Last year Husqvarna held an event called the 701 Rideout, where it invited some of YouTube’s most influential supermoto stunt riders from all over Europe to meet up and ride the 701 Supermoto. Wheelies, stoppies, burnouts, and all sort of madness ensued and, while most motorcycle media and the ATTGATTers hated it, the internet (and yours truly) loved it.
Yes, stunt riding on public roads is dangerous and no you shouldn’t do it. But if you are going to do it; be exceptionally good at riding, take full responsibility for whatever happens, and make a cool video out of it so I will be more inspired to go find safe places to practice my wheelies. I know lots of you are going to get mad about this article and the riding, so maybe just skip down to the comments now and leave me some hate mail. It won't change that people do this sort of thing, that other people are influenced by it, or that there's a way to do it (semi) responsibly.
All that said, the supermoto community loved the 701 Rideout so much that Husqvarna decided to hold it again this year, only this time in the good ol' US of A. And this time they knew just the supermoto-loving journalist to add to the mix.
The Specs That Matter
Husqvarna brought about only one change for the 2017 bike, but it’s a doozy. That's right, for 2017 it's swapped out the old 690cc engine (the one originally created for the 2012 KTM 690 Duke), for the one developed for last year’s 690 Duke.
The revised engine is more oversquare, with a larger bore (105mm versus 102mm) and shorter stroke (80mm vs. 84.5mm). It also has a new connecting rod, piston, plain bearing, and crankshaft. Best yet? Through the second balancer shaft it offers up reduced vibrations while revving an additional 1,000 rpm, with the rev limiter now set at 9,500 rpm instead of 8,500 rpm.
As with the 690 Duke, the result is an additional 5 horsepower and 4.5 lb.-ft of torque, with peak power jumping from 67 hp to 72 hp, and 49.4 lb.-ft. of torque to 54 lb.-ft of torque. While the bike certainly benefits from the added power, the real magic of the engine is the second counter balancer and how it cancels vibrations; making the 701 feel like more like a twin than a single, even intro triple-digit speeds.
I was uncomfortable on the previous-generation engine after brief (like 10 miles brief) stints on the freeway, but the new bike is comfy on my often 40 mile ride to Los Angeles. Several of the Europeans visiting for the event even rode the bikes to San Francisco (400 miles) the weekend after we finished and, outside of wishing they had wind protection, had zero complaints.
The rest of the bike is the same as last year. Same 18.5-lb. steel trellis frame. Same rear subframe with integrated 3.4 gallon gas tank. Same easily accessible underseat airbox.
The bike comes standard with Bosch 9.1 MP ABS, with a radially mounted four pot Brembo caliper biting a single 320mm disc up front and a Brembo single piston floating caliper and single 240mm disc in back.
The fork was developed by WP and splits compression and rebound damping between the two legs, while allowing for a total of 8.5 inches of travel. The WP shock is also fully adjustable, and it allows for 9.8 inches of travel. Overall, the bike offers 10.6 in. of ground clearance and has a 35-in. seat height (which feels two or three inches lower than the 36-in. seat height of the Ducati Hypermotard thanks to the narrow seat). Husqvarna claims a 319 lbs. dry weight.
Stock, the bike comes fit with Continental ContiAttack SM tires (120/70 front and 160/60 rear) fit to 17-inch black anodized spoke wheels.
The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is only available in the white color, and has an MSRP of $11,300.
We Rode The Thing
The Husqvarna 701 Rideout was a four day event with two days in LA riding around Malibu and the Santa Monica mountains, a day of riding from LA to Big Bear, and then a day at the track. Due to other obligations, I missed the first two days, but I met up with the guys Wednesday morning. They’d planned on riding Highway 2 across the mountain but it was closed; luckily for them, we were basically in my backyard and I had a few ideas.
Chris (my photographer) and I got to the base of the mountain and saw that the guys were lagging, so we headed up the hill to shoot photos and wait. It was maybe an hour or so later when we heard the sound of single-cylinder engines and I turned just in time to see a pack of ten-or-so white supermotos coming at me, more than half with their front wheel in the air. Half of me was terrified I’d bitten off more than I could chew, the other half was really, REALLY, excited.
We spent the better part of the morning exploring the canyon and mountain roads around Azusa, California. I’d gotten to spend a week or so on the bike already and felt plenty comfortable on it, which was fortunate since I knew I was going to have a hard time keeping up. Most of the guys on the trip are incredibly talented riders and the bike is perfectly designed for canyon riding, which meant the pace was exceptionally fast.
While this trip may sound like a manufacturer’s (or at least manufacturer’s legal team’s) worst nightmare, the first thing that impressed me was the restraint and respect shown by my new Euro buddies. No, the riding was not legal and yes, lots of you will have problems with that. But the extra, ugh, less-than-legal stuff was saved for times with lots of visibility and empty areas without cars or pedestrians. Stunt sessions were kept to big pullouts and overlooks (for the most part) and they took turns scouting for each other before doing anything for the camera. Better yet, the Euros have a lack of ego that makes riding with them a team sport, not a competition. Everyone stopped to cheer each other on, or to give bozos like me tips on riding better and safer.
