by Andrew Maness
Of the many traits that make the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 desirable, the fact that its the result of a well-executed singular vision is the most impressive. Since unveiling the Vitpilen 401 concept at the EICMA show in November 2014, Husqvarna’s focus on contemporary, minimalist design language for their return to the street-bike market has brought them a considerable and deserved amount of attention. The following year they brought a larger displacement concept bike featuring the 690 engine from parent company KTMs “Duke.” It featured the same refreshingly modern design as the 401. Very little changed between concept and production, which makes the Vitpilen 701 one of the most eye-catching motorcycles on the market. At a time when every other manufacturer is looking to the past for inspiration, Husqvarna is moving forward and into territory typically occupied by custom builders. The result is a bike thats worth an extended look every time you approach it, but the best part is that we found out its equally as enjoyable to ride.
It takes a slight reprogramming of the brain to fully enjoy the Vitpilen 701, but once you realize that the Swedish way is in fact the right way, you’re in for a treat. First of all the 701 relies on a single cylinder for power and maximum output is 75hp at 8,500 rpm—which may not seem like a lot, but its the most powerful street single on the market. And it certainly rides like it. The superb feel and ease of control offered here are largely due to the wet weight being just 365 pounds. Tossing the bike back and forth through twisting canyon roads becomes second nature once you trust the architecture, which will likely be the toughest mental hurdle for most riders to overcome. This is due to the Vitpilen having such a tight and tidy design; the bike disappears below you. While this might sound unsettling in words, its really the essence of what makes a great piece of machinery. For a manmade object to become an extension of the body, remarkable attention to ergonomics is required.
The riding position is quite comfortable. Even with a surprising seat height of 32 inches and low clip-on bars that could get taxing on extended rides, its still triangle of success. Everything is in its right place—up top for the hands, and down below for the feet. Its all very uncluttered. This allows you to focus on what should be focused on: riding. Whether braking or accelerating toward the limit, the 701 never feels like its going to get away from you.
A high degree of entertainment and complete lack of “oops!” moments is the goal in motorcycling, and the 701 is all too happy help you achieve that goal. One of the main factors contributing to this is a narrow footprint lacking any sort of cowl or body cladding around the naked frame. When combined with the low curb weight, this delivers a sense of levitation to the rider and its simply unforgettable. Only the clatter of the the engine and raspy exhaust note (which can be further improved with an Akrapovic unit) pulls you back down to earth.
Ultimate confidence in the ability to fly through a set of corners and down a straightaway into another set of corners is the highest praise a bike can receive. Between the transformative riding experience and head-turning design you’d be forgiven for thinking the Vitpilen 701 is a bike with a prohibitive cost of entry, but it is priced at $11,999—incredibly reasonable considering the level of craftsmanship, longterm desirability and overall stylishness of the bike.
Images by Andrew Maness