After a 25-year split, Husaberg and Husqvarna, as well as many of both company's engineers, have been reunited, oddly enough, thanks to KTM.
Austria might be Husqvarna's new home, but the gun-sight marque will forever be associated with Sweden, the country where the Husqvarna legacy was born some 110 years ago. This explains why Husqvarna and its new owner KTM chose Sweden as the place to introduce its first line of Husqvarna off-road and motocross models since the KTM/Husqvarna marriage last March. More specifically, Husqvarna chose the Uddevalla Circuit near Gothenburg to host its world media/re-launch of the all-new Huskys, and we were all too happy to attend - even if it was for just one day.
Husky's model range for 2014 is pretty impressive with 13 machines to chose from, though the US will see just 10 - five enduros and motocrossers. Husky's model designation is pretty easy to decipher compared to before, as there are only two - TC and FE - to remember. "T" stands for two-stroke, "F" for four-stroke, "C" for Cross (as in motocross) and "E" for Enduro (off-road). For motocross, the U.S. will get the Husqvarna TC 85, 125, 250 two-stroke and FC 250 and 450 four-stroke models. For off-road, the U.S. will get the TE 250 and 300 two-strokes and FE 250, 350 and 501 four-strokes. The TE and FE designations might sound familiar to you and they should, as they are borrowed from Husaberg. We will continue seeing 2014 TE and FE Husabergs on showroom floors for a while before the KTM-owned brand, which originally started out in Sweden as an offshoot of Husqvarna when Husqvarna was purchased by the Cagiva/MG Agusta Group in 1987 (then by BMW in 2007), will be phased out by year's end. Production has, in fact, already come to a halt.
After the 2014 model year, Husabergs will be history, as the company will be merged into the Husky/KTM fold. You can also still find the older-style red and white 2014-model Husqvarnas on showroom floors; these models were built in Italy while still owned by BMW. They too will be gone by 2015.
The new white, yellow and blue Huskys are essentially a mixture