So I've had my Husqvarna 701 for around 10.000kms. In this section I'll describe some of the issues I've been having, my dealings with the dealer network and some details on the build.
Let me start of with that I'm trying to be as unbiased and honest as possible in this review.

Before the build

I bought the bike and the rally kit at the same time (more or less) but the bike arrived a bit quicker, so I rode it around for around before doing the first oil change. I rode it in hard (like most suggested) which now, at 10k km's seemed to have worked with lower than average oil consumption; more than I would expect, but less than what the factory says is tolerable.
After around 250km's I had to take it back to the shop as I felt the clutch was slipping on the highway (when overtaking at 100km/hr). They took it apart, looked at it and put it back together, saying it looked normal and that nothing was wrong. When I got back on the bike I immediately felt a lot lighter clutch action and back on the highway I haven't felt it slipping again. From time-to-time, it did stall when put it from neutral into gear (indicating the clutch plates don't fully disengage) but that issue went away after around 5k km's.

The build

I bought my rally kit from kit690. It consist of all the factory rally tanks, fairing, a seat, secondary fuel pump, navigation tower and some other bits and bops. I'm quite comfortable working on motorcycles, having converted my BMW r80rt to a caferacer stripping it completely and rewiring it. My tactic for this build would be to keep it ridable as much as possible and do shakedowns after each of the sections was fitted. The first thing I put on was the nav tower as this meant relocating some of the cable work and I wanted that out of the way. This process went really smoothly and after a day in the garage, it was on.
The next step was to mount the fuel tanks. To mount the rear, there were some new holes to be drilled next to the original mountings in the frame tabs. However, the front fuel tanks partially mount off the rears via a bracket, so I decided to test mount both the rear fuel tanks and front fuel tanks together and then drill the holes to permanently fix the rear. This whole process to about a day (including adding the fuel pump, the separate wiring harness and getting everything off the old tank into the new one). After that day the biggest jobs were done and only smaller things (like heated grips, aluminium hand guards etc.) needed to be done. I decided it would be good to do shakedowns whilst building the bike, and I wanted to ride home. I put in some fuel, started up the bike and left it running while I geared up (wintery holland, so quite a lot of clothing), got on the bike and shifted into first. Stall... I was aware this sometimes happened because of the tight-ish clutch, so I pull the clutch and try to start it... Nothing. I mentally retrace steps and think about what it could be, my brain jumps to the side stand sensor and after some thinking and ruling out other possibilities, I decided it had to be that and went home on my old XTZ.

Underway, the navigation tower build. I eventually swapped out all bolts for similar stainless A4 alan key bolts

I called the dealer the day after and told them about the issue, they said the side-stand sensor rarely went but that if I wanted, I could come back in with the bike to have it looked after. As my dealer is on the other side of the Netherlands, I decided to do some more investigating myself as the clutch sensor may be involved in this as well. As the bike started and ran perfectly fine in neutral, I got out my old voltmeter and tested the clutch sensor. That worked fine, so I thought it had to be the side stand sensor. I ordered an eliminator kit and got back to mounting the last bits and pieces. The heated grips went on, I soldered both them and a USB charger into the wiring harness and I mounted my 3d printed iPad mini bracket.
After a week or so, the sensor comes in. I mount it, start up the bike and it runs, but dies out after a few seconds. I figured the little amount of fuel I put in the last time must have run out, so I jump on my XTZ and get some more. I then fuel up the bike and start it, only to have it die again within a couple of seconds. This was really strange. I started it up a couple of times but it died and died. I figured the bike had been sitting for a while without having been ridden, so perhaps the battery was low. I put that on charge and tried the next day. This resulted in the exact same. I called my dealer and they found it rather strange too but advised me to stop by. As I thought I wasn't going anywhere with my troubleshooting I decided to rent a van and ride the bike down to the dealer the next week.
After a day and some thinking (air, fuel, spark, going down the list), I got back to the garage. My hunch was that the injector was maybe squirting in so much fuel that it choked itself after a while. I started by taking out the plugs, which were soaking wet. I dried them, got them back in the bike and tried starting. It didn't start, but, some puffs did come out the exhaust. I repeated the process a couple of times and sure enough, it got better and better. After about 4 times, I could keep it running, but only with the gas half open. While doing so loads and loads of white smoke came out the exhaust. I was baffled. The whole rally kit is basically a bolt-on and the only thing that changes on the workings of the bike is that there is a switch hooked into the wiring harness for the secondary fuel pump (and light). I decided to leave it at that and get it to the shop.

