Husqvarna’s heavenly 701 Enduro has an evil twin. Not a two-cylinder sister, mind you, and that’s probably a good thing because the potent single-cylinder powerplant and sweet-handling chassis of the 2016 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto are sufficient to cast a spell on you whenever you ride it. And your driver’s license may be forever cursed.
While Supermoto racing no longer enjoys the stateside popularity that it did in mid Y2K, at least one good thing has come from the aftermath of the sport’s all-too-brief big splash in America: Japanese and European manufacturers continue to sell motorcycles that are effectively off-road or dual-sport bikes with 17-inch hoops, sticky meats and supersport-grade brakes here in the good ol’ U.S.A.—and all the hooligans say, “Amen.”
The 701 Supermoto is the newest in the segment, built by a company that, for all its off-road cred, actually began as a streetbike manufacturer just after the turn of the 20th century and didn’t actually think to get down and dirty until the 1940s. Prior to that, Husqvarna’s racing efforts were dedicated to Tourist Trophy-style street circuit racing. The Supermoto celebrates that history and, at the same time, allows Husqvarna to shoot a gap left open by the fact that sister company KTM does not produce a similar model based on its 690 R Enduro.
Like the Husqvarna 701 Enduro, the 701 Supermoto’s, fuel-injected, SOHC four-valve Single is of KTM lineage. Muscle is supplied via a large, 102mm bore, and relatively short 84.5mm stroke. Its large, 690cc displacement and user-friendly state of tune favor torque and a broad, user-friendly pull over maximum horsepower at high rpm. Husqvarna says that the engine maxes out at 67 crankshaft horsepower at a rather mild 7000 rpm, with 49 lb.-ft. of peak torque occurring at 6500 rpm. That’s plenty of grunt to pull the 701 Supermoto’s roughly 340 lbs. (with its 3.4-gallon cell fully fueled) down any road with authority.
We know this because Husqvarna recently invited us on a 120-mile journey through the twisty two-lane backroads from its Temecula headquarters down to Borrego Springs, California, during one of those horribly sunny El Niño days where temperature plummets to the mid-60s Fahrenheit. Sooo terrible!
The first thing our inseam-challenged tester appreciated about the 701 Supermoto was its 35-inch seat height, which makes it easy to get both feet on the ground. Its saddle is narrow near the front, which affords the rider freedom of movement when transitioning from side to side through the twisties. The seat widens out toward the rear for better weight distribution in case there are any long jaunts between your favorite corners.
The first thing you notice, once underway, is just how strong and smooth the 701 Supermoto’s engine really is. Fueled by a closed-loop Keihin fuel-injection system with a 46mm throttle body that gets fed from an airbox located forward in the chassis and under a forward-mounted airbox under the seat, the 701 Supermoto’s throttle response through its ride-by-wire throttle is instantaneous without being twitchy. Husqvarna credits some of the engine’s silky feel is due to its Keihin Engine Management System (EMS), which fires two spark plugs in the cylinder with independent ignition curves for each plug. The system was designed to burn the fuel charge more thoroughly for better power and greater fuel efficiency, and it contributes to the 701’s 50-state emissions-legal status. Husqvarna says that it also helps to minimize engine vibration. There’s hardly any to speak of, although that is mostly because the 701 engine boasts a massive crank-driven counterbalancer. Its handlebar is also connected to the triple clamps via rubber mounts, further isolating the rider from any bad vibes.
Hammer the throttle on your favorite serpentine stretch, and the 701 Supermoto doesn’t leap forward like a startled animal, but rather its excellent low-end torque and broad rev range tend to slingshot the bike from corner to corner in a predictable yet very exciting manner. You can also dial up the amount of excitement via your choice of three power modes, Soft, Standard or Advanced. The mode can be changed via a small rotary dial located under the seat, a system that KTM has used for years on this engine. We say enough is enough; it’s time to make the riding mode selection adjustable via a handlebar-mounted switch or through the instrumentation for convenience sake.
The 701 Supermoto uses the same six-speed transmission found in the 701 Enduro, and it also gets a slipper-type Adler Power Torque Clutch (APTC) that is actuated via a hydraulic master cylinder. The clutch is a real beauty, with smooth action and a light and linear feel at the lever. Of course, for Supermoto-style riding, its slipper action adds to the fun factor as you learn to bang down multiple gears at once while entering the corner and then let out the clutch. The 701 Supermoto will respond by allowing the rear wheel to skid without chattering, which allows an experienced rider to slide into a corner, flat-track style. It’s a lot of fun!
Less fun, however, is the 701 Supermoto’s inconsistent transmission action. The overall shift feel is notchy and far from Japanese quality, and we missed several shifts during our ride, particularly the 1-2 upshift and also the 5-6 upshift. We wouldn’t go so far as to call the 701’s transmission performance a weak link in the chain, but it is something that should be addressed. At least with the Supermoto’s 16/42 final gearing, you shift it a little less, and after having ridden the 701 Enduro, we were surprised how the 701 Supermoto’s abundance of low-end power and broad pull still allowed the Supermoto to accelerate briskly and top out at over 120 mph as indicated on its digital speedometer.
