There are so many great beginner motorcycles available today. Wish I’d had all these options when I started! They have some nice features too, like slipper clutches and ABS.
Manufacturers are acutely aware of the importance of the beginner market, but despite all the great models they've developed for those riders, I think there's one consideration they’ve almost all managed to miss: the clutch. It's one of the most intimidating aspects of a motorcycle to many new riders who have no experience with a manual transmission in any kind of vehicle. Now, Husqvarna is addressing that on their trendy Vitpilen 401 and Svartpilen 401 models.
Back in our 2019 moto predictions article, I suggested that no one would follow Honda into non-manual motorcycles. I think my exact words were “this is insane.” The manual transmission in my car is basically an anti-theft device these days as sticks disappear from automobiles. The next generation of riders is increasingly likely to have their first encounter with a clutch with their first time on a bike. That’s not a bad thing, necessarily. (I rode using a clutch long before I had a car with one, and moving over was pretty easy.) But if lowering barriers to entry can win new customers, I’d think manufacturers would be very interested in offering those prospective riders an easier option.
That’s exactly what Husqvarna’s done with their new Radius X automatic clutch kit, an optional installed-at-the-dealer upgrade from Rekluse that eliminates stalls and botched shifts. Just pick your gear and ride.
“Installing the kit eliminates the chances for engine stalling when starting and when braking hard, or simply when the bike is brought to a standstill with the engine still running,” explains Husqvarna. “Offering an even more accessible and enjoyable experience for riders of all levels, the automatic clutch allows for easy starting and stopping without the need to use the clutch lever.”
The clutch lever can override the Rekluse clutch if the rider chooses to use it, and the kit installs like a standard clutch pack replacement. It can be removed just as easily if the rider wants to return to standard shifting. Many off-road riders are already familiar with this system, as Rekluse setups are pretty popular in the woods. They can be found on some street bikes, as well. Or, if you rode a little Honda around the yard as a kid, there’s a chance it had similar “semi-automatic” shifting.
Rekluse clutches aren’t new, and neither are shift-without-clutch motorcycles. But offering an optional upgrade to eliminate the clutch on one of the most hyped small motorcycles on the market today? Brilliant, in my opinion. And because these Huskies are already premium players for their class ($6,299 for the Svartpilen 401), I don’t think it’s a stretch for their customers to pony up for the Rekluse if they want it. Husqvarna hasn’t released ordered-through-dealer pricing online for the kit yet, though it is available through VitpilenForum for $599.99.
Have I already struck out on my New Year’s prediction? Not exactly, since I called the Rekluse-equipped MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 Lusso SCS “a step in the right direction (towards more twist-and-go motorcycles), but… not a beginner bike.” I still stand by that. But I do think Husqvarna’s scoring some easy points with new riders by adding a beginner-friendly option to their entry machines. Let’s see what the other manufacturers come up with. For starters, KTM could offer the same kit as a dealer-installed option on the Duke 390, since it shares its engine with the Husky 401s. But beyond that, I don’t think we’ll see much action in this space.
I’d love to be proven wrong.