Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 Review: A Stylish Entry-Level Motorcycle
(Bloomberg) -- I am not going to tell you that the Svartpilen 401 will be your everlasting love. Eventually, you’ll outgrow it to move on to something larger, more powerful.
But it could be your first love: With a single-cylinder, four-stroke, 373-ccm engine and six easy gears, this Swedish delight is best served crossing cobble stones and potholes. It’s ideal for beginning riders, as well as those who don’t need to do much high-speed riding on freeways or open roads.
The sleek Svartpilen 401 may seem like a brand-new thing from Husqvarna—the Swedish company got famous after World War II for its spongy-quick dirt bikes and simple, stylish design. It’s got a chromium-steel trellis frame powder-coated in black, with an electric-green thread running through it. Modern tech such as forged aluminum triple handlebar clamps provide balanced flexibility; front and rear brakes are hydraulically operated with Bosch ABS. There’s a single, round, LED-fueled headlight.
And unlike older models, which leave riders guessing how much gas is in the tank, the Svartpilen shares that information, along with your mileage and engine diagnostics, on one centralized, digital round dial.
But the mid-sized, entry-level café racer-style Husqvarna Svartpilen 401, at $6,300, is more of a return to history for the 115-year-old brand, which produced similar bikes as far back as the 1950s. It joins the $6,300 Vitpilen 401 as the brand’s just-debuted one-two punch back to modern motorcycle relevance.
When I rode it through downtown Los Angeles last week, the Svartpilen proved a worthy counterpart. The lower gears eased smoothly over the Fourth Street bridge. (You’ll run through them rather quickly, given any true length of road.) The raised handlebars and upright seating position provided the best kind of quick-on-off access for someone (me) who’s inclined to jump off at every coffee/photo opp/dog-petting opportunity I spot.
I won’t get into my sizing specifics—a lady never does—but as someone who is tall and light, I loved the dirt-bike, light-and-upright feel of the Svartpilen, mixed with its café racer-cool aesthetics. It weighs just 330 pounds—compared to the 414-pound Ducati Scrambler Cafe Race—and sits 33 inches off the ground at the seat, with nearly seven inches of ground clearance. It’s light enough to whip around corners and tap-dance over bumps. For a road-racing version of Husqvarna’s new line, try the faster, less forgiving Vitpilen 401, which has lower handlebars and a lighter frame at 326 pounds.
For the urban rider who appreciates uber-cool style and who can afford it, the Svartpilen bike is an unexpectedly great option. (Its name comes from the Swedish for “black arrow,” after all.) Seventeen-inch spoked wheels and grip-happy Pirelli tires complete a stylized look that is minimalistic, aggressive, and dark, without being clunky or morose.
If you still need a special bike for you, and you’re in the market for something fun and stylish to ride, it’ll be a great summer love.
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