The 701 Supermoto’s chrome-moly trellis chassis makes it easy to maintain a pulse-quickening pace through your favorite canyon. With a 58.3-inch wheelbase, it’s long, and its center of gravity is relatively low. Combine this with a 27-degree steering head angle and 35mm triple clamp offset (3mm more than the 701 Enduro) up front, and you get a motorcycle that is stable as a rock in a straight line and steers precisely without being twitchy. The chassis is produced by KTM subsidiary WP and is composed of laser-cut/hydroformed and robot-welded tubes mated to Husqvarna’s unique Polyamide subframe/3.4-gallon fuel tank. The mainframe/subframe combo weighs only about 30 lbs. combined, with the 701 Supermoto’s lightweight, one-piece die-cast aluminum swingarm adding another 8.6 lbs. The whole shebang helps make the Husky feel lighter than its claimed dry weight of 319 lbs.
While the 701 Supermoto may not receive the WP 4CS fork spec’d on the 701 Enduro, its 48mm open-bath cartridge fork is more than competent for spirited road work. Mated to the front end via a beautiful, black-anodized, CNC-machined triple clamp. The spring fork’s design splits the damping circuits between its two legs, with the compression damping in the left leg and the rebound damping in the right. We didn’t need to make a single change in order to have fun on the Supermoto, which delivers 8.5 inches of smooth travel over low and high-speed road chop. Out back, a WP shock delivers 9.8 inches of travel. It, too, is fully adjustable for compression and rebound, and we had no complaints about its road performance. We can’t speak to the 701 Supermoto’s abilities in the dirt, but we’re confident that, if your route included a little bit of fireroad on it, you’d be fine.
We also have no doubt about the stopping power in the 701 Supermoto’s brakes, which are perhaps the most serious looking hardware on the 701 Supermoto. The massive, 320mm floating rotor and radially mounted Brembo four-piston caliper on the front of the machine scream “performance!” louder than any other component, and perform they do. We’re talking serious pucker power here! At the same time, we found the front brake to be a little on the grabby side, so we were glad that Husqvarna had fitted the 701 Supermoto’s Bosch 9M two-channel ABS, a Husqvarna catalog accessory dongle that allows the front ABS to remain activated while the rear ABS is deactivated. It gave us added peace of mind while rushing the corners since we knew we would be less likely to inadvertently tuck the front end. Without the accessory dongle, the ABS is either fully active, or the rider can choose to completely deactivate it.
Husqvarna also made a good tire choice in the Continental Attack radials fitted to the 701 Supermoto. The 17-inchers deliver consistent grip on the asphalt and telegraph when they are about to slip.
Fun is fun, but if you can only ride for 20 minutes before your back is aching and your butt is sore, how much fun is that really? Fortunately, the 701 Supermoto shares the comfortable seat and seating position of its Enduro sister. With Husqvarna engineers doing a good job of isolating the big Single’s vibration from the rider, long stints in the saddle are easy. The 701 Supermoto delivers a spacious feel with a wide and flat handlebar, well-tucked radiator shrouds and a well-shaped seat. We wished for a little more seat padding past the 100-mile mark, but overall, we still have to give the 701 Supermoto high marks for comfort.
|2016 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto
If Husqvarna would perfect the transmission for us, about the only other thing we would change on the 701 Supermoto is its front numberplate/headlight design, which offers absolutely no wind protection whatsoever. That’s no problem if you live in a warm climate, but breezy morning rides will make your choice of jacket and gloves more critical. Husqvarna already has an accessory windscreen in the works. We’d buy one.
Alas, maybe we’re trying to be too civilized with a motorcycle that’s really meant to cater to a more edgy, mischievous, thrill-seeking crowd. The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto definitely has the performance and the looks to attract them, but its smooth yet thrilling power delivery, predictable handling and comfortable ergonomics are likely to broaden its appeal.
As evil, mean and nasty types go, the 701 Supermoto is a real angel.
|2016 Husqvarna 701 Supermoto Specifications|
|Engine||690cc liquid-cooled, SOHC, four-valve, four-stroke Single|
|Bore x stroke||102 x 84.5mm|
|Engine management||Keihin EMS w/ride-by-wire throttle, selectable ignition mappingrs.|
|Transmission||Constant mesh, 6-speed, w/hydraulically actuated APTC (Adler Power Torque Control) slipper clutch|
|Type||Chrome-moly trellis mainframe w/Polyamide subframe/fuel tank|
|Rake/trail||27 degrees/ 112mm (4.4 in.)|
|Front Suspension||48mm WP open cartridge fork; compression and rebound adjustable, 8.46-in. travel|
|Rear Suspension||WP single shock; compression and rebound adjustable, 9.8-in. travel|
|Front brake||320mm floating radial rotor w/Brembo four-piston caliper|
|Rear brake||240mm floating wave rotor w/Brembo single-piston caliper|
|Front Tire||120/70 ZR 17 Continental Attack|
|Rear Tire||160/60 ZR17 Continental Attack|
|Seat height||35.0 in.|
|Wet weight, claimed||319.0 lb.|
|Fuel capacity||3.4 US gal.|