SWM RS500R | Bike Reviews
Last year we got an exclusive ride on the first SWMs in the country. While both bikes were a lot of fun, we preferred the RS500R.
The extra power and slightly stiffer suspension were more desirable than the softer sprung slightly underpowered gear on the RS300R. If you didn’t catch the first review, the SWM machines are pretty much reborn Italian Huskies from about five years ago. But don’t be deterred by this, and SWM aren’t shying away from it either, in fact they’re embracing it because they’re offering them at a ridiculously cheap price point! At $8990 for the RS500R that’s nearly half the price of the more fancied European 500s, and from what we can tell, they’re a fun, competent trailbike.
For 2017 not a lot has changed except an Arrow pipe and a set of new plastics. The new plastics give the RS500R a more polished finish, while the Arrow pipe adds a deep bark and a little more top-end. But more on that later
The suspension is on the softer end of the spectrum and more akin to what you’d expect on an old-skool enduro bike, rather than the race-spec enduro machines we’re saturated with nowadays. It’s great at creating a smooth ride over the rocks, roots and small trail debris, but you’ll find it’s limitations if you start sending it off erosion mounds at full tilt. However, keeping it’s intended purpose in mind, the suspension suits the application perfectly.
One of my favourite attributes was how stable it was at high-speed. The combination of engine inertia, the bike’s weight and smooth suspension keeps the RS500R tracking in a straight line over rough trails. It’s more at home on open firetrail than single track but that’s to be expected from a 500cc four-stroke.
In the narrow singletrail the inertia of the engine works against you at slow speed making the SWM less inclined to change direction in a hurry. It takes more work to change direction and a lot of input through the footpegs is required from the rider.
The RS500R’s party piece is it’s 500cc four-stroke engine that once powered the Husqvarna TE510. When we last tested the bike it had the stock dual-mufflers but SWM now offers it with a single Arrow muffler. The Arrow muffler has opened up the top-end and brought it closer to what you’d expect from a bike costing $3-5K more.
Throttle response also feels marginally sharper with the Arrow system. You can afford to be lazy and short shift into third gear which will pretty much do it all. Faced with a steep hill the RS500R doesn’t hesitate to pickup from low revs in third and carry it all the way to the top. It’s got enough torque to loft the front wheel over ledges and roots on the way up without any clutch work.
The only issue I had was a bit of hesitation right off idle. If you were too hasty with the throttle the engine would bog slightly before revving up, but with fuel injection these types of problems are easily fixed.
Being based off past generation Husqvarna’s, the running gear on the SWM is top-notch. As mentioned, the Arrow exhaust with carbon tip is a high-end piece of equipment, so too is the Kayaba suspension, Magura hydraulic clutch and Brembo brakes.
Overall ergonomics are very European. It’s a spacious bike with a roomy ‘bar to footpeg layout but despite this the 955mm seat height is less than KTM’s and Husqvarna’s.
There’s a hole in the market which SWM is filling with it’s affordable RS500R and it’s a welcomed change. Just like not every driver needs a HSV Maloo, not every dirtbike rider needs a $15K dirtbike. The car market has plenty of options and the dirtbike market needs to catch up.