Husqvarna 701 Enduro LR Test
Motorcycle Test by Wayne Vickers – Images Rob Mott
I’ve not so secretly lusted after the latest generation KTM 690 ever since it was released. Trev reviewed the new generation 690 last year and went pretty deep into the technical guff, which also relates to this model, you can check out Trev’s KTM 690 Enduro R review here (link), there you can read the ins and outs of this new engine that has essentially redefined single-cylinder performance.
Now to the Husqvarna 701 Enduro LR
The idea of a modern big-bore dirt-bike that can be adventured anywhere off the beaten track you care to go gets me excited. And let’s face it, we’re spoilt for potential destination options here in Oz, especially when you throw a little more genuine off road capability into the mix. So then Husqvarna comes along and makes an even more adventure-ready version of the 690 KTM, in a flash white suit. Trev didn’t have to ask me twice if I was interested in reviewing it. Yes please. How long can I keep it for..?
So what are we talking about here? It’s essentially the Husky 701 Enduro with an additional 12-litre tank up front, giving it 25-litres all up and a cruising range approaching 500 kilometres.
Let’s start with a quick run down of the spec’ sheet. Easily the nicest big single I’ve ever ridden, the 692 cc, 55 kw (74 hp) & 73 Nm one-lunger is mated to a six-speed ‘easy-shift’ gearbox via a slipper clutch. Quality WP suspension with 48 mm USD forks and a monoshock with linkage at the rear. 250 mm of travel both ends and 270 mm of ground clearance. Brembo 300 mm twin-piston caliper front and 240 mm single caliper rear sit inside proper enduro spec rims, 21-inch front and 18-inch at the rear. Cornering ABS, switchable ride modes, lean sensitive traction control. 155 kg all up (that’s 9 kegs heavier than the regular 701 Enduro btw). The only other difference is the seat height which gains an extra 5 mm over the Enduro model to a still fairly friendly 925 mm.
Lots of stats, but what do they mean? Well… by means of comparison to what’s arguably a popular competitor in the new Yamaha Tenere 700, it’s pumping out the same power, with seven per cent more torque and pushing along a package that’s over 30 kilograms lighter.
The difference is more than noticeable. You can’t argue with physics. Where the Tenere can feel a little heavy and its suspension overly soft when the going gets gnarly, the 701 LR feels agile and well sprung. It asks you to ride it like a big dirt-bike. There wasn’t a single track I came across that I hesitated to tackle. Proper hill climbs? Yep. Rocks? Yep. Soft sand? Yep. Jumps? Yep. Wheelies? Oh my god yes – as long as you can get traction 🙂 It’ll throw rocks for days if you want it to… and the engine is a BEAST. Not in a grumpy old school kinda way but precisely the opposite. It is actually mind bogglingly smooth for a large displacement single. It doesn’t hiccup, cough, or stall (unless you really mess things up). It just delivers great usable wads of planet turning torque to the rear wheel. You can’t even tell it’s a ride-by-wire set-up. Smooth and responsive, it doesn’t rattle your fillings out either. Sorted.
I compared it to the Tenere above but actually I reckon you’re better off thinking of it more like what an adventurised WR700F might be like, if it existed… Service intervals of 10,000 km too, which is plenty for a big single. Or for those who have a soft spot for the old XR and current DR 650 thumpers – think of it as a thoroughly modern high-end and full tech take on them.
The other comparison that’s certainly going to be made is to the KTM 890 Adventure R. Well, there as well the 701 LR is three-quarters of the weight, has three-quarters the power, gets a little more suspension travel along with more clearance and the additional off road ability that having less weight enables. Again – horses for courses. Perhaps not surprisingly it feels closer in capability to an FE 501 (or EXC 500), than an 890 Adventure…
Ok, ok, but what’s it like to ride you ask. Well, if you didn’t know, the 13-litre tank on the regular 701 lives under the seat. Moving it there makes for a much better balanced bike than if it had that weight up front. For the LR model, those clever chaps at husqvarna have added a second 12-litre tank up front. While easy to spot – especially from the front, I gotta say they almost disappear from view on the bike and you don’t even notice they are there in terms of freedom of movement on the go. From the front three-quarter angle they do look a bit bulky and probably could have lost a litre from each side which would have slimmed it down a great deal. But, 12-litres translates to a lot of range.
