KTM Confirms new Parallel Twin Platform on the Way

KTM has published its annual financial report today for the 2015 year, and among the various bits of financial information (which shows that KTM is in a very healthy position) is some minor news on upcoming product releases for what it describes as a ‘revolutionary 2-cylinder engine design’.

We know that at a minimum, this new parallel twin will feature in the upcoming 800 Duke which has been spotted testing at various times over the past few months. KTM states that this new platform will ‘make a substantial contribution toward opening up new market segments’. That might possibly mean that we’ll see more than one new bike featuring the new engine – such as both smaller and larger displacement bikes.

Also in the report was confirmation that the wonderful Husqvarna Svartpilen and Vitpilen concepts are heading into production – though that was pretty much a given anyway. Unfortunately, they’re still some time off and won’t be on the market until 2017. Hopefully we’ll see production versions at the end of the year at least at the various motorcycle shows.

The report further elaborates that, “The upcoming segment-redefining Vitpilen and Svartpilen production models will set Husqvarna Motorcycles on a blazing trajectory to become Europe’s third-largest motorcycle producer – with the aim of doing so by 2020”.

SWM RS 650 R Review

The RS 650 R is the first bike under the Speedy Working Motors (SWM) name to come out in over 30 years. It enters an incredibly competitive off-road market and while the 600 cc dualsport isn’t going to break any records or transform the category as we know it, it’s an extremely solid and competent motorcycle that offers incredible value for money.

SWM was founded back in 1971 and had a great reputation among trials and enduro riders. Despite early successes, the company shut its doors in 1984. So how is it that the name now has been resurrected? Well, it’s complicated. The man behind the reborn SWM is Ampelio Macchi, a legend of the industry who has been behind brands such as Cagiva, Husqvarna and Aprilia. Upon BMW selling Husqvarna to KTM, he saw an opportunity and with backing by Chinese conglomerate Shineray purchased the Lombardia factory in Italy.

SWM RS 650 R

The Husqvarna factory wasn’t the only thing that Macchi got hold of though. The RS 650 R is essentially a Husqvarna TE630. Visually it appears identical save for the colour scheme. There’s been a few minor tweaks here and there but overall this is a bike that was released first in 2010. From a commercial point of view it’s a clever move. The TE630 was a reliable and capable machine and it lets SWM get to market quickly – saving years of developing a brand new bike. Those brand new bikes are coming – including 250 cc and 300 cc dualsports and motards, an adventure bike and some retro styled street bikes.

One of the advantages to being based on a discontinued bike is that the aftermarket support is already out there. Anything that fits the TE630 should bolt onto the RS 650 R without a hitch. That means you can get a safari tank that will double your fuel capacity, luggage racks, skid plate and more – something you wouldn’t normally get for a brand new bike, least not one from a newly established company.

My initial time on the RS 650 R was mainly some twisty mountains, country roads and a bit of gravel as well. The bike carved up the corners without any problems and given how the dynamics of the bike felt, the supermoto version of this bike (the SM 650 R) should be brilliant. The tires on the bike are Korean ‘Goldentyre’- rubber I’ve never heard of before and from the tread pattern look to be an 80/20 or 90/10 design for road/off-road use. They seemed to offer plenty of grip and I didn’t once feel unsettled on them though I’m sure most people would switch to a more known brand as soon as needed.

SWM RS 650 R

Being a thumper, vibrations are usually a given but they’re really not too noticeable on this bike. In fact, the lack of vibrations for the most part were very impressive considering I was the first person to ride this bike save for SWM’s sales rep who bolted it together a week earlier. Only 200 clicks had been put on it before I was handed the keys so after a few weeks of solid riding the bike will no doubt loosen up nicely. Vibrations really only become apparent above 5,000 rpm but given that in sixth gear on the highway speed limit you’re only sitting on around 4,650 rpm, it’s really not an issue.

