Review of the SWM Superdual 650
Italian-made go-anywhere adventure bike has its quirks but is a distinctive, endearing machine to ride. We got to ride the Superdual from recently resurrected brand SWM.
Hands up all those whove heard of SWM motorcycles. Yeah, thought not. But if you were a keen follower of off-road competition in the 1970s, the name would have been as familiar as Bultaco, Maico, Montesa and Husqvarna. Sadly, like many other interesting marques, Speedy Working Motorcycles went bust in the 1980s, living on only as something of a historical curiosity. Until 2014, that is, when Ampelio Macchi, ex-Technical Manager for Cagiva, Aprilia and Husqvarna, set about resurrecting the brand in the former Husky plant in Lombardia, Italy.
The Superdual shows this lineage most clearly in its engine, with its distinctive Red Head. Its the motor from the 2009 Husqvarna TE630 Enduro bike. The frame and swingarm are the same too, though the forks and geometry up front are different. The net result is an Adventure style bike with genuine off-road roots thats also designed to work on the highway.
The twists and turns in the story of Husqvarna, and its sibling Husaberg, defy any summarisation. Add in the tale of how SWM took over their old models and the factory where they were built, and it becomes a saga. Lets just say that the many changes of hands have done nothing to round off the odd rough edge, iron out the quirks and make the SWM a faultless, polished performer.
It shows in irritating details like the placement of the ignition barrel directly under a stiff, braided brake line. Or somewhat home-made aspects like the side-stand cutout switch being zip-tied to the frame. The off-road competition roots show through in the cold-start lever, too. None of them are deal-breakers, though, and they do add to the machines character, which ends up being rather endearing.
Some of the Superduals charm comes from its unusual identity. Few have heard of SWM, and some might even pick it as a Chinese brand. But who cares, when you can have this top-of-the-range machine, engineered by Husqvarna when it was under BMW ownership, for under $12k? And that includes the far-from-cheap Givi luggage. Knowing it is actually an Italian brand, with serious competition heritage, gives a warm feeling inside.
With only a single piston and a LAMS-compliant 35kW on tap, theres no expectation of rip-snorting performance. Instead, wafting around enjoying the view from the high riding position takes precedence.
However, if the mood takes you and the roads are sufficiently twisty, the SWM has a party trick up its sleeve. With those competition bike roots, the Superdual is satisfyingly nimble and capable of flicking from side to side with the best of them. The agility is aided by relatively narrow 110/80 and 140/80 tyres and plenty of leverage from the wide bars, plus heaps of ground clearance. On tight back roads it means SWMs Adventure bike is a belter, delivering a surprising amount of fun and pace.
None of the other dynamics let the side down either. They tyres themselves are Metzler Tourance, with a 19 inch front. They stick well, deliver good feedback and theres no vagueness despite the blocky adventure type tread. The Brembo brakes are fine, with enough power and feel, though they do lack ABS (which surely cant last, as EU regs made ABS compulsory on bikes over 125cc from the beginning of last year). There is a slight suggestion of weave at higher speeds but it never went further than a suggestion. And the fully-adjustable suspension can deliver any balance you want between comfort and ultimate control.
Minor irritations aside, the SWM makes for a practical everyday companion. Okay, at 890mm the seat is high. But despite looking like it would be as comfortable as a puriri log, its actually not bad on an all-day ride.
Its economical, too. With an 18 litre tank, range is outstanding.
The Givi panniers are not the most convenient. Undoing the sideways-hinged top means undoing three catches after unlocking, and the aperture is not the biggest. Opening the whole side requires another two clips. Simple hinge-up tops are far easier. The panniers make it wide, too, requiring some caution in traffic.
With the panniers, off, however, the Superdual turns into an urban superhero: narrow and high for great visibility and filtering ability, with huge lock that makes tight turning a breeze.
Despite initially cursing the fiddly ignition placement and old-school cold start procedure, the SWM is a bike that gets under your skin. It has a charming underdog quality. In a world where Adventure bikes have gone nuts in terms of size, weight, power and complexity it has something else, too: authenticity. As a Husky Enduro bike in drag, you really could take this bike almost anywhere on a real adventure.
And at just $11,990 plus on-roads, there really is no excuse not to.
Charm, back-road agility, affordability
Pesky ignition switch placement, home-made feel in places
Model: SWM Superdual 650
Cost: $11,990 + on-road costs
Engine: 4-stroke, liquid-cooled, DOHC single
Fuel System: EFI
Transmission: 6-speed, chain drive
Seat Height: 890mm
Dry weight: 169kg
Fuel capacity: 18l
Demonstration machine courtesy of SWM motorcycles NZ