Common Tread

2018 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 first look

Nov 08, 2017

After the overwhelming response to the Vitpilen (that’s “the white arrow”) concept at EICMA 2015, Husqvarna was all but obligated to build their Scandinavian futuro-kaffe racer. Now they have, right down to the sculpted bodywork and signature headlight. It’s called the Vitpilen 701, and you’re looking at a production model for 2018.

There’s no getting around the style of this bike. Some people won’t like it. Others stopped reading two sentences ago to set one of the press photos as their phone background. To those readers, welcome back.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
See that line that goes from the tip of the seat down to the exhaust mount? Even the air filter cover adds to it. Husqvarna photo.

Husqvarna calls the Vitpilen 701 a “a bold step into new territory for Husqvarna Motorcycles. Inspired by the same unique design approach that runs through the whole Vitpilen family, the Vitpilen 701 perfectly embodies Husqvarna’s progressive vision for innovative and accessible street motorcycles.” You might be the only member of your local Husqvarna Street Riders Club at first, but be patient.

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Husqvarna has set its sights on urban riders. Husqvarna photo.

KISKA Brand Design, Husqvarna’s partner for the Vitpilen project, found that the new “street range began attracting people to motorcycling who had never considered it before.” From what I’ve seen, the 701 attracts attention from people who are already into motorcycling, too, but here’s the point: Husqvarna is re-entering the street motorcycle segment, and they’re backing the effort with unorthodox looks and proven engineering. And for those who are recently into motorcycles, Husqvarna’s also offering a pair Duke 390-based bikes in the same distinctive style that they first showed in 2014.

There’s just no avoiding that style, is there? Where did it come from? I’m struggling to think of anything from any manufacturer that resembles the Vitpilen 701 in both specs and aesthetics. It's as though there’s another influence at work here, and KTM fans might have picked it out already.

That design firm I mentioned, KISKA? That’s the same company KTM has been designing bikes with since the early 1990s. And KTM bought Husqvarna in 2013… See where this is going?

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Husqvarna Vitpilen 701. Husqvarna photo.

Husqvarna’s new direction isn’t a bad thing, but the path to production has been long; the bikes will be coming out four years after the concepts first showed. A lot can happen in four years. Lucky for Husky, the Vitpilen has aged fairly well, but they still face challenges ahead. For starters, their dealership network is much smaller than competing brands. Does your local shop sell Husqvarna? Chainsaws don't count. And at least in the United States, big singles for the street are traditionally a tough sell. Will the design be enough to shake that predisposition?

Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Just a single disc, but a mighty Brembo to grip it. Husqvarna photo.

If you're going to try to sell a big single, this is a good one to start with. At the Vitpilen’s core thumps the KTM-derived 692.7 cc single, making 75 horsepower and 53 foot-pounds of torque. You might know that engine for being one of the most powerful four-stroke production singles ever stuffed in a motorcycle. Husky’s trellis frame is bookended by a 43 mm inverted fork and rear monoshock, both from WP. Brake calipers are Brembos, with switchable ABS from Bosch. Riders get the rest of the modern treatment too: ride-by-wire, traction control, and a slipper clutch. The whole package weighs about the same as a 690 Duke at 346 pounds.

Husqvarna Vitpilen headlight
The signature headlight stayed true to the concept. Husqvarna photo.

If you prefer the scrambler-style Svartpilen, hang tight. The Vitpilen’s brother is still a concept, but it shouldn’t be long before Husqvarna launches it as a production model.

So far, no word on prices for the new Husky. I’d expect to see it positioned above the likes of Suzuki’s SV650 or Yamaha’s FZ-07 (what’s that, we call them MTs now?), but the Vitpilen 701 is hard to compare to those motorcycles, unless you're a radar gun. It's something different entirely, and only time will tell if it was worth the wait.