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There was a time where 250cc was considered to be the performance segment in India. We had the venerable Ninja 250R as the lone wolf in the category with only significant competition from CBR 250R. There were a few more but nothing that could so much ‘define the category. Fast forward to today when 250cc is still kind of a premium segment but the contenders for the category are quite a few. Peculiarly, most of them originate from Pune and 2 of those are our test subjects here. The ‘Huskies’ are here and to celebrate, we went out on a little date with the Husqvarna Vitpilen 250 and the Svartpilen 250.
A little background first. Husqvarna is a Swedish brand which may not be a very well recognized brand in India but is immensely respected around the world. Since they started manufacturing motorcycles in 1903, Husqvarna was considerably successful in road racing and resoundingly so in off-road racing. They continue to produce some very popular enduro and off-road models to date.
If you want a little more history lesson, we’ve got some below. If you simply want to know about what the quarter-litre Huskies are like and be on your way to the showroom to pick one up, you can skip to the review.
Husqvarna – Brand History
Husqvarna started manufacturing motorcycles in 1903 but the brand itself is older. Before motorcycles, they manufactured firearms and therefore, the logo which is actually the sight of a gun. Husqvarna made a name for themselves in motorsports. In the 1930s, they were a dominant force in road racing and they have been more than that when it comes to off-road racing.
Around 14 Motocross world championships across various classes and 24 enduro world championships are a testament. In fact, off-road motorcycles are the reason why Husqvarna is a renowned brand all around the world. The Silverpilen, a spiritual predecessor of the Vitpilen and Svartpilen is one of the best motorcycles ever made.
Throughout their history, the ownership of the brand has changed hands a few times. It was first acquired by Cagiva. Post that, BMW group acquired Husqvarna. That was the time when Husqvarna manufactured the Nuda. An immensely capable yet underrated motorcycle, the Nuda was a crossover between a streetfighter and a supermoto.
After BMW, the brand was acquired by KTM and it remains that way to date. After the acquisition by KTM, Husqvarna introduced the prototypes of Vitpilen 401 and the Svartpilen 401 in 2014. The 701s were revealed in 2015. Currently, these 4 along with the 250 Huskies form the White Arrow and Black Arrow range.
Important note: Hooskvarna is how you pronounce it.
Now, talking from a personal standpoint, we were already fans when the Huskies were shown off at IBW not too long ago. Though a little off-put as we expected the 401s and we got the 250s. But we were still fans because it was never about the engine now was it? It was the presence, the design, the purpose, the intent… the very character of the Vitpilen 250 and the Svartpilen 250 that got us. It seemed like they almost possessed a soul.
If we are being honest, we like the Vitpilen 250 better than the Svartpilen 250 but that is down to personal preference. Just like our admiration for the Vitpilen 250 and Svartpilen 250 is. But we’d stick our necks out and say that they possess an almost universal appeal. After all, we have experienced it firsthand. Countless people on the roads asked us about the bikes.
As we mentioned earlier, not a lot of them knew the brand, but the bikes… those they really wanted to know more about. We think the magic we see here is down to minimalism and to some extent, nostalgia. The design of the Vitpilen 250 and the Svartpilen 250, the former more so than the latter, reminds one of the days when motorcycling was purer (Being smart. Using relative degrees. Not triggering people).
Cafe racer, retro, or neo-retro. There are many words that can be thrown around to explain the design of these bikes and they work too. But for us, it is about evoking emotions. Emotions stemming that stem from the memories of the days when motorcycles were stripped down to bare essentials and were only meant to go faster. Of course, from one cafe to the other. We weren’t there but we know bragging rights were on stake and there are few things more important than that.
Anyhoo, hopping off the nostalgia train at the reality-check station, let’s talk about the motorcycles at hand. The Vitpilen 250, it sports a cafe-racer approach with its design and the Svartpilen 250 tries to pull off the Scrambler act. We know about cafe-racers, and we know about Hare Scrambles too. Google and you’ll know.
Despite the different approaches, both the motorcycles look quite similar with only a few differentiating factors. The obvious (and not so much) one is the colour. Vitpilen means White Arrow so it sports a silver colour and the Svartpilen means Black arrow so it sports a dark grey shade. Don’t ask.
Continuing with the similarities on the motorcycles, the body is wrapped around a KTM-special trellis frame. Less is more is the theme and that is why one panel covers the tank and extends from there to form the side panel and another one from there to the tail… and that is it. Kiska design has done a fantastic job in designing these motorcycles and also, in differentiating them from the very loud KTMs.
The front of the bikes is dominated by the round headlamps but they are all LED units with beautiful DRLs that represent a seamless mix of modern and retro. The same goes for the round LCD cluster that shows you a whole lot of information which is rarely hard to read. We say rarely because the numbers of the rev-counter are not a part of the display and they are not illuminated either.
