Sometime late last summer we previewed the 2011 Husky line in Italy. The motorcycles were some of the most technologically sophisticated dirt bikes ever made, and we promised a full stateside test with more details to follow.
That didn’t happen. In the weeks and months that followed, Husqvarna went through a reorganization both in the U.S. and in Italy. The result was a delay that only now has come to an end. Husqvarna’s new motorcycles are now available in the U.S. and we just got a chance to ride the first ones ashore.
The new Huskys assembled in front of Goat's Cottage Hotel in Randsberg.
Husqvarna organized a press intro at Goat Breker’s Cottage Hotel in Randsberg, California. Side note: what an awesome place. Goat has revamped a hotel and several cabins in the motorcycle-friendly, living ghost town of Randsberg. You can ride your dirt bike right to your cabin door.
As for the bikes, the models on hand were the TE449 dual-sport bike, the TXC449 off-road bike and the TXC250 off-road bike. The 449s are built around the BMW G450 motor. BMW has turned over the dirt side of the market to Husky, and so the G450 will be phased out of production in the U.S. The Bimmer didn’t get the greatest press, but it still was one of the most innovative and sophisticated dirt bikes ever. The Husky shares many of those features. The clutch is mounted directly on the crankshaft without reduction. Unlike the BMW, that clutch is hydraulically operated on the Husky. Also, the swingarm pivot runs directly though the center of the countershaft, which results in uniform chain tension throughout the shock travel.
The motor has a Mikuni EFI system and is fully EPA and CARB compliant on the models we rode. That means it can get an off-road sticker in any state (in the case of the TXCs) or a license plate (in the case of the TE). The TXC250 comes with a throttle stop, which most owners will want to remove. That makes it a competition bike as far as the government is concerned. The same goes for any tampering with the EFI system. All of the bikes have exhaust O2 sensors, which can be removed for competition, and an easy mod can change the fuel metering.
The Husky TE449 is in an elite group of hard-core dual-sport bikes that are completely dirt worthy.
The 449 motor is a sweetheart on both the dirt bike and the dual-sport. It makes plenty of power, is very quiet and pulls from super low. The delivery is smooth with only a slight hint of vibration. The big bike has a number of very distinctive traits. The first is that it’s super stable. It’s a straight-line steam-engine of a motorcycle. You steer the bike with the throttle and the rear wheel. It’s a fun bike to ride because you never feel like you’re on the edge; the bike always seems to invite you to twist it harder. The TE has much softer suspension settings that the TXC, so it’s easy to get carried away in deep whoops. We increased the compression and rebound damping, at first by a few clicks, then by a few turns, but it never was asgood in the whoops as the TXC. Both bikes are much more at home in tight, rocky terrain. They find traction like you wouldn’t believe. The location of the countershaft has a distinctive affect on the rear suspension. It has significant anti-squat characteristics, and that contributes to the traction, but also makes the machine stand up in turns occasionally.
We found the weird clutch to be very effective. You could abuse it and never have any fade--the rotation speed results in very thorough oil movement, and that keeps the plates cool. Brakes were excellent, starting was easy and workmanship was outstanding. We visited the Husky factory and understand why. BMW has really taken control of quality control with check after double check on the assembly line. The warranty reflects that: six months on the TE and 30 days on the TXC.
The TXC250 was probably the most popular bike with the press. It’s just a sweet-handing bike that makes you utterly fearless. The KYB fork and Sachs shock are well set up . We can’t say the machine is fast; it’s a notchor two down from a 250F motocross bike. But we can say it’s an excellent trail bike. Racing will require a search for more power.
That will be the first bike that we get for a real test. Check out the April issue of Dirt Bike for a long-term evaluation of the TXC250, with more Huskys following. They’re finally here and we’re going riding.
Goat's factory ride.
Randsberg is the ultimate dirt-bike friendly town.