There’s a definite truck like quality to the engine, both in its sound (a rough grumble) as well as how much torque it has down low. It’s definitely a highlight of the single cylinder 600 cc unit – even as high as third gear it briskly responds when you need some extra speed without any hesitation – great for when you’re tackling tricky terrain and don’t want to have to change gears.

Front and rear brakes both feature Brembo callipers with a single 300mm disc up front and a 240 mm one at the back. Brake response at the front was very good with excellent feel as you squeeze the lever in. The back brake I felt locked up a little too easily on bitumen with just a small push of the lever seeing you put down a strip of rubber on the road.

SWM RS 650 R

After spending a few hours on the black stuff I finally arrived at the off-road part of my journey. It would be an hour long trip of Duck Creek Road, a public road that meanders through private properties and up to the summit of a national park.

As I hit the dirt I realised I hadn’t brought my tyre pump with me. So in addition to the road biased tyres, I also had to deal with higher than ideal tyre pressures. The RS 650 R performed flawlessly though. The road wasn’t just easy to ride hard packed dirt either – there was ruts, potholes full of water and plenty of rocks – both rough and smooth – and the bike performed effortlessly. A set of knobbies and proper tyre pressures would probably see this machine capable of tackling all but the most technical of terrain.

That’s no doubt thanks to the weight of the SWM RS 650 R. At 147kg fully fueled (claimed), it’s a mere 10 kg more than Yamaha’s benchmark WR250R dual sport – but with plenty more horsepower and oodles more torque. It even feels lighter than it is too – comparing it to our KLX250S project bike (which weighs slightly less), the Kawasaki feels frumpy. SWM must be using some of that magic dust Honda has access to that makes its bikes feel lighter than they are. They’d be able to shave a few more kilograms off the total too if they did away with the dual exhaust cans…

SWM RS 650 R

The great handling is also down to the quality suspension that the bike comes with. Though you could spend a couple of thousand dollars on aftermarket fork and shock upgrades, only the most hardcore of riders will really need it. The 45mm upside down Marzocchi forks up front and the Sachs rear shock to a very good job given the price point of this bike with plenty of room to customise your setup but even out of the box the handling was great.

It’s a huge advantage that this bike has – the agility (or very close to it) of a small dual sport but with the power of a mid-capacity machine. It makes overtaking on highways a breeze with acceleration that while not sportsbike quick is nevertheless still very rapid.

The standard gearing of the bike is a pretty good compromise between off and on road applications. As mentioned before there’s plenty of torque so tootling around the trickier stuff in second gear is for the most part fine. On the terrain where first gear is required it’s generally happy to putter along without any clutch input until the inclines start to get steep – not bad for a bike that will sit at 100 kph in sixth gear with plenty in reserve.

Fifth and sixth gear are definite overdrive gears and if I had my way, I’d probably go up a couple of teeth on the rear sprocket just to make the bike easier to use on tighter trails. That would also potentially make second gear more useful at slower speeds too – something of a personal preference of mine as I sometimes find the engine braking when in first gear a little too abrupt.

SWM RS 650 R

The ergonomics of the bike are fairly standard, with the bars low enough to encourage an attack position when standing. That might not suite some taller riders who prefer higher bars when riding more casual trails but it is good for higher speed cornering. The seat is fairly flat and gives you plenty of room to move back and forward depending on your preference. Being essentially a dirtbike, the pew is hardly comfortable but on the flip-side I’ve sat on plenty worse.

Annoyingly, the sides of the petrol tank are not only wide, the lip of them has a slightly exposed edge at the seam where your legs sit. By the end of my first day of riding the RS 650 R, my nylons had caught on this countless times and my knee braces (despite being under my pants) had scuffed up the plastics pretty badly. I’d hate to see what it would look like after a few months of riding.

Two other quibbles I had were that the brake lines are positioned in such a way that when you’re sitting down they partially block the view of the diminutive display and depending on your height will mean you either can’t see the speedo or the tacho – or both. The kickstand is also a pain in the rear. It’s too long by a good inch and a half meaning you need to tilt the bike to the right in order to properly extend it. It’s also on a spring and automatically pops back up – that will no doubt cause a few drops for new owners.

