaust follows the angle established by the bottom of the subframe for a bit of symmetry that contrasts nicely against the bright yellow border the factory dubbed the split that meets these lines at a perpendicular angle. Sharp, clean and simple; what’s not to love?

Chassis

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
- image 779299
Something here we don't see often: easily-accessible click-adjusters on the fork caps to quickly tweak the damping values of both the rebound and compression stroke.

The Vitpilen rolls on a Trellis frame with ChroMoly-steel members and an aluminum swingarm to help keep unsprung weight low out back. A pair of inverted, 43 mm WP front forks float the front end with easily-accessible click-adjusters on the fork caps that quickly tweak the damping values of both the rebound and compression stroke. That’s a nice feature that we don’t get to see as often as we’d like, to be sure. Heck, some manufacturers seem to ignore it altogether in spite of the widespread availability; lookin’ at you H-D and Indian.

Brakes could be more substantial, but again, it is a light bike and won’t generate the kind of energy that a machine with more mass might, so the single 320 mm disc and four-pot Brembo caliper are sufficient for the task at hand. Out back, a single-piston caliper and 240 mm disc take care of business with Bosch’s 9M+ ABS feature that can be disabled entirely if you’re feeling like you can do without that safety net or are an experienced rider that wants to be able to break the rear-end loose for more advanced maneuvers. Cast aluminum wheels do their bit to keep weight down as well, and run with a 17-inch diameter and Bridgestone Battleax hoops front and rear.

Frame: Chromium-Molybdenum steel trellis frame, powder coated
Steering head angle: 65 °
Front suspension/ Travel: WP upside-down Ø 43 mm/ 5.3 inches
Rear suspension/ Travel: WP shock absorber with linkage/ 5.3 inches
Front brake: 320 mm, Brembo four-piston radial fixed caliper, brake disc
Rear brake: 240 mm, Brembo single-piston floating caliper, brake disc
ABS: Bosch 9M+ two-channel ABS (disengageable)

Drivetrain

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
- image 779321
Seamless shifts -- up or down -- sans clutch action is a huge bonus that we don't usually see on non-race bikes.

Like its little brother, the 701 runs with a single-cylinder engine, but at 692.7 cc. This here is one big thumper, folks. Oversquare, the mill runs with an 80 mm stroke within the 105 mm barrel, and yeah, that would make for some pretty serious shake if it weren’t for the counterbalancer system that keeps things reasonably smooth. I say “reasonably” because, at the end of the day, it’s still a one-lunger with all the personality traits thereof. Luckily, those traits also include a generous torque figure of 53 pounds o’ grunt that comes backed up by 75 ponies to give the 701 its sporty demeanor.

A SOHC times the four-poppet valvetrain with a 50 mm Keihin throttle body and Engine Management System to handle the induction with input from a ride-by-wire throttle control system. Worried about all that power on such a light bike? You ain’t wrong to do so, but Husky has got your back with a traction control feature to help protect you from yourself. Just remember; electronic fandanglery is no substitution for a proper riding skillset.

Additionally, the factory chucks on a slipper clutch to prevent excessive backtorque from finding its way through the six-speed tranny and placing the rear contact patch in peril, and if that isn’t sweet enough for ya’, there’s the “Easy Shift” feature that allows for seamless shifts, up or down, sans clutch action. That’s a huge bonus that we don’t usually see on non-race bikes, and should endear itself to the folks riding them. Bigly.

Engine: 1-cylinder, 4-stroke engine
Displacement: 692.7 cc
Bore x Stroke: 105 mm x 80 mm
Power: 73.7 hp
Starter: Electric starter
Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication with 2 oil pumps
Transmission: 6-speed
Primary drive: 36:79
Cooling: Liquid cooled
Clutch: APTC(TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated

Pricing

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
- image 779320
I'll guess the 701 will be a couple grand more than the 401 for the bigger engine and more techno-gadgetry.

MSRP hasn’t been mentioned yet, but with the Vitpilen 401 going for a little over $6k, I’ll say the 701 will be a couple grand more for the bigger engine and more techno-gadgetry.

Competitors

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS
- image 754353
2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Roadster
- image 724346
2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
- image 779331
The Vitpilen has a certain QWAN that is difficult to qualify, or match.

It’s safe to say that there aren’t many rides out there that come close to the looks of the 701, but there are plenty of roadsters to choose from. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as all that. The Vitpilens are intended to draw in a rider base that is kinda’ meh on the whole motorcycling thing, a base that is resisting buying into the status quo roadsters. Granted, the factory is sending only limited numbers to the U.S., at least initially, but this non-biker crowd has already brought the family into over-sold status. Let that sink in a minute; they aren’t buying other bikes at the same rate as previous generations, not even close, but can’t seem to get enough of the ’Pilen’s progressive, modern design that distills and refines the bike to return it to its minimal state. Sure, all roadsters theoretically do the same, but you have to admit the Vitpilen has a certain QWAN that is difficult to qualify, or match.

Harley’s Roadster might seem a good match at first, but the lack of adjustable suspension, traction control and the Hate Harley Just Because mindset will likely steer the kiddies away from The Motor Company. Same with the new Z900RS. I’ll come right out and say that as far as neo-classic rides go, the Z900RS is about as sweet as they come. Seventies styling and modern street/sport performance are its Hallmarks, and while some of the hipsters have pretty good taste if I do say so myself, too many of them will say the Kawasaki looks too much like “my grandfather’s bike.” The modern Japanese naked bikes are even worse; they look like everything else out there, and where’s the fun in that?

He Said

“Bottom line is that the ’Pilens are reaching an untapped market, and anything that brings in new enthusiasts is a good thing, right? As for myself, I think they’re freakin’ boss, and Husky/KTM really has a potential winner here. I imagine in 10 years the ’Pilens will be as much a household name as Gixxer, Sportster, and Ninja.”

She Said

My wife and fellow motorcycle writer, Allyn Hinton, says, “The Vitpilen 401 seemed like Husqvarna’s version of the 390 Duke. Does that make the 701 a version of the 690 Duke? The 701 is just a skosh bigger than the 401, but not by much. They each kinda suggest at being a café racer but without the details that I would normally expect to see. I think the look is slick, though I’m not a fan of the mirrors. A set of bar mirrors would just do it for me. I would definitely ride one like I stole it.”

Specifications

Engine & Drivetrain:
Engine: 1-cylinder, 4-stroke engine
Displacement: 692.7 cc
Bore x Stroke: 105 mm x 80 mm
Power: 73.7 hp
Starter: Electric starter
Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication with 2 oil pumps
Transmission: 6-speed
Primary drive: 36:79
Cooling: Liquid cooled
Clutch: APTC(TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated
Chain: X-Ring 5/8 x 1/4"
EMS: Keihin EMS with RBW, twin ignition
Chassis:
Frame: Chromium-Molybdenum steel trellis frame, powder coated
Steering head angle: 65 °
Front suspension/ Travel: WP upside-down Ø 43 mm/ 5.3 inches
Rear suspension/ Travel: WP shock absorber with linkage/ 5.3 inches
Front brake: 320 mm, Brembo four-piston radial fixed caliper, brake disc
Rear brake: 240 mm, Brembo single-piston floating caliper, brake disc
ABS: Bosch 9M+ two-channel ABS (disengageable)
Dimensions & Capacities:
Ground clearance: 5.5 inches
Seat height: 32.7 inches
Tank capacity (approx.): 3.2 gallons
Weight without fuel: 346 pounds

References

Harley-Davidson Roadster

2016 - 2018 Harley-Davidson Roadster
- image 755226

See our review of the Harley-Davidson Roadster.

Kawasaki Z900RS

2018 Kawasaki Z900RS
- image 754349

See our review of the Kawasaki Z900RS.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 401

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 401
- image 778032

See our review of the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401.

Motorcycle Manufacturers Are Scrambling For New Riders

Motorcycle Manufacturers Are Scrambling For New Riders
- image 725024

See our article on the shift to Millenial buyers.

Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

2018 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401
- image 773412

See our review of the Husqvarna Svartpilen 401.

All images featured on this website are copyrighted to their respective rightful owners. No infringement is intended. Image Source: kawasaki.com, husqvarna.com Photographer credits: Marco Campelli, R. Schedl

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