Their talents really highlight what the 701 Supermoto is capable of. From David Bost’s crazy slow-speed wheelies to Linus from Superretard’s high-speed wheelies around corners to Parker’s drifting just about everything, to our high-speed testing; the 701 is a fantastic platform for just about everything. This new model is just as well-balanced and stable as last year’s, the fueling is spot on for fast transitions in tight switchbacks, and the power makes it easy to shred canyon roads or get the front wheel up in the air (even for me!).
Peter and Parker both have backgrounds in racing and Linus is just an animal; all three were incredibly quick. I haven’t been ditched like that on roads in a long time, let alone on roads I'm used to and by guys who’ve never even ridden in our state. Each time we’d hit a town, we’d slow so as not to scare anyone or get taken out.
From the Azusa area, we hoofed it up the freeway to the 138 to make our way into Big Bear. Unlike Glendora Mountain Road, the 138 offers wide sweepers and lots of visibility. The gearing on the 701 is really tall, with sixth gear not even really hitting its stride until 90 mph and top speeds peaking at around 130 mph. Even better, the bike it stable at top speeds and even at lean (the things I do for you guys).
That night we traded in bike keys and leathers for warm jackets and stupid fur hats from the local liquor store (if you follow my Instagram, you saw what happens when a bunch of Europeans find a decades-old porn collection in a market). With a big day ahead of us the night didn’t push too far into the morning hours and, fortunately for me, no one had any good tequila.
The next morning, we made our way to Adams Motorsports Park in Riverside, California, for what would be a lot of the guys' first time on a track. Two of the guys had racing experience, but the rest spent most of their riding time in urban areas or abandoned parking lots.
The 701 is a bigger bike than the Suzuki DR-Z400s I’m used to riding at Adams. With 20 more pounds plus a much larger piston moving around in there, the biggest difference actually comes from trying to get the 701 slowed down.
The engine makes so much more power that the 701 accelerates far faster than the Suzukis but, despite having much better brakes, the stopping distance increases dramatically. Parker, who’d start backing it in where the rubber marks began, was running deep into turns and yours truly managed to take out Roderick from Supermotocentral coming into Little Monza after I couldn’t get the thing stopped.
It was amazing watching the other guys take to the track, some far more timid with it than I expected from guys with such crazy amounts of bike control and what I perceived to be fewer inhibitions than a drunk frat boy. By lunch everyone had picked up the pace quite a bit but none gained more speed than Linus from Superretards and Jelmer from Supermofools, both of which were faster than me by the end of the day.
If you can move your brake markers and account for the extra space needed, the 701 is actually pretty incredible on a supermoto or kart track. Transitions are crazy fast and the suspension really helps you use the extra power. While the bike is a tad big compared to a built 450 supermoto, it's plenty good unless you're trying to go racing.
What We’d Change
By the end of the day I was really wishing Husqvarna offered the track pack found on the KTM 690 Duke, which adds traction control, motor slip regulation, and supermoto ABS, the latter enabling you to disable ABS only at the rear.
The 701 Supermoto retails for $11,300, which is substantially more than the KTM 690 Duke ($8,999) it shares an engine with. The bike is overpriced, and Husky would do well to add some nicer finishing touches (like the full TFT display from the Duke) to better justify the additional costs.
With such tall gearing, I’d actually add a few teeth to the rear sprocket. Not that the bike is lacking in oomph, but I would trade a little top speed for even better power wheelies and slightly better gearing for the track.
I'd also use paint instead of stickers for the yellow stripes on the wheels. They peel off immediately and that’s just lame.
Why You Should Care
The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is an incredible motorcycle. There's gobs of power delivered with the best characteristics of a single and a twin, light yet stable handling, strong brakes, and it looks incredible. The past three weeks on this bike have been not only some of my most enjoyable, but have also spurred some of the most growth in my riding abilities. The thing is just so competent that pushing yourself feels more safe.
On the other hand, the 701 isn’t great for touring, riding with a passenger, it's pretty expensive, and will likely result in you ditching your social plans to ride or losing your license. Your friends and significant other will hate you for choosing the bike over them, and then for needing to give you rides everywhere. But yes, it will be worth it.
If you’re into the supermoto thing, or just like being on one of the fastest things in the canyons and most agile things in the streets, the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is for you. Which is to say, it’s the bike for me. Now I just need to convince the powers that be to let me keep this one a while longer...
Helmet: Bell Moto 9 Flex
Goggles: Oakley Airbrake
Torso Armor: Alpinestars Bionic Tech Jacket
Hip Armor: Alpinestars Bionic Freeride Short
Knee Armor: Asterisk Cell Knee Guards
Jersey: Thor Pulse Aktiv
Boots: Sidi Crossfire 3