We’ll forgive you if you’ve never heard of SWM, as neither had we. And figuring out how the story gets from Italy in 1971 back to Italy today is a convoluted and fascinating international journey.

It was 1971 when off-road riding enthusiasts Piero Sironi and Fausto Vergani founded SWM (Speedy Working Motors) near Milan and began building prototypes of enduro-style motorcycles. SWM soon had success on the race circuit, winning the 1972 Italian motocross championship in the 125cc category. In 1973, production bikes with small-displacement (50, 100, and 125cc) Sachs two-stroke engines began to roll out of the factory. SWM went on to score a trials world title and several Italian national championships in motocross and trials. Despite these successes and the later adoption of some Rotax engines, SWM faltered in the early 1980s and suffered liquidation in 1983.

Flash forward three decades, and the SWM marque was purchased in 2014, with six new dirt and street bikes ranging in size from 300cc to 650cc displayed at the 2014 EICMA show in Milan. That’s the CliffsNotes version, but the back stories to relaunching the marque are tangled and labyrinthine.

Designing new motorcycles from scratch is very costly and highly complicated. On the other hand, rebadging an existing non-current motorcycle is exponentially quicker and cheaper. But where does one find unused but contemporary dual-sport enduros and dirtbikes?

For that story, we have to go back to 1987 when Cagiva purchased the motorcycle division of Husqvarna from its Swedish owners and transferred production to its factory in Varese, Italy. Cagiva bought the MV Agusta brand in 1991 and years later changed the name of the parent company to MV Agusta Motor S.p.A.

The next twist came in 2007 when BMW bought Husqvarna from MV as part of its plans to tackle the off-road market. The Germans originally intended to operate Husky independently, and for one year after the purchase, BMW produced the motorcycles and engines already developed by MV Agusta while internally engineering its own products. BMW also financed a the construction of a new factory in Biandronno, Italy, on the western shore of Lake Varese. To keep production costs low, BMW sourced some parts from China.

BMW built this spanking new factory for Husqvarna in 2009.

BMW built this spanking new factory for Husqvarna in 2009.

Several new Husqvarnas were developed, but BMW eventually had a change of heart about the off-road market and decided to divest itself from Husqvarna. It off-loaded the historic brand to Pierer Industrie AG, headed by KTM CEO Stefan Pierer, in January 2013. The Austrian was interested primarily in the Husqvarna name and its dealer base, and it had no need for Husqvarna’s four-year-old factory, nor for the older models in Husky’s lineup.

So, there sat a modern moto factory and a trained workforce, including famed engineer Ampelio Macchi, who has had a long history in Italian motorcycles. Not only did Macchi work for Cagiva and Husqvarna, developing all the “red-head” Huskys, he also enjoyed a stint as technical manager at Aprilia and engineered the riotously fun (but problematic) 450cc and 550cc V-Twin engines in the SXV and RXV model lines. SWM’s website claims Macchi played a role in 46 world championships with Husky and five with Aprilia.

Aprilia SXV And RXV New Model Introduction

2008 Aprilia SXV 5.5 Review

This confluence of events led to the launch of SWM Motorcycle Srl in October 2014, financed by the might of the Shineray Group, which manufactures everything from cars to motorcycles to agricultural implements. Shineray has been the leading manufacturer of off-road motorcycles in China (not that there’s been much competition…), and now it owns a glistening factory in Italy and the rights to manufacture some pre-BMW Husqvarna models that had been abandoned by BMW and KTM. Ingegnere Macchi apparently holds a 10% share of the company.

Shineray’s Daxing Gong alongside engineer Ampelio Macchi.

Shineray’s Daxing Gong alongside engineer Ampelio Macchi.

“SWM Motorcycles is freshly established, but it shows the know-how of a big company,” explains Ennio Marchesin, Marketing – Communication & PR  Manager for SWM. “[It is] founded on a good team of skilled technicians that allow to follow and manage directly inside the Italian headquarters any aspect of the motorcycles creation.”

The first new SWM, an RS650 R, rolled off the line on July 8, 2015. The RS650 is essentially a 2009 Husqvarna TE610 with an updated fuel-injection system. That theme continues across the range, with the 300, 500 and 600cc (badged 650s) models being basically older Husqvarnas but with more modern EFI.

Today, SWM lists no less than a dozen models on its website, ranging from 125cc to 600cc (a few, like the RS340S and MC250S, are not yet in production). The primary markets are Europe, Australia, New Zealand and, in the not-too-distant future, the USA.

Already lined up for importing to our shores is Peter Vetrano of Motoman Distributing. Vetrano, based in Oak Hills, California, was previously the importer for TM, Vertimati/VOR and LEM, so he has experience dealing with diminutive Italian moto manufacturers.