At the shop, I asked if I could tag along with the process so I could understand what was going on but they did not allow me. The mechanic later asked me in there and asked me to explain some of the details of the kit. There we noticed I had one connection in the wrong position. The rear part of the fuel switch had two parts, one for the pump (which was correctly wired up) and one for the fuel sensor, which I hooked to the water temperature sensor. In hindsight a rather dumb mistake, but as this effectively just turns the sensor on and off and the ECU hadn't given an error, this couldn't really have hurt the engine.
There were some strange things going on though, we hooked the bike up to the diagnostics and he said he couldn't really get into the ECU. We later tried swapping the ECU with a fresh 701 SMC one to see if it was any different and while he was able to get into that, the problem persisted.
At this point in time the mechanic tells me I might as well go home and leave the bike as he won't finish it that day. He'll try to see if the cam chain is out of timing as they have a tendency to hop a tooth because the cam chain tensioner works off of oil pressure and that may not always be enough. I still thought it must have been something with the injector or something electronic. I didn't have much hope in his direction, but I figured theoretically, maybe the intake ports are open at weird times and this makes for some incomplete combustion (which shouldn't really happen on a bike that has less than 1000kms on it, but still).
A week and a half later, I get a call the bike is ready. I asked them what the issue was and they told me I must have put in diesel as they put in their own fuel and that solved the issue. But, that they also replaced a thing called a "coil pulser", which is responsible for sending the signal to the spark plugs to do their thing. If that doesn't work and the spark plugs only spark half of the time, guess what... Combined with the suddenness of it going wrong (where the bike ran fine on the same fuel earlier), it leads me to believe that this was an electrical issue and not the fuel issue. I think the dealer felt quite strongly it was the fuelling because they fronted me with the bill. As I just rebuild the bike completely, finding this problem took a lot of troubleshooting and I have no way to prove that it was that electrical issue causing it and not my fuel, I decided I didn't really want the hassle (with only a week or two left before the big trip) and paid the bill. In hindsight, I shouldn't have done that as I still strongly believe the issue was electrical (and I didn't put diesel in my motorcycle).

The day I pick up the bike and go for a ride, my feelings are confirmed, as the bike dies with a flat battery. I call the dealer and they didn't really know as it ran fine over there (the batteries are quite big in these bikes). I called a tow truck and went home. I charged the battery, got it back on the bike and started it up. The bike ran fine, but the battery didn't charge. I took out the regulator rectifier, tested it and came to the conclusion that broke down. Somewhere in my original plan was to go for a mosfet reg / rec (carmo makes great ones) , so I decided to not hassle my dealer any more and just ordered the part, which fixed it.

This concluded the pre-trip hassle of the bike. In my mind and after some contemplating these are all issues that shouldn't really be happening on a new bike and the thought of riding through a desert with the side stand failing would be horrendous. I can't believe the sensor is wired in so hard, why not build in a switch that overrides these things in times of need?

Build all done apart from suspension and some stickers

The last thing that I did was upgrade the suspension to have 300mm of travel front and back. The guys at Hyperpro thankfully had an opening the day before I was supposed to leave. This sounds a bit risky, but I've been to them before, they know what they are doing and I had 100% faith in them.
Unfortunately, the forks my dealer provided me with (I asked them to source a pair) weren't directly compatible. We either had to make spacers for the axles and make a bracket for the abs / speed sensor, or drill out the original forks and switch out the internals (which we weren't sure about actually working). After some contemplating and thinking about just upgrading the original shocks, we decided the 300mm would be a great addition, the forks were of much better quality and the work would be worth it. After a long day, we got it done, I rode back and the difference was huge. The stock setup was sticky at the top and once it was through its sticky section, it would bottom out instantly. Not the current setup. Whilst a set of progressive springs up front would have been even better, the spring rate was already so heavy that Hyperpro didn't have a progressive one in that strength.

