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LONG TERM UPDATE: SWM RS500R Part 1 | Back End | Bike Reviews | Features

It's not every day the Editor of ADB magazine calls you up and says: “Hey, mate, how would you like to take custody of our next long-term test bike?


“You get to ride it, set it up and live with it for the rest of the year, and we’ll set you up with plenty of consumables and some fresh riding gear. Are you keen?”

Keen? I’m keener than Ken Roczen signing a big, fat HRC contract. Bring it on. And boom, simple as that, I had joined the ranks of the privileged few to receive an ADB long-termer.

Two weeks later Editor Mitch Lees was backing his shiny new Mitsubishi Triton down the driveway with ‘my’ precious cargo in the tray. And what a gleaming red, white and black piece of Italian off-road hardware it was: none other than a thundering new SWM RS500R thumper.

As we unloaded it and I rolled the bike into my shed, an overwhelming sense of deja vu descended upon me: can you say 2010 Husqvarna TE510? If so, you’ll be all over this budget, big-bore Italian.

My regular rides of recent times have been a Yamaha XT660Z Ténéré long-distance lounge chair, for the annual Ténéré Tragics Run, and a WR250F for bush surgery.

No prize for figuring the RS500R is going to split them fair down the middle.

SWM is promoting the RS500R as a serious trailriding tool, rather than an enduro weapon, which is just fine by me with the type of riding I plan to do. And priced at $8990 plus on-roads, plenty of trailriders will be giving the SWM more than a cursory glance, so it’s going to be interesting to see just how many SWM riders I cross trails with during the year.

My plan is to hit some weekend trailrides with my old mates from the Sydney branch of the DSMRA, give the SWM an airing at the Kowen Forest Ride and at the Watagans Trailbike Rally in August, as well as heading for some longer rides, including a session in the vast Big Desert country out the back of Hattah, where I hope the thundering RS500R will be right in its element.

But all that lies ahead; for now I’ve had the Italian stallion for just over a week – a week that coincided with a filthy low-pressure system being parked over the NSW coast which delivered nothing but storms and daily drenchings. I managed to get the SWM out for an hour for a touchy-feely session, but other than that, this relationship has been filled with tentative glances across the garage. Andrew Clubb

Launched last year in Australia, the SWM RS500R (and RS300R) literally are reborn Husqvarnas, from the days after Husky was bought by BMW and the TE510 replaced by the then radical TE511 in 2010.

The SWMs are produced in Italy in one of the same factories and by some of the same staff as the pre-BMW Husqvarnas. A revered manufacturer of competition off-road machines in the 1970s and early ’80s, SWM has been resurrected by former Husqvarna employees headed by Technical Manager Apelio Macchi with investment from leading Chinese brand Shineray.

Being closely based on the Husqvarna TE510 and TE310 models, the RS bikes have given SWM an instant entree into the trail and enduro market, while a SWM RS650R dualsport (above, based on the Husky TE630) also has been released, along with a few retro road bikes. There are all-new SWMs set to roll down the line in the coming months and years.

What will make a lot of prospective SWM owners stand up and take notice is the pricing. The RS500R is just $8990 plus ORC. That’s a whole lot of big-bore four-stroke trailbike – with a serious enduro heritage – for not a lot of precious muller.

Some of the things that stand out for me now that I have the RS500R parked in the shed is the easy access to the sparkplug, the amount of room around the motor’s top-end, the Brembo brakes and clutch, Kayaba suspension, beefy front axle, fast SWM graphics and tasty Arrow muffler (which comes as a retail promo). 

On the flip side, stuff that I want to fix on the SWM are the handshields, poorly protected frame tubes and crankcase, overly large front guard and rear guard extension, and limited fuel range with the stock 7.2 litre tank.

Seven litres just won’t cut it on a big-bore thumper for real trailriding. The word is that Victorian brand Safari already has a larger tank on the way, based on a slight rework of the 16-litre number that fitted the Husqvarna TE510 up to 2010. 

WARRANTY: Six months’ parts and labour
DISTRIBUTOR:SWM Motorcycles Australia

MODS THIS MONTH: None, she’s brand spankers!
MODS NEXT MONTH: Barkbusters, Force bashplate, shorter rear guard extension and more