2016 Husqvarna 701 Enduro Review - Full Test

Big dirt bike or small-dual sport, however you want to look at it.

Husqvarna 701 Static
This aint your pop's dual-sport.Photo By Drew Ruiz

Three of the Japanese manufactures still have a bike in the 650 single category. What these bikes have in common is that, for decades, they are pretty much unchanged, their motors are reliable yet not very exciting, and their suspensions are very comfort oriented. On paper, the Husqvarna 701 Enduro might be lumped into this category since it has a large bore, single cylinder motor and it is street legal. Yet in reality, this bike is nothing like the dual-sport you are used to.

Left side motor
The tubular steel frame, even though it looks bulky only weighs 18.5 pounds, according to Husky, and doesn’t have any down tubes that cradle the engine, which is protected by a stock plastic skid plate. The 690cc engine has a double-spark plug layout, each with its own ignition timing that is said to aid in optimal fuel combustion in such a large single-cylinder motor.Photo By Drew Ruiz

The 701 Enduro is one of only three 50-state street legal enduro models in Husky’s lineup, and while the FE 350 S and 501 S are nearly identical to their off-road only brethren, the 701 is very much a stand-alone machine. First, the overall layout is different than most motorcycles, period. The polyamide subframe is also a rear mounted, 3.4-gallon gas tank, and where the tank usually sits is a combination of part of the steel-trellis frame and air box. But, unlike Yamaha’s swapped-tank-and-air format, the cylinder still gets its air/fuel mixture from the back of the bike and expels its exhaust out the front of the engine. The exhaust is also on the wrong (left) side of the bike.

The tubular steel frame, even though it looks bulky only weighs 18.5 pounds, according to Husky, and doesn’t have any down tubes that cradle the engine, which is protected by a stock plastic skid plate. The 690cc engine has a double-spark plug layout, each with its own ignition timing that is said to aid in optimal fuel combustion in such a large single-cylinder motor. Connecting that powerplant to the rider’s right hand is a ride-by-wire throttle that operates a 46mm Keihin throttle body, all controlled by the EMS (engine management system). Transferring power to the rear wheel is a 6-speed transmission and a hydraulic slipper clutch. Suspending the bike are WP’s 4CS fork in the front (with specific valving for the 701 Enduro) and the 4618 fully adjustable shock in the rear.

Under the seat
There are three engine maps that are changed under the seat, plus a bad fuel map for less than quality gas.Photo By Sean Klinger
ABS
The 701 comes with ABS (anti-lock braking system) on the front and rear brakes, but can be turned off for a “normal” braking experience in the dirt. It also has an optional Enduro Dongle allows the bike to have front ABS only.Photo By Drew Ruiz

Last but not least of the features is a mix of electronics that you won’t find on most other off-road bikes. First are three engine maps, Standard, Soft, and Advanced, that are changed via a switch under the seat, which isn’t convenient at all. But if you are willing to pay for convenience, Husqvarna offers a bar mounted switch through its hard parts.

Also, there is a “bad fuel map” that allows the bike to run less-than-quality fuel in remote areas of the globe. The 701 comes with ABS (anti-lock braking system) on the front and rear brakes, but can be turned off for a “normal” braking experience in the dirt. It also has an optional Enduro Dongle allows the bike to have front ABS only.

Husqvarna 701 standing on the pegs
The heart of the 701 is a big single that doesn’t feel so much like a big single. It is surprisingly quick revving and lively and, even when cruising at 50 mph, a twist of the grip will produce an immediate response, unlike other big bore thumpers.Photo By Drew Ruiz

Now, for all that “not normalcy” and “high-tech gadgetry” to be on this bike, it doesn’t ride all that different than a standard off-road bike. What we mean is that, yes this bike is very technologically advanced and different than a lot of bikes most of you have ridden, but 701 Enduro isn’t foreign or feel even close to as bulky as the Japanese 650 singles. One reason for this is that, while it feels wider than off-road bikes, it is about two inches shorter. The seat height is an unintimidating 36.5 inches compared to standard off-road bikes being closer to 38 inches.

The heart of the 701 is a big single that doesn’t feel so much like a big single. It is surprisingly quick revving and lively and, even when cruising at 50 mph, a twist of the grip will produce an immediate response, unlike other big bore thumpers. Counter-intuitively, this motor isn’t much of lugger. It has a plenty of torque, but doesn’t like to chug, chug, chug, through the tight stuff - it responds much better if you ride it almost like a two-stroke, blipping the throttle and using the clutch to get over and through trail obstacles. The motor is very smooth and really picks up in the mid- to top-end, very similar to Husky’s other four-stroke trail bikes. On the street, this dual-sport will make a hooligan of any responsible rider since the bike begs to be wheelied, easily pushes 115 mph, yet cruises comfortably at 70-80 mph with very little vibration.