There’s no doubt that the extra weight up front is noticed in the dirt when it’s fully fuelled, it just pushes the front slightly more than when empty. Probably nothing a click or two of the suspenders wouldn’t sort to be honest, but I didn’t find it enough of a problem to start dialling out when full and then adjusting back again when it was empty. My advice – just use the front tank first. You’ll probably use a few litres getting from the servo to the dirt anyway so that will lessen the impact (I’m blessed in that the dirt tracks are at my doorstep). Come time to switch, a warning light comes on on the dash telling you that the tank is getting low and you simply toggle the bar mounted switch and the pump seamlessly transfers to pulling from the rear tank. All while still running. Is good.
How far will it get you? 500 kilometres is doable while cruising about, but be warned that getting up it properly in the dirt will suck down that gas at a noticeably faster rate. Harder charging or slower paced more technical trails will easily halve that distance. When I was giving it a proper workout and the light came on to switch to the rear tank inside 100 kilometres. That’s riding it like a big dirt-bike though. As opposed to an adventure bike. I almost guarantee that you’ll find yourself slipping into a riding mode where you’re peddling along at a reasonable pace… a pace that you wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near on a ‘normal’ adventure bike. It is after all, a big tanked enduro bike. It goes, corners and stops very bloody nicely indeed.
Comfort-wise, while the seating position is definitely ‘big dirt-bike’, it’s surprisingly comfortable. I did some fairly long days on it and never found myself looking for a comfy chair instead. Remarkable seat comfort really for that shape. A lot comfier than it looks.
I need to call out the suspension too because it’s bloody near faultless, giving bucket loads of feedback and soaking up big hits with ease. The big 701 LR is a jumper. More than comfortable hitting big drainage mounds in third gear and flying 10 metres or more. I didn’t bottom out once. Not sure I even came that close. I found the compromise of high and low-speed settings were bang on straight out of the box.
In terms of electronics, it’s got all the do-dads. And they all work well. But there’s a few niggly things that stop this bike from being perfect. The traction control and ABS buttons are both push-and-hold to toggle switches, which aren’t always the easiest to use – several times I had to try and press them multiple times to disengage a system as I mustn’t have been making full contact on the switch. It’s also a case of press the button to turn the light on – which actually means the TC or ABS is disengaged. There’s no ‘on’ or ‘off’ writing to be seen anywhere so its not the most intuitive if you’re switching between bikes. And if you turn the bike off with the key (as I do instinctively), it will re-set both systems back to being on. HOWEVER – If you use the kill switch only – and leave the key on – it will remember your settings when you re-start, so that’s a win. Thanks to Trev for pointing that out – I gave him a laugh as I started getting my cranky dacks on… So they work, but are not the most user friendly. Just give me a simple old fashioned toggle set-up that I can find the settings I want and leave them there. And don’t re-set stuff even when I turn the key off either. Thank you.
You get the choice of Road mode or Dirt mode in terms of engine – with Road giving you full noise and Dirt softening power delivery a touch; Then you also get a choice of On or Off for both TC and ABS. Both the TC and ABS recognise the engine mode, so you effectively have a Road, Dirt or Off setting for both. Bad news here is that unless you buy the additional dongle, you wont get an ABS mode that lets you only run ABS on the front but not the rear in the dirt (which is what you really want, so you can use that rear properly to help steer).. It’s either on, or off. So that’s annoying too. Should be standard.
All gripes about switches aside, the ABS and TC works just fine. Do note however that Road mode with ABS on won’t see you pulling up in the dirt any time soon. I found that Dirt mode, TC on and no ABS was the go for rapid progress off-road. I have no doubt that it’s probably the most efficient set-up from getting from point A to point B, but I’d like it to have just a smidge more slip to get the back swinging just slightly harder in the breeze. Turning TC off certainly allows it to do just that when you want, but remembering that this thing has big hump – and I’m only a mortal – so getting to find the sweet spot in terms of minger slides would take me a bit more time than the photo shoot allowed. Mind you – I’m happy to keep it for 12 months to get that feel sorted though Mister Husqvarna and then I’ll write a follow up… Reckon I’d go through a few sets of the lovely Pirelli Rallycross MT21 knobbies on it, which had plenty of bite on everything from sand to hard-pack clay and rocks. I dunno how long they’d last sliding along on gravel roads with the wick wound up, but they sure are fun.