Vetrano makes the case for SWM by explaining that he expects the bikes to fit in somewhere between the expensive KTMs and modern Huskys and the less-hardcore Japanese off-roaders. Componentry is sourced from the usual European suppliers like Brembo and Akropovic, with suspension primarily by Kayaba (KYB). A Marzocchi/Sachs combo is used on SWM’s 650s.

The SWM range is topped by the Super Dual 650, which looks to be a fairly serious adventure bike. Its curb weight is said to be a very reasonable 351 pounds with its 5.0-gallon fuel tank empty.

The SWM range is topped by the Super Dual 650, which looks to be a fairly serious adventure bike. Its curb weight is said to be a very reasonable 351 pounds with its 5.0-gallon fuel tank empty.

Selling old Huskys at new-KTM prices would be a losing proposition, so production costs are kept relatively low by sourcing 20-25% of the non-critical parts (like plastics, levers, seats and engine cases) from China. But Marchesin notes that all SWM motorcycles and engines are “manufactured, assembled and produced internally.”

With this format, Vetrano says SWMs will be priced in America $2000 to $2500 less than a comparable KTM, edging close to the Japanese brands. Vetrano doesn’t plan to import the entire SWM line, saying he intends to begin with the RS and SMR 500s and the RS and Super Dual 650s.

The RS300R is also likely to be imported to the USA. Claimed dry weight is just 236 pounds.

The RS300R is also likely to be imported to the USA. Claimed dry weight is just 236 pounds.

Vetrano anticipates “the potential to move a couple hundred bikes in the first year,” and he believes the market could bear about 1000 units annually. So far the dealer network consists of some former Husqvarna dealers. No prices have yet been set, as currency fluctuations may take place while EPA testing takes place.

While reasonably-priced-but-cool enduros and dual-sports are appealing, perhaps SWM’s biggest market play will be with its upcoming “classic bike” line: the single-cylinder Silver Vase 440 and the Gran Milano 440.

We could imagine young and hip riders will find SWM’s scrambler-esque Silver Vase 440 appealing. And with partial production in China, along with a simple design, its price tag is likely to appeal to everyone.

We could imagine young and hip riders will find SWM’s scrambler-esque Silver Vase 440 appealing. And with partial production in China, along with a simple design, its price tag is likely to appeal to everyone.

These bikes are all new and will use a 444cc air-cooled engine that, according to Vetrano, will be “90%” built by Shineray in China. However, all assembly of the bikes will be handled by SWM in Italy. The 440 is a new bike with an air-cooled motor that is still about nine months away from arriving at dealers. Vetrano plans to import both 440 models once they reach production.

If you’d like to learn more about Vetrano’s plans for SWM in the U.S. or want to become a dealer, write to: info@motomandist.com. As always, please weigh in below in the comments section.

The Gran Milano 440 uses the same platform as the Silver Vase, but it uses a sportier cafe racer design.

The Gran Milano 440 uses the same platform as the Silver Vase, but it uses a sportier cafe racer design.

Superdual Silver Vase 440 Gran Milano 440
Engine Type Liquid-cooled single-cylinder, four-stroke Single cylinder, four stroke Single cylinder, four stroke
Bore 3.94in. 3.54 in. 3.54in.
Stroke 3.01in. 2.75in. 2.75in.
Displacement 36.6 ci(600cc) 27.17 cu.in.(445cc) 27.17(445cc)
Starter Electric (with automatic decompressor) Electric Electric
Lubrication Wet sump with oil pump rotor and cartridge filter Dry sump with lobe oil pump cartridge filter and radiator oil Dry sump with lobe oil pump cartridge filter and radiator oil
Ignition Electronic Electronic Electronic
Fuel system Electronic injection feed Electronic injection feed Electronic injection feed
Throttle body Mikuni D45 D36 D36
Clutch Wet, multiplate type; hydraulic control Wet, multiplate type; cable control Wet, multiplate type; cable control
Transmission 6-speed 5-speed 5-speed
Frame Single beam double cradle main frame Single beam double cradle main frame Single beam double cradle main frame
Front suspension 50mm upside-down Marzocchi fork with dumping adjustment 43mm telescopic hydraulic fork 47mm upside-down telescopic hydraulic fork fully adjustable
Rear suspension Sachs monoshock absorber with adjustment Double hydraulic shock absorber Double hydraulic shock absorber fully adjustable; spring preload adjustment
Front brake 320mm disc 280mm floating disk with hydraulic control and radial caliper 280mm floating disk with hydraulic control and radial caliper
Rear brake 280mm disc 220mm disc 220mm disc
Front wheel 2,50”x19” 1,85”x19” 3,00”x17”
Rear wheel 3,5”x17” 3,00”x17” 4,25”x17”
Front tire 110/80-19″ 100/90-19″ 120/70-17″
Rear tire 140/80-17″ 130/80-17″ 150/60-17″
Wheelbase 57.68 in. 56.85 in. 55.5 in.
Saddle height 33.85 in. 32.3 in. 31.85 in.
Kerb weight, without fuel 350.5lb. 326.3lb. 319 lb.
Fuel tank capacity 5.02 U.S. Gallons 5.94 U.S. Gallons 5.94 U.S. Gallons
  • DickRuble

    yeah.. we didn’t know about the Chinese company from Italy.. well.. some of us knew.. we read it somewhere else… anyway.. yes.. another Chinese company assembling Chinese parts int definitely Chinese looking motorcycles.. in Italy… to avoid tariffs..yaaay..

