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First Ride: 2011 Husqvarna SMR630 review

It could be the saviour of motorcycling

HUSQVARNA'S SMR630 is Husky's largest capacity Supermoto, but don't be fooled by the 630 name, it's 600cc, up from the 576cc SMR610 that came before it. The SMR630 has been out for a while but we hadn't given it the Visordown treatment. So here it is.

I picked the bike up from central London and was warned by the dealer to watch out for its wheelie-popping power delivery and to be careful as it had no 'rider aids'. I'm all for technology and I love traction control but let's face it; a Supermoto with ABS and traction control would not be a Supermoto.

No rider aids but it was fitted with a hearing aid; the model I tested had factory optional Arrow cans - at tickover they sound fantastic and really bring out the thump.

I decided to head to the skater park on London's Southbank to see what the 'kids' thought of this trick-looking Supermoto. Is it the next thing they lust after once they've sold their BMX?

Squeezing my way into the mix of London's traffic, the first thing you notice is how good it is to be sat up high and not only be able to spot gaps but also to be able to make the most of them. The steering lock feels like swinging open a farmer's gate - you can practically move off at a right angle, which makes the Husky great for worming your way through traffic.

I was expecting a fire-breathing beast but this Husky has impeccable road manners. That's not to say it's slow - far from it. Where I thought the engine would be tempremental and throttle response twitchy, it was actually none of that. The engine is smooth and punchy, the throttle response precise. Off the line it's got plenty of stomp, as you'd expect from a single, but it's also got plenty of roll-on power, even in the higher gears. It'll dawdle around, no problem, but really feels at home when you load it up from low revs and ride the torque, feeding in gears in quick succession.

It'll do hooligan too and pop wheelies off the power in 1st and 2nd should you wish. It's just that sort of behaviour isn't encouraged these days. With its huge 320mm front brake disc it'll do rolling-stoppies into traffic lights with ease. If there's an element of mischief inside you, it won't take long for the SMR630 to coax it out.

Picking off traffic and nipping into gaps that would leave a sportsbike bashings its mirrors, it's hard to think of anything that would be faster around town. The long-travel beefy 45mm Marzocchi front forks soak up London's roads - from tilted manhole covers, to crater-like potholes, overbanding - and when the going's tight,  you can pop up kerbs with ease. The steering's precise, it doesn't wander like you'd think a big thumper would, it feels stable at 60mph and you feel like a boss with big wide bars.

Parking up down at Southbank I was expecting to be swarmed by 'da yoof' on skateboards and BMXs, but I'd swatted-up on the specs and price, not to mention the SMR630's rivals and was ready to field enquiries. But none came. No-one batted an eye-lid, so after a few minutes I moved the SMR630 right to the edge of the bowl they were skating, so much so they had to ride around the SMR. Still nothing.

So I went and had a chat with a couple of these 'yoof' sat by the edge of the skate park, rolling up a fag, taking a break from it all. Except these 'yoof' weren't exactly young, both were late-30s. I looked around at the other skaters and bar a couple, all were at least twice the age of anyone you could call 'yoof'.

I told these guys I was expecting to see a load of teenagers, where are they? They don't stick at it, said one. They see skating on X-Games, want to do it, don't get good overnight, so they give it up and move onto the next thing. The problem, said the other, was that when we got into it, we did it to rebel, there was a real sense of doing something our parents didn't want us to do and even though we were rubbish, we kept at it and here we are 20 years later, still doing it, still learning, still not as good as we want to be.

So what did they think of my Supermoto? Not interested said one, his Dad's got a BMW tourer and that killed motorcycling for him.

We've got a similar issue in motorcycling when it comes to feeding younger riders in: I got into it partly through rebellion, despite the cold weather, the expense, the logic. I had a real urge to do it and nothing was going to stop me. I expect your experience was similar.

The trouble is, most bikers are well into their 40s, they've done the mad balls-out thing 20-years ago and now they like their motorcycling more comfortable, acceptable, socially aware. It's less about pre-mix and more about emmissions standards. Sportsbike sales are giving way to tourers. This is the face of motorcycling today.

When kids see an old giffer putting his sports-tourer onto its centre-stand, or boarding a ferry with his and hers matching clothing, is that the inspirational moment when they decide they have to have a motorcycle when they're older? I'm not so sure.

So this is why you need an SMR630 in your life: you'll help save motorcycling from matching textiles, intercoms and shaft-drives.

The SMR630 is raw, edgy and slightly anti-social. It'll remind you why you got into motorcycling in the first place.

Husqvarna SMR630 price: £5925.00

Husqvarna SMR630 price as tested with Arrow exhausts: £6650