We took the new 2019 SWM (Speedy Working Motorcycles) RS 500 R into the high desert country of Hesperia, California with Pete Vetrano, of Motoman Distributing. Right off the bat the RS 500 R resembles a 2010 Husky TE 510. That’s because about 80% of the bike shares the same DNA (part numbers). It’s even built in the old Husqvarna plant in Varese, Italy, with top-shelf components like Brembo brakes, adjustable KYB shocks and reliable Mikuni fuel injection.
Having read that, you’d expect the price of the RS 500 R to be up there with other 500cc European hard enduros. Surprisingly, it’s about $2,600 less than those well-known competitive brands. Mr. Vetrano told me the secret to SWM in keeping the MSRP down is using some components from countries like China, such as the seat and the air box.
The bike is lit with all LEDs, and the high beam and kill switch operate with a push-button action as compared to the more typical rocker style switches. There’s a decompression lever on the left side handlebar to assist at start up in case the battery is weak, eliminating the necessity of a kick starter.
Part of the cold start starting process on this fuel-injected bike requires the use of a “starter knob” which enriches the fuel mixture. Think of it like a choke on a carbureted bike.
Also, if the bike is in gear or neutral, you have to pull in the clutch to start the bike. Once the engine comes to life, push the starter knob back to its initial position. The steering lock is located on the right-hand side of the steering head tube, similar to a DRZ400.
At 255 lb. (dry weight), the RS 500 R is a true off-road enduro-style bike that’s barely DOT legal. The throttle is very responsive and can be interpreted as “vibey” to some due to the Husky-styled powerful single-cylinder motor. The suspension felt a bit harsh, but then, you’re talking about a KYB adjustable suspension system that can be dialed in to your needs. And speaking of dialed in, the RS500R is set up for fuel mapping, providing you have the proper computer hardware and software to do so.
The RS 500 R comes with DOT Michelin Competition IVtires, and a 21/18-inch setup. It feels light on the trail as well as “flickable” and maneuverable in the tight, technical, off-camber turns of the desert hills we rode. The two-gallon stock fuel tank helps keep the weight low but the range close to basecamp. The decently sized instrument panel was clear, uncluttered, and easy to see in daylight. The Italian-made six-speed gearbox performed smoothly and I never encountered a false neutral. The clutch was on par with other bikes of its class, and nothing stood out negatively during the test ride.\
The owner’s manual suggests this water-cooled bike should be serviced every 1,200 miles, which is on par with the other popular lightweight, yet relatively powerful off-road thumpers. What is unique is the stock dual exhaust. Pete told me this is to reduce the exhaust note and to help pass the emission tests required to import the bike into the U.S. The dual exhaust mufflers can be eliminated and replaced with a single one but only for “off road” purposes. If you go this route, you will reduce the over weight of the bike by nine pounds.
However, the charcoal canister sits awkwardly near the front right side of the bike, leaving it vulnerable to damage while riding tight trails. And the kick stand seems a tad bit long, making it difficult to get on and off the bike for my 5-foot, 11-inch frame. Other than those minor negatives, this bike seems to be a bargain that will deliver similar performance of the highly popular orange-colored enduro in today’s current market.
Besides the 500 machine, Motoman Distributing imports a 300cc version, and they’ll soon add to the lineup an adventure-style tourer with a 600cc motor based on the Husqvarna TE 610of yesteryears that will have a longer service interval and a bigger fuel tank than this 500cc dual-sport. To see the RS 500 R and the other bikes Motoman Distributing is importing from SWM, check out their website to see what’s cooking. MotoManDistributing.com MSRP: $7,795
- Great price point
- Quality components
- Superb off-road handling
- Kick stand too long
- Larger fuel tank would be nice
- Needs more dealer representation
• Displacement: 501cc Liquid-cooled, DOHC, 4-stroke, single
• CLUTCH: Hydraulic, multi-plate
• TRANSMISSION: 6-speed
• DRY WEIGHT (claimed): 255.7 lbs.
• FUEL CAPACITY: 1.9 gal
• FRONT SUSPENSION: Kayaba, USD fork, fully adjustable
• REAR SUSPENSION: Kayaba shock, fully adjustable
• FRONT WHEEL TRAVEL: 11.6 in.
• REAR WHEEL TRAVEL: 11.7 in.
• FRONT BRAKE: Brembo, single 260mm disc
• REAR BRAKE: Brembo, single 240mm disc
• FRONT TIRE: 90/90 x 21 in., Michelin Enduro
• REAR TIRE: 140/80 x 18 in., Michelin Enduro
• SEAT HEIGHT: 37.6 in.
• GROUND CLEARANCE: 11.8 in.