2024 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

Ride Review – 2024 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

When the Husqvarna ‘Pilens” were launched in 2018 there were very many mixed reactions, especially in our market here in good ‘ol SA. The looks and styling of the new road bikes were that radical and far from the norm, that they definitely polarised the market. Then there was the engine sizing and single cylinder that raised some eyebrows.But for the South African market it was the names that extracted the biggest reactions and quite a bit of mirth…. 

Even though they did not sell in huge numbers the Pilens in SA, they have become a firm cult favourite amongst those in the know, with the Svartpilen leading the way by appealing to the South African rider. For 2024, Husqvarna has released the biggest technical updates since the introduction of the model range some six years ago with an all new Svartpilen 401 and we got the first one in South Africa.

2024 Husqvarna Svartpilen 401

So, what’s new?

  • An all-new steel trellis frame. 
  • A new aluminium swingarm and offset WP rear suspension.
  • The new frame and swingarm accommodate a new engine.
  • New 5” bonded glass TFT display
  • Open cartridge front forks.
  • A premium paint finish with overcoated decals
  • Low seat height of 820 mm
  • Cornering ABS
  • Easy Shift and connectivity features as standard
  • LED headlight with positioning light ring
  • Spoked 17” wheels with premium Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres

A quick walk around:

Some things jump out at you right away as you look around the 401. Just look at it! The moulded plastic surround on the tank looks like it might be there to mount a tank bag easily without damaging the sexy paint work. The rear shock has been offset to the right, assumingly for handling and aesthetics but it also does seem to allow for a bigger, wider air-box which will help with air intake management and increase the performance There’s that sexy new headlight, with some interesting design touches and a bright white light ring around the outside. An interesting touch is the little bikini screen which not only looks cool but works really well for a naked. The tail light has also had a bit of work done and is quite unique. A handy feature is the fairly prominent grab rail which is easy for the pillion to hang onto.

The TFT display is a really cool upgrade from the previous model. Uncluttered, easy to read and very easy to navigate. A small thing that is really appreciable is the self cancelling indicators, a feature which a lot of brands don’t even fit to their premium models let alone their entry level models. The left hand switch cluster looks like it was designed by a gaming console designer. The switches are big, with a positive click to each switch and a nice recess in the middle so it is easy to feel around it, even through a glove. 

Both front shocks are adjustable on compression and rebound and the rear shock is adjustable for rebound and preload. A sub 500cc bike with adjustable suspension? Now that’s cool! The Pilen has a bi-directional quick-shifter fitted as standard – once again, on a sub 500cc entry level machine?? Not bad! Finally, you get beautiful 17 inch spoked rims wrapped in 60/40 Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR rubber, high end rubber for what is effectively a baby machine. And it all weighs in at 171 kg’s which, as far as we can tell, is the lightest bike in this class. It all adds up to one heck of a parts list with a decent national dealer network to back it up.

What is it like to ride?

Our six foot plenty and a bit, 115kg lump office Orangutan collected the Svartpilen 401 and had this to say:

I am one of those “in the know” having fallen in love with these Pilens very early on. I have always enjoyed the road less travelled, the weird and wonderful, the alternative – but I was dropping off a new 140kw 1390 Superduke and climbing aboard a 33kw 400cc single… Some adjusting of expectations was going to be needed.

I really do like the looks of the 401, that new headlight is really very pretty, the lines of the bike have a bit of a Mad Max appeal about them and the Pirelli STR wrapped spoked rims had me wondering if there were any good dirt roads in Sandton and the old Jukskei trail we used to ride back in the 80’s. Swinging a leg over and dropping onto the seat, I could feel I was in for a good time. The 401 feels well balanced, nimble and comfortably narrow. The bars are a sensible height and width, not too narrow, nor too wide, the footpegs are situated just low enough and just slightly behind you so as to keep the riding position fairly neutral and relaxed but with the choice to get down and dirty in a corner.

The little single cylinder is a rev happy little gem, but alas, with only 2 clicks on the clock it was probably best that I didn’t completely explore the full potential of all that available rev range. That which I did get a bit enthusiastic with did not disappoint, it really is quite perky and exciting, even after just climbing off its 1390 cousin. Most of that excitement  is from the motor, but a lot is also due the exceptionally light weight of the little Svartpilen and the really, very good WP suspension. I was a ‘Kamikaze pilot’ back in the late eighties, early nineties when I worked as a motorcycle messenger, so I am an absolute demon in traffic sometimes…. most of the time, and this bike got the little devil on my shoulder screaming in glee and my angel cowering inside my helmet. THIS IS A LITTLE HOOLIGAN MACHINE!

Banging on the gas and bouncing off the clutch as the lights turned green I tore away from traffic, working hard to keep the front wheel on the deck as I tilted into a sweeping left hander before grabbing on the clamps for the next traffic light and then repeating the same process with a couple of right handers thrown in as I found a new road down to RAD Rivonia. The more I pushed this little bike on the tar, weaving through traffic like my hair was on fire, the more I wanted to push it harder. Then I discovered “Supermotard” mode and could step the rear end out on the brakes… The mischievous grin on my mug when I walked into RAD immediately had everyone curiously peering out the front door and enquiring as to my mode of transport. My response of “The new 401….” barely made it out of my mouth – these are fellow fans of the Svartpilen and we found ourselves outside crowding around the little machine – my fond memories of the 1390 long forgotten.

From there it was down a sneaky back road, a blitz through the picturesque hamlet of Modderfontien and dodging potholes and heavy machinery around industrial Sebenza before wiggling onto the freeway, where being able to turn like a housefly has the particular advantage of quickly clearing the congestion for a bit of a ‘top speed run’ past the airport. A relative term considering it only had about 60 or 70 kays on the clock by now, but I still easily achieved and sustained 160 kmh. Please remember that I am well over six feet tall and more than 100 KG’s. Perhaps not Husqvarna’s target audience. I spent another day or two playing at this silliness before relinquishing it to some of the other guys, one of which was what seems to be Husqvarna’s target market for this machine – an 18 year old Varsity student.

Tristan Foley says:

I noticed this bike in the office workshop and I liked the look of it immediately, just so different from anything else on the market today. I tried a sneaky little ride, but couldn’t find the key – it seemed suspiciously well hidden and when I enquired the next morning I was told Uncle Séan was out on it – AGAIN. I guess I know who hid the key away. It took a few days to wrangle it away from him, and I had to promise to wash his bakkie every Friday afternoon for the next 15 years, to get a ride on the Svartpilen.

I really like this bike, especially the looks. It’s really cool! Just so different, so good looking… a real head turner. And the colour, WOW! Subtle yet in your face. And what a bike to ride, I might have to get myself a holiday job so that I can get one of these to ride to Varsity and back every day. Comfort wise, it suits me down to a tee. I am around 6 foot. The sitting position on the 401 is really comfortable. 

I like the fact that it is narrow and nimble, great for rush hour and traffic jams. It is also quite quick, especially off the line and I got it up to 163 kmh quite easily – don’t tell Mom. She’ll cruise along all day at road legal limits. On the road, those same tyres are good in the corners, even at speed.I ventured down the freeway for a bit past the airport and she easily stayed with the traffic and overtaking was an easy roll on of the throttle.

Shifting through the gears via the quickshifter is really simple, especially in the higher rev ranges. Super smooth and gives a nice little pop out the exhaust when you use it. I would love to hear it with an aftermarket pipe. I enjoyed the electronics package and quickly worked out how to switch it to Supermotard mode and turn off the traction control which made it even more fun to ride. 

Then I remembered it had off-road tyres on it, and, well being an off-road rider myself I couldn’t resist a dirt road when I found one. Even though I was told the tyres were more for styling than for actual hardcore off-roading, it handled some gnarly little footpaths and thick sand on the gravel roads near our house and offices easily.

I do hope that we get this bike as a demo at the office again, and get to keep it a bit longer this time. I would really love to spend a lot more time in the saddle.

Donovan Fourie shares his thoughts:

The role of Husqvarna within the greater Pierer Mobility Group is to be a little special. Perhaps a lot special, even. 

Take the Svartpilen 401 for example – what we have here is largely a KTM 390 Duke. The motor is the same, the frame holding the motor up is the same and the suspension is the same. Even the handlebar switches are the same…. But the bike isn’t. If you look into the monstrous world of cars, VW and Audi fall into the same group. The Audi A3 is by all measurable components the same as a VW Golf. Except it is not. 

The Duke 390 is an office favourite. It’s easy to ride, sporty enough and a jolly good lump of fun. Implicitly, the Svartpilen has all of that too, except with an additional air of style, class and sophistication about it. Most of that is purely down to the styling. Those wheels are 17-inch and the Svartpilen has the same suspension travel as the Duke road bike, so we are not going to be tackling the gold route at Roof of Africa any time soon. But those wheels are spoked and are armed with dik adventure knobblies. It looks meneer!

Where it serves a function beyond styling is in the seating position, which is upright with wide bars and, at the same convenient time, serves a styling function. Husqvarna’s purpose is to be that extra bit special. The Svartpilen makes you feel that bit more special. I’d say job done.

Final conclusions:

We love this little machine. It’s beautifully styled with a full suite of electronics. It’s got a great engine, an excellent chassis and it’s comfortable to ride. What more do you need? All at R126K odd. That’s less than a dirtbike!

If you’re into standing out from the crowd for all the right reasons then you need to go ride one of these new Husqvarna Svartpilen 401’s for yourself. 

In our humble opinion in today’s market, this bike represents excellent value for money.

Click here to book your test ride.

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