Husqvarna has existed in some form or another since the late 1600s making muskets, sewing machines, typewriters and most importantly, since 1903, motorcycles. Husqvarna’s earliest motorcycles were known for being simple and lightweight, and this is exactly what Husqvarna’s designer Maxime Thouvenin has done with the 401 Svartpilen, reaching back into the past to pull Husqvarna’s street bike legacy into the future.
Let’s address the elephant in the room, yes, Husqvarna is now owned by KTM and as a result their bikes share several major components. The Svartpilen (Black Arrow) 401 uses KTM’s 390 Duke engine, chassis, brakes, WP suspension, exhaust headers and its ride-by-wire throttle system. There is a major difference though, where the 390 Duke is entirely built in India by Bajaj before being shipped to Europe, Husqvarna’s models are assembled in Austria.
The Svartpilen 401 is propelled by a 373cc single cylinder that is not only phenomenally compact but it also sits low in the frame giving the bike a low center of gravity. This makes the bike manoeuvre well at slow speeds through traffic, and around narrow roads in a typical urban environment. The engine is also protected by an engine guard that is disguised, or rather camouflaged, making it look like part of the engine.
I found that the combination of the bikes gearing, as well as the 37Nm of torque (which kicks in low down in the RPM range), is perfect for urban riding.
The electronic fuel injection is operated by a ride-by-wire system and delivers sharp, but refined and controllable power. The Svartpilen 401 sits comfortably on the horsepower scale with 44hp at the rear wheel. There’s a trick up the Svartpilen’s sleeve and that’s the power-to-weight ratio that can excite even more experienced riders.
The Svartpilen is fitted with perforated steel discs, a 320mm front and a 230mm rear disc, which are coupled with hydraulic ByBre brake callipers, that deliver controllable and confident braking performance. Furthermore, the Svartpilen 401 uses a state-of-the-art Bosch ABS system and yes the abs can be fully disengaged for the more advanced/hooligan riders.
The brake and clutch levers are adjustable, with 5 options of adjustment, the 5th being the longest stretch and the quickest to bite.
Despite its off-road look, the Svartpilen rides well on its 17-inch wheels with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR’s. The marginally chunky-styled rubber still handles naturally and don’t forsake agility in the name of fashion.
The front suspension features 43mm open cartridge WP forks, while the rear features a progressive damping system connected directly to the swingarm. I found the bikes suspension a slight bit hard in the urban enviroment but that can all be changed with a slight adjustment. With a seat height of 835mm, low footpegs and combined with a straight handlebar, the Svartpilen 401 gives the Supermoto illusion and let me tell you, it put a massive grin on my face.
The front and rear lights form part of the unique design that defines the Svartpilen. The front light looks old in shape but that’s where it ends, using the latest LED technology, the lights are more than just designer pieces and contribute notably to visibility. The rear lights look awesome and can be seen even on the sunniest of days.
The riding position on the Svartpilen is upright which I felt very pleasant in the urban enviroment, not causing any back or wrist pain. Moving towards highway types of speeds, the comfort factor changes typically due to not having any wind protection, but in Husqvarna’s defence the Svartpilen was not designed for highway use.
The seat of the Swartpilen has a motocross styled look to it but that’s where the similarities end. The seat is comfortable, with seven ridges that really grips your butt when cornering and that’s all due to high quality foam and leather fabric.
Let’s face it, exhaust’s these days usually don’t tick the good looking box nor the great sounding either. In my opinion the Svartpilen’s looks the part and sounds the part. This exhaust is made up of two sections, a pre-silencer made of steel, and a final silencer constructed from aluminium and finished off in matt black. To match the Svartpilen’s rugged design, Husqvarna have cleverly mounted a heat shield. The exhaust note at low RPM sounds similar to a motocross bike but once you’ve revved the motor past 5 000 rpm, that is when the strict emission regulations kick in and all becomes tranquil.
The tachometer illustrates all the information a rider needs to know whilst riding with a simple and easy to understand layout. The tachometer also provides the rider a clean and neat looking cockpit, making the whole riding experience that much more enjoyable and less distracting.
Our Husqvarna Svartpilen 401 test bike was fitted with bar end mirrors, and from a visibility point of view they worked well. I for one prefer and think the original scrambler styled mirrors enhance the overall rugged look of the scrambler.
A feature I really thought was functional yet attractive, was the tank mounted luggage rack which allows for the mounting of light luggage, and yes it comes fitted as standard. The overall design of the tank is fantastic with distinctive details that just pop, like the aluminium filler cap proudly displaying the Husqvarna Motorcycles logo.
The Svartpilen only has a 9.5 litre tank opposed to it’s brothers (KTM 390 Duke) which has a 11 litre tank. The average fuel consumption I managed to get from day to day commuting was 28 km/l so with a steady wrist 9.5 liters can take you a reasonable distance.
I think Husqvarna has knocked it out of the park with the Svartpilen 401, they didn’t just make a retro bike, they captured the essence of what motorcycles where in the past. Simple, not intimidating and very enticing not only as an object, but as a riding experience. Husqvarna wanted to create a lightweight bike that is really compact and they have succeeded in my opinion.
The estimated retail price of the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen is R89 000, this is slightly higher than similar cc’d bikes in its class, but say that, I think it’s worth it because the bike oozes cool and is built in Austria compared to the KTM 390 which is built in India.
A gentleman called Terry Behrens kindly allowed me to park the Svartpilen 401 in his Busted Knuckle Garage for a few hours and before you know it the store was packed. It didn’t matter about; Age, Gender, or Race, the Svartpilen drew attention from Everyone!
At 20 years of age, I am part of this so called young generation, and I love the way the bike looks at first glance. Would I like to own one? Yes, in a heart beat.
This 401 Svartpilen might have been designed to appeal to the typical urban hipster, but in my experience with this bike, and the attention that it received along the way, I think it’s going to appeal to a wider array of riders – Well Done Husqvarna!!