-- Addendum 30 / 05 / 2019; I now believe there was some miscommunication between me and the dealer when talking about having 'the thick axle'. I thought at the time there were just two (22mm and 26mm) and that when they asked me if I had the 'thick axle', they would mean 26mm. However, I recently later found out, the actual fork is not a simple closed cartridge EXC fork as I thought / initially requested, it's actually a 325mm fork from the factory rally. And that bike uses a 30mm axle. Hence, the confusion. All-in-all, a simple miscommunication and by buying the bigger axle + spacer, I won't need any of the spacers we made earlier.

On the trip

After shaking down the bike on some long-ish trips to my parents place at the other side of the country, I slowly started regaining faith and after a couple of weeks of fine tuning some bits and pieces, getting an updated version of my iPad mount printed, I was off.
The first bit down to Italy went without issues and when taking the bike offroad, even fully loaded up, it was awesome. I was really happy we pushed on with the 300mm suspension when I hit some difficult uphill rock gardens in Italy. If I hadn't touched the suspension, I would have probably turned around.
In Italy I had my tyres swapped and changed the oil. The oil was quite clear, the bike hadn't used much but the filter was split out a little (which was due too hard riding according to the mechanic :P). We changed it all, cleaned the airfilter while we were at it and I was on my way again.

In Israel I hit some more offroad sections and I was really starting to dig the bike. However, in Egypt, things turned for the worse. When riding from Cairo down to Luxor the bike went into limp mode. This means the throttle is reduced to like 30% and the bike will only do around 80km (if there is no headwind). At this point I started to be quite fed up as this was a new bike that I had bought specifically to go to Cape Town with, it had done less than 10k km's and it already had so many issues. I posted a question on what it could be on Facebook with my only clue being that the Neutral light wasn't turning on and Jon, from kit690 where I bought my kit, came back to me with a story on that he had his Gear Position Sensor fail and that my symptoms sounded similar. It would require recalibration at the dealer. After a nights sleep, I arranged for a tow truck to take me back to Cairo and contacted KTM Egypt to have the bike fixed. After a gruelling 10 hour day and substantially lighter money wise, I made it to Cairo. The next day, I limp my way to KTM Egypt and hook up the bike to the diagnostics. Hassan from KTM was really friendly, we worked through it together and after clearing some values and errors a couple of times, the procedure of recalibrating the sensor succeeded. He proceeded to show me where I could get some fuel filters (as I wanted extra inline filters for the worse parts of the trip fuel wise) and the next day I rode back to Luxor.

On the back of a lorry for the second time in her extremely short life

While I was annoyed this happened, I was prepared for some things to go wrong on the trip and well, shit happens. I did realise that while I was prepared for more common failures (chain snapping, flats, bad coils, plugs gone wrong, etc.), I wasn't really prepared for these computer things going wrong and I started thinking about how I could have been better prepared.
This wait didn't take long as the leg after Cairo to Luxor, the bike went straight back into Limp mode. At that point in time, I'm somewhere in the area of 1000km's away from Cairo and my visa is about to expire.
This time, I was quite pissed off. Having spend quite a bit of money getting back up to Cairo to fix the bike and fixing the bike earlier (even though I think it should have been covered under warranty), I wasn't really feeling another truck ride up to Cairo. Combining that with my visa expiring, Cairo quickly became a non-option. The second option is Nairobi, around 4500km's from where I was.
So, I decided to ring my dealer to see what they could do or if there was a work around. Unfortunately, there wasn't, I asked them if they could send down a diagnostics kit and a new sensor (as I'm pretty sure I could fix it myself) and they said they couldn't. They gave me the number for KTM Netherlands though, so I gave them a call. They seemed helpful and called KTM Austria to see if there was a way to get around the sensor. He told me he spoke to the guy who designed the ignition system and he told him there was no way around it. This bothered me a little. As a software developer, we call this a tightly coupled system, which is ok, if there are proper fallbacks in place incase one of the systems parts or couplings fall out. While there is technically a fallback (the limp mode), there is no technical reason the bike can't jump to a fuel mode that just provides the same mapping for every gear as it's purely there for euro 5 emission.
After some back-and-forth with KTM NL they tell me they basically can't do anything for me other than trying to get the KTM Egypt dealer to help out (I already asked him if he or his diagnostics kit could in some way get to Aswan, to which the answer was no). This didn't suit me well. I felt I was being let down. At this point I stopped being friendly and started being a bit more unfriendly to the guys as I felt the situation was going nowhere and they didn't really have a problem with leaving me in the desert and having me limp 4500km's. I couldn't help but think that back in the day when Charlie Boorman and Ewan McGregor were talking to KTM for some bikes and KTM told them they think they couldn't make it, it must have been because they thought their bikes couldn't make it.
To cut an extremely long story with many phone calls, some arguments and not much progress short. KTM NL talked to my dealer and concluded I had bolted on some non genuine parts, voiding my warranty and stating I had to feel grateful they were even talking to me. Now, while they are legally allowed to play such a card, this isn't very friendly. It turns out my dealer wasn't very positive (as they saw the bike mid build with some bits and pieces still left unfinished) and not very well informed (they told KTM NL I had been welding on the frame, which didn't happen). This led KTM NL to believe I did a poor job on building the kit onto the bike. This left me frustrated. In the first place because it wasn't true, and in the second place because if that was truly the case and they had the best in mind for their customers, they should have pointed out all those flaws and mistakes they saw them, then and there, so I could fix it and wouldn't be stranded on my world trip.

