Husq­varna 701 Su­per­moto

Husq­varna’s new street-tyred pud­dle-jumper is nar­row-minded, ex­pen­sive and loves round­abouts… per­fect, in other words

BIKE (UK) - - FIRST RIDE - Words: Mike Ar­mitage Pho­tog­ra­phy: Ja­son Critchell

THIS IS A fab­u­lous bike. Hon­estly and truly great. Cre­ated us­ing a de­sign brief free from terms such as practicality and ease-of-use, it ex­ists purely for the pur­pose of mak­ing your face split into a toothy beamer. How re­fresh­ing. Su­per­mo­tos live on the pe­riph­ery. Never likely to ful­fil the next big thing prom­ise, their jacked-up off-road-based build, un­fa­mil­iar rid­ing po­si­tions and ob­sti­nate sin­gle-cylin­der en­gines don’t have mass ap­peal. The 701 is the best yet in terms of con­vinc­ing the du­bi­ous. Where wheezy ’mo­tos in the past have strug­gled to hit 80mph, the Husky is as smooth and flex­i­ble as a mid­dleweight twin and will sprint to 80mph in third. It goes on to show 120, cruises calmly at 75, de­liv­ers 55mpg and has a 157-mile range from its 13-litre tank – or 200 miles when you ease back for 70mpg. It starts first touch of the but­ton, has a neigh­bour-friendly ex­haust note and a stag­ger­ing steer­ing lock, plus ABS and even ad­justable rid­ing modes. This is about as far as touchy-feely niceties go, though. The 701 still isn’t a bike for steady jaunts or dis­tance work; it ham­mer-drills through 30 lim­its in the up­per three ra­tios, has a gan­gly 890mm seat height, duff mir­rors and a seat like cheesewire. And a chas­sis like a see­saw. Brake rea­son­ably hard and, perched with your soft bits against the head­stock, the front end plum­mets from sight. Crack the gas at low speed and the rear squats. The first few miles feel like skip­per­ing a dinghy in a force ten. It takes plenty of miles, lots of tight cor­ners and a con­certed ef­fort to em­brace the su­per­moto ethos –

‘If the han­dle­bar isn’t clump­ing your knee then you’re re­ally not try­ing hard enough’

and change how you ride to suit – in or­der for the Husky to stop feel­ing odd. Sat up over the air­box (the tank’s in that right-hand side panel) and el­bows high, barge up to a cor­ner and brake hard and late, pin the front Con­ti­nen­tal Con­ti­at­tack SM down hard and feel it all through sup­ple damp­ing. Smack the in­side bar and push the 701 down to at least 45 de­grees, trust­ing the front, stay­ing sat up and even mov­ing to the out­side of the seat. Don’t hold too tight. Use the off-road tech­nique of weight­ing the out­side peg to keep the chas­sis taut and help it turn. That 63bhp might be perky for a sin­gle but it’s not go­ing to over­whelm the grippy tyre, so get on the gas early and hard, and sense the weight shift­ing rear­ward and pro­vid­ing even more grip. And all that foot-wav­ing? I’ve al­ways thought it looks point­less and feels silly, but once you con­nect with the 701 it ac­tu­ally makes sense, help­ing the sat-up stance feel ‘right’ and pro­vid­ing a use­ful lean an­gle sen­sor – be­cause you’re not lean­ing your­self it’s oth­er­wise dif­fi­cult to gauge how far you’re tipped over. If the han­dle­bar isn’t clump­ing your knee then you’re re­ally not try­ing hard enough. Ob­vi­ously this tech­nique doesn’t re­ally suit the fast, open turns of the A6006. There aren’t many B-roads that are tight enough, ei­ther. It needs squig­gly C-roads or un­clas­si­fied back roads to get the most out of the 701, where the pli­ant sus­pen­sion is at its best – when a bike’s lean­ing over it’s harder for the sus­pen­sion to tackle bumps, so ab­sorbent set­tings let the chas­sis track the road rather than be­ing pitched up­wards. Al­ter­na­tively head into the tight­est city you know and waste a few hours beat­ing ev­ery­thing from the lights, wheely­ing across fly­overs and go­ing round in tight cir­cles. Noth­ing laps a round­about with the tyre-fraz­zling per­for­mance of the 701. Ac­tu­ally, that’s not true. KTM’S 690 SMC R does, as be­neath the 701’s ro­bust-yet-sexy plas­tics and wrap­around seat that’s ex­actly what it is. I much pre­fer the Husq­varna’s exotic air and classier pre­sen­ta­tion to the gaudy KTM, how­ever (it’s £100 cheaper too). KTM’S 690 Duke is closely re­lated as well, and takes much of the 701’s fun and adds a heap of day-to-day us­abil­ity, but doesn’t look any­thing like as cool. Yamaha’s MT-07 is £2500 cheaper, but we’re talk­ing dif­fer­ent things en­tirely. So that’s the Husq­varna 701. Firmly fo­cused, mildly mys­te­ri­ous, and more fun than drunken naked tram­polin­ing. Just the ticket if you live near quiet knot­ted lanes or Three Sis­ters cir­cuit. Or in Milton Keynes.

Thin, light, ea­ger. Less likely to try and break legs than a race ’moto, but still feisty

Neat ad­juster lives within cast Brembo brake lever

LED tail­light is the size of a rst-class stamp

Classy Husky logo, and even cooler Bel-ray lubes sticker

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