SWM RS 650 R

Strangely, later in the day as I was returning home on the freeway in moderate traffic, the bike had some speed wobbles – it became apparent at around 110 kph and saw the front end shimmy from side to side – not uncontrollable but not nice either. I didn’t notice any shimmy at the front earlier in the day but I hadn’t taken the bike up to those speeds, either. Searching Google to see if the issue appeared for owners of the Husqvanra TE630, it seemed that the main culprits of the speed wobbles were incorrect rear sag and unbalanced tyres. After adjusting the rear sag for my weight and taking the bike back out on the freeway, the problem was gone.

From my week of riding the RS 650 R, I really enjoyed it. It was a blast on the trails with great low down torque, plus its extra power made merging and overtaking on the highway a breeze. It has a few design quirks which detract from the bike but you can perhaps overlook those when you see the price. In Australia the bike sells for $9,490. By way of comparison, the new Husqvarna 701 Enduro’s asking price is $15,995. That’s a massive difference for what is in essence a Husqvarna in many respects anyway. In the UK it’s a similar story with the SWM going for £5,699 while the Husqvarna will set you back £7,999. That is nothing short of amazing value for a tried and tested platform that already has plenty of aftermarket support.

SWM RS 650 R SWM RS 650 R

SWM RS 650 R

IMG_7889 SWM RS 650 R SWM RS 650 R

Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and 701 Enduro to be Released Simultaneously

We’ve received confirmation that both the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and its knobby tired brother, the 701 Enduro will both be released at the same time. That means in November across Europe and Australia and in February in North America. And yes, both bikes will find their way to the US and Canada.

This has been confirmed to us by a number of dealerships around the world where Husqvarna has been doing product previews and demonstrations with sales staff in preparation for the upcoming release. We’re also hearing some additional information that might answer a puzzling question about these upcoming Husqvarna releases.

That question is why is Husqvarna making such a big deal about the 701 Supermoto (and no doubt the enduro version when it’s released) when they’re both pretty similar (if not identical) to the KTM 690 SMC R and KTM 690 Enduro R? Well, some – but not all – of the dealerships that we’ve spoken to say that those two models won’t be released in 2016 by KTM – effectively leaving the bikes as Husqvarna exclusive models.

That would make sense as there isn’t a big enough a market for the two companies to cannibalise each others sales. It also gives the two brands greater differentiation as they continue to branch off in direct ways.

Both the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto and Enduro will feature a 690cc thumper producing 67bhp, ABS brakes, WP suspension and multiple engine modes. The supermoto features a slipper clutch which is something we’d assume is deleted for the enduro model, along with slightly modified suspension and geometry.

Husqvarna 701 Supermoto


Husqvarna Unveil the 2016 FS 450 Supermoto

Husqvarna is really starting to differentiate itself from sister company KTM and the release of the updated 2016 FS 450 Supermoto certainly contributes to that. While Husqvarna is busy hyping up the forthcoming release of their 701 Supermoto, the FS 450 Supermoto is actually a bike that doesn’t have an equivalent in KTM’s lineup.

That to us is far more interesting than the 701 Supermoto which is as far as we can tell just a rebadged KTM 690 SMC R. The new FS 450 Supermoto is derived from the heavily revised FE 450 Enduro which was announced just a few months ago and that means it gets a whole lot of great features that the previous years model did not.

That includes a new subframe which is made of a composite material that is 30% carbon fibre and features a three-piece construction, which is 1 kg lighter than its equivalent in the previous model. The new cast aluminium swingarm has been redesigned, is stiffer and lighter than before as well.

Like its enduro cousin, the FS 450’s motor gets a serious overhaul as well. The new engine is 23 mm shorter, 23 mm narrower and 9 mm lower than before. Total weight reduction for the engine is a very impressive 1.8kg. Even the cylinder head gets some work to reduce weight.