Concluding

While this bike is amazing when it works, I've had much trouble with it. I feel this bike is highly performant if everything lines up perfectly. Having one sensor be a little off makes the whole bike go wrong. I'm part of a bunch of Facebook groups relating the 701 and I've been hearing more-and-more issues on bikes breaking down quickly after being purchased (< 1000km) and if I would have read all of those before my purchase, I may have purchased a different bike. To conclude I would like to advice KTM on two things.

Firstly, as a software developer, if one runs a company building motorcycles that heavily rely on computerised technology, one would have to provide a way to reliably debug the software, from anywhere in the world, without having to travel 1000's of km's to a dealer. I met some people in Sudan, who had KTM 1290's. These KTM's basically can't be serviced unless they're flown out of the country as there is no dealer in Sudan. To me, this can be easily fixed with some better / more hard- and software (KTM, if you're reading, you're welcome to hire me to help you build it when I'm back).

Secondly, people buy these bikes to make extraordinary journeys. They save up, buy the bike and then modify it to make it even better. These people (me including) are well prepared and very open minded to fixing things when they go wrong, but when the only way out is to use software that is only available to dealers and the dutch nor the worldwide KTM network can't get it done, there is something seriously wrong.
I saw many possibilities in helping out;

  • Send new sensor + computer down, I fix it, send it back ā€“ may not be preferable as I could be evil and copy the software although an NDA or simple contract would have solved that
  • Send an ODB2 / bluetooth dongle + CAN BUS data down ā€“ I understand this is not for everyone, but as a software developer, if I had a dongle + the correct CAN BUS stuff the publish to the bike, I probably would have been able to figure it out.
  • Send a mechanic + new sensor + computer down ā€“ may not be preferable as they can't miss any of their mechanics
  • Send a new ECU + Gear Position Sensor (that have been known to work together) ā€“ might not work because of engine case thickness tolerances and changes in magnetic fields (thus voltages), also requiring recalibration
  • Send just the Gear Position Sensor on the odd chance it may work without recalibration
  • Offer to send new Gear Position Sensor to a place were there is a dealership so it's there when I get there
  • Offer to pay for shipping / parts ā€“ Ā KTM NL did say that when I was back, we could have a chat about the costs I made and if I could be compensated, but the whole thing sounded very conditional to me and didn't gave me a comfortable feeling

I'm not sure if all options / ideas I pitched came through as I wasn't allowed to talk to anyone at KTM Austria (they told me they would call me with a solution instead of me allowing to pitch some of my own, which to this date, they haven't).
I would like this post to remain fair and to keep the option open that none of the things above were possible for KTM to arrange. I will however add that that while they said in words that they couldn't help, it felt more like they didn't want to (especially after playing the 'you have bolted aftermarket parts to your bike so your warranty is void' card). I will even go as far as to say that if none of the above could have been arranged even though they gave it their absolute best shot, I think the company as a whole is rather incompetent.

