May 21, 2018 at 6:17 pm #707
This is a story about how a Svartpilen got a little muddy.
What a better way to find out what a Svartpilen can do than to put it to the test? Well, this weekend we were given just that chance. Since the company we work for has become involved with all of these organizations; myself and some coworkers from AOMC.mx were given the great opportunity to attend the KTM East Coast Adventure Rally, part of the KTM/AMA National Adventure Riding Series. So, we loaded up our newest rugged bikes, a Svartpilen and two Rally builds (690 Enduro R and HQV 701 both sporting Nomad Rally Fairings) and headed to the mountains. Now, the Svartpilen is marketed as an Urban explorer. But, in WV not all exploring is done on paved roads.
I’ve logged nearly uncountable miles in this part of our state on everything from big bore adventure bikes to small thumper tagged dirt bikes. To say I was excited to give these a run for their money is a serious understatement. While the 690 and 701 deserve their own space, this is the Svartpilen forum so I’ll focus on that. Our Svartpilen was bone stock front to rear. The only adaptation was to replace the front turn signals with a more euro style small set of led’s. So, this was to be a true example of where it shines.
This event is put on by some of the best adventure riders in the industry and is organized by the pros of Pine Barrens Adventures. With the likes of Mike Lafferty, among others, strolling casually through the bikes and tents you know you’re in for a weekend of serious riding.
The news of the machines we had with us had preceded our arrival. We rolled in on Friday afternoon and were greeted by people already eager for us to open the trailer door. While the 701 was a matter of interest, there was just as much intrigue for this unusual and fresh little bike sporting it’s high handlebars, rugged tires. If you know the adventure community, you know there are always people looking for a modern well performing capable scrambler. And, that is exactly the hopes that this machine kindles in many. Many companies have tried, Husqvarna just may have achieved it.
That evening two of us jumped on the bikes for the shakedown route. This included a nice run on a portion of the Highland Scenic Highway. I wish we had photos from this section but the weather was wet and foggy so we didn’t linger. That said, the 401 declared it’s ability early.
We began entering the large banked sweeping curves with some trepidation at first, unsure how the stock Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR’s would connect on the wet pavement. I’m a long time TKC 80 fan, so I was dubious at first glance. The 401 however chuckled at our concerns as it made us chuckle in our helmet. While there are more aggressive “knob” style rally/dualsport tires out there, and these are no race slicks, the Pierlli’s inspired absolute confidence. With every curve they felt more planted, they turn in predictably and generally stay right where you want them. There wasn’t much dry pavement this weekend but there were pegs scratched. I don’t know that I’m on the Pirelli fan team…but they are definitely
The rider geometry of the 401 and the suspension held up well also. If anything it surprised more than concerned the rider. Setting up to enter a corner the 401 drops perfectly into place. It’s lightweight chassis and class leading WP stock suspension follows commands eagerly. It could be a touch stiffer, but the same change could be made by me being a touch lighter. All in all it left me craving unending curves.
Shortly down the highway our GPS directed us onto the road paralleling the gorgeous Williams River. With tight flat curves and narrow margins this road feels almost more like a super moto course than anything large fishing rigs travel down. Again the 401 shined. It’s light weight makes it an absolute blast, as if it’s begging you to make the course as complicated as possible. With the Bosch ABS you can confidently grab all the stopping power you need before cranking into the next short straight.
With the ride already being adventurous the next turn took it a step further. This is where the gravel started. We turned onto a lightly maintained gravel USFS road. Being joined by a couple great Pine Barrens riders on a 701 and a BMW GS, we headed into the unknown.
With a light rain falling there was no dry dirt to be found. But, thankfully the silty dirt of the Monongahela can be slick but not a mud bath. As expected the 690 took off as it entered it’s element. The 401 was tentative at first. Quickly, the short travel of the bike was evident but not a surprise. Again the Pierelli’s and the 401’s ergonomics were in their element. Over the river and through the woods we went! I’ll explain in detail a bit more below about how she handled the gravel, slippery mud, and angles we threw at her. Let’s suffice it to say…she is a scrambler. After a short blast, about 10 miles, we found ourselves back on tight blacktop twisties. I chuckled as my coworker kept pace with a giant GS in front of him in every corner. The nimbleness of the 401 helped him stay right with that 1200cc bike. That was enough for one day and it was time to head back for some well deserved R&R as the weather pushed our patience. But, not before a nice relaxing dip to cool and clean off those pretty spoked wheels. (yes the temptation to cross was strong…but unfortunately so was the current)
The next day was to be even more of a test. Both for all riders, and especially our newcomer the 401. Also, the rider I was sharing this adventure with was new. He is an accomplished ATV rider but had never ridden adventure bikes in his life. So, the following is a testament to his and the 401’s adaptability.