    • Born to Ride

      Superdual appears to be the real deal. The 440s, not so much.

    • Ser Samsquamsh

      That Gran Milano kind of reminds me of the early Hinckly triumph trident.

    • TheMarvelous1310

      Don’t be so hard on China, these days they build everything in America but the buildings…

  • Born to Ride

    First you get me all excited over this sweet Italian-made little cafe-inspired roadster well under 400lbs wet, then you had to go and spoil the party by informing us that instead of being powered by a punchy and reliable fuel injected husky motor, the power plant will be 90% manufactured in China. Ugh. Bait and switch.

    • Kevin Duke

      BMW G650 motors were 100% built in China for awhile…

    • Ian Parkes

      This sounds like you wouldn’t buy things made in China? I take it you live in a cabin in the woods you built with an axe your forged yourself.

      • Born to Ride

        I generally avoid it if I can. I am not an ignorant consumer that doesn’t realize that my phone and many other high tech goodies are manufactured in China. That being said, an engine is a fairly complex arrangement of reciprocating parts that must be engineered and manufactured with a high degree of precision in order to not only be reliable but efficient. I am less willing to accept that an upstart Chinese company that is attempting to undercut its competition on price is likely to engineer and manufacture an engine to the level of quality that a comparable Huskvarna thumper would possess. Hence the disappointment.

        • Kevin Duke

          It’ll be interesting to see how close to good it is. Maybe I should try to get a long-termer. And a turbo…

          • Born to Ride

            Here’s to hoping it is actually a fantastic motorcycle. If the specs aren’t blatantly fallacious, it should be a nice little bike to ride around with its low weight, decent suspension, and attractive appearance.

        • Ian Parkes

          ‘Made in Japan’ used to have the same stigma. I just think Chinese manufacturing is further along that curve than most people would allow – shifting from cheap and nasty to just cheap. The airline I worked for did all of the heavy maintenance on its jets, which included some manufacturing. It sent one jet to China to test their heavy maintenance capability. The engineer who oversaw the check came back and told the local engineers to lose their complacency – those Chinese aircraft engineers were good.

        • TheMarvelous1310

          ‘an engine is a fairly complex arrangement of reciprocating parts that must be engineered and manufactured with a high degree of precision in order to not only be reliable but efficient’

          So, you trust China to build your phone-a technological masterpiece of exotic materials and microscopic circuitry, and also a bomb full of toxic material that will blow your face off if it malfunctions and radiates your thigh and ear while functioning normally-but you won’t trust them to build a motor, something simple enough that millions of hobbyists do it on their own in garages every day? Priorities, dude.

          • Born to Ride

            My phone won’t leave me sitting on the side of the road hundreds of miles away from home if it decides to melt down on me. Simple as that.

  • Old MOron

    Jeeze, if the bikes are half as good as the back story, they’re going to be a hit!
    I imagine it took some effort to investigate it and to put it into a cohesive story line.
    Well done, Duke.

    • Kevin Duke

      Thanks for appreciating the effort, OM! I told the boys it’s the longest quickie story I’ve ever written. :)

  • Flubbly

    Those fuel tank capacities. I’m impressed. Are they correct?

  • DickRuble

    Why the SWM name? The company has NOTHING to do with the original SWM. It’s not like SWM is easy to roll off the tongue. It doesn’t sound Italian… Any fans of the original SWM are long gone or getting Alzheimer’s treatment. What’s with reviving names that no longer mean anything? Anyway.. the only bike from the Husky line up that ever interested me was the Nuda 900R, and KTM, who seem to have lost their way too, aren’t building one…

    • spiff

      I think KTM will be addressing your 900cc(ish) bike in 2017, 2018 at the latest.

    • TheMarvelous1310

      A name always, ALWAYS means something, even if the people who it means something to are largely gone. SWM means it’s a decent sporting Italian bike for a fair price, just like the Indian name on a motorcycle means ‘let’s see your cruiser outrun THIS!!!’ or Triumph means ‘Oy, we ridin’ or wot m8?’

