Husqvarna 701 Enduro VS. KTM 790 ADV
Alright, I'll go ahead and apologize. I may have been a bit misleading with the title of this article. I AM going to be comparing these two bikes, just not in the typical regard. I'm writing about which one I'd prefer to rent on a fly and ride trip and why. I'll be considering the pros and cons of each and offering my choice to rent one to spend a week or two riding around Ecuador.
These bikes are in different classes and are not directly comparable machines. The 790 is a medium Adventure motorcycle, and the Husqvarna 701 Enduro is closer to a "dual-sport bike" with its dirt bike-like build. If you are reading this, you may likely find yourself deciding between these two motorcycles, or perhaps between the classes in which these motorcycles fall. It's easy to get pulled into the "more is better" trap when selecting any bike, especially if you are from a country with more wide-open space like the United States. If you are going to sell all your belongings and travel around the globe, then maybe you should consider the larger ADV bikes, but even then, it may not be the best choice.
The 701 weighs around 350lbs depending on equipment and cranks out over 70 horsepower from its single-cylinder engine. The 790 weighs a more significant 460ish lbs. depending on gear and develops 95 horsepower with its parallel iteration of KTM's formidable LC8. The rider looking for more strength will have made their decision at this point, but if you are into speed, you'll find that the power to weight ratios are virtually the same.
However, this analysis aims not to determine how well these bikes will do in a race but how well they will do on the various road conditions in Ecuador. The lighter weight chassis of the 701 combined with the lower reciprocating mass in the engine provides a nimble package and turns in easily. The 790, provided you're on the R model, is phenomenal on and off the road. It is designed to carry its weight low, and while it's got incredible agility for its size, the 790 still doesn't handle as well as the 701 off the tarmac and is more to manage, especially when loaded. The 790 is also rather easy to stall; I found myself having to keep the revs quite high to keep it going.
The seat height on the Husky is the main drawback I would note. The 701 is tall. Very tall. But provided you've got the leg for it, or you're comfortable sliding side to side and keeping just one foot on the ground, the lighter Husqvarna is highly agile and, as expected, performs fantastically in off-road sections. The fully adjustable long travel suspension soaks up just about anything you can throw at it. (note that at Ecuador Freedom, a lowered suspension model is available).
The Husky's giant counterbalanced single is incredibly smooth for what it is and is a far cry from the LC4 engines from which it is descended. The 701 is not exactly comparable to a Goldwing on the highway, but it's more than enough for the roads you'll come across in Ecuador and more than makes up for not being a pavement pounder when you get to rougher terrain! Don't get me wrong, the 790 is almost as good on the rougher terrain and better on the highway, but it is larger and heavier. Therefore, it will be more of a hand full if you get off balance. You feel those extra pounds when you have to pick up after it falls over or you have to lift it over something, which is what you may end up doing, especially if you don't have the R model. Ground clearance is somewhat limited on the 790 if you come to rougher sections or if you are crossing obstacles.
The more powerful KTM would be better on extended international overland trips, but usually, when you rent a bike, you'll be riding from hotel to hotel or campsite to campsite, and you will not need to pack as much gear. The Husqvarna will easily tackle more technical terrain and cruise smoothly on the occasional highway section. If you've got an offroad trip in mind, you should consider the lighter single over a larger adventure bike.
So, in conclusion, if I were looking for a bike to own and live with, I'd probably choose the 790 as it's the more practical of the two for where I live. Still, the 701 is a lightweight fire-breather that, in my opinion, offers me more smiles per gallon for a fly and ride trip, especially if you are going to be getting off the beaten path.
Choosing a motorcycle for a trip is similar to choosing the correct tool for fixing the bike. Plenty of tools will get the job done, but there is usually only one option best suited for the task. Thus, for use in sometimes chaotic city streets, occasionally rough backroads, and everything in between, I found the 701's well-balanced dirt bike-like chassis and light steering made it the ideal choice.
About the Author
Caleb McInturff started riding at the age of 14 and is currently a photo-journalist, mechanic, and engineer who spends most of his time traveling and riding motorcycles. He is truly at home when ripping his KTM 990 around the mountains of Tennessee.