The 5-speed gearbox comes standard with a slipper clutch and the clutch lever is hydraulic. The gearbox gets some tweaks to make it more compact and lighter too. The FS 450 also features a standard handlebar map switch which also activates launch control, a function that limits the amount of power to the rear wheel for approximately two seconds. This results in improved traction and the prevention of loss of control under hard acceleration.

If upon looking at the pictures below of the bike you were wondering why the exhaust headers looked suspicously like something from a 2-stroke, you’re not imagining things. The resonance chamber is integrated into the header pipe to resemble a 2-stroke expansion chamber which not only helps with weight distribution, but also reduces noise.

The proprietary WP rear shock has been specifically designed for Supermoto and features 266 mm of rear travel. It features fully adjustable rebound and high/low speed compression while up front you get 48 mm WP closed cartridge forks with 280 mm of suspension travel and is also fully adjustable.

The brand new 2016 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto will heat dealer showrooms in Europe this month and will hopefully find it’s way internationally soon thereafter.

Husqvarna Announces 2016 MX Range

While Husqvarna is beginning to focus on road bikes with the upcoming release of the 701 Supermoto and future release of the 401 concepts, they’re still ensuring that their off road range remains at the peak of the curve. After earlier announcing their 2016 enduro range, Husqvarna has also confirmed its MX range for 2016 and there’s some impressive improvements.

Husqvarna has announced all new versions of the FC 450, FC 350 and FC 250 4-stroke bikes, plus an all new TC 125 2-stroke. These aren’t mildly updated machines with a few new stickers – Husqvarna has rebuilt them from the ground up. The newly released bikes are lighter, faster and more durable.

While you might often think of dirt bikes as low tech, Husqvarna is bringing some new thinking to their range. The frame is laser-cut and robot welded and made of chromium molybdenum steel (I don’t know what that means either, but it sounds impressive) and the three piece subframe is made of carbon fibre which saves 1 kilogram from the previous model. The rear shock is also half a kilo lighter and it’s mated to a new rear link geometry, which improves both damping and balance.

Across all 4-stroke models a new Keihin engine management system processes data faster while a 44 mm throttle body – compact and 100 grams lighter – provides immediate throttle response thanks to the elimination of a throttle linkage. New for MY16 is launch control, integrated into the standard handlebar map switch. With the ability to alter engine characteristics, the launch control feature seeks out maximum traction to deliver consistently perfect starts as standard. Overall weight savings have been significant. The FC 450 is now 5.2 kg lighter than the previous model, while the FC 350 is 4.7 kg less than the 2015 machine. The FC 250 has been lightened by 4.0 kg. That’s mighty impressive for what are already light machines.

And that’s not all. There’s new GSK brake discs, Pro Taper handlebars, ODI lock-on grips, new WP radiators, new 7-litre polythene fuel tanks, a new airbox design with tool-less air filter access, as well as black DID alloy rims and CNC machined hubs.

The new Husqvarna MY16 motocross range will be available from all authorised European Husqvarna dealers from September. No word yet on Australian or US release dates or prices.


Husqvarna 701 Supermoto Specifications Begin to be Revealed

Husqvarna has updated the microsite for their upcoming 701 Supermoto showing off many of the technologies the bike will incorporate upon its release later this year. Unfortunately for those hoping for a surprise, it appears that there’s no new features compared to the KTM 690 SMC R which the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is based on.

In fact, the more we see the more it would appear the 701 Supermoto will be a direct copy of the KTM with different plastics and stickers. That’s not a bad thing as the 690 SMC R is regarded as a great bike. It’s just that 690 SMC R is over two years old now and for Husqvarna to make its ‘road bike’ come back a carbon copy of an existing bike is a little underwhelming – hopefully it surprises us with the price.

According to Husqvarna, the 701 Supermoto will benefit from a ride-by-wire throttle system allowing for precise and consistent throttle control as well as three engine-modes allowing you to fine-tune the 701’s power delivery for a wide range of possible riding surfaces and weather conditions.

