Husqvarna 701 Enduro
RIDE goes for an enjoyable on- and off-roading excursion on the Husqvarna 701
THERE’S LITTLE MORE enjoyable than heading out at the start of an epic ride, made all the more satisfying if the adventures ahead include the odd testing challenge or two. And in the case of this adventure, Salisbury Plain was the initial destination, with the first part of the outing involving a road ride to the area followed by a chance to explore a selection of its network of off-road trails. Much would be asked of me and my tool of choice, a Husky 701 Enduro. It’s no easy job for one single bike to cope with the very different demands of both the public highway and green lanes on the same day. As usual with any ‘dual-purpose’ machine, the 701’s design compromises its complete suitability to each environment.
The Husky’s arguably more adept at dealing with rougher topography and as such, you have to be prepared to make a few sacrifices when clocking up road mileage. Having ridden many miles on the machine on which the 701 is based, the now-defunct KTM 690 Enduro, it was simply a question of getting reacquainted with what it does and doesn’t offer. Almost everything proved straightforward, though one thing some might never feel content with, especially if you’re a shortie like me, is the lofty
950mm seat height. The nosebleed-inducing perch can initially test your technique and patience. It can be a real job just getting on board, and with ground contact too distant for my feet at times, stationary topples were the occasional embarrassing result. Luckily, the 701 is a solid bit of kit.
The tall seat itself isn’t exactly plush, and with a lack of any substantial wind protection, longer road runs aren’t luxurious. But thanks to a very roomy riding position, a punchy, keen-revving motor allowing 70-80mph cruising with enough economy to cover up to 160-180 miles per tank, and suspension supple enough to easily deal with even
“It’s no easy job for one single bike”
the worst pot-holed roads, lengthier trips don’t feel like purgatory. Adjust expectations and route, and touring can be accommodated. Three years ago I rode a 690 KTM Enduro down through France to the Italian Alps to ride the area’s mountain trails. Living with the bike for the highly enjoyable 10-day all-terrain adventure rarely felt strenuous.
My shorter stint around Salisbury Plain generated just as much smiling, even if the grins were put on hold occasionally. Recent wet weather had made the area’s byways a lot more challenging than normal in places. At times the Husky had to be manhandled though deeper muck, though most of the time the more-than-ample engine power would help it plough through. Light and agile, the 701 feels at home on the dirt with the long-travel WP suspension constantly underlining its quality by giving excellent wheel control over rougher sections. Its switchable ABS brake system is more of an ally than you might think, too. True it’s a bigger, heavier and more cumbersome machine than a pukka enduro bike, but it’s also way easier to manage than something like a Triumph Tiger, BMW GS or Honda Africa Twin, feeling much more content away from the road, particularly if the terrain becomes extra challenging.
The 170-mile adventure around the
“The 701 feels right at home on the dirt”
Salisbury Plain area highlighted the Husqvarna’s versatility well enough to encourage me to set off for Wales for more of the same just two days later. Once again, its abilities were obvious. With a more patient mindset, my gentle 130-mile run from Gloucestershire out to Sweet Lamb in Powys proved to be very therapeutic. Ideally suited to quieter, more twisting routes, the 701 covered ground more than capably. It’s superb through towns, tall seat notwithstanding. The remapped single cylinder 74bhp engine feels smoother than ever, and though usefully flexible at lower rpm, does deliver extra pulling power when revved harder. With its impressively taut, lithe and responsive handling, what the Husky might lack in civility it more than makes up for with its fun factor. That rises still further when you swap black routes for greener ones, though as I was to later discover when I did some trail riding back nearer home in Wiltshire, tyre choice ultimately limits the 701’s off-road ability. The standard-fit Conti TKC 80 tyres cope admirably with roads and dirt up to a point. But, just like the adventure bikes they’re fitted to, can’t manage both terrains perfectly. Show them some deep mud and they struggle for grip, simply because they can’t self-clean well enough. Ideally you’ll need some street-legal enduro tyres for that sort of work, though their shortcoming is an inability to offer the grip and stability on tarmac of more road-based rubber. If the Husky 701 was mine, and I wish it was, I’d have it lowered slightly and buy a set of spare wheels to give the best choice of grip to suit a greater variety of routes. That way, the bike would be more dual-purpose and adventure ready than it already is.
RIDING POSITION Roomy for surprisingly comfy road touring but a 950mm seat height makes it tricky for shorter riders
Things are just as much fun on the loose
Despite its obvious off-road credentials, the 701 works well on sealed surfaces
Factory-fit Conti TKC 80 tyres do okay but don’t excel either on- or off-road
WP front suspension is easily adjustable in both compression and rebound
The Husky copes as well off-road as it does on and generates smiles all round
The bare necessities of life. Life on the road that is. Basic dash to keep it all legal
High-level exhaust can is a long way from the ground but still fries mud for that delicious off-road odour