701 turn
Cornering and changing directions on the trail is a little confusing on the 701. On one hand, there is no ignoring the bike’s weight, yet since the tank is on the back of the bike, this off-sets the weighty feeling a bit and keeps the front of the bike feeling light and easy to maneuver.Photo By Drew Ruiz

One downside to this 690cc motor is that it is easy to break the rear wheel loose. This is also because the stock tires are not full-on knobbies. Rather, they are Continental TKC80s, which usually adorn bigger adventure bikes and offer decent performance on- and off-road, but with as much power the 701 has, they don’t dig into the terra firma as much as we are used to. When climbing rain-rutted, dry, gravely trails, it is hard to stay in a low rpm and just climb since the engine revs so quickly. Good thing the clutch is buttery smooth and has a feather-light pull because we were using it a lot in technical situations.

Catching air
When the Husky gets both wheels off the ground for anything more than a little whoop jump, the weight of the bike rears its head.Photo By Drew Ruiz
Through the woods.
The bike feels like it is squatting low in the stroke in both the front and rear, yet it didn’t feel as though we were missing any wheel travel. The bike will bottom hard if pushed too far (after all, this isn’t a race bike) but you can carry a fairly fast trail riding pace and the suspension soaks it up with a good amount of bottoming resistance.Photo By Drew Ruiz

With a WP 4CS fork on the front and WP shock in the back, the 701 Enduro has great trail manners. It is, overall, a comfort oriented set up with a very plush and planted ride. The bike feels like it is squatting low in the stroke in both the front and rear, yet it didn’t feel as though we were missing any wheel travel. The bike will bottom hard if pushed too far (after all, this isn’t a race bike) but you can carry a fairly fast trail riding pace and the suspension soaks it up with a good amount of bottoming resistance. When the Husky gets both wheels off the ground for anything more than a little whoop jump, the weight of the bike rears its head. If you try to go faster than the bike wants, the soft suspension gets unsettled and the bike is a handful. All that being said, we know plenty of suspension shops that work on WP forks and shocks - finding a more performance-oriented set up is not out of the question if you are a gnarly off-road rider and want to push this bike hard.

When it comes to handling, this is where the bike starts to feel a little different than typical off-road motorcycles. The first thing we noticed was that stopping distances are much longer than on lighter bikes. Even though we had the optional Enduro Dongle plugged in, getting the bike slowed down took a lot of effort and focus. The rear brake is strong, but touchy and it was very easy to lock up the rear. The front ABS helped but it isn’t perfect and you can’t just slam down on the right lever expecting the bike to do all the work. We did feel the ABS working and helping to keep the front wheel spinning rather than locking, however, and we are very glad that it was there.

Wheelie
This bike wants to wheelie and popping over logs, rocks, and even quick pivot turns are no problem. When really leaning over or trying to rail a tight rut is when the bike is a handful and you have to be careful not to push it too far or it will want to keep going all the way to the ground.Photo By Drew Ruiz

Cornering and changing directions on the trail is a little confusing on the 701. On one hand, there is no ignoring the bike’s weight, yet since the tank is on the back of the bike, this off-sets the weighty feeling a bit and keeps the front of the bike feeling light and easy to maneuver. This bike wants to wheelie and popping over logs, rocks, and even quick pivot turns are no problem. When really leaning over or trying to rail a tight rut is when the bike is a handful and you have to be carful not to push it too far or it will want to keep going all the way to the ground. Also something to consider, you don’t want to drop this bike too often. Picking it up is doable but uses way more energy than other off-road bikes.

So, you might be asking who this bike is for and here is our educated estimation: If you crave gnarly, tight, single track, this is just too much bike for that, both in the motor and the handling. But, anything mellower than hard enduro style riding, the Husqvarna 701 Enduro can do it with a capable pilot on board. This bike is for anyone who wants to ride moderately technical off-road trails, fast fire roads, two-track, twisty highways, and the freeway all in the same day, all on the same bike.

2016 Husqvarna 701 Enduro Specs
MSRP: $11,299
Seat Height: 36.5 inches
Ground Clearance: 11 inches
Fuel Capacity: 3.4 gallons
Weight (tank full): 344 lbs.
Website: husqvarna-motorcycles.com