So, should you buy a 701? Maybe, it's a great bike when it works, but for me, most of the time, it hasn't. And well, bear in mind that if thats the case, KTM / Husqvarna may leave you to fix it for yourself.

Addendum 30 / 05 / 2019

The bike has been fixed for a while now. Plugging the new sensor in actually took it out of limp mode directly, but to clear the errors in the computer, it needed recalibration. The people at KTM in Nairobi were super nice in helping me out and we spend a good few days while waiting on the part to try and correctly diagnose exactly what it is that went wrong. As far as we could tell there were a couple of interesting things. (this may get a bit technical).

KTM Nairobi + KTM Zambia

While my view of KTM overall hasn't been great ever since my contact with them. I have to say that KTM Nairobi really helped me out in mucking around trying to solve the issue for a few days and letting me have a go with their computer etc. etc. Same for KTM Zambia, they offered me a spot to work and fix up the bike and I ended up working on the bike for 3 days greasing all the linkages, changing oils, tyres and fixing some other small things.

Double Circuits

When we had the bike on the computer, we were perfectly able to read out the voltages coming back from the sensor. By twisting the sensor we could even make the voltage to be exactly what the computer expected. However, we learned there was a secondary circuit that apparently was broken. With some instructions from KTM, I was able to determine that the other circuit was shorting to ground (which meant the sensor needed replacing). I find this strange as I can't really think of a reason why this secondary circuit would be there (unless there are two sensors in the actual sensor for redundancy, but then when one fails, there is always the other one, so you can throw an error but keep the one that's good to measure).

Fluctuating voltages

The voltage coming back from the sensor is different if you twist the sensor from left to right. The tolerance within the holes is tiny, but it allows for the sensor to be twisted within the bolt holes. This in turn varies the voltage slightly. This is easily solved in software by building in a tolerance but I'm not sure if that has been done. I can imagine the computer being thrown off if one of the bolts came loose.

Lack of Threadlocking

When re-installing the sensor, I noticed the thread were squeeky clean. From the manual, this needs to be put in place with locktite. No corrosion on the threads means there wasn't any on there. Combined with the voltages being able to change when twisting the sensor around, this means it may have come loose a little.

Addendum 25 / 06 / 2019 (23k)

Ever since fixing it in Nairobi, the bike has been working flawlessly. I also have to say the quality of dealerships has gone up since.

KTM / Husqvarna Johannesburg (Raceworx / Husqvarna West)

Another great dealer. One of, if not the biggest one I've seen. If I understand correctly, from KTM Zambia down, they all order their parts from - and deal with - KTM South Africa and KTM South Africa deals with Austria. I have the feeling that all the dealers that fall under the reign of SA are on a different scale to the ones we have in Europe. I rocked up there asking if I could service my bike (oil change, valves, fixing heated grips and chain / sprockets) and they gave me a bay and all the help needed including sourcing parts (new grips) they didn't have in stock.

Addendum 25 / 06 / 2019 (28k)

After Husqvarna West, I rode down through Lesotho and went west to Cape Town. After one of the mountain passes and during my regular after ride check, I noticed the bike was low on coolant (can happen, mountain passes are sometimes slow and the bike will get hot), so I topped it up. The next day, I noticed it was empty again, so I topped it up again, but also checked the radiator. It was very low. So I decided to take it slow, ride back to Cape Town on tar while topping up the radiator regularly. At Husqvarna (Eddy2Race) in Cape Town, we checked the radiator by pressurising it. It had developed a leak both in the grill (no visible damage) and at the pipe connecting it to the engine. Eddy2Race fixed the leak at the connection to the engine and put in a warranty claim for the radiator itself. We both felt I should be able to ride it if topping up regularly and checking it. However, at my first top up (after a 15 minute ride), I noticed the radiator was empty-ish again. I topped it up again and rode to Woodstock Moto Co. where one of the guys had some radiator JB weld type fix stuff which you pour in and it promises to fix the leaks. We poured it in and miraculously, it seemed to fixed the radiator. However, when looking at the oil sight glass, we saw a coffee with milk colour (which hadn't been there before). So either the head gasket is gone or the water pump seals or the base gasket... -_-