To be honest, the SWM RS500R wasn’t my first choice for a motorcycle. That honor fell to the KTM 500 EXC-F. The KTM is the biggest, baddest, lightest, and fastest dual sport motorcycle you can buy in 2021. I know it’s too much bike for me, but I didn’t care. What I did care about was the price – almost $14,000 out the door. No can do. My second choice was the Suzuki DR-Z400S. That’s actually a much better choice for a first bike, especially one that’s going to spend at least half its time on pavement. But… the local dealership was fresh out, and couldn’t tell me when they might get another one in. They did have a nice Yamaha WR450F in stock that can be converted to street legal. OK, about $11K out the door, another $1K to make it street legal, and I’m almost at the KTM price – might as well suck it up and get the KTM. Buy once, cry once, right?
I was talking it over with some friends, and one of them asked why didn’t I just get an SWM? “Just as good as the KTM but about $4K less.” So I checked them out. I’d never heard of the brand but from what I read they’re Italian bikes made in [artnership with a Chinese company. That didn’t sound too promising but I kept reading. I’m glad I did because they’re actually a legit company. There history has been well told so I won’t repeat it here, but basically the SWM is a 2010-era Husqvarna with an updated suspension.
It’s made in Italy in a formerly Husqvarna factory for former Husqvarna engineers and workers, using 2010-era Husqvarna technology. In reality, it’s more genuinely Husqvarna than the current Husqvarnas, which are actually KTMs with different suspension and plastics. Confused? So was I. But I’m glad I found out about the company, because imo it’s a better trail bike than either the KTM or the current Husky line (which like I said is really a KTM at heart).
The RS500S has a few things I like and a few that… lets just say are a compromise at best. First of all the things I like… For one thing, this is actually an old school (OK, 2010 era, but things move fast in the dirt bike world) Husqvarna. Being old myself, I like old school stuff. I love that it’s a Husqvarna and not just a KTM with different paint. Being older (but brand new), it has smoother power than the newer crotch rockets, so I’ll be less likely to kill myself on it. It’s a 500, so it should have plenty of power for going up steep, rocky trails. Finally, I love the way it looks. It should work perfectly for climbing hills and fast trips down power line roads.
So what’s not to like? For one thing, it has a tiny gas tank so range is very limited and noone (yet?) makes a large aftermarket gas tank for it. I’ll probably hang an auxilary tank off the left rear end once I replace the dual muffler setup with a single muffler. Which brings up another thing, this bike is heavy – about 288 lbs. compared to 245 for the KTM. The single muffler will shave about 13 pounds and also make it possible to mount the auxilary tank. The stock tires are pure dirt, so I’ll replace them with something a little more rideable on the street. Probably Dunlop 606’s. And that stock license plate holder is butt-ugly. I’m going to make my own out of sheet aluminum. I like working with metal so no big deal.
Anyway, it will be here this week and I’m ecstatic. It’s about a 90% dirt/10% street bike, which is OK for now. I can’t really see myself commuting on it though, so that DR-Z400S might end up in my garage sooner rather than later. Can’t wait to give you guys a ride report on this one though… Until next time…