EICMA 2014 has been finished for a few weeks now and despite all the hype behind the Yamaha R1, Ninja H2 and Honda RC213V-S, perhaps the most important bikes shown were the Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen and Vitpilen concepts. But why would two bikes that only have a 373 cc thumper and pump out a pedestrian 43 hp nearly become the talk of EICMA? Because non-motorcyclists fell in love with it.
The story on the Husqvarna 401 Vitpilen (White Arrow) and Svartpilen (Black Arrow) first broke on Bike EXIF and quickly spread to the front page of Reddit followed by the rest of social media. And the one thing that stood out was so many people making the comment that this is a machine that would get them into motorcycle riding. That’s huge and is the current holy grail for motorcycle manufacturers around the world when it comes to western markets.
As it stands, the biggest growth areas for bike manufacturers isn’t in the saturated western world but in the developing nations; India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and so on. But they’re volume plays. A bike like the Husqvarna 401’s is something that could lead to real growth in the western world. But what’s so special about these two bikes?
From a purely unscientific perspective, they look gorgeous. There was universal praise for their ‘retro-futuristic’ looks that takes the best of cafe racers and dials it up a few notches. Being a concept, a production version would no doubt lose some of the uniqueness and become a little more mainstream, but that’s then and this is now. People loved it.
The second reason it captured people’s attention is that it wasn’t intimidating. If you were trying to get some interested in motorcycles the the Kawasaki Ninja H2R, you’re probably not going to get very far. Sure, it’s technologically impressive, but people wary of bikes aren’t going to change their mind for a machine that would probably kill them within five minutes or riding.
The Husqvarna 401 Svartpilen and Vitpilen on the other hand use the same engine as found in the KTM RC390 – a bike designed for learners. The concept bikes only weigh 297 lb though which means while it won’t be superbike quick, it’ll still beat 95 per cent of cars off the traffic lights in the real world.
And this is what so many people, even die hard motorcyclists have been crying out for. A super sexy machine that’s actually practical for everyday use. Owning a BMW S1000 R may seem like the best thing in the world, but if you’re riding in heavy traffic every Monday through Friday, it’s not really ever going to get used for what it is ultimately best at. The Husqvarna 401 concepts exude street cred and purpose. And anything that can get more riders on the saddle is a good thing in our opinion.
As licensing requirements in Europe and Australia continue to become more onerous for new riders, machines like this will become more mainstream than they are now. And if that means more lightweight, practical and attractive motorcycles then bring it on.