The Pine Barren route planners’ skills really shown in this area of the event. They laid out a 180 mile plan of three sections. We started late and hoped to get at least half done. I’ve rode in this area a lot. Usually you are on your own. It was very reassuring to know their support teams were on scene. They had multiple offroad vehicles and bike mounted staff with everything from bike support to medical response, sat phones, etc.. It definitely shortened the “out in the wild” feel, but was very reassuring to know they were there. For those unfamiliar with the territory this hard work could truly be life saving. I can’t give them enough props for the work they put into planning, preparing (including flagging danger spots, etc) and protecting the riders that have invested the time to join in this event.
Leaving Snowshoe we rode in and out of fog that reminded us of riding in the clouds. This was nerve wrecking at times due to visibility. But, the Svartpilen again stayed well planted through narrow curve after narrow curve. But, the pavement was not to last long. We quickly turned onto some of the most well known adventure routes the mountain state has to offer. Climbing from back mountain road, on the 690 and my partner on the 401, I had to work to climb a rut filled muddy climb hundreds of feet up through switchbacks. Everytime you thought you had crested it turned and went up again. Picking your line was crucial as slowing down was not much of an option. Staying on the power I summitted and shut the bike off. Surely, I thought, he will be turning around. That’s a nice dirt road scrambler, but no way it’ll climb that. After catching my breath I began to turn back, but no need. In very short order I heard the deep persistent grunt of the 401’s exhaust as my partner pulled up alongside. He certainly worked harder to do it, but it obviously was well within the grasp of the Svartpilen which purred, ready to take on the next challenge.
The remainder of the day was much the same. Short tall climbs followed by fast moving gravel/dirt ridges littered with holes and stones and ending in sketchy downhill braking sessions as you descend into the next valley. Take a breath and do it again. Seemingly endless stretches of deep Appalachian forest with extremely quick jaunts on connecting pavement. Every time I thought “surely this will be it’s limit” I was proven wrong.
We completed 146.6 miles in 7hrs, with a total of 16,000ft of ascent and 14,885ft of descent. I feel I’ve rambled enough above. Here, just enjoy some pics of the urban explorer exploring rural America
The last photo is looking over the beautiful Monongahela National Forest, blasting home, miles from the nearest hard top and even further to the nearest civilization. And, still 100% confident that our machines would get us home.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying all of this just because I like the Svartpilen, which I really do. I’m not saying all of this because I work at the dealership. I’m saying all this because it’s true. The 2018 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 does not have a competitor, in my opinion, in the North American market. For those of us that have yearned for a bike that looked good on the curb but could truly take us to some of the less populated portions of the map, this just may be it. It’s not an off-road motorcycle. It’s not a street bike. It’s a scrambler, and it fills that role very well. I really think, after years of searching, that this may be the scrambler the North American ADV market has been seeking. Get to your dealer and put a leg over one. You won’t regret it.
If you’re interested in my layman observations:
Without going into the details of how you ride loose muddy gravel suffice it to say it did not feel like you were riding a street bike at all. The bars of the 401, and the upright posture kept you perfectly positioned to move the light weight body of the 401 below you. As we cruised through pine thickets, and up steep hollers the bike settled into the groove. It was surprising all around. Once dialed in the bike drifted predictably. Obviously, the shorter travel is not to be expected to feel the same as an “offroad” motorcycle. So I was not expecting it to. But, I was also not expecting it to feel as planted as it did. I am experienced but no pro. And, I never felt out of control on the 401. The ABS was noticeable but in no way prohibitive enough to turn it off. In fact it was quite appreciated on the front end. The small front wheel definitely limited the ability to cut through deeper ruts and gravel, but that was easily overcome with skilled application of throttle. This is where the abs was very appreciated. The large front rotor provides plenty of stopping power and the ABS helps ensure that power doesn’t develop at the wrong time. An option to change to a 19″ front wheel would certainly give you much better off road control. But, at this time that’s not an option. If you plan on extensive riding in such conditions I’d suggest a more aggressively offroad oriented front tire. The Pierrli is fine but a TKC 80 or the like would likely give a little more confidence. But, that’s all just really splitting hairs when you’re dealing with 17″ wheels.
