Scrambler conversions are among the more interesting custom jobs done to a stock motorcycle. Put dual-sport tires, raise the exhaust, increase suspension travel, add a belly pan, and you now have a bike that can take on some light trails while still being very much rideable on the street.
The Husqvarna Svartpilen 200 saves a buyer from all the hassles of customization by rolling off the showroom floor ready to hit the trail, bone-stock. With all the major hardware—engine, transmission, suspension, brakes and frame—shared with the KTM 200 Duke platform, the Svartpilen (“black arrow” in Swedish) already promises an engaging ride while giving you the option to have a little fun off-road. However, the stock suspension only gives you 142mm of travel, and the exhaust is still mounted underneath the frame. This means you won’t be taking this on anything more than a moderately challenging singletrack unless you want to bang it up pretty good. But as an “urban scrambler,” the 200 is a fun ride.
The knobs on the dual-sport MRF Revz FD tires are fairly shallow for a more street-biased feel, but they offer decent grip on loose surfaces. If you’re in a playful mood, you can easily spin the rear tire and slide around in “Supermoto” mode with the rear-wheel ABS disengaged. Out on the side roads and alleys of Manila, the Svart is in its element as a lightweight bike that zips from point to point and takes potholes and speed bumps in stride. The 199.5cc 26hp engine is a zinger that comes alive in the 6,000-9,000rpm range, and the six-speed transmission is a good match with its close ratios and smooth action. Clutchless shifting is a breeze. The only trouble I got was quickly finding neutral on my fresh (less than 400km) demo unit.
Since the Svartpilen shares so many mechanical parts with the Duke, the riding experience is similar. Point-and-shoot agility and brisk acceleration just make you want to rev the nuts off it every chance you get. One noticeable difference is that the frame is slightly buzzier than the Duke, likely caused by the knobby tires. They also emit a loud hum that’s otherwise nonexistent with its KTM cousin.
Between the two, though, the Husky has a more comfortable riding position. The long bench-like seat gives you plenty room to move back and forth, and the raised handlebar offers a lot of leverage to push down on them or manhandle the bike on a tight dirt road. A low curb weight of 145kg also helps a lot in giving you confidence to throw it around.
Stand-up riding is only okay. It’s not an adventure bike, after all. As long as you remember that the Svart is more of a street machine with some off-road ability rather than a dirt bike with street clothes, you’ll have a ball of a time. This Husky can ride up and down the curb, but we don’t suggest you do it.
The Svartpilen has lots of aesthetic details that give it a unique upmarket look and feel. Chief among which are the amorphous side panels that partially cover the tank. It has angular stubs sticking out the sides that mimic the feel of a normal tank’s knee cutouts, and up top is a plastic rack for bags or small cargo. The upside-down fork has some beefy-looking protectors for the stanchions, while fluorescent-green accents by the radiator add a bit of contrast. The cast-alloy wheels look tough enough for the job, but a closer inspection reveals a rough finish.
The round LCD dash looks nice at first glance, but even my short ride revealed its drawbacks. The digital tach goes around the top half of the screen, which crams basic information like fuel quantity, engine temperature, speed and the odometer into a very small area, making it hard to read while you’re moving. Plus, the rubber buttons on the sides that flip through the menus are very stiff. You’ll need to remove your gloves to make sure they are actually pressed deep enough. Once you’re riding, you’ll quickly learn to just ignore the dash and sync your gear changes with the angry red shift light—as well as the increasing vibration and engine noise at the 8,000rpm mark.
For P175,000, the Svartpilen 200 brings a lot of style and fun factor to the small-displacement class. Whether you’re just looking for a commuter bike or something to play around with, the Husky gives you the option to go and do a little bit of exploring where a normal bike with street tires might not be able to venture into.