Husqvarna set the interwebs on fire when they announced their Vitpilen and Svartpilen 401 concepts over three years ago. Then the good news came: these bikes would actually go into production. But would the factory machines be as cool as the concepts? The answer came last year at EICMA, when Husqvarna revealed the production ready 401s (and 701). I never before have we seen production motorcycles stay so true to the original designs.
It appears that Husqvarna had their gun-sites set on me. After years of anticipation and waiting for the initial bikes to appear I purchased one from my local dealer; Wayne’s Cycle Shop in Waynesboro, VA, about 70 miles away from home. Wayne’s Cycle Shop is family owned and have been in business since the ’70s. If you’re passing through the Old Dominion stop by for a visit to these good folks. I cannot say enough good things about this shop. The sales folks are not commission and are low pressure and they all ride. I dealt with all 3 of their sales staff, Zing, Jennifer and Greg. They are conveniently located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive.
Why didn’t I purchase the 701 variant? The older I get the more minimalist I have become so I have to ask myself a question, “how much is enough?” Believe it or not the 701 Svart’ and Vit’ only weigh 20 lbs. more than the little brother 401. I’m a huge fan of the ‘motard’ robust black spoked rims over the 701s cast wheels and I just didn’t want to drop 12k (U.S.) on a new bike. I really enjoy wringing the neck of all the power-band vs. using only a small portion of it 90% of the time.
– I’m cheap
– Polarizing looks
Svart and Vit share the same bodywork; a four-piece design that hides the fuel tank and subframe, creating an almost monocoque-like effect. In fact, the two bikes are virtually identical, save for their color schemes and a handful of parts which I will point out.
The biggest difference is their individual riding positions, and that’s really just down to the handlebars. The Vitpilen has clip-ons mounted directly to its top triple clamp, while the Svartpilen gets higher scrambler-style bars. As for their foot control positions and seat heights (35 inches), those are identical. This bike is tiny! I mean scooter tiny yet the seating position at 35″ means vertically challenged riders will have issues flat footing this bike. It’s very difficult for me to share in words how bizarre the geometry is on this bike, but it works nicely. Small, tiny, and tall, kind of oxymoronic no?
The price of admission is $6,299. About the price of a new Vespa 300 these days. I have heard many friends say crikey that’s expensive! I guess my answer would be how much is a Ducati Scrambler? 10, 11 maybe a skosh under 12 thousand. Heck, when I was in the store walking around the showroom there was a Honda Monkey for $3,999 +++ the normal fertilizer fees. There are a plethora of really good bikes out there that you can purchase for quite a bit less than the Svartpilen that will serve you well. Pick your poison and don’t look back!
I have also read a comment that Husqvarna is the Lexus and KTM is the Toyota in the Austrian marque. This bike is a revamped Superduke 390 and is priced $1,000 more at $5,449, throw in a year or two older leftover and you can get a hella deal on one of these bikes. This begs the question is the ‘Pilen worth the extra doubloons? I won’t answer that but maybe when I get through with this thread you will be more prepared to answer that question yourself.
I think the driving force for the price point and horsepower of the SD390 and the 401s falls clearly on how the licensing structure works in the UK and other parts of the world. This particular bike requires an A2 licence.
Here’s a brief summary: https://www.visordown.com/features/learner/understand-january-19th-changes
Age 19-20 – 47 bhp max: the A2 licence. This is where the rules become slightly complex. From the age of 19, you are permitted to take an A2 test (which must be taken on a bike of at least 395cc, with a power output of between 25kW/33bhp and 35kW/47bhp). If you don’t already hold an A1 licence you will need to do a CBT beforehand, as always, and pass a theory test, before you take the practical test.
Upon passing, the rider is restricted to bikes with a limit of 35kW/47bhp and a power-to-weight ratio of no more than 0.2kW/0.26bhp per kg, for two years. The power-to-weight ratio is an important qualification because it makes drawing a distinction between ‘can ride’ and ‘can’t ride’ more nuanced than a simple bhp cap. In real terms, it imposes a minimum weight of 175kg for any bike using the full 47bhp, dashing hopes of super-lightweight 250s making a mockery of the bhp limit.
It’s relatively straightforward to restrict a bike, meaning you are not necessarily ruled out of riding the bike of your dreams – unless you are dreaming of anything ‘more than twice’ as powerful. Any bike originally making more than 94 bhp is still out of reach of the A2 licence.
You will need to hold the A2 licence for two years before you can move on to a full A licence. Examples of A2 permissable bikes include: Honda NC700, Kawasaki Z800e, BMW G650GS.
Take my Vespa 946 that came to North America with a 155cc engine (thankfully) and the UK got a 125cc engine to conform to A1 licensing. You get the idea… The point is there are many factors that drive the HP, engine size at a price point that will sell.
That’s it for this installment, I have loads to share on my perspective of this bike while I patiently wait for the weather to get a little warmer. I hope it was worth a read on a cold January day for folks this winter.
Life is short, enjoy the ride.