Does the complete revamp make the new Svartpilen better suited for India and the world?
Small, petite and stylish, the Swedish Husqvarnas didn't quite take on in India. There were some fundamental shortcomings, especially surrounding its compactness, that held people back from bringing it home.
The Swedish brand paid heed to the feedback and hence the new Svartpilen 401 as well as the Vitpilen 250 are now larger. We are only going to be riding this 401 today, which does look rugged like a scrambler. But is it an accessible scrambler or just a more comfy 390 Duke?
Well the Svartpilen ain't no real scrambler. It doesn't have the suspension capabilities, the ground clearance isn’t too great, the exhaust is really low, and the bars are fairly low set making standing up and riding a task. So, this bike at best can go over rough road patches and some muddy terrain. If you want a scrambler experience, you will have to look elsewhere in the Bajaj umbrella, think British, I say!
There’s no doubt that the Svartpilen is a stylish ride. It is as though the Duke shed its one piece leather suit for a three piece set of formals. The neo retro intentions are well packaged now and even though it has grown, it doesn’t look disproportionate. In fact this single panel design lends that clean suave look that Huskies are very good at delivering.
I do particularly like the side profile of the bike with the oval tank extensions jutting out ever so slightly. I would have liked if the bits like the wiring harness and the rectifier were hidden as they just bring that cool look down by a smidge. Nevertheless, the Svartpilen instantly makes you look cool as soon as you twist the throttle.
Comfy Duke? Yes and no. It has more seating space on offer, the pegs are further pushed back and the seat section is narrow. So, the lower body posture isn't as cramped as it is on the Duke. However, the reach to the bars is a fair bit forwards and you have to canter forwards to get to them. So, the upper body isn’t as relaxed. Perhaps, if Husqvarna had provided handlebar risers here, you would have a more upright and overall relaxed body stance.
And clearly the stand up and ride ergos are far from ideal. But like the designers clearly told us yesterday, this is not a bike that they wish you could stand up and ride. For that, there might be something else planned. Norden 401 maybe?
No change in engine tune, gear ratios or final drive means that the Svartpilen is just as explosive and fun to braap. This new 399 cc mill is just a gem as it can go from lax to insane in the blink of an eye. There’s just incredible drive present all over and the slick quickshifter just makes the riding experience a breezy one.
However, I did notice a small issue of the throttle trailing a fair bit more in the lower revs on the Husky. Even after shutting the gas, the revs still remained pretty high for a noticeable amount of time after which they subsided. This could pose an issue in panic braking situations. And as far as sheer lunacy goes, it still doesn’t match up to the Duke.
Also, the engine sounds braapy and energetic as it did on the Duke, the low speed vibes are present but not jarring, the buzziness gets less as the motor picks up pace and it can hold very high speeds effortlessly. Overall, the versatility of the new motor shines once again and we cannot wait to enjoy it in every possible format of motorcycle that KTM will plonk it in.
Also, the change in riding posture also brings out a minor change in the ride quality. The Husky feels a tad bit firmer in its stock settings than the Duke. This is because you are loading up the front end more and the monoshock is a bit more relaxed. So, going over the rougher stretches of road, the Svartpilen just feels a bit more reactive. However, there’s adjustable suspension here as well, so you can tune this feeling out to a great extent and make it very pliable.
The extra heft, especially in the unsprung mass area, slows down the steering by a lot. It still feels solid in the bends and you can hoon a bit as well. But this silver arrow doesn’t quite have the sharpness of the Duke.
Also, despite running the more cost friendly organic brake pads at the front, we never found the braking to be lacking or disappointing. The stopping power was on point, although the ABS does kick in a tad bit sooner than what you would like. Perhaps, the Pirelli Rally STRs and their big chunky blocks of rubber could have something to do with them.
Speaking of the Pirellis, the grip levels on offer are phenomenal. You have to get used to the slight vague sensation at the start because of the deep grooves on offer. It is a small learning curve and something that you will have to be mindful of.
Think of the Husqvarna as the no frills less techy 390 Duke. That is because even though there is traction control and switchable ABS, these riding aids aren’t IMU-aided. There’s just the Street riding mode. The console and switches are the same but no smartphone connectivity offered as standard. So, by eliminating all of these, Bajaj is able to offer it at a very delectable price. And if you want the convenience of alloy wheels or want to add the smartphone connectivity features, you can do so via the company’s official outlets without voiding warranty.
The Svartpilen 401 is a smashing motorcycle, but we sort of knew that already considering the base itself is so solid. But instead of it being too loud and in your face, this bike moves around like a smooth operator. It looks just as stunning as ever but now it also provides that visual appeal that you are riding something substantial.
Yes, by paying Rs 20000 less than the Duke, you are missing out on the convenience of alloys, smartphone connectivity bits and the capability to hold an extra litre and a half of fuel, but in every other regard, it is just as exciting to ride as the Duke.
Plus, not to forget, there are a plethora of KTMs running amok on our streets, earning a ‘reputation’ of sorts. Whereas, the Husqvarna brand itself is quite an unknown quantity in India. Thus, your Svartpilen would just be quite an exclusive offering.
And the best bit is you can walk into any KTM dealership, take a test ride of either and decide which one suits your palette more. So, while I am happy living with a motorcycle that is a big attention seeker, for those who appreciate a more suave street friendly roadster experience, this should do the trick.
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