Despite the pandemic—or perhaps because of it—interest in motorcycles has never been this high. With public transportation crippled for the better part of the year, sales of small-displacement bikes have rocketed as ordinary people sought means to get to and from work. And while more expensive big bikes continue to remain a niche market, these halo products keep interest in their brands alive and give the latter their sex appeal. So, when Ayala Corporation announced late last year that it would also begin to assemble Husqvarna bikes at their Laguna assembly plant alongside its KTM line, aficionados took notice and held their breath.
A Swedish brand owned by KTM AG, Husqvarna has built a solid reputation for dirt bikes, chainsaws and whatnot, but the motorcycle world took notice when the manufacturer unveiled its Svartpilen and Vitpilen street bikes at EICMA (Esposizione Internazionale Ciclo Motociclo e Accessori or International Motorcycle and Accessories Exhibition) trade show in 2016. The bikes utilize the KTM 390 Duke platform to create a striking, neo-retro aesthetic that’s quite distinctive from the usual cookie-cutter designs that populate the entry-level side of the big-bike market.
The Svartpilen—which means “black arrow” in Swedish—is an “urban scrambler” with dirt bike-like handlebars, dual-sport tires, and a sort of Mad Max vibe. On the other hand, the Vitpilen (which translates as “white arrow”) is a café racer and, as such, features low clip-on handlebars, rearset pegs, and sensually organic body panels that make it look like it could be part of a sci-fi movie.
While the brand hasn’t been officially launched yet, word quickly got around that agents were already taking orders for the “Huskies” at KTM showrooms (Bonifacio Global City and Quezon Avenue). So, I scurried off to the former to find out what all the fuss was about.
It’s hard to believe that these motorcycles are essentially reengineered KTM Duke models, but the Huskies have such a striking presence that I was thankful I didn’t bring my checkbook—or I would have placed an order right then and there. A steady stream of customers was also checking out the bikes while ignoring the KTMs on the floor.
While it’s considered a compact machine by big-bike standards, the Svartpilen has a strong visual presence with its meaty tires, stout WP Apex fork, and sculpted fuel tank with protrusions that serve as knee cutouts. It only comes in one base color (black), and the silver and gunmetal panels and accents subtly contrast against the trellis frame. The stubby tail has just a very small pillion pad, and there’s no ugly fender sticking out and back. Instead, a tail hugger gives it a very clean look.
Details like the LED headlamp with inset daytime running light, minimalist LCD instrument pod, and bronze fuel filler cap help add to the premium look and feel. Okay, the Mickey Mouse side-mirror stalks and the amber reflectors on the fork stanchions need to go, but other than those it looks like a very neat custom job. With 5.5/5.9 inches of front/rear suspension travel, and 6.7 inches of ground clearance, it can take on potholes and some light gravel tracks (but save the singletrack adventures for a real dirt bike).
For the Philippine market, the Svartpilen comes in two variants: the 401 with the 373cc single-cylinder engine, and the 200 with the 199cc motor. However, the two share the same chassis and have essentially the same ride height, and only the “401/201” badge on the tank visually separates the two.
One sore point is the 17-inch cast alloy wheels with their rough paint finish. The US, European and Australian markets get spoked wheels with tubed tires in keeping with the scrambler mission, but here the decision to go with cheaper cast alloys helps keep the price attractive. In any case, an agent told me that the spoked wheels can be ordered as an upgrade option. The Svartpilen 401 rolls with Pirelli Scorpion tires, while the 200 uses cheaper MRF rubber.
Meanwhile, the Vitpilen takes the traditional café racer design philosophy and turns it on its head. You get the low handlebars and the bobbed tail expected of the genre, but because the trellis frame defies the symmetrical lines of regular café racers, this Husky just goes with it by using flowing side panels that wrap around the tank toward the subframe. It’s like a large bone and, especially with the satin-white paint, a beautiful contrast to the rest of the blackness. Under soft lighting, the bike seems to have an ethereal glow. With the low handlebars and the thin seat, this wouldn’t be anyone’s first choice for anything longer than an hour or two, but such is the price of “tiis-pogi.”
Like the KTM Duke, the Huskies benefit from ByBre braking systems with ABS, six-speed transmissions, and WP Apex suspension with adjustable rear preload. The 401 models use the 373cc engine rated at 44hp, while the 200’s power unit is good for 26hp. Pricing is at a premium over the Duke 390/200, though:
- Vitpilen 401 – P315,000
- Svartpilen 401 – P295,000
- Svartpilen 200 – P175,000
With the 401s being expressway-legal, there’s no doubt we’ll be seeing a lot of these during the much-awaited weekend coffee rides.