So while the front looks mesmerizing, the side profile is a little polarizing. The problem is that minimalism was somehow not capable enough to hide the mess of cables and hoses as they protrude in all their glory. It is not so bad but it feels bad that a near faultless design is dragged down by something like this.
Things get better at the back as the all-LED tail lights and blinkers are executed to emanate a tail-tidy vibe. The number plate holder resides at the tyre hugger which surprisingly, does not look out of place. It is perfectly fine if left there. The same cannot be said about that grab rail though. It is just plain ugly and needs instant removal.
Coming to the differences between the Vitpilen 250 and Svartpilen 250, some are subtle and some are pronounced. Vitpilen 250 sports clip-ons and the Svartpilen 250 gets a single-piece handlebar and is more upright. Pronounced. On the sides of the radiator, the Vitpilen 250 has a white highlight and the Svartpilen has neon-green. Subtle.
The tyres on the Vitpilen 250 are the road-oriented MRF Revz FC, and on the Svartpilen 250, Revz FD, with a somewhat dual-purpose design. Pronounced. The alloy wheels of the Vitpilen 250 are 5-spokes and on the Svartpilen 250, 8-spoke. Subtle. The Vitpilen 250’s tank is bare and that of the Svartpilen 250 sports a luggage rack. Pronounced. The seat on the Svartpilen is split (barely) and the Vitpilen 250 gets a single-piece. Subtle.
Those are the major differences between the two but overall, we believe that the quarter-litre Huskies are very good looking motorcycles. In fact, the style alone would compel one to get one of these over the Duke 250 or the Dominar 250 despite all 4 sharing similar underpinnings.
The fit and finish are quite good except those cables but the attention to detail is commendable. There are some cool bits like the bronze-y fuel cap with an embossed Husqvarna logo. In fact, the logo finds itself in quite a few places but the most peculiar was the embossed one of the wheels. And one has to love the pinstripe on the wheels.
Overall, the Vitpilen 250 and the Svartpilen 250 go on to show everyone that it is not necessary to go overboard with panels and stickers and colours. Thoughtful and tasteful execution of a simple and minimalistic design with flowing lines can get the job done easily. Made up your mind about getting one yet? Because that was the best part. We do not say that in a negative sense but in one that what’s coming now is close to what you already know.
Remember what we said about most of the quarter-litre contenders coming from Pune? Well, that is because the KTM 250 Duke, the Bajaj Dominar 250, the Husqvarna Vitpilen 250, and the Husqvarna Svartpilen 250, are all powered by the same engine. And the similarities don’t end there but let’s focus on the engine first.
‘Same engine’ may put some off but it isn’t really a bad thing. The KTM 250 Duke’s engine is a loved one and for good reason. The eager and lively 248.8cc liquid-cooled mill is a good match for the Vitpilen 250. The drivetrain similarities go down as deep as the gearing. Anyway, the Vitpilen 250 makes for a fun motorcycle to ride.
There is 31 bhp of power and 24 Nm of torque on tap. Combined with the light weight of the bikes [153 kg (dry) for the Vitpilen 250 and 154 kg (dry) for the Svartpilen 250], the performance feels punchy. But the engine is somewhat peaky so these Huskies like to be revved. The juicy chunk of the performance is available in the mid and top end.
Below the 4,000 rpm mark, they feel ordinary. Post 4,000 rpm they feel like there’s something cooking. Around 7,000 and all the way up to the redline, there is a lot of fun to be had. While some like their power to be available right from the get-go, we feel that motorcycles with a quick-revving engine, and one that makes you work, is more engaging.
With that, we have to talk about the gearbox. It is a delight to go through and shifts are crisp and confident. That mostly alleviates the issues one may have with the powerband and if not, the anti-hopping clutch takes care of the rest. Since the clutch action is very light, frequent upshifts and downshifts and stop and go traffic are not as bad as one may expect.
Now, since the Vitpilen 250 and Svartpilen 250 are aimed differently but sport the same engine, one’s boon is one’s bane could apply to this case. But it is not as severe as that. The thing is that while this engine and gearing suit the Vitpilen 250 very well, on the Svartpilen it is a tad lacking. It is mostly down to the urge to go off-road that it evokes. Off the road, the low-end feels a little blank.
Another chink in the armour of these Huskies is the refinement. Vibrations begin to creep in through the pegs, handlebars, and the seat around the mid-range and intensify as the revs climb. It is more palpable on the Vitpilen 250 because of the focussed riding position and clip ons. The Vitpilen 250 may leave your palms with a tingling sensation if ridden for a while but then again if you’re into long hauls, Svartpilen 250 makes more sense.
So nearly everything is rosy in the performance department and the issues with the vibration can be considered more a characteristic than a flaw. More than that, the Huskies have an ace up their sleeve that more than makes up for this mild flaw. To know what it is, read on.
Handling and Ergonomics
Despite the stellar looks and capable performance, the handling is what takes the cake when it comes to these Huskies. Both of these bikes share the main frame which in turn is the same one as the 250 Duke. Only the subframe is different as these Huskies have a lower tail section.
