2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 | Road Test Review

2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Unique Scandinavian style and a mission-specific solo seat are trademarks of the Vitpilen 701. Just add a twisty road. Photos by Mark Tuttle.

Some bikes prize form over function, and that’s OK. I mean, come on, the star-spangled chopper ridden by Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider” was pretty far from perfectly functional — it looked cool and that was that. It’s no chopper, but Husqvarna’s Vitpilen 701 lies at a similar place on the form/function spectrum, and if you’re a fan of Scandinavian style it’s quite appealing to the eye.

Not to say it isn’t fun to ride, as long as those rides are primarily on tight, technical, twisty roads, where the Vitpilen’s taut chassis and suspension and feisty, liquid-cooled 693cc single are allowed to shine. With 73 peak horsepower and almost 51 lb-ft of torque per the Jett Tuning dyno, the 365-pound Vitpilen 701 is highly entertaining and an ideal mount for a weekend warrior looking to own his or her local run of twisties, unencumbered by a passenger (there are no rear footpegs) and without straying too far from a gas station (though if you can tame your throttle hand the 3.2-gallon tank is good for about 160 miles).

2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Scooting down a steep set of tight turns, I appreciated the Vitpilen’s strong Brembo brakes. Handling is sharp and scalpel-like…which unfortunately also describes its comfort level.

Jenny’s Gear
Helmet: Vemar Zephir
Jacket: Fly Racing Butane
Pants: MotoGirl
Boots: Sidi Performer Lei

My main beef with the bike is its seat, which is tall, hard and angular. With toes on the ground, the edges cut painfully into my thighs and once underway its sticky material locked me into place, making it hard to shift around when doing my best Valentino Rossi impression in the canyons. Coupled with the reach to the wide clip-ons, the Vitpilen is decidedly sporty — which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was made, after all, to “rip it,” as they say here in SoCal. And when ripping it, you’ll forget about how hard the seat is.

Rolling on tubeless spoked 17-inch wheels for a supermoto look, shod with sticky Bridgestone Battlax Hypersport S21 tires, and with adjustable WP Apex suspension with 5.3 inches of travel front and rear, the Vitpilen feels stable and planted despite its extremely light weight. Its engine is tuned for ripping as well, rewarding a heavy hand (there goes the 160-mile range…) and protesting with fits and jerks if you’re too lenient. Don’t worry about diving in too hot, the 4-piston front and single-piston rear brakes, both Brembo and fitted with switchable Bosch 9M+ ABS, are strong and offer good feedback.

Arrive at the top, drop the kickstand and admire the way the light plays off the gorgeous blue paint; bask in your status as King (or Queen) of the Mountain. Are there better all-around bikes? Sure, but the Vitpilen 701 knows what it is and makes no apologies for it. 

2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701.

Keep scrolling for more photos.

2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Liquid-cooled, high-strung single sips or slurps high-octane, depending on how successful you are at taming your throttle hand.
2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
LED headlight incorporates a halo DRL. Clip-ons and mirrors are wide for a rear view of more than elbows.
2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen 701
Like its darker Svartpilen sibling, the Vitpilen’s LCD is small, awkwardly placed and somewhat hard to read at a glance.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Or…If you want the same ultralight, ultra-torqey play bike but with a much better saddle and much more comfortable ergos, pick up a 2016-2018 KTM 690 Duke. Same counterbalanced engine, frame, and brakes. Less than 7 grand with some warranty for a 2018. Drop $2000 on upgraded customized for your weight suspension and a decatted exhaust, and have the same sub-350 pound flickable playbike you can ride all day long! NEVER selling mine…
    https://photos.google.com/photo/AF1QipNOaaHTJV-qkhmEOGnLMksP-VXDRFcOhUXk5EBs
    https://photos.google.com/search/_tra_/photo/AF1QipPbX6-hIh-YmghgbL29RSmc2IXMu7hre9RQCnfy

    • Or … get an after-market seat and have this better looking Husky. I have changed the seat on every bike I’ve owned in the last 30 years. Most stock seats are uncomfortable after a few hours. They are an expected cost along with a lighter, better performing exhaust.

  2. And, once again, no cornering ABS (unless that’s what 9M+ means), no centerstand, and you didn’t mention the vibes this time! If I wanted this thing, I’d have to forgo a Scrambler Ducati 1100 Special for give-or-take similar bucks. Also, has the Svartpilen been equally spiffed up for 2020? I do like the new tail section, if that’s what it is. The Svart usually has a bigger front tire/wheel than the Vit, and MAY have better comfort. I don’t know. (Don’t like asking for a test ride on something that’s priced up with one of Musk’s rockets.)

  3. As an owner of a 2019 model I’d say Jenny has this about right. Its definitely a bike for “tight, technical, twisty roads”. I’m 6 foot and have no issues with the seat I actually find it very comfortable although I suspect for shorter riders it could be an issue. Fuel wise. I ride the aforementioned roads fairly enthusiastically and still get 140+miles to a tank, though I agree that on a track you can pretty much halve that. The fuel gauge is woefully inaccurate so maybe Jenny was using that as a measure and yeah the clocks are a bit disappointing I’ll admit.

    As for ‘vibes’ its a single, they vibrate. You want no vibrations buy a V4. The vibes on the 701/690 in comparison to an old fashioned single (even my 2010 690 Duke which is pretty darned good) are minimal. Sure you ride below 3k it’ll vibrate but why would you do that? Its easy to keep it above 3k as the engine revs exceptionally freely so you’re just being a muppet. If anything the most vibes are high frequency through the bars (specifically the rhs bar) but these are only noticeable when cruising along a freeway, not roads this bike relishes.

    In short the Vitpilen is a toy. An exceptionally fun one. If you live somewhere with “tight, technical, twisty roads” where 160+hp is totally pointless but a bike thats lightweight, has quality adjustable suspension, a punchy engine and great brakes make sense, then the Vitpilen 701 is a bike you should at least test ride. You might be surprised.

  4. Here in Denmark there are some used Vitpilen’s for sale, some at 30- 40 % under new prize, and with less than 1000 miles on the odometer, could be tempted

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