Husqvarna SM610 - Supermoto Strada Review

It took five years of KTM Duke domination for dirtbike demons Husqvarna to come up with an answer back in 1998 to their rivals' best-selling streetrod single. The roller-coaster financial frolics, however, of their MV Agusta parent put a brake on evolution of the transplanted Swedish marque's first stab at an all-out road bike. Then, two years later, limited-edition lust arrived in the off-road

Husqvarna SM610 - Supermoto Strada Review
Husqvarna SM610 - Supermoto Strada

It took five years of KTM Duke domination for dirtbike demons Husqvarna to come up with an answer back in 1998 to their rivals' best-selling streetrod single. The roller-coaster financial frolics, however, of their MV Agusta parent put a brake on evolution of the transplanted Swedish marque's first stab at an all-out road bike.

Then, two years later, limited-edition lust arrived in the off-road arena, with the launch at Intermot 2000 of the first high-spec dirt-derived motorcycle to be built in individually-numbered, restricted quantities for customer sale. There were just 300 examples of the sinister-looking Husqvarna Nox all-black dirt devil developed from the SM610 base, but replete with carbon fibre and titanium, and powered by a full-on factory Supermoto race engine.

Husqvarna has now introduced a much-improved version of the SM610 targeted at the opposite end of the Supermoto spectrum than the naughty-but-neat Nox. It's a more street-focused package that's nevertheless more worthy of the SM sticker than the Supermoto-lite XT660X and FMX650 offerings from Yamaha, and Honda introduced in the past year. They were the Japanese manufacturers attempt to grab a slice of the commercial action spun off by the worldwide buzz surrounding this fast-growing sport.

The new SM61 may be more tailored for the tarmac than either of its HVA predecessors, but this Supermoto Strada is far more faithful than the J-bikes to the competition-created concept of turning your ride to work into a 20-minute heat race. Sure, the hard, narrow seat will send your bum to sleep if you try sitting on it for more than an hour and a half, yet the '05-model SM610 is still a practical everyday motorcycle.

 Such a bike sits you high enough to deliver a commanding view over traffic-choked streets, is slim enough to let you squeeze through gaps between cars that a person might have trouble walking through, as well as agile enough to let you crank round improbably tight turns. Supermoto singles are the ultimate street scooters, and in concocting the Eva SM610, Husqvarna have produced an SM racer-with-lights not-so-distantly derived from Eddy SeeJ's World title winner.

It has purposeful stripped-out styling employing the same big front mudguard used on their TEITC competition range, but just as on the Six Dix here suspended some way above a much smaller 17-inch front wheel with its wire-laced 3.50-inch Akront rim holding a fat 120/70 Dunlop D208 road tyre. At the rear, a 160/60-17 4.25-inch wheel. These give a footprint any street single would be proud of, removing any pretension of off-road capability for the SM610. If you commute to work in London or Lisbon, Paris or Prague, really, anywhere that's got a historic heart trying to beat to the tune of modern traffic conditions, this bike's for you.

The fat 45mm leading-axle conventional Marzocchi forks fitted to the SM610 soak up the rough stuff, offering a slightly reduced but still compliant 250mm of travel compared to its predecessor, with fully adjustable damping, as is preload for the triple rate springs, which give enough resistance to stop the front end diving unduly when you squeeze hard on the single big 320mm Brembo disc to avoid the truck that's just ignored the stop sign in front of you.

At 142kg dry, the Husky also weighs 8kg less than the old model, and a massive 31kg less than the Yamaha XT660X, which tells you all you need to know about the difference between the two bikes.

The four-pot four-pad front calliper in the Brembo brake package is quite sensitive, but gives the kind of stopping power most street-trailies can only dream of, and Husqvarna deserve credit for stiffening up the suspension to suit. The new, long, alloy swingarm is worthy of an R1 Yamaha, and gives similar suspension response via the fully-adjustable Sachs rear shock and its redesigned rising rate linkage with altered progression. However, this too has been stiffened up a little compared to before, so you do notice minor road shocks. Still works pretty good, though, and, above all, you don't need a stepladder to climb on and off the bike as you might if Husqvarna hadn't lowered the ride height quite substantially compared to their off-road bikes.

