Recently, I did something really rare for me – I bought a new motorcycle.
While I’ve bought and sold a lot of motorcycles over the years, they have all been used bikes. I tend to buy low mileage dual sport bikes, do a build on them, ride them for 2-3 years, and then move on to something else. Well lately I’ve been considering adding a KTM 690 as my next bike. Instead, I got a wild hair and bought a new 2017 Husqvarna 701 Enduro – the Husky version of the KTM 690.
The main reason I got the new 2017 version instead of an older used model is because of the engine change. The Husqvarna 701 was first released in 2016 and used the same engine as the KTM 690. Husky made some modifications to the 701 (suspension and color) but at they core the 690 and 701 were essentially the same bike.
However, in 2017 there was a significant change in the 701. Husky updated the motor – going to a double counter balanced engine – while the KTM 690 remain unchanged. The new motor was reported to be much smoother than the previous engine. I really appreciate a smooth motor, especially when riding pavement. So, I opted for a new 2017 Husky 701 over an older KTM 690.
The first thing I noticed about the 701 was how smooth the engine really is. The Husqvarna TR650 Terra is, by far, the smoothest, most pleasant, single piston engine I’ve ever ridden. The difference between the Terra engine and the ones in the Honda XR650L, KLR 650, or DRZ 400 (all single piston engines) is not even close. All those other bikes vibrate. A lot. In contrast, the 701 is shockingly smooth. It is not quite as good as the Terra but it’s close. Much closer than I anticipated.
Another thing I noticed was the narrowness of the six-speed transmission. Of course, everybody notices, and comments, about this same thing. Why KTM, and then Husky, didn’t include a wide ratio six speed tranny on this bike is beyond me. It’s not a deal killer, but a wider ration transmission would certainly have been welcomed.
I also quickly learned that the 701 runs like a race bike. Fast. No, really fast. I thought my KTM 500 EXC was fast (and it is, compared to Japanese dual sport bikes) but even it seems slow compared to the 701.
Finally, I believe the suspension is a bit too stiff for my preferences. I can see myself having the suspension worked on to make it more supple and responsive.
Now it’s time to make it mine. Let the build begin.
The 701 shifts terribly. Since motorcycle manufacturers have been building manual shift motorcycles as long as they’ve been building motorcycles, you would think they would have it completely refined by now. I’m sad to tell you that is not the case, This bike shifts worse than any bike I’ve ever owned.
In particular, shifting up from 4th to 5th and 5th to 6th is very inconsistent and results in a lot of false neutrals. 1st through 4th is fine, but 5th and 6th are not good. I figured out on day 1 that I had to very deliberately shift up to both 5th and 6th or I would get a false neutral much too often (once is too often and it was more than that). As long as I slowed my shifting technique a lot and was very attentive while shifting I could almost eliminate the false neutrals. But even so, I never rode the bike a single time when I didn’t have at least one false neutral.
Luckily, this is a know issue with the 690/701 and the aftermarket has come up with a fix in the form of a shift kit. I bought mine from Rottweiler Performance.
Installation was simple and straightforward. Lay the bike on its left side, remove the right side engine cover, replace the shift arm and springs, reinstall the engine cover, and go ride.
I’m happy to report that this kit works great. On the first ride after installing it, I rode 225 miles without missing a shift once. By the end of the ride I was shifting into 5th and 6th just like I shifted into every other gear, without worrying about false neutrals. The kit costs about $110 and is well worth the investment if your bike shifts like mine.