    • Michael

      The Nuda was AWESOME… shame the US missed out – a true gem of a motorcycle. Be nice of SWM could get hold of the pieces to build those again. I have read the stories that KTM will be building something similar, which is great, but it will be a LOT more expensive than the Nuda was,

      • DickRuble

        The Nuda was built while Husky was under BMW, I believe. KTM doesn’t have the rights to that model. SWM has access to Husky tooling only pre-BMW.

        • Michael

          Oh yes, I know all of that – and you are correct. Just thinking (wishing) out loud.

  • SRMark

    Didn’t see a clinker in the batch!

  • Steve Waller

    The 440 isn’t that far from production I think, available over here! http://www.swmmotorcycles.co.uk/models/gm440-r

    • Kevin Duke

      Thanks for the update. The U.S. importer says we won’t see them here for about 9 months.

  • KPC

    I really like the Gran Milano. The engine is from the XBR / cb400ss, so it should be solid. SWM did add an oil cooler, completely redesigned the oil/cooling system, raised the compression ratio from 8.8 to 10 to 1, and bore it to 440. the 400 version is used by Mash, specialized, and Herald and seems to put down 29 hp at the wheel. Folks at the XBR forums claim that a big bore 440 kit with 10.5 to 1 compression and a cam will get you 45 hp at the wheel. So with a little work you could match the power to weight ratio of the Duke 390, more than enough to be fun! I’d buy one.

  • KPC

    I wish they would drop the 600cc husky engine into the Gran Milano and create a new “Super-Mono”. 55RWHP in a 319 pound street bike would be a blast!

    • TheMarvelous1310

      Maybe the 650 from their Dualsport would fit…

      • KPC

        Exactly what I’m thinking! The 650 (600cc actually) Has already cleared EPA and CARB requirements, so why not ( IF it fits)?? Hyosung has been showing a 450cc single street bike with 50 HP. I think there is a global market for something like this.
        I think that all these 250 – 373cc bikes are heading to 500cc/50RWHP anyway. Exceptions for bikes built to meet EURO A2 license requirements.

        Whats your opinion Mr Duke??

        • DickRuble

          How many Hyosung have you seen on the street? I’ve seen more Zero’s (one) than Hyosungs (zero) in the past five years.

          • KPC

            I’ve sent them Emails and they did respond and claimed they are still in business in the USA. They have been bought by K&R motors and are showing new product @ motor shows in Asia and India. I agree that is Hyosung USA doesnt introduce some new product soon, they are DOA in the USA.

          • Kevin Duke

            Yep, a transfer of ownership to KR Motors has interrupted progress, but I’m told to expect a bunch of new product over the next three years. Also, there’s a cool-looking single-cylinder GD250 sportbike on the way by this fall, and the existing 250cc V-Twins might get closer to the displacement of the Japanese tiddlers fairly soon. We shall see…

        • Kevin Duke

          A streetable 450cc Single making 50 hp sounds great! Putting the l-c 600cc motor in the is more complicated than it sounds. I imagine it could be made to fit, but then that little chassis would have to try to cope with perhaps 50% more power. I think it’s more likely Macchi would build a new performance-oriented engine to slot into new chassis that are able to properly handle big (for a Single) power.

  • spiff

    I’m kind of digging what I see. Hope they pan out.

    BTW, the ability to go pic to pic in the gallery is appreciated.

  • frankfan42

    Here come the Chinese bikes, filtered through Italy. Great marketing and a good product at a fair price will make or break this maker. Here’s wishing them well. Their products LOOK great.

  • TheMarvelous1310

    It’s always nice to see a manufacturer resurrected, even if it’s in name only. I think the original SWM crew would have liked the Milan, though! How can you not love a thumper with duallies, especially in a bike with sporting looks and scrambler/dualsport geometry? You CAN’T not love it, it’s structurally adorable! The charm is built in! I just hope they make a few with the 650 from the Dualsport, then it’s perfect for America.

    Everybody seems to be hung up on the Chinese manufacturing aspect, as if Chinese-built things are so inferior – conveniently ignoring how every part of their trusty, beloved and woefully complex smartphones were made and assembled in the same country! I’ll say it again: China builds everything in America but the buildings these days, and it’s not because they’re unreliable or cutting corners. It’s because they sell themselves waaaaaaay short, and I’m not sure I can hold it against a company that exploits that availability. If I had a motorcycle company I’d want as many people as possible to enjoy my products and that means keeping the prices low.

  • schizuki

    You’re about to start working on your engine. I give you a choice between an American-made Snap-On wrench and a Chinese wrench.

    “Gimme the Chinese one. They make a helluva smartphone!”

    • Kevin Duke

      You are about to start working on your engine. I give you a choice between the Chinese wrench in your toolbox or going out to spend $20 on a Snap-On wrench… :)