SWM has made a welcome return to the dirtbike market, but not with the same fare that sent it broke in 1984.
When German brand BMW sold ‘Swedish’ brand Husqvarna to Austrian brand KTM in 2013, it left behind a state-of-the-art factory north of Milan. It also left behind a bunch of Italian engineers and workers and a range of motorcycles that neither BMW nor KTM wanted to produce.
One of the angry unemployed was ex-Husqvarna chief engineer Ampelio Macchi, who pulled together a deal with Chinese manufacturer Shineray to buy the former Husky factory in Briandronno and defunct Italian brand SWM, famous for its world championship-winning two-stroke trials and enduro bikes.
The first bike we’re seeing out of this strange union is the new SWM RS650R which is a modernised version of the Husqvarna TE630 and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Macchi, who is now SWM’s CEO, certainly thought the old Husky range, including the 310 and 510 DOHC enduro singles, deserved a reprieve. “These are my bikes. I know them and I know the staff building them. I am proud and very confident with the future,” he says.
The switchgear appears to be Japanese, the brakes and hydraulic clutch are made by Brembo, the handlebar looks like a Tommaselli tapered unit and the grips are by Domino. The Marzocchi fork is a 45mm USD unit, the shock is Sachs while the engine castings are beautifully pressure cast and bolted together with quality fasteners.
There’s a good spread of power and a gear for every occasion. The low handlebar won’t suit some taller riders but it does put you in the attack position, driving that front wheel into the ground with your body weight.
The stock seat is relatively flat, so you’re not jammed into the tank when you’re searching for more traction.
To be honest, we were expecting the RS to be a bit of a pain on sealed roads. The rubber-mounted handlebar and rubber footpeg inserts had us expecting lots of vibration but it wasn’t there. The bike cruises happily at 110km/h without appearing to need those soft, black additions.
The six-speed gearbox is a definite help here, with both fifth and sixth gears being overdrive ratios.
It is good to see that there is easy access to the fuses and battery under there. The latter is important as there is no kickstarter, although there’s a plug in the crankcase where one could be.
While it might appear that SWM is resurrecting old models this is the quickest and cheapest way to get back in business. There are already a string of new models on the way, including the Superdual adventure bike, which appears to use the underpinnings of the RS650 but comes standard with a large steel tank, windscreen, crashbars, large wave disc brakes and hard panniers.
That’s not due here until August at this stage but importer Mojo Motorcycles already has an order on its books, with the customer paying his local dealer a healthy deposit. Guess not everyone wants a DR650.
TYPE: Single-cylinder four-stroke
COOLING: Liquid with fan
FUEL TANK CAPACITY: 12.3L
SEAT HEIGHT: 900mm
GROUND CLEARANCE: 249mm
DRY WEIGHT: 145kg
FORK: Marzocchi 45mm USD
SHOCK: Sachs Soft Damp monoshock
FRONT: Brembo 260mm disc
REAR: Brembo 220mm disc
PRICE & CONTACTS
PHONE: (03) 8363 1600
WARRANTY: 12 months parts & labour