Custom Husky Vitpilen 401 from Whiskey Echo Moto…
Over the past few years, we’ve loved watching the rise of lightweight, nimble, and surprisingly capable 300-400cc machines like the KTM 390 models, Kawasaki Z400 / Ninja 400, and Yamaha R3 / MT-03. In 2018, Husqvarna joined the fray with the Vitpilen and Svartpilen 401, whose names mean White Arrow and Black Arrow, respectively.
Husky is a sister brand to KTM, so it comes as no surprise that both ‘Pilens feature the 373cc single-cylinder engine from the beloved KTM 390 Duke, which put down 41.4 whp on the Cycle World dyno:
“The 373cc single-cylinder engine is a punchy, exceptionally entertaining powerplant. Twist the ride-by-wire throttle and let the low-end torque and 40 ponies carry you down the straightaway or around tight bends. The quick-revving thumper has no issue getting up to and maintaining highway speeds either.” –Cycle World
The Vitpilen 401 is the more street-focused machine, with clip-on handlebars, Metzeler M5 rubber, and modern café racer styling. Where the bike truly excels is the twisties:
“Weighing in at just 340 pounds on the Cycle World scales, the Vitpilen is extraordinarily light. This minimal weight combined with a compact steel trellis frame and admirable WP suspension means the bike is easy to flick through quick transitions and extremely maneuverable at low speeds…” –Cycle World
With these bikes still so new, it’s rare to come across customized versions, so our interest was piqued when came across this ’21 Husqavarna Vitpilen 401 at the 2023 Handbuilt Show. It’s the work of Mark Hanson of Whiskey Echo Moto, who knew he wanted to build a bike since he started riding 10 years ago.
“There is just no better feeling that being able to build something with your hands that you can ride.”
Given his experience with his KTM RC390 track bike, Mark decided the Vitpilen 401 would be the perfect candidate for a transformation. His vision was quite clear from the start:
“Strip it down, add lightness and simplify the Neo-retro design language.”
However, the execution would be both more grueling and rewarding than anticipated, as he leaned on his work ethic to learn the various skills required to bring his vision to reality:
“It was a journey. While teaching myself how to model, 3D print, manufacture, wiring/electrical woes, taking welding classes, and scouring the internet for the almost non-existing 401 information and parts, it took everything I had.”
However, all the hard work was well worth it. Nicknamed the “Whiskey Arrow,” the bike was featured in the 2023 Handbuilt Show among some of the most impressive builds in the country (and beyond).
Below, we talk to Mark for the full story on his hand-built Husky.
Vitpilen 401 Café Racer: Builder Interview
• Please tell us a bit about yourself, your history with motorcycles, and your workshop.
I started riding about 10 years ago after drooling over bikes most of my life. I finally decided it was time and it was a “get your license on Saturday and a bike on Sunday” type things. Even before I started riding I knew wanted to build a bike at some point. There is just no better feeling that being able to build something with your hands that you can ride.
As far as my workshop goes it’s just one half of a two-car garage that is quickly becoming too small. I tried to be as deliberate to organize as much as possible into a small space but, as my desire to learn more grows so does the tool list.
• What’s the make, model, and year of the donor bike?
2021 Husqavarna Vitpilen 401.
• Why was this bike built?
I chose the 401 based on past experience with my RC390 track bike and the lack of true custom 401 builds around. This build was simply to see how far I could go as a first-time “garage builder.”
As a creative by day I felt I had a lot of tangential skills, the naivety to think it was possible, and a shit-ton of work ethic. It was a journey. While teaching myself how to model, 3D print, manufacture, wiring/electrical woes, taking welding classes, and scouring the internet for the almost non-existing 401 information and parts, it took everything I had.
• What was the design concept and what influenced the build?
Strip it down, add lightness, and simplify the Neo-retro design language.
• What custom work was done to the bike?
- Custom triple clamp, custom 3D-printed dash enclosure, steering bolt, probolt hardware
- Headlight, headlight brackets, headlight bucket, probolt hardware
- Clip-ons, custom 3D-printed covers, grips, Motogadget turn signals and mirrors
- Radiator cover, upgraded cap, horn relocated to center
- Custom two tone paint by Proper Gabe: White with a blue pearl, metallic blue color matched to seat cover.
- Custom machined emblems
- Customized Luimoto seat cover (color matched to rear fairing paint)
- Upgraded front/rear brake discs, pads, front/rear sprockets (re-geared) with 520 chain
- Modified header and exhaust
- Modified Tyga rear sets, kickstand
- Custom 3D-printed air intake/pod filter
- Custom 3D-printed rear signal pods with Motogadget signals
- Modified Rapid Bike Evo
- Modified carbon case covers, carbon rear hugger, chain guard
- Lightweight LiPo battery
- Stock wheels rebuilt and powder coated with oversized Michelin tires
- Aftermarket license plate holder
- Many other small modifications/upgrades
• Does the bike have a nickname?
I dubbed it the “Whiskey Arrow” as a play on Vitpilen, which means White Arrow, and my Instagram handle, Whiskey Echo.
• Can you tell us what it’s like to ride this bike?
The first thing you notice is just how light and thin it feels off the kickstand. The aggressive seating position, extremely loud exhaust, and low gearing makes the ride quite a memorable one. It was intended to be an exciting bike to ride to coffee shops on Sunday mornings and I would say I definitely achieved that goal.
• Was there anything done during this build that you are particularly proud of?
I’m pretty proud of all the custom parts I designed for the build, but I’m the most proud of the rear light pods. They seem fairly simple but took a ton of work to get right. They were designed to work on either side of the bike and accept most aftermarket turn signals. They are extremely light due to being 3D-printed nylon and are directly threaded without using any metal inserts.