With the same main frame as the Duke, it is predictable that these Huskies handle really well. The Huskies also sport WP Apex suspension which is slightly different from the 250 Duke. They are also slightly stiffer and that is why the handling is even more communicative.
Starting with the Vitpilen 250, the committed riding position goes a long way as soon as you encounter some curves. If the tarmac is good, the Vitpilen 250 can go toe to toe with the best handlers of the class and then some.
The light weight also plays a part. All that the Vitpilen 250 asks for is one cue about the intended line, and it tracks it with terrifying precision. The MRF Revz FC tyres, once up to temperature, complement the chassis and suspension really well and all that stops you from scraping your knees on every corner is your own inhibition.
The same can be said about Svartpilen 250. Having a more upright riding stance may make it seem like it is a little less engaging. Theoretically, it is true but then, with a wider handlebar and more leverage that it comes along with it, make the Svartpilen 250 almost as good as the Vitpilen 250 around the bends. The same can be said about the block-pattern Revz D rubber on the Black Arrow but even they are pretty much up to the task.
The brakes are pretty good too on both the Huskies. More than decent bite and feedback and the safety net of ABS make for a great setup when the time comes to drop the anchors. Both the motorcycles feel steady under braking too. For some more chops, you can arrange for sintered pads that are there on the 390 KTMs but most of us won’t need that. The ABS is disengageable at the rear. SuperMoto mode for the win!
Now, the Svartpilen 250 is masquerading as a scrambler too, we decided to test that out too. The upright riding position and front-set footpegs make it easier to stand up on the motorcycle and have some fun off the tarmac. While it may be able to deal with some light trails, it is very palpable that the ‘Scrambler’ bits are more of a design exercise than some serious off-road cred. The 145mm ground clearance is also a hindrance.
Another surprising bit is that one might think, considering the ground clearance, is the seat height. One may think that these bikes are low but 835mm is quite a bit off the mark. The narrow section of the motorcycle tries to alleviate that but not with a lot of success.
Now, there is another surprising bit. The tank. The protrusions on the tank that look beautiful, seem like they may hinder the process of gripping the tank, especially for taller riders. But it does not. Not at all. Instead, one can easily put them to good use as a brace under braking.
A little problem that comes along with the brilliant handling of these Huskies is that the suspension is a bit stiff. The ride quality is not jarring but undulations, potholes and bumps can be felt. They do not unsettle the bikes but a little more balanced approach would have helped enhance comfort. Something that you may need with the rather stiff seat.
All in all, we believe that both the Huskies are phenomenal handlers and this serves as one of the USPs of the motorcycle in addition to their striking design. They do not leave a lot to be desired and we only wish that the Svartpilen 250 was just a little more Scrambler-ish. While some may have a few gripes with the very committed riding position of the Vitpilen 250, it is also a prominent factor in its appeal.
Fuel efficiency: For both the Vitpilen 250 and the Svartpilen 250, the average fuel efficiency sits at around 30 km/l in mixed riding conditions. With the 9.5 L tank, around 280 km can be covered on a full tank. If you are a little modest with your right wrist, they’ll do around 300 km. Good but not great.
Rear-view mirrors: Aesthetically, bar-end mirrors would have suited these bikes more. Nevertheless, the ones from the factory are decent too.
Headlight: The throw, the spread, and the intensity of the headlight on both the bikes is pretty good. More than what we expected but less than the class benchmark which is the Dominar 250.
Exhaust: The end cans of the Huskies deserve special mention. They look really cool. The Svartpilen 250’s gets a heat shield as well while the Vitpilen 250 does not. The exhaust note is also decent but nothing to write home about. The Dominar 250 sounds better.
Instrument Cluster: The single pod cluster looks good but is a bit hard to read on some occasions. While the switchgear is decent, the Mode and Set buttons need a heavy hand for them to function as they’re stiff.
The verdict, surprisingly, is easy. Despite the choices that one has in the segment, despite the 250 Duke and the Dominar 250, one who wants the Huskies will get the Huskies. Dominar 250 may be more refined and better suited for long hauls, it has its own demons. The same goes for 250 Duke which is a very acclaimed motorcycle that has some niggles too. But the real problem with those two is that they are not Huskies.
The Vitpilen 250 and the Svartpilen 250 possess a charm that is unmatched. They evoke emotions as no other motorcycle does. They seem and somewhat feel more engaging than most competitors. And crucially, they seem to undercut the 250 Duke by a decent sum. Bajaj’s decision to bring in the 250s before the 401s was a masterstroke. Acclimatise the masses with the brand, bring out the more affordable and accessible one first and voila.
And here’s the video:
So yes, if you want to go out and get yourself one of these Huskies, do it and there won’t be much to complain. The only thing that will be tough to deal with is attention. More so in case of the White Arrow than the Black Arrow. Leather jackets and matching boots are mandatory…
And here are some more photos of the Huskies…