The motor left little be desired, unless you’re looking for a lot of power. But, as we all know, out in the woods on rough terrain it’s about how you access the power more than just having gobs of horsepower. The reworked, fresh for the 401, engine has come a long way since the early duke itterations. The power is tractable, easy to access, and comes on smooth. A secondary gearing change could give a lot more acceleration, as stock is 15/45, but with predictable loss of cruising speed for road time. Changing to something like a 14 front or larger rear would definitely help in the low speed or climbing work. But, that’s the normal trade off with wanting to run in both worlds. Pick your priorities, pick a gearing, and go ride.
The 401 is also a very good looking motorcycle. Which is concerning when dealing with offroad riding. We fortunately had no accidents. But, the exposed cases and tank could really attract damage if things went wrong. Husqvarna is already offering some protection for the tank, headlight etc. And you can find those on AOMC.mx. And, I know that P3 is aggressively working to solve some other critical risk areas we identified during this ride to make it more roburst. So stay tuned. With the right armor and rider preferred gearing; IO’d take this almost anywhere in the lower 48.
May 24, 2018 at 5:54 am #724
- This topic was modified 5 months, 3 weeks ago by Appalachian Rider. Reason: i hit enter too soon
Wow, what a great write-up AR! Who would’ve thought that little Svart could handle everything you threw at it. I seriously doubt most owners of this bike would drag it through 146 miles of rough Appalachian-like terrain…at least not right off the bat, but it’s truly surprising that little 401 got through it all. Anxious to see what P3 comes up for it.
Kudos for a great review and thanks for sharing the adventure!May 29, 2018 at 7:04 pm #770
Allow me to add my praise for a great read – thanks very much for sharing all of this.October 18, 2018 at 9:07 am #2499
Great insights. Thanks.October 18, 2018 at 7:07 pm #2501
That was a lot of fun, posted up before I had my Svart so hadn’t seen it. I gotta get out and ride!October 19, 2018 at 10:40 pm #2509
really nice report!October 22, 2018 at 6:22 pm #2537
Could you provide a bit more insight/info on the front turn signals that were used? Currently in the market to swap mine out and these seem like a perfect pick.October 25, 2018 at 5:16 pm #2554
Great stuff, and exactly what I wanted to know. This will be my first motorcycle ever at 51 years old and I wanted something easy to get into and would let me take off the beaten path from time to time if I got the urge. Now I just got to find a good dealer somewhere. Anyone know of any changes coming for the 2019 model? Just wondering if I should wait.October 25, 2018 at 6:28 pm #2555
I’ve been to the Intermot motorcycle trade fair in Cologne/Germany last month and could’nt find any changes on the Vitpilen/Svartpilen 401 bikes being displayed there comparing them to my 2018 Vitpilen I picked up the day before LG the Svartpilen that I took for a test ride 2 weeks earlier.
Next big motorcycle trade fair will be EICMA in Milan/Italy next week.
If there would be any updates on the bikes Husqvarna/KTM would most likely present them at this show. So you probably will want to watch out for reports from that show.October 25, 2018 at 6:45 pm #2556
I’ve been to the Intermot motorcycle trade fair in Cologne/Germany last month and couldn’t find any changes on the Vitpilen/Svartpilen 401 bikes being displayed there comparing them to my 2018 Vitpilen I picked up the day before and the Svartpilen that I took for a test ride 2 weeks earlier.
The bikes displayed were just fitted with some of Husqvarna’s own add-on parts such as CNC brake fluid reservoir caps, alloy foot pegs and Akrapovic exhaust end Cans.
Next big motorcycle trade fair will be EICMA in Milan/Italy in 2 weeks.
If there would be any updates on the bikes, Husqvarna/KTM would most likely present them at this show. So you probably will want to watch out for reports from that show.October 31, 2018 at 10:31 pm #2617
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