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First ride: Husqvarna 701 Supermoto review

The refined hooligan

THIS was the second of two new Husqvarnas launched in Portugal last week. The first was the 701 Enduro, based on the KTM 690 Enduro R.

The KTM 690 Enduro R has a supermoto sister called the 690 SMC R – so it should be easy to guess what this Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is based on.

It differs to the 701 Enduro in its wheels, suspension and brakes. It’s got a WP fork offering compression and rebound damping adjustment and 215mm of travel. The shock is also from WP and gives 250mm of wheel travel.

The wheels are 17-inch, the tyres tubeless road rubber and the front brake more powerful than the 701 Enduro’s. It's got a four-pot radial Brembo caliper on a 320mm single disc, where the Enduro has a twin-pot on a 300mm.

It’s got a slightly different steering head angle - 45° instead of 44 – and some extra rubber, on the pegs and as a mounting for the bars.

And the gearing is a bit taller. That’s about it.  

But of course, those few differences greatly alter the character of the machine. For a starts it’s easier to sit on. Less suspension travel allows a lower seat, of 890mm instead of 910mm. That lets me, at 5’9”, get the toes of both feet on the ground. On the Enduro they were dangling.

What’s slightly unexpected is how much smoother this bike feels. The rubber-mounted handlebars, the pegs – something – has given it a more refined aspect.

It’s more stable, the steering less twitchy-feeling under hard acceleration and into triple-digit speeds, possibly because of that altered head angle and the supermoto tyres. The mirrors still turn everything behind you to a blur, though.

On the Enduro the engine shined for its low-down torque. The Supermoto is more conducive to hanging onto gears, with its smoother nature and better stability, and now the same plant better reveals its impressive mid-range and top-end. There’s no rev counter and it could possibly do with one, because it’s surprisingly revvy, as it eats up the tarmac through those taller gears. The theoretical red line is at 8,000rpm (also where you’ll find it on the KTM 690 SMC R, which does have a rev counter).

The ribbed seat, one of the few parts of the new Huskies not taken from their KTM donors, takes on a new usefulness: it grips your bum as the revs climb. That’s useful when the riding position is upright and the seat is long and more-or-less flat. It means you can lean forward into the wind, and against the forces of inertia, without fear of sliding backward.

It rained for much of our test ride, near Lagos. That made for a slightly nervous session on a go-kart track in the afternoon, but the ContiAttack SM tyres gripped well.

It’s quick to turn, easily chucked into and out of hairpins with the help of the wide handlebar. The extra bite from that bigger front brake disc is noticeable and suspension is well-enough damped to prevent too much pitch.

Equipment levels aren’t ground-breaking. Along with no rev counter, you get no fuel gauge, just a low-fuel warning light.

The electronics aren’t bad though. It’s got a ride-by-wire throttle with three fuel maps – soft, standard and advanced – which you change with a switch under the seat. ABS with 'stoppie protection' is standard and can be deactivated on the rear wheel by plugging in a dongle, also under the seat. 

Husqvarna’s product manager, Justin Maxwell, told me he sees the 701 Supermoto as an urban bike. I can’t think of many motorcycles that would make more fun of cutting up the city traffic, but also promise to cater for your inner hooligan when appropriate.

The seat pops off without using a key, possibly not ideal in a city bike. But the steering lock is generous, and slightly improved over the KTM according to Husqvarna, so weaving between stationary cars will be easy.     

It’s also got one litre extra fuel capacity than the KTM, taking the tank - which doubles as the polyamide sub-frame - to 13 litres.

Elsewhere the differences between this and the 690 SMC R don’t come to a great deal beyond brand and styling. But at £7,999 plus on-the-road charges, it’s also exactly the same price as the KTM, so that’s perfectly okay.

Service intervals are 6,000 miles and Husqvarna has 22 UK dealers.

WATCH OUR HUSQVARNA 701 SUPERMOTO AND 701 ENDURO VIDEO REVIEW

Model tested: Husqvarana 701 Supermoto

Price: £7,999

Engine: 690cc single-cylinder liquid-cooled SOHC

Power: 67hp @ 7,000rpm

Torque: 49lbft @6,500rpm

Weight without fuel: 145kg

Frame: steel trellis, made by WP

Tank capacity: 13 litres

Seat height: 890mm

Colours: White and blue

Availability: Orders being taken now for delivery from November 30

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