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SWM Superdual | Bike Tests | Latest Tests

Reborn Italian brand SWM is putting the dual back into dual-sport riding with its sharply priced and adventure-ready SWM Superdual thumper

If ever there was one place on earth filled with sweeping plains ripe for the picking by big-bore single cylinder adventure bikes, it has to be the land down under.

But when it comes to new machinery, the pickings are slim in the adventure-ready thumper stakes. Yamaha’s Ténéré has been around for almost a decade now, while Kawasaki’s KLR650 and Suzuki’s DR650 have been rolling off showroom floors for twice as long. KTM dished up the 690 Enduro, which has morphed into the Husqvarna 701, while SWM has lately turned out the RS650R.

Some of these bikes are more adventure-ready than others, some are significantly cheaper than others, while some have rather more limited capabilities than others, leaving many riders wishing for the ‘just right’ Goldilocks big single adventure bike that hits the sweet spot of price, performance and specification.

Enter the SWM Superdual, a brand new player in a class where rival brands have either been forced out by the strict Euro 4 emissions requirements, or have walked away from the category altogether.

As a new kid on the block, the Superdual has seen plenty of salivating by ADV riders around the globe as the Italian SWM brand from the late 1970s/early ’80s enjoys a resurrection following a hefty investment by Chinese motorcycle giant Shineray.

Built at the BMW-era Husqvarna factory near Varese in northern Italy by many of the same staff who worked there before BMW sold Husqvarna to KTM boss Stefan Pierer in 2013, the Superdual looks good on the brochure, but looks even better when you get up close and personal with it.

Call it Italian design flair if you will, but the Superdual’s silver bodywork, black highlights, red crash bars and black rims combine to deliver a purposeful looking mount. There was no missing it when I arrive at Powerhouse Motorcycles at Pakenham in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs to collect the test bike. Wheel sizes are 19 inch front and 17 inch rear, however the stock Metzeler Tourance rubber had been replaced by a set of dirt-churning Pirelli Scorpion Rallys for our test, and the big knobs make the Superdual look totally horn.

The package continues to impress as you look over the entire bike, as the Superdual offers mighty value for money, given its $9,990 (plus ORC) price.

Powering the Superdual is a well-proven former Husqvarna motor that has seen various incarnations, firstly in the pre-BMW era Husqvarna TE630, then in SWM’s new RS650R trail bike last year, and now in the Superdual. The six-speed, liquid-cooled, electric-start, four-valve DOHC 600cc powerplant boasts Mikuni fuel injection, GET ignition and a downswept dual exhaust system with twin mufflers that help it punch out a claimed 41 kilowatts.

The motor is wrapped in a tubular steel full cradle frame mated to a 45mm USD Fast Ace fork with rebound and compression damping adjustment offering 210mm of wheel travel, while out back there’s a Sachs single shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound damping that controls 270mm of wheel travel.

Brembo hydraulics are fitted front and rear, with a generously sized 300mm Braking rotor up front, while Brembo also provides hydraulic clutch actuation. Seat height is 860mm, wheelbase is 1,495mm and the bike weighs a claimed 169kg wet.

As for detail parts, the Superdual’s spec list is long and certainly gets your attention for a bike priced under ten grand. Standard items include a screen, alloy big bars, compact multi-function digital instrument panel, full wrap plastic handguards, steering lock, 19 litre steel fuel tank with lockable filler cap, crash bars, alloy bashplate to protect the downswept header pipes, heat shields over the mid pipes, foam air filter element, good size pegs with removable rubber inserts, pillion pegs, centrestand and rear rack.

Finally, SWM Australia backs the bike with a 24 months/20,000km parts and labour warranty.

The agenda for my time with the Superdual promised to be a ripper, kicking off with a fast charge from Pakenham down to Phillip Island for photos on the spectacular coastline looking out over Bass Strait, then an open ticket to get back home to Sydney over the following two days. The plan was to chomp through a real-world mix of tarmac, gravel and fire-trails along the way.

Right from the get-go, the Italian stallion felt good on the first hour’s charge down to the Island, and those impressions continued to carry on through our time together.

The ergos are good for my 180cm frame, but if you’re much taller, your knees would battle to fit into the flared sides of the tank, plus the seat to peg dimension would be getting tight and you’d want the ‘bar to be moved up and forward.

The seat, featuring a scalloped design for the rider and flat pillion area, is a good one, with supportive, comfortable foam and just enough room up front for the rider to be able to move back and forth during long ride sessions.

Despite having a short gear lever with little room to get my big hoof under it, I didn’t miss many shifts, while the hydraulic clutch feels light and sweet. The 15/38 gearing is certainly tall and while the motor pulls it fine, you wouldn’t want it any taller. Sixth gear is only used at highway speeds of 90kmh and above, while at an indicated 120kmh the engine’s not even pulling 5,000rpm and the fuel-injected motor clearly has much more to give. Scrolling through the dash display, the top speed history shows 181kmh … yow.

The power delivery is clean, strong and plenty of fun to ride, with virtually no vibrations until you get high up in the rev range, which is impressive for a big-bore single that does like to be revved. There’s just the slightest glitch in the fuelling when you cut the throttle and the motor runs on for a moment before settling down to idle, which is most noticeable in traffic and coming into roundabouts.

The road-biased 19/17 inch wheels put plenty of rubber on the ground, particularly with the rear Scorpion being a whopper 150 profile, and the steering feels responsive and the suspension planted. The Superdual is a whole lot of fun on the tar and the bike has a distinct motard flavour, with the front end feeling low and weighted, due no doubt to the combination of a 19 inch front wheel and the shorter travel of the front suspension compared to the rear.

