The Husqvarna Vitpilen 701 is one of the most attractive OEM motorcycles of recent times. Despite the three-year gap between concept and production, the final road going version of the 701 is damn close to the stunning prototype we were first teased with.
It’s a helluva good ride too; light, punchy and nimble. (Yes, we’ve tested it.) But how do you customize a bike that looks so fine out the box—and has such a definitive look?
The Dutch outfit Ironwood Custom Motorcycles have had a crack at it, and we’re loving the results.
“After seeing the Vitpilen concept at European events, I was intrigued to ride it,” says shop boss Arjan van den Boom. “Or even better, customize it—although it looks so good and balanced already. Luckily for us, a London customer reached out to have his new 701 modded.”
Ironwood’s custom Husqvarna isn’t a total re-imagining of the single cylinder neo-café racer. Instead, it’s a stealthy nip and tuck job—a collection of clever tweaks and subtle changes. Which is exactly what their customer asked for.
“Overall it had to be recognizable as a 701,” says Arjan, “but we had to make it mean and edgy. Keep the key features like the tank with the humps, OEM wheels, speedo and lighting. But change the lines, and make it unique.”
The biggest change is happening out back. The Vitplien 701 is already compact, but Ironwood have shortened the rear end even more.
Arjan’s buddy, Marcel van der Stelt of The Custom Factory, jumped in here. He fabricated a new subframe, and a tray under the seat to hold the wiring and battery.
“It took some effort to get the big wire cluster trimmed down visually,” says Arjan, “because after removing some ugly covers it looked like spaghetti. Most of the wiring loom we kept original, along with the stock battery, which was small and powerful enough already.”
Up top is a custom seat, upholstered in leather by Marcel’s wife Patricia. Just behind it, the crew embedded a pair of LED turn signals into the ends of the frame, and re-mounted the OEM taillight.
There’s some cleanup work happening lower down too. The 701’s plastic rear fender and plate holder combo is gone, replaced by a far slimmer custom-built unit. Equal consideration’s gone into the front, with a stubby front fender and a neat set of brackets replacing the originals.
Subtle trims abound. Both the stock headlight and speedo are still in play, but the latter’s been repositioned ever so slightly. The bars and controls are original, but Ironwood have added Motogadget grips, mirrors and bar-end turn signals.
Lower down, the team ditched the 701’s belly pan, and rebuilt the entire exhaust header. It now terminates in an Akrapovič muffler, originally made for the smaller Husqvarna Vitpilen 401.
The intake’s been changed too, and is now fed via a chunky DNA air filter. It’s a trick design, with the filter actually mounted to the bottom of—and the intake running via—the electronics tray. (Arjan reports that switching out the can and intake had no negative effect on the 701’s performance.)
A final visual hit comes from the 701’s striking new tank graphics. “For the tank design, we collaborated with Lisa from Dutch On Wheels,” Arjan tells us. “We’ve known each other for some years, but never worked together on a project.”
“She has great eye for detail and thinks out of the box on her design, so I was thrilled when my customer asked me to involve a skilled artist for the paint job. It has 13 shades of gray, and resembles a stealth look, like on old war boats.”
Capping off the design are a pair of aftermarket ‘701’ tank badges. And in the final reckoning, the already light Vitpilen has shed around 15 kilos of superfluous bits.
Ironwood are calling this one a ‘neo classic jet fighter,’ and have dubbed it ‘The Chain Smoker.’ Arjan tells us it also perfectly represents Ironwood’s ‘ABCD’ ethos: Aggressive, Bold, Clean and Dazzling.
“Not every build is, or can be, precision engineering, hardcore different, innovative or expensive,” he explains. “It depends on customer budgets, inspiration, time and availability.”
“But for us a custom bike should always be unique, bold and outspoken. The first time you see it online or in the flesh it must blow you away. Only then should ridability, ergonomics, road legality or comfort kick in.”
Well, we think it looks hot. And we want to see more Vitpilen 701 customs. Pretty please?