Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen & Svartpilen (2018) | Review

 

The Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen (meaning white arrow in Swedish) is described by its manufacturer as ‘subtle, style-focused and stripped of all that is unnecessary’. Stylish it certainly is. Subtle – I’m not so sure. The bark from the motocross-inspired end-can, and the shove in the back you get under acceleration is anything but subtle. Stripped of all that is unnecessary it is. Yes, including the seat foam.

You have to be very careful when building a bike like this. When companies go in a direction that hasn’t been explored before, especially with styling, it’s all too easy to forget that customers like a side-order of substance with their gluten-free, welfare-bred styling. Thankfully the Husky has it, in spades!

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Price

Priced at £5,599 the Husqvarna 401 is £1,000 more than the machine it’s based on (the KTM Duke 390) and to some that is going to seem like a large hike in price for some plastic panels and spoked wheels, but I really don’t think it is. I used to own a KTM Duke and had spent £800 on extras before it left the dealer’s forecourt. And one of the items I bought – a funky sounding end can – is already fitted to this bike.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Power and torque

The 401 Vitpilen makes an A2 licence compliant 44hp at 9000rpm and 37Nm of torque. The engine feels really torquey and will lift the front wheel if asked; it’s perfectly suited to dashing between the lights in town. Once the torque tails off there’s a healthy amount of top-end to pull the roadster up to motorway speeds and beyond. It’s not set your hair on fire fast, but it feels much quicker than a bike of this capacity should!

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Engine, gearbox and exhaust

The 401’s KTM-built 375cc engine is a single-cylinder twin-cam four-valve unit. It’s fed via a 46mm throttle body and Bosch ECU, which combined with the engine’s internal balance shaft, provides smooth running from tick-over to the red-line.

The gearbox has a slightly long throw but is slick and easy to use with reassuring clicks to remind newer riders where they are in the ’box. The clutch is cable-operated, smooth and light to use, again ideal for the urban jungle. The clutch is progressive and allows you plenty of feel and feedback, perfect as the morning of the launch was spent trickling through Bristol’s rush-hour traffic. Out on the open road the gears are nicely spaced and make it easy to get the jump on pretty much everything else away from the lights.

The exhaust on the Husky is pretty much the same as that of the donor 390 Duke’s, except for the end-can. The 401 does away with the slightly budget looking option in favour of a cool oval one, and it sounds great. The only down side being that when you’re riding it you miss out on that lovely sound – it was only when following other riders that I could hear the thumper’s soundtrack.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Economy

Without being able to accurately measure the economy on the launch I can only guess that the figures are going to be close to the KTM 390’s – about 60mpg – but the problem with these figures is that they’re gathered in labs, not on a launch. The biggest problem I have is that I’d spend so much time up near the rev-limiter that the fuel consumption would be much reduced. Going by the 390’s figures, the 9.5-litre tank should mean a range of about 90 to 110 miles.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Handling, suspension, chassis and weight

The Vitpilen, with its clip-on bars and high flat seat is a lively ride. It darts about on the road and can occasionally become nervous on less than perfect surfaces. That said, it is a capable little bike that, when the road conditions improve, allows you to ride quickly but well within the speed limit. The WP suspension is plush enough to smooth out the rough and tumble of the city yet responsive enough to let you go out and chase some apexes in the country.

The launch route for the afternoon took in the stunning Cheddar Gorge, with all its off-camber switch-back turns and elevation changes. It’s here I found the Husky really came alive. It’s a bike aimed squarely at the urban, youthful consumer but don’t think that doesn’t make it a very capable little machine.

Its centre of gravity is low and with almost no overhang front or rear the sub-150kg bike flicks from side to side quickly and would easily keep up with bigger, faster bikes until the roads straightened out.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Brakes

The stoppers on the 401 are ByBre (ByBrembo) units front and rear with a 320mm single disc up front and a 230mm disc at the rear. ABS is fitted a standard and can be switched off via the dash, or by doing a big wheelie. Apparently. The brakes are great, with loads of feel and not being too sharp. The ABS on the Husky was less intrusive and smoother than I remember on my KTM, only cutting in smoothly when the surface was wet and gravel strewn.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Comfort

Okay, the Vitpilen is not overly comfortable. It’s not a bike that you get on and wince immediately, and to be honest the aches didn’t start until we had ridden about 45-miles. The two main things that caused discomfort were the seat – the minimal foam means a numb bum – and the bars. The position of the clip-ons sees the grips pointing down – think café racer crossed with pre-war TT bike – which means a wrist-heavy ride that had me resting whenever I could. This is about the only negative I can find with this bike, and as the overall style and look is so good, it really is a small price to pay.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Equipment

With so much of the Husky’s styling being about ‘less is more’ I expected the dash to only reflect revs, speed and fuel but you have quite a lot of info displayed in the funky LED readout. The inner circle of the dash is home to a clock, gear indicator, average MPG, expected range, and shift light. There are trip meters too which can record trip distance and trip time.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen

So what if you don’t like a bike styled in the year 2025? Fear not, as Husqvarna has a bike for you too! The beefy looking Svartpilen (or black arrow in Swedish) is a chunky take on the Vitpilen concept. With off-road, braced handle bars and a more neutral and comfortable riding position the Svartpilen cuts a completely different shape on the road. The tank-mounted luggage rack, sump guard and chunky Pirelli Scorpion Rally tyres further add to the bikes pseudo off-road potential. In the real world this is still a machine designed for the urban sprawl, and although it could probably handle a light green lane, I wouldn’t advise it. One gentle crash would completely ruin the sculpted fuel tank and leave the owner crying into their organic quinoa.

To ride the Svartpilen is very similar to its futuristic sibling; even the knobbly tyres don’t hold it up in any way. The wide, off-road bars also mean more comfort and leverage and because of this I found the Svartpilen to be much less nervous, giving me more confidence to press on.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen verdict

There is no denying the Vitpilen is a very cool bike. It looks like nothing else in the A2 licence class, goes like a big bike and has enough of an exhaust note and presence to stop you from getting bullied by buses and BMW drivers.

I like the fact that Husqvarna has done this – sometimes a bike can easily miss the mark or be style-over-substance, but I think the Vitpilen and Svartpilen have got it spot on. There are those that will baulk at the thought of paying a premium price for a motorcycle like this but Husqvarna is a premium brand and always has been. Personally I think this bike will go down a storm with the trendy millennials as they nip between then breakfast cereal café and the crazy golf.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Three things I loved about the Husqvarna Vitpilen…

• Styling

• Engine

• Genuinely capable and enjoyable handling

 

Three things that I didn’t…

• Hard seat

• No option yet to mix parts from Vitpilen over to Svartpilen

• Slightly nervous handling on sub-optimal surfaces

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen and Svartpilen BikeSocial Review

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen & Svartpilen specification

 

Engine

1-cylinder, 4-stroke engine, 375 cc

Bore

89 mm

Stroke

60 mm

Starter

Electric starter

Transmission

6-speed

Clutch

PASC antihopping clutch, mechanically operated

Primary Drive

30:80

Frame Design

Steel trellis frame, powder coated

EMS

Bosch EMS

Front Suspension

WP upside-down Ø 43 mm

Rear Suspension

WP monoshock

Front Brake

Four-piston radial fixed calliper, brake disc

Rear Brake

Single-piston floating calliper, brake disc

Ground Clearance

170 mm

Seat Height

835 mm

Tank Capacity

9.5 l

To insure this bike, click here

For more information about the Svartpilen and Vitpilen, or any of the Husqvarna range, click here.

 

Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen & Svartpilen (2018) | Review
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