Also included is a slipper clutch, 48 mm upside-down forks by WP Performance Systems with 215 mm of travel and separate damping circuits in each fork tube allowing for compression to be damped via the left tube and rebound via the right. The rear shock is pivot-arm articulated and features both high and low speed compression adjustments.

ABS is standard but disappointingly just like the KTM 690 SMC R, you have to pay extra for an optional dongle unlocks supermoto ABS, allowing the rear wheel to lock with full ABS function upfront. We thought it was poor form to not have this standard when the 690 SMS R was first released – it’s possibly even worse now considering we’re two years down the track and looking at what’s supposed to be a more value orientated brand.

The Husqvarna 701 Supermoto is expected to be released by November this year.

SWM RS 650 R Enduro Bike Rolls Off The Production Line

Resurrected motorcycle company SWM (Speedy Working Motors) has made good on its promise from last years’ EICMA show with the release of their first model – the RS 650 R enduro motorcycle. The SWM RS 650 R is the first of many models for the reborn Italian company with two more enduro bikes, two supermotos and two ‘classic’ machines to be released between now and the end of the year.

For those unfamiliar with SWM, it was founded in 1971 and manufactured trials, enduro, motocross and other off-road motorcycles in the 1970s and 1980s, but went into liquidation in 1984. Since then, ex Aprilia and Husqvarna engineer Ampelio Macchi has bought the rights to SWM and teamed up with giant Chinese powersports company Shineray who are providing the financing. The machines will be manufactured in Italy, though we’d imagine at least some of the parts will be created in China before being shipped and bolted together in Europe.

The RS 650 R is heavily influenced by the discontinued Husqvarna TE 610 enduro both in looks and engine. In fact for at least the time being, all of SWM’s off-road machines will use Husqvarna engines – so reliability shouldn’t be an issue. Going off the specifications (we’re still awaiting a press pack), the engine has been bored out to 599cc (up from the TE 610’s 576cc) with compression bumped up to 12.4:1. Suspension and brakes appear unchanged. Kerb weight (without fuel) will be about 144kg.

Europeans will be the first to get their hands on the SWM RS 650 R which will sell for €6,400. SWM will progressively become available in Australia, New Zealand, China, Israel and Lebanon with distributors for these countries to be announced shortly. SWM is also in negotiations with distributors in North America with the goal of sales starting there in 2016.


Husqvarna Announces 2016 Enduro Range

Husqvarna has announced their 2016 enduro model range with a host of minor to moderate changes to their bikes. Engine, chassis and suspension upgrades focused on improving off-road performance along with a cosmetic changes have been made across the board. This follows on from announcements by all the Japanese manufacturers of their updated offroad lineups for 2016.

On all 2016 enduro bikes a new lighter 22 mm front axle with optimised axle clamp dimensions replaces the previous 26 mm axle to offer improved stability and better front-end feel. Shorter axle clamp offset also helps improve fork function. The triple clamps on all bikes now feature a 22 mm offset which is designed to evenly distribute the clamping force on the fork leg, when combined with the new front axle and axle clamp geometry it ensures improved agility and stability. The triple clamps also allow for four handlebar positions to suit the needs of a wide variety of riders.

Complementing the front axle and triple clamp updates, the 4CS fork – now in its fourth year of production – has been further developed to improve damping, handling, plushness and rider comfort. Easy access clicker dials provide quick adjustments on the go. The high performance DCC (Dual Compression Control) rear link suspension made by WP has a revised setup perfectly matching the geometry and setup changes on the front-end.

An updated lightweight six-speed gearbox with enduro specific gearing has been fitted to all enduro models to ensure easy and precise shifting. Combined with the DDS clutch system and the premium Brembo hydraulic system means the MY16 enduro range delivers smoother shifting and consistent clutch action. For 2016 the FE450 and FE 501 clutch basket is now 80 grams lighter.