After a three-hour charge from Phillip Island across south-east Victoria’s lush green dairy country, the first day’s ride ended at rural Sale just on dusk. With 330km on the odo for the day, the SWM took on 12.88 litres of unleaded, equating to just over 25km per litre consumption, suggesting the 19 litre tank potentially has a solid 450km or so range.

The next day starts with a cracking morning romp eastward via lonely tar and gravel backroads around the coast, in the direction of NSW. It’s damn cold though and I do wish for heated grips to take the chill off my pinkies, while a more upright screen would better push the wind up and over my head and shoulders, as the stock screen sweeps back and low.

I stopped at Cann River for food and fuel, where the SWM took on 10.88 litres of fuel for 275km, maintaining the 25km per litre average.

The night before at my mate ‘Ténéré Troy’ Mattson’s place in Sale we’d found the gear lever was coming loose on the spline. Before setting off from Powerhouse Motorcycles I’d asked them to lift the gear lever a notch to give more room for my size 13 Gaerne boots. But when the stumpy gear lever was lifted, it hit the chain, so it had to go back on where it was and I had to get used to shifting with the side of my foot. At Sale we fitted a replacement bolt dosed in Loctite to the lever mount point, hoping this would firmly secure the shifter, but the lever was now loose again. Access to the bolt is fiddly and with only small Allen keys in my tool kit, I could not get the bolt any tighter, so I ran a couple of zip-ties from the lever tip to the frame to make sure it would not fall off, leaving me shiftless in the middle of nowhere.

Continuing east around the coast, the Superdual easily ate up the endless sections of tight and twisty tarmac in real supermoto fashion. With its strong and clean power delivery, predictable handling on the blacktop, strong brakes and comfortable ergos, the SWM barely raises a sweat when it comes to tarmac touring. Finally threw down stumps at Narooma on the NSW south coast for the night.

With a stack of dirt on the agenda for the final day, highlighted by the long and twisty run from Moruya to Araluen then Captain’s Flat, followed by hitting Bombay Trail north to Braidwood, I fired the Superdual to life just after dawn and got right into it.

On the edge of Moruya the dirt starts and the SWM felt a little edgy on the hard-packed, stony and choppy dirt surface. Going softer on the clickers on the fork helped to improve compliance, but the front suspension still felt firm in the very initial part of its travel. Lowering the tyre pressures to 24 front and 20 rear helped, while eventually dropping to 18 psi at both ends improved things even more.

The fire trail through Bombay is a ball-tearer for ADV bikes, and in particular lighter and more nimble single cylinder mounts like the Superdual. Here, where the speeds are slower but the hits are bigger, the suspension feels much better when more travel is being used.

A couple of times I used all 210mm of travel that the USD front end has to offer, the fork bottoming on big G-outs and the alloy bashplate grounding on the deck – just as well it’s there to protect the downswept header pipes and frame rails. With 270mm of travel out back, and with the convenience of easily adjustable spring preload, the rear end can be quickly dialled in to cope with spirited fire trail riding.

On soft ground and certainly in sandy corners, the 19 inch front wheel takes some muscling and left me wishing for the 21/18 inch wheel kit that is available as an option. The bigger front wheel would make all the difference to the Superdual’s handling and performance in the dirt, by cutting through soft ground and rolling over small obstacles better, along with steering more precisely, as the hefty 19/17 inch Scorpions give the impression they over-tyre this bike in the bush.

Word is the next model Superdual will be fitted with the 21/18 inch wheel combo from the factory and that setup will only make this Italian more attractive to Aussie ADV riders, many of whom will have a majority of dirt miles on their mind.

This ride ends with a final highway session up the NSW coast from Nowra to home in Sydney, and as I roll into the garage just on dark, the odo shows 1,458km since leaving Pakenham just over two days earlier. Other than the loose gear lever, and the front brake rotor developing a squeal along the way, the SWM didn’t miss a beat and I feel good after covering some solid kays.

The Superdual definitely impresses, especially when you consider the level of specification it offers for the price. It ticks a stack of boxes for ADV riders who want a big-bore thumper that rolls off the showroom floor already equipped with so many parts that on so many rival bikes are additional cost aftermarket extras, as well as being a bike that’s not over-complicated by electronic aids like ABS and traction control.

In this guise, with 19/17 inch wheels, the Superdual is ideally suited to ADV riders who spend much of their time on tar and gravel roads, while only making occasional forays deeper into the jungle.

But if your intention is to spend more time on the dirt, start drooling for the fast approaching next model Superdual, with its 21/18 inch wheels that will also offer switchable ABS, LAMS approval and Euro4 compliance. It’s due in Australia by the end of the year and promises to be an even more seriously tasty Italian single-cylinder ADV dish that will be even better suited to our land of sweeping plains.

At a Glance

1. CRASH BARS

Frame mounted crash bars offer valuable protection of the 19 litre steel fuel tank and engine cases.

2. STOP THAT

Front brake rotor is an impressive 300mm unit, mated with a dual piston Brembo caliper. Stopping power from the large single disc is impressive.

3. RACK ’EM UP

Tubular steel rear rack is standard fitment and provides valuable load carrying capacity.

4. SCREEN

Standard screen is a handy feature, but would provide better wind protection for the rider if it was taller and more upright.

5. CRANK IT UP

Rear shock preload adjustment is another welcome feature. When carrying a pillion or luggage, simply crank up the shock preload as required.

WHAT’S HOT

The Superdual is seriously good value for money given all the items included as standard equipment, and for the performance it delivers. You’d be battling to get the cheap-as-chips Suzuki DR650 kitted out to the same extent, and to perform the same, for the price.

WHAT’S NOT

The gear lever is too short and bigfoots won’t be able to get a toe under it to shift easily. To make more room you can chase a longer accessory gear tip or modify the pegs to move them back and down.

Words and photography  ANDREW CLUBB