SINGLE CYLINDER SAVIOUR: HUSKY’S NEW 701 ENDURO
Founded in Sweden in 1903, the same year as Harley-Davidson – the traditionally off-road-oriented Husqvarna brand is now owned by KTM, with production undertaken at its factory in Austria.
Beneath the paintwork of the 701 Enduro, much is shared with KTM’s 690 Enduro R, including its brilliant new liquid-cooled, 690cc single-cylinder engine. In fact, KTM boss Stefan Pierer sees the Husky as KTM’s less aggressive cousin; with its white, yellow and blue machines, a more rounded, manageable alternative to the race-oriented orange KTMs.
Admittedly, little has changed from the outgoing 2016 Husqvarna 701 Enduro – with much of its chassis still shared with its KTM counterpart. The one major update comes in the form of its new, Euro 4 compliant engine which has added more horsepower, more peak torque and a higher rev ceiling too. In short, they’ve created a more powerful single cylinder engine, despite much tighter emissions. It’s a particularly impressive achievement, especially in a category that most other manufacturers have all but given up on.
The Husqvarna does use different suspension to its donor, with top-spec WP USD front forks and rear shocks with 275mm of travel – and other changes include a new fuel map intended to offer smoother power delivery, and a slightly larger, 13-litre fuel tank. Like most serious dual-purpose machines, the 701 Enduro doesn’t have much in the way of instruments – there’s LCD screen and a few warning lights, for fuel, oil and indicators, but that’s pretty much it.
Standing beside the Husky 701 Enduro and the first thing you’re going to notice is the seat height. At 910mm tall, shorter riders will inevitably struggle – and at 6ft 1”, I have to confess, I didn’t always find it straightforward to swing my leg over the machine. But, once you’ve clambered aboard, the long-travel suspension should compress enough to allow you to at least get one foot on the ground. Thankfully, it’s slim enough and light enough (at 145kg) to be fairly easy to manage with one foot – just ensure you kick the side stand up before you get up there.
Out on the road, the Husky’s performance is good. Of course, it’s always going to be limited by its undeniable off-road bias – but the riding position is upright and roomy, offering an authoritative view of the road, while its wide bars and light weight allow you to flick the bike easily – despite the long-travel suspension and slim, dirt-friendly Continental TKC80 50/50 tyres offering a slightly vague feel in faster corners. It took a few hours of riding in the sunshine on some dry roads before I gained real confidence in their grip.
The restricted 40.2bhp engine offers decent acceleration up to top speed of around 100mph – but you’ll have to work it quite hard to get there, as the engine’s short gearing means you’re revving hard by 70mph. At higher speeds the vibration through the fairly wooden seat and metal footrests is notable, though not problematic – while the small screen does little to deflect wind. But if you’re using this bike as it’s intended, the comfort of the seat won’t matter a great deal. Stand up on the pegs, hit the dirt and everything begins to makes sense, as the 701 Enduro comes into its own.
Off-road, its light weight and smooth power delivery are perfect – and there’s no need to worry about reaching the ground when you’ve got loads of low-down torque and a 21-inch front wheel which helps the bike glide effortlessly over pretty much any terrain. The suspension is incredibly refined, with compression and rebound damping adjustment for supreme control, allowing the Husky to soak up the bumps with ease. Its tyres are more than capable of finding grip on the most chewed-up, rutted trails you could imagine too – and even the Brembo disc brakes’ ABS system works surprisingly well off-road, and will be useful to all but the most confident of off-road riders.
I have to confess, the 701 Enduro is capable of coping with far more than I could throw at it – but regardless, every time I jumped on it and opened the throttle I found myself beaming from ear to ear. It’s flattering to the average rider, but in the hands of someone with real talent, the 701 Enduro becomes an animal.
As a road-oriented adventure machine, there are plenty of quicker and more comfortable motorcycles than the 701 Enduro. It is a little vibe-y at motorway speeds, the steering can be twitchy under hard acceleration and the seat isn’t especially comfortable – but for riders who demand serious off-road performance the 701 is definitely worth a look. It’s worth noting that, Husqvarna is developing a taller screen and an additional accessory fuel tank that will increase the 701’s range from about 150 to over 200 miles, plus there’s a range of luggage options on the cards too.
Engine: Remapped 690cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled SOHC
Power: 40.2bhp @ 7,000rpm
Brakes: Front: Brembo twin-piston floating calliper, 300mm brake disc
Rear: Brembo single-piston floating calliper, 240mm brake disc
Tyres: Front: 90/90-21
Suspension: Front: WP USD 48 mm 4CS closed cartridge, with 275mm of travel
Rear: WP shock absorber with Pro-Lever linkage and 275mm of travel
Seat Height: 910mm
Weight: 145kg (dry weight)
Fuel Capacity: 13 litres
Colours: Yellow, White and Blue