Though the resultant 910mm seat height for that vinyl-covered plank is still pretty tall, I could just sling a leg over the Husky parked on the side stand, and since it's so narrow, even with the lockable 12.5-litre fuel tank, most riders should still be able to stick at least a toe on the ground at traffic lights, though shorter ones may have to slide off the seat to keep the Husky upright.

Once aboard, with the fruity-sounding engine cranked into life, you notice there's much less vibration than on the previous model, with the thick rubber blocks on the footrests dialling out what little remains after the gear-driven balance shaft mounted behind the crank has done its work in removing the tingles.

 The new SM610 feels more refined and comfy to ride hard, and the large, effective rearview mirrors don't vibrate at all. You're aware of sitting quite far forward in the redesigned, more compact, single-tube cradle frame's 1485mm wheelbase, though.

The steering is a bit too light and vague cranked hard over on tarmac, in spite of the leading axle fork. This is probably due to that smaller front wheel which must have reduced the trail, and speeded up the steering of the dirt-derived frame. The Dunlops do an adequate job of sticking to the road at unlikely angles of lean.

Husqvarna have continued revamping their liquid-cooled four-valve single on the new SM610, still with chain-driven sohc rather than the twincam layout of their works racers. The revised 576cc engine measures the same 98 x 76.4mm dimensions as before, but as well as feeling smoother and more refined, is quite a bit more powerful, delivering a claimed 54bhp at 7000rpm.

While still retaining HVA's trademark separate crank chamber, there's a proper oil system with twin pumps, one for the cylinder head and crank, the other for the crankcase and gearbox. There's also a cartridge oil filter, and while increasing the compression ratio two points to 11: 1, Husqvarna engineers have redesigned both intake and exhaust porting as well as the combustion chamber.

The result is a willing, eager, lusty motor that pulls hard off idle, with notable grunt from as low as 2500rpm, with a hard, relentless shove all the way to the nominal 8200rpm revlimiter which you'll only encounter out of curiosity. The hard, dry, drillhammer exhaust note echoes in your ear as the revs rise, though from 3500rpm upwards the torque curve flattens right out, and thanks to remapped digital ignition with a TPS throttle position sensor, maximum torque is also up slightly to 52Nm at 6500rpm from 50Nm at 5000 revs on the older bike.

In spite of this you're encouraged to rev the Husky's motor harder than before, using the sharp-shifting six-speed gearbox and revamped oilbath clutch, now with an anti-kickback function for easier electric starting, to best advantage. Compared to the TE/TC 610 dirtbikes, the bottom two ratios in the six-speed gearbox are unchanged, but the top four are different from those on the off-road motor. They are more evenly spaced for road use, and with a higher overall gearing thanks to different gearbox and rear wheel sprockets, for the same reason.

 Ultimate top speed is pretty much irrelevant on a bike like this, but the SM610 should break the ton OK. The MX heritage means the bottom three ratios are extremely close together. A five-speeder would really be enough for street use, because starting off from rest, you have to change up three times in as many seconds to get meaningful forward motion. You don't need sand-plugging potential on a street Supermono.

Anyway, this is a point 'n' squirt motorcycle par excellence, a smilebike supreme that sends you out into battle on city streets or country lanes with a grin on your face that will still be there when you return from action. You wouldn't want to ride from Rome to Milan on the Husky, least of all with a passenger on the back, though there is space for one once they fit the extra set of footrests missing from the test bike. But as a tool to unlock traffic congestion and beat the gridlock blues, the Husqvarna SM610 is a pretty capable piece of kit that'll leave you smiling after the ride to work. What a good way to start the day.

Photo credit: Kyoichi Nakamura