We spend some time on the Husqvarna 701 to find out who it’s designed to please.
WORDS MATT BERNARD PHOTOGRAPHY CRAIG BERNARD/MATT
I have often looked at the Husqvarna 701 Enduro slightly perplexed. It’s a wicked looking motorcycle with an astonishing 74hp and only 138kg of weight to keep that under control. It’s equipped with quality WP Xplor forks, a well-balanced WP rear shock, Brembo brakes and clutch, all packaged in the quality polished nature that Husqvarna is known for. But why would you buy one? It doesn’t have a screen or storage for those long adventure rides, yet on the flip side it’s a fair bit heavier than a standard enduro bike. It’s a niche market that I needed to investigate and as it turns out, I want to live in the niche.
HOW DOES IT GO?
Bloody fast. I mean snap ya head off, spin ya wig and drag race WRX type fast – for a ‘dirt bike’ that is. It’s an incredible single cylinder engine designed around the KTM 690 Duke naked sports bike. The engine is torquey and boasts a very usable bottom-end, however as the RPM needle climbs, tunnel vision sets in and you really start to honk. You can short shift the single overhead camshaft, liquid cooled, single cylinder engine to utilise the torque and cruise through the bush. Or back it down a gear for an exciting rush. Be mindful, the exhaust is quiet, really quiet, you don’t realise how fast you are actually going before you glance at the speedo. The quietness of the engine makes it pleasant on lengthy rides. The ride by wire technology creates a perfect throttle response and power delivery at all times.
HOW DOES IT HANDLE?
The WP Xplor fork does a great job on the majority of terrain you will throw this bike at. Jumping too long off erosion mounds, or hitting large whoops along a trail will start to show the limits of the suspension on a bike like this. But it’s not designed for that. On wide-open fire roads and likewise tighter single track, the WP suspension will eat up what you throw at it. It’s plush, settled and slightly on the soft side, which is a good thing. Despite being a large dirt bike, the 701 is surprisingly nimble in tighter terrain. It’s a bit wider than your average trail bike, but I was pleasantly surprised with how easy it was to navigate technical terrain on.
HOW ABOUT THE ERGOS?
The ‘bar height is a little low in the standing position for me. Felt a bit like riding with my hands in my pockets. By the end of the ride I did find myself sitting more often for comfort, but that’s an easy fix with bar risers or a higher bend of handlebar. In the seated position, it’s a comfortable and pleasant bike to ride. There is next to no vibration through the handlebars and with all Husqvarna models, the quality componentry is dripping from the motorcycle. Brembo brakes Magura clutch, quality grips, small dash with an ABS-off switch are all top shelf parts.
STOP ME PLEASE!
On a bike like this, you are in desperate need of quality brakes. The Husqvarna 701 is fitted with a 300mm floating front rotor and a 240mm rear disc. Bosch ABS technology is used to pull the bike up with ease. I was struggling justify the need for ABS, until I did a few high speed stops and trusted the technology. I stopped from near 100km/h on a dirt road way fast than I could using my own skills. ABS has it’s place.
SO, WHO SHOULD BUY IT?
I’m still unsure that there is one particular market who suits the 701 and I mean that in a good way. It suits a range of riders.
Someone who is after a big sucker of a dirt bike. They’re an XR650 lover who fangs wide-open trails on a regular basis and loves high speed power slides when trailriding. He doesn’t need the extra power, but loves that it’s there, they should own a Husqvarna 701.
The rider who is after a mid-size adventure bike who will take the bike where a 1290 or 1100cc bike shouldn’t, on a regular basis. They will have some money to install a screen and some accessories to make it a more of an adventure ready machine. They should own a Husqvarna 701.
Someone who has a DR650, but wants something fancier. They appreciate the finer things in life and like a refined motorcycle to spend a long period of time on.
I loved the bike, it took me a few rides to really understand what it’s designed for. No matter who it’s aimed at, the 701 is a really enjoyable dirt bike…argh…adventure bike… argh trail bike… no matter what this bike is, its bloody good and heaps of fun. Bring on the fire trails!
SECOND OPINION: LYNDON HEFFERNAN
This bike is way underrated, but is starting to get a loyal following, my first impression is it is sleek slim and has nice lines and the build quality is superb.
Once onboard, the motor fires up quickly and the exhaust note is super quiet, lulling you into a false sense of security – more on that later.
The control layout is somewhere between a trail bike and an Enduro bike, the bars are a bit low for me at 5’9” and seat a nice height. I immediately think I would probably like the bars a bit higher and while seated it is not a bother at all and actually really comfortable. However, a short time later when I get off road and start standing the low bar height is noticeable, this is an easy fix with a number of aftermarket options available for a taller guys. For 5’6’’ and under it will be fine.
The seat is really comfy and slim. Compared to every adventure bike I have ridden, it feels super light nimble and a more ‘enduro’ style riding position. This bike can be cornered sitting down leg out or in MX style – unlike Adventure bikes which have large tanks and require a stand-up rally style cornering. We did several scary-fast laps of our grass track and you could not wipe the grin off the faces of everyone who had a lash on it.
The question begs then – is it and Enduro bike or an adventure bike?
To me it is a big trail bike and an extremely pleasurable one to ride at that and it fits fair smack in the middle. A capable rider could take this thing anywhere, from local single track to the Simpson. With the right tyres and with a big tank and a fairing it would be a sweet adventure bike, dare I say it is a modern version of the ever popular DR 650 but with all the bells and whistles and without the vibration!
Now back to that motor, it is so quiet and so smooth, surprisingly there is almost no vibration thanks to the clever engine design. Single cylinder four strokes are renowned for bad vibration and the old XR 600/ 650 DR 650 can get unbearable on long rides…. It is no concern on this machine.
On this bike you generate speed very quickly and with minimal inertia. When you decelerate as well, it makes for a pleasant riding experience, you just need to be mindful you don’t feel like you are going fast on it!
Both brakes are sensational and the ABS works really well and a great option for those that are new to the dirt and gravel.
The suspension is a bit soft if you push it on a grass track or launch of jumps but awesome everywhere else. I am so used to Adventure bikes bottoming out but we took the 701 on some tracks that we probably should not have and while we bottomed the suspension out it was not a metal to metal impact and we were amazed at what it could handle.
If you are an ex-serious off roader who is looking to do more distance stuff this is your bike. However, for newbies that want to do some commuting and tackle some trails and with some additions tackle some long distance Adventure riding this would be a much better option that wrestling a much larger heavier machine. The good thing is more and more genuine and aftermarket bits to turn this 701 into the ideal Adventure bike are appearing.
My ride time was far too brief and I can’t wait to spend more time on this bike, if I was to choose a bike to do full laps of the great dividing range and Victorian High Country this would be it, and the beauty is bolting on some Adventure kit and you could easily head off into the sunset and just keep going!