The Austrian owned Swedish bike maker has finally made its way to India, thanks to Bajaj. We got our hands on the bikes for a quick test.
It’s perfectly fine if you can’t pronounce the name correctly. Swedish is a very tough language after all, and even many die-hard motorcycle lovers in India have never heard of Svartpilen before. Translated into English, Svartpilen means 'black arrow', and it’s the name of the all-new 250cc motorcycle from Husqvarna, now available in India. Bajaj has a stake in KTM, and KTM is the owner of Husqvarna. The Svartpilen 250 was launched along with the Vitpilen 250, and they are both identical to the Svartpilen 401 and Vitpilen 401, which have already been launched globally.
I’m really trying not to confuse you here. Actually, it’s rather easy to understand these bikes because they are basically the evil twin of the KTM Duke 250, just as the 401s are the evil twin of the Duke 390. Platform sharing, it seems, is the new normal in the automotive world. The Svartpilen and Vitpilen are also similar in every aspect, except the fact that the Vitpilen has a more aggressive café racer riding position, thanks to the clip-on bars. The Svartpilen has a high handlebar and a more relaxed seating position. Oh, and the Svartpilen also has dual-purpose tyres. Ok, enough with the confusion! Let’s just stick to the Svartpilen.
An Arrow, Really?
Automakers are especially proud of their heritage, and even more so when they have been around for a very long time. Husqvarna has been around for more than 300 years – its motorcycle division was started in 1903. The Svartpilen pays tribute to one of the most important bikes from the Swedish bike maker – the Silverpilen (Silver Arrow). The Svartpilen 250 is essentially a KTM Duke 250 – the same chassis, suspension, and engine – but it looks like it’s from a different planet, thanks to the outlandish fuel-tank design and LED lighting. The dimensions are a bit smaller, and in the flesh, it looks like a toy. It also weighs 4 kilograms lighter, which is fine because the Svartpilen is a compact urban sports bike. While it certainly is small, it does have some muscle, thanks to the large 320mm front disc, the chunky USD front forks, and the 17-inch alloys. To call it good-looking depends on your taste, but I think it looks pretty cool. It’s not aggressive, and it looks nothing like an arrow, but it sure does shoot forward like one.
At first, I didn’t think I was going to like the bike at all, since I look like a giant when I stand next to it but, when I threw my leg over the saddle, I was shocked at how much roomier it felt compared to the Duke 250. The Duke obviously has a more aggressive riding posture, but the Svartpilen really is a lot more comfortable. It’s not super comfortable, but I certainly wasn’t complaining. As I started riding it around Mumbai, I really started to enjoy it. It’s such a compact and light machine that it seems almost effortless to ride in traffic. The engine is identical to the KTM, and its lesser weight means that it’s the most powerful bike now in the 250cc segment, with 29bhp and 24Nm. The suspension setup is also exactly the same as the Duke – it gets thick 43mm WP Apex forks at the front and a monoshock at the rear. The ride is stiff and surely not suited for off-road use. On bumpy Mumbai roads, it felt hard on my arms and back, and when going over big speed breakers, the bottom of the bike hits the surface.
The Svartpilen really picks up speed very well. Throttle response is good, and while you get the full effect of the power at higher revs, the engine still packs a good punch in the lower revs as well. Just like the Duke 250, the gearbox is nice and crisp, and the slipper clutch really helps a lot when downshifting. The front-end is very light when handling, and it stays firm and planted around corners at higher speeds. The narrow design and the beautiful trellis frame allow the bike to handle really well. It’s quite amazing that because of its size and riding posture, it feels like a commuter motorcycle when you are riding on crowded city streets, but as soon as you find yourself on an open road with some nice corners, the Svartpilen reminds you exactly what it is. It’s a proper road sports bike, and it’s an absolute blast to ride. Another added feature is the Supermoto mode that allows you to turn off the rear ABS. I don’t think it really is necessary, but it’s good to have it. However, I would highly recommend to not try to take it off-road too much. Although it has the dual-purpose tyres, and the Husqvarna brand is best known for its off-road motorcycles, the Svartpilen is best suited for urban riding. And I really would like to see how it would work as a short distance touring bike. And the plus side is that it already has a luggage rack on the fuel tank.
Nothing like it
Within the 250cc segment, or even across all segments, there is nothing that looks as interesting as the Svartpilen. It doesn’t grab a lot of attention when you are riding it, but as soon as you come to a standstill or park the bike, people will notice it immediately. Apart from the 250 Duke, it also is the best motorcycle in the 250cc segment in terms of performance. The only downside is that tall and large riders will feel, and look, awkward on it. Other than that, it’s a premium motorcycle with a price tag of Rs 1.8 lakh (ex-showroom), which is quite reasonable. If you want something that is as compact and with a bit more power, you will have to shell out some more cash and opt for the Honda CB300R, which is just a fantastic all-round bike. Another issue for Husqvarna might be that not many people know the brand in India. But, knowing Bajaj, and after riding the bikes myself, I think it should sell in decent numbers. If you are looking for a compact everyday high-performance machine, then you need to take a test ride of the Svartpilen 250cc as soon as possible. Yes, the hype is real!