Well, before we get to the heart of the matter, Husqvarna Motorcycles, for those of you who skipped your motorcycle history lesson, is a Swedish brand formed in 1903. For most of their saga, Husqvarna was known for its prowess in motocross, even going on to be one of the first to manufacture the four-stroke motorcycle. Things started to change when Mr.Pierer came along and bought the company from BMW in 2013 and in 2016, Husqvarna showcased the first of the Svartpilen and Vitpilen- the 401s.
And just like its siblings, the Husqvarna Svartpilen and Vitpilen 250, sharing underpinnings with the KTM 250 Duke, have made their debut aiming to create a whole class of their own in the untapped premium lifestyle segment in India.
With a chance to find out what the motorcycles are all about, I hopped on to the Vitpilen 250 because it was too hard to deny the visual draw of the cafe racer-styled bike. Now, let’s get into it!
The Husqvarna Vitpilen 250’s design is unlike anything available in the market today. The cafe racer is simple and yet manages to catch one’s eye and have it effortlessly fixed onto itself. There is the flat LED headlamp which makes it look like a custom bike and the bulges on the tank that defy the traditional idea of how a fuel tank should look like. The design ends in a stubby rear section that is fitted with a characteristic ‘U-shaped’ LED tail lamp.
Its body is majorly made from fibre. There’s a panel on the left that runs up to the sub-frame, a similar one on the right along with a single piece on top of the fuel tank. While it adds to the minimalist styling, it could prove to be expensive to repair/replace if damaged.
Nevertheless, the quality of plastics as well as fit is top-notch all through and even looks upmarket. The premiumness reflects in the attention to detail like the embossed logo on the tank, seat, and branding inside the headlamp. It also gets a copper finished engine casing which looks neat. And while one would expect a bike whose name translates to ‘White Arrow’ in Swedish to be offered in white, it gets a brushed silver paint scheme. The quality of paint is good on the side panels but seemed to be chipping off on the glossy centre panel of our test bike.
Husqvarna has equipped the Vitpilen 250 with a traditional LCD instrument cluster in a round casing that appeals to the retro side of things. The display features all the vitals along with a clock, two trip meters, and fuel consumption data. It is easy to read without having to take your eyes off the road, although the numbers on the tachometer don’t light up making it a tad difficult to read at night.
Speaking of which, the spread from the LED headlamp is good, but the reach could have been better and brighter. The Vitpilen is also fitted with a ‘Supermoto’ ABS mode that turns off the system to the rear wheel. The bike may not feature fancy or segment-first technology. Instead, by offering just what is needed, Husqvarna has suited the simple character of the motorcycle.
Swing a leg over the Vitpilen 250 and its tall seat height is the first thing you’ll notice. At 842mm, it is 19mm taller than the KTM 250 Duke so the average-sized Indian will be on their tip-toes. To make it easier to flat-foot the bike, the tank has been made slimmer, but that seems to compromise on knee grip. Furthermore, with its compact dimensions overall, the Vitpilen 250 would also be a tight fit for anyone around and above six feet.
Now, the seat which stretches up to a quarter of the tank has good cushioning and is accommodating enough, even with a pillion. Complementing the seat is the well-sorted suspension setup. This hardware is the same as the Duke’s, but it has been tuned to suit the Vitpilen. While the setup is pliant over minor undulations, the rear, which has 4mm lesser travel than the 250 Duke’s 161mm, tends to kick back on larger bumps.
Being a cafe racer, the Vitpilen comes with clip-ons and an aggressive riding position that takes a while getting used to. However, the daunting bit is the large turning radius which is a snag while parking or making your way through stand still traffic. Don’t get me wrong, the Vitpilen is a nimble bike. It might not be as sharp as an RC but sifting through city traffic is a breeze.
The 249cc, single-cylinder engine housed between the trellis frame with its meaty mid-range and a smooth transmission play a huge part in the effortless experience. The motor comes across as vibey when cranked up but sounds pleasant as revs rise. On the other hand, it features a dumbed-down version of the KTM’s exhaust note which suits the Vitpilen’s character perfectly.
Getting back to the engine, most of its punch is stored around 4000-7000rpm where the bike feels the liveliest. The throttle is smooth and if wringed harder, the motor peaks at 10,000rpm but you’ll have to fight through the extremely hand-numbing vibrations that creep in on the handlebar at 90kmph. These vibes settle down as speeds increase and the Vitpilen 250 feels stable even as it hits the limiter at 138kmph in sixth gear.
Although, better tyres would work wonders as the stock MRF Revz offers inconsistent grip, especially in the wet. Nonetheless, the brakes are confidence-inspiring and offer good feedback, and I quite liked the ABS- it works well and is surprisingly non-intrusive even under hard braking.
The Husqvarna Vitpilen 250 is positioned as a performance lifestyle product aimed at the young buyer wanting to stand out in a crowd. And even though it is based on the KTM 250 Duke, the Vitpilen 250 has a character of its own.
Yes, its biggest selling points are the styling and premium feel. But it also offers a peppy engine, smooth gearbox, and good ride quality for the most part along with aggressive pricing. While Husqvarna is positioned as a more premium brand as compared to KTM in global markets, the Vitpilen 250 is priced at Rs 1.84 lakh; around Rs 24,000 lesser than the 250 Duke in India making it an enticing option. This is because Husqvarna is a completely new name in the country and the 250s are here to set the base.
Nevertheless, on the flip side, the Vitpilen 250 does have some downsides like the small 9.5-litre fuel tank which might limit how far one can go without stopping for fuel. It is also built to cater to a limited consumer base and surely isn't for taller individuals. And lastly, the riding experience could have been even better if the Husqvarna Vitpilen 250 did away with its mid-range vibrations.
Photography by Kaustubh Gandhi