2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 First Ride Review

We head to Portugal to sample the newest Arrow in Husqvarna’s quiver

Husqvarna has been on a tear ever since it was bought by KTM in 2013—in its first full year under orange overlords, Husky set a company sales record with 16,337 units. Each successive year has brought a new sales record and an expansion of its offerings. Last year, Husky sold 48,535 machines, approximately 15K of which were part of a new streetbike lineup.

Said streetbike lineup is dominated by the Vitpilen (White Arrow) and Svartpilen (Black Arrow), and both machines were initially released as 401 models based on the KTM 390 platform. Husqvarna also utilized the KTM 690 platform to create the Vitpilen 701, a bike we loved for the motor, handling, and style. However, an aggressive riding position meant you sacrificed a bit of comfort for the sake of style. It seems that Husqvarna has heard our notes, because the new Svartpilen retains the dynamic excellence of the White Arrow but provides ergonomics that allow you to enjoy the perks for much longer stints at a time.

2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 riding on road.
As an overall streetbike, the Svartpilen is the best production thumper available today.Husqvarna

The styling aesthetic is goth flat-tracker, with varying shades of black designed to absorb as much light and attention as possible. Bronze accents in the engine and exhaust help break up the potential monotony, but the styling is love-or-hate. I happen to fall in the former camp, but even if you’re in the latter, you can’t claim that it’s bland.

2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 with changed bar.
A simple bar change makes the Svartpilen feel like a completely different bike.Husqvarna

It's also not bland to ride. The Svartpilen 701 makes a strong case as the best single-cylinder streetbike currently in production thanks to premium components such as Brembo brakes with Bosch 9M ABS, adjustable WP suspension, up and down quickshifter, a slipper clutch, and the KTM 690 Duke-derived motor with dual counterbalancers that produces a claimed 75 hp and 53 pound-feet of torque.

Husqvarna logos on the exhaust.
Husqvarna and “701” logos abound.Husqvarna

Because the whole package weighs just 369 pounds wet and the new bars are tall and wide, the Black Arrow requires minimal input and is supremely easy to maneuver. Pick a line and the Svartpilen will follow gracefully, accepting any midcorner corrections with ease. The Black Arrow gets a bigger front wheel (18 inches versus 17 inches) and more suspension travel on both ends (5.3 inches to 5.9 inches), but the handling remains precise and the extra comfort is worth it. Suspension duties are handled by WP and both the front and rear are fully adjustable. My 6-foot-2, 190-pound frame was happiest after two extra clicks of preload on both ends, but the rebound and compression were excellent from the factory. The same can be said about the Brembo brakes. One could wish for dual discs in the front, but I found the four-piston caliper clamping on a 320mm disc up front to have excellent feel and more than adequate stopping power.

2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 engine.
The most powerful production single-cylinder motor.Husqvarna

One concern of mine before the ride was the tire choice of Pirelli’s MT 60 RS. The flat-track design of the tread fits the Svartpilen’s aesthetic, but the block pattern suggests reduced grip at the limit. My concern was unfounded, as the Pirellis offer more grip than I anticipated and are very predictable when being too aggressive. Keeping it all in check is a nearly flawless traction control system and ABS which you cannot shut off.

2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 suspension.
The suspension is outstanding, and the clickers make adjustment a cinch.Husqvarna

While you can turn off the TC (which allows for some of the easiest wheelies you’ll ever do), the on/off button might be the worst control I’ve encountered on a motorcycle. It’s difficult to push and frustrating to use. Unfortunately, that just about summarizes the rest of the gauge cluster, which tries to pack too much information into too small of an area. The gauge is a disappointment, and Husky should be replacing it with a TFT screen to match the other top-spec components found on the Svartpilen.

Flat-track-inspired Pirelli tire on the 2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701.
Flat-track-inspired Pirellis seem like a style-over-substance choice, but they work surprisingly well on pavement.Husqvarna

As a bike to ride, the Svartpilen is tremendous. Husqvarna considers this to be a premium single-cylinder motorcycle and that generally shows with the brakes, suspension, engine, and the build quality. There are lots of touches that make you feel special when you ride the Black Arrow.

2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 gauges.
Both the KTM Duke 390 and 690 have TFT screens. Let’s see one here too.Husqvarna
2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 tail.
The tail looks so good that you might not realize it can double as a passenger seat.Husqvarna

Tech Spec

MSRP $11,999
ENGINE 692.7cc, liquid-cooled single
CLAIMED TORQUE 53 lb.-ft. @ 6,750 rpm
FRAME Chromium-molybdenum steel trellis
FRONT SUSPENSION WP 43mm fork adjustable for compression and rebound damping; 5.3-in. travel
REAR SUSPENSION WP shock adjustable for spring preload and rebound damping; 5.3-in. travel
FRONT BRAKE Brembo 4-piston caliper, 320mm disc w/ non-switchable Bosch 9M ABS
REAR BRAKE Brembo 1-piston caliper, 240mm disc w/ non-switchable Bosch 9M ABS
RAKE/TRAIL 25.0°/4.7 in.
WHEELBASE 56.5 in.
SEAT HEIGHT 32.9 in.
AVAILABLE Spring 2019
CONTACT husqvarna-motorcycles.com/us
2019 Husqvarna Svartpilen 701 riding in an alley.
The Svartpilen looks at home on the open road or in the concrete jungle.Husqvarna