Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
A Knox Review
WRITTEN BY AARON TRAVELL
At the back end of 2019, we were lucky enough to get the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 for a month. During our time with the bike, we raced at the Bike Shed Festival and rode the bike extensively on some of the best roads in the English Lake District. The resulting conclusion was that I claimed the Vitpilen 701 was my favourite bike of 2019. Almost exactly a year later, we have the 2020 model in our care for a while. So the question is, a year on, would my review be quite as gushing, or did a couple of podiums at Lydden Hill give me rose tinted glasses?
To begin, there is something pretty special about the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701, its futuristic café racer lines, its gorgeous paint scheme, spoked wheels and so on… the new 2020 model just looks awesome. But you’d be wrong to write the Vitpilen off as bike that is all show and no go… The Vitpilen 701 rocks!!
The combination of the 75hp single cylinder engine, with 158kg dry weight make for a really fast and useable road going motorcycle. By the term “road going motorcycle”, I mean that the majority of the action is sub 100mph, the feeling, the power, the torque, all the performance can all be experienced at realistic legal speeds with mid-range punch being its forte. The Vitpilen makes for super easy overtaking.
Hanging on to gears up to redline and banging up the quickshifter is a real joy. If you like to pull the odd wheelie, burnout or stoppie, there aren’t many bikes out there that deliver like this one does.
During our testing, we clocked the Vitpilen at 0-60mph in 3.6 secs and 0-100mph in 8.4 secs.
Just for fun we also pitched it against my own Suzuki GSXR 750, and up to around 70mph, amazingly the Vitpilen was in the lead and was way ahead up to around 50mph!
The Vitpilen is really easy to launch consistently fast in comparison to the GSXR’s inline 4 motor where all the power is at higher RPMs. In the rare occasion that we had the traction control turned on, the anti-wheelie on the Vitpilen 701 proved fantastic at enabling us to put all of its power down on to the tarmac. It goes without saying that the GSXR killed it in higher speeds.
It is true that a perfect launch on a peaky 750 is a bit of an art form, but we weren’t holding back – during the run we are looking now we hit a 0-100 in 5.7 and 0-140 in 10 seconds flat.
However, unlike my own GSXR which will do 120 is 2nd gear, the Vitpilen delivers similar fun, but you’ll just retain your license at the end of it and it is the perfect tool at shoving you corner to corner on twisty and scenic roads.
The Electronics package is pretty straight forward, good traction control, anti-wheelie and ABS is automatically applied when you turn the bike on and this keeps the punch and wheeling nature of the bike nicely in control. To turn it off, you just have to press and hold a few buttons. Although the dash is pretty simple, it tells you what you need to know and matches the styling of the bike.
The handling on the Vitpilen is fantastic, as mentioned, when I raced one at the Bike Shed Festival last year at Lydenn Hill (a brilliant little track with short straights), it’s hard to think of a bike that would be more satisfying! Yes on longer tracks you are going to get monstered on the straights, but notwithstanding, the Vitpilen still delivers a massive grin.”
The way that Husqvarna have set this bike up for the road is fantastic, in our Husqvarna 701 Enduro, the gearing is much shorter and the bike overall much more vibey. The Vitpilen on the other hand is as smooth as a big single can be, the gearing a lot longer and 70mph in 6th is genuinely all day comfortable. However, the vibey single characteristics can’t be hidden entirely, the view in the rear-view mirrors a total mushy of out of focus mess of blurred lights, that is unless you grab the and hold the mirror.
Unlike a lot of other middleweight’s at similar price points, The Vitpilen is made from quality components – the WP apex suspension for example which is really quality stuff and gives a well damped and comfortable ride and yet sporty enough to give great handling and good riding support. Its adjustable too in compression and rebound meaning you can tweak it very easily without getting too confused with the settings.
At first glance, the brakes look lacking with a one-disc affair, that is until you apply them and quickly realise they are pretty awesome, braided hoses, Brembo Calipers and master cylinder combining to make a combination with the light dry weight. Completing the handling package are a set of Bridgestone S21 tyres, a really nice sporty tyre with very good performance in cold wet and really match the performance here.
The riding position is also fantastic, the Vitpilen 701 feels relatively short and compact like most KTM naked bikes do, but its engaging and you feel connected to the road. The rear seat is quite high which may put shorter riders off a little, but once on the go, creates a really nicely poised riding position.
Of course and like all bikes, the Vitpilen is not perfect; it goes without saying that the bike isn’t the roomiest, there is little weather protection, the seat is rock hard. You can’t ride with a pillion on this bike and unfortunately, the white rear fender ends up looking like a your grandads y-fronts with skid-marks included after a bit of wet weather and mud. While, we’re on downsides, I also don’t imagine this bike to be on the wish list of people wanting a more relaxed ride offered by a GS for example. But those things aside, as a road going riders bike, all of these ingredients combine to make what is in my opinion one of the finest road going and legally fun bikes on the market.
I’ve been lucky enough to ride some awesome bikes over the years inclyding the absolute latest Supernakeds for 2020 and in my opinion, in order to get the most out of the roads that we have, you really don’t need 200hp or tyre shredding torque, nor do you need a bike that will do 120mph in 2nd gear; in fact I’d go as far as saying that on the Vitpilen 701, I would keep up with any Super Sportsbike (like my own GSXR 750 for example) or Supernaked on the road, assuming both riders were being at least vaguely aware of speed limits.
At the end of the day, on the road, you don’t need the latest electronics and technology, you probably don’t need the best Brembo brakes, the absolute stickiest tyres or the raciest suspension.
And that is ultimately why the Vitpilen 701 is so good, it gives you all the right ingredients in exactly the right quantities for a great ride on the road, wasting nothing in its delivery and is served up in a package that just looks fantastic. And that, for me at least, is pretty awesome.
Written by Aaron Travell
What we wore on this test
FROM THE KNOX COLLECTION