The Motorcycle Diaries

    with Hugh Francis Anderson
    Motorcycle: Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen
    Month: 1
    Mileage: 500

    The revs flutter at 6,000 RPM as I brake hard into the upcoming corner, my knee almost touches the asphalt as I effortlessly glide around the bend, and with a blip of the throttle the front end rises delicately skywards as I continue my one-man-race through the winding country roads of Suffolk. When the Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 arrived earlier this month, I had no idea it would be this fun. But fun it most certainly is.

    When I rode the Vitpilen 401, the 701’s younger sibling, last year, I didn’t know how capable Husqvarna could be at building hyper-modern, café-racer-inspired road-going motorcycles. It’s a fair assumption to make that as one of the world’s leading manufacturers of off-road motorcycles, their first foray into road-specific motorcycles since the 1930s could have been, well, underwhelming. And while there were certainly things that needed improvement, namely subtlety when cornering, it was a pretty mean machine. In fact, I even rode down to Dorset on it with my girlfriend as pillion – it was snug, but it was by no means a torturous ride (for me, at least).

    So, when the 701 rolled out of the van, I knew I was about to have a decidedly good time. Firstly, the styling still maintains Tron-like futurism, but it suits the bike, it suits its placement in the market, and it looks, well, sexy. Granted it’s still a small machine, and on my first journey out someone asked me if it was a 250cc, but then you twist the throttle and the 700cc, 75bhp single roars to life and propels you into oblivion, much to the bemusement of the chaps on their Kawasaki Ninjas.

    In the quest of a fine journalistic opinion, I have ridden the 701 at almost every opportunity this past month. Though travel does, unfortunately, get in the way of riding, there’s little more fun to be had than coming home after a week away to find the 701 poised for an evening blast, and with the remarkable weather we’ve had of late, there have been many evening blasts. But I have taken it further afield too. There have been more than a few trips to London, at around 80 miles each way, and then the much longer ride to Goodwood for this year’s Festival of Speed. Though the derrière does, it must be said, become a little numb after this length of time, and the dropped bars put a bit more pressure through the wrists than one would ideally want for long distance riding, it’s not unpleasant riding the 701 for long periods of time.

    As an overview of my first month with the Husqvarna 701 Vitpilen, I have to say I’m having a great time with it. And the best bit for those of you looking for your next bike? It comes in at under £9,000. For that price, you’ll be hard pressed to find something this quick, nimble and good looking.

    I plan to spend some more time riding in the Big Smoke next month, so let’s see how the Vitpilen handles London’s congested streets…

    Until then, safe riding.
    Hugh Francis Anderson
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