In the US, Husqvarna is arguably best-known for its dual-sport motorcycles. But the Swedish company also has a café racer, the Husqvarna Vitpilen. However, rather like Harley-Davidson once provided engines to Buell, many of Husqvarna’s bikes are built around KTM powertrains. In the Husqvarna Vitpilen’s case, it’s based on the KTM Duke naked bikes. But which is the better buy?
Husqvarna Vitpilen vs. KTM Duke: specs and pricing
The 2020 Husqvarna Vitpilen is available in 2 trims: the $4999 401 and the $9499 701. Both have single-cylinder engines; the Vitpilen 401 has a 393cc engine, and the Vitpilen 701 a 693cc engine.
The Husqvarna Vitpilen 401’s engine is also found in the KTM 390 Duke, which starts at $5499. Both bikes’ engines deliver 44 hp. But according to Cycle World’s dyno, while the Vitpilen 401 has 26 lb-ft at the rear wheel, the 390 Duke has 27 lb-ft. However, the Husqvarna café racer is about 20 pounds lighter than KTM’s entry-level naked bike.
The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701’s engine comes from the KTM 690 Duke, which is no longer available. But like the 390 Duke and Vitpilen 401, the larger-capacity bikes have the same output: 71 hp and 51 lb-ft. However, in this case, the Vitpilen out-weighs the Duke. Without fluids, the former weighs 346 pounds, Cycle World reports, and the latter weighs 327 pounds.
In place of the 690, KTM now has the $10,699 790 Duke. Unlike the Husqvarna Vitpilens, it has a 799cc two-cylinder, delivering 91 hp and 58 lb-ft at the rear wheel, Cycle World reports. Though while it’s more powerful than Husqvarna’s café racer, with a 397-lb dry weight, it’s also heavier.
The similarities between the Husqvarna Vitpilen and KTM Duke models extend beyond their powertrains.
The 393cc models have 6-speed transmissions, slipper clutches, ByBre disc brakes, ABS, and LED headlights. But, while the Vitpilen 401 has a single LCD gauge, the 390 Duke has a TFT display. And while the KTM bike has upright handlebars, the café-racer-style Husqvarna has clip-on bars.
The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 and KTM 790 Duke offer many of the same features. They swap the ByBres for Brembos, though, and gain traction control and quick-shifters. However, not only does the 790 Duke swap the ByBre brakes for Brembos, it has dual front discs, while the Vitpilen 701 only has one. It also has a steering damper and adjustable riding modes.
In addition, the Husqvarna Vitpilen bikes mainly for solo riders. They don’t even offer passenger footpegs, The Drive and Rider Magazine report. In contrast, the KTM Dukes have both passenger pegs and a seat.
Husqvarna Vitpilen vs. KTM Duke: riding impressions
Although the Husqvarna Vitpilen 401 and KTM 390 Duke share engines, the two bikes are noticeably different on the road.
The Vitpilen’s riding position is more aggressive, Cycle World reports, which can get uncomfortable over time, The Drive reports, especially for smaller riders. It also has a slightly twitchier throttle than the 390 Duke, and its suspension is a bit too soft, Bike Exif reports.
The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 fixes some of these issues. Its suspension is adjustable, Cycle World reports, and firmer than the 401’s. The clip-ons, though, can still put pressure on your wrists after an extended trip, Bike Exif reports. And while the LCD gauge does include a speedometer, tachometer, gear indicator, warning lights, and a fuel gauge, its small font makes it difficult to read, Cycle World reports. Plus, although the 693cc single-cylinder is fairly smooth, at high speeds the vibrations make the bar-end mirrors fairly useless.
While the KTM 690 Duke is out of production, the 790 Duke is a worthy successor, Rider Magazine reports. Handling is excellent, but the riding position is comfortable enough for long-distance riding. The extra power, though, means it’s not really a good bike for beginning riders, Revzilla reports. And while its TFT display has a larger font than the Vitpilen’s LCD gauge, it too washes out in bright sunlight.
Which is the bike to get?
Ultimately, choosing between the Husqvarna Vitpilens and the KTM Dukes is a matter of style and riding preference. All 4 motorcycles work well as urban commuters and weekend back-road carvers. If you’re a newer rider looking for a good bike on a budget, the Vitpilen 401 doesn’t really give up much to the 390 Duke. But if you’re doing extended-distance riding, the Dukes’ handlebars and riding positions make them the better choice.
However, there is another option: the Husqvarna Svartpilen. It offers the same engines as the Vitpilen, and with similar styling and the same features. It also weighs and costs the same.
But rather than being a café racer, it’s more of a standard, like the KTM Dukes, and noticeably more comfortable, Cycle World reports. So, if you want the Husqvarna Vitpilen’s looks, but the KTM Dukes’ layout, the Svartpilen may just be the bike you’re after.
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