I do think Husqvarna have missed an opportunity though by not putting a little adventure-rally screen and tower set-up on the front. The dash is quite minimal which I don’t mind, but while it will happily cruise along at just under the highway limit without too much wind buffeting – anything much over that and the wind starts to get a bit noticeable. Around 90 km/h seems to be about perfect cruising speed. And while the headlight is ok, I’d certainly want more power if I was heading anywhere that was likely to have wildlife hopping out in front of me. Worth noting that there are plenty of aftermarket options for a full front rally tower (yummo), but even something a little less full on like the one the Tenere comes with as standard would be ideal. And it really should come with proper Bark Busters while they’re at it. Just my opinion.
Speaking of options – They also have some nicely finished factory option racks and luggage which bolts on fairly easily for when you want to throw the swag on and flip civilisation the bird for the weekend. Come with nice waterproof inner bags too. They do add quite a bit to the leg swing-over height – especially if you bolt on the grab rails (which admittedly you don’t need to).
Personally I reckon a set of soft loop style saddle-bags that are slightly slimmer would probably makes more sense if you’re planning on really going well off the beaten track, and there are plenty of options for those on the market. But it depends on what sort of riding you plan on doing.
So who’s it for? Well in the end as always it comes down to what type of riding you want to do and where you want to compromise. If you plan on getting more off-road than just smooth gravel roads (in which case you’d probably go a ‘regular’ adventure bike), then you should seriously consider it. If you want to throw in proper jumps, decent hill climbs, some snotty technical single track stuff and combine that with a bit of long distance outback type stuff – this is absolutely the bike for you.
There is nowhere you couldn’t go on the LR. Nowhere. It’s light enough and maneuverable enough to tackle anything and still has more than enough hump. If all of that is more important than the bigger grunt and more long haul comfort that comes with large or even mid-sized multi-cylinder adventure bikes, then you really do need to get yourself a ride on one. It really is a hell of a machine. 18 and a bit big ones reflects the fact that it’s not a cheap ‘thumper’ in old-school terms, but there is decent value there. Ride one and I think you will agree. It’s probably THE perfect bike for a Cape York trip for instance. Or if you’re the sort of rider who can go for a weekend blat with your mates on their 450s, and then throw the swag on the back the following weekend and head down the coast somewhere for the night. Or throw a collapsible rod in the pack and park up next to a river somewhere. We really are living in adventure riding nirvana.
I could sell my CRF250 AND my old Tiger and just have a 701 LR. And if I felt the need I could have a second set of wheels with sports tyres on for motard duties from its supermoto sister bike.. Hooligan city.
Oooh I think I need a moment. Anyone want a slightly used Tiger800xc..? Just run in. Not even 300 thousand kays? I’ll do you a good deal!
Why I like it
- It actually really IS a big enduro dirtbike rather than a little adventure bike. And it’s epic
- That engine is impossibly smooth for a big single
- The whole package really has no weakness
- Superb suspension
- Simple option to throw on some motard wheels!
I’d like it even more if
- Could have arguably came with a taller front screen/tower and bark busters
- I would prefer simpler, easier to use toggles for ABS and TC
- Proper off-road mode ABS (with rear deactivated) should be standard
- I’d be ok with that front tank being a couple of litres slimmer which could probably bring it in an inch and a half each side to slim it down further
2020 Husqvarna 701 Enduro LR Specifications
|Displacement||692.7 cc single-cylinder|
|Power||74 horsepower at 8000 rpm|
|Torque||71 Nm at 6750 rpm|
|Bore / Stroke||105 mm x 80 mm|
|Lubrication||Forced oil lubrication with 2 oil pumps|
|Clutch||APTC (TM) slipper clutch, hydraulically actuated|
|EMS||Keihin EMS with RBW, twin ignition|
|Frame||Chromium-Molybdenum steel trellis frame, powder coated|
|Front Suspension||WP-USD Xplor 48 – 250 mm travel|
|Rear Suspension||WP XPLOR with Pro-Lever linkage – 250 mm travel|
|Front Brake||300 mm, Brembo twin-piston floating calliper, brake disc|
|Rear Brake||240 mm, Brembo single-piston floating calliper, brake disc|
|ABS||Two-channel Bosch 9.1 MP cornerning ABS|
|Chain||X-Ring 5/8 x 1/4″|
|Ground Clearance||270 mm|
|Seat Height||925 mm|
|Tank Capacity||25 litres|
|Dry Weight||155 kg|
|RRP||$18,345 + ORC|
|First available||May 2020|