Husqvarna Vitpilen 701: the stripped-down Swedish motorcycle for urban explorers
Feast your eyes on the Vitpilen 701, a stripped-down street motorcycle from Swedish manufacturer Husqvarna. Directly translated from the Swedish for ‘White Arrow’, Vitpilen is the name given to the brand’s latest generation of road-biased urban/sports motorcycles. The brand also offers a Svartpilen ‘Black Arrow’ (in compact 400cc form only), which delivers a modicum of trail riding ability with semi-off-road tyres and more rugged styling.
Although several roadgoing machines have appeared in recent times, Husqvarna, now under KTM’s ownership, is more akin to developing raucous enduro and motocross machines, so it’s intriguing to read design-focused marketing straplines that bill the 701 as ‘simple’ and ‘progressive’ – part of the brand’s vision to deliver pared-down Swedish design and raw, authentic riding experiences.
Targeting motorcyclists who appreciate Scandinavian design and a rewarding ride is a smart move from Husqvarna, as few other off-the-shelf machines promise a similar recipe. The 701 certainly delivers from a styling perspective; it has minimal bodywork, short clip-on bars, a neat suit unit and a single, round LED headlight. Finished in matt silver, the elegantly sculpted fuel tank complete with contrasting fluorescent pinstripe detail provide a contemporary twist to the cafe racer minimalist philosophy. Summarising the 701, Maxime Thouvenin, creative lead on the Husqvarna Motorcycles street project said: ‘A mighty single-cylinder motor with a tank, a tail and a little seat – that’s it.’
The heart of the 701 is a liquid-cooled, 693cc single-cylinder motor sourced from KTM’s 690 Duke. Producing an impressive 75bhp at 8,500rpm, the high-tech Austrian internals are wonderfully smooth and the resulting performance is brisk enough for most. Tame and quiet at low speeds, the compact motor is easily provoked should you feel the need for some serious speed.
Lightweight and nimble, the Vitpilen 701 also delivers from behind the bars offering its rider an undiluted riding experience when compared to its rivals – in fact, the important nuances of both the road and the rev-hungry engine beneath you are transmitted quite superbly. Thanks to its black steel trellis frame, quality WP suspension and Brembo brakes, changing direction soon becomes an instinctive affair and the controls offer beautifully weighted resistance. The bike also comes fitted with a clever quick-shifter and slipper clutch as standard for clutchless up- and down-shifts.
Irrespective of whether you ride simply for fun or to get to your place of work, the Vitpilen 701 makes a very stylish case for itself, offering genuine rideability combined with all-important kerb appeal. The lack of weight and purposefulness make it very maneuverable in cities, but on the flip-side, also combine to deliver added thrills on your favourite section of curvaceous tarmac in the form of predictable handling, later braking and quicker throttle responses. Simple and progressive the Vitpilen 701 may be, but be under no illusions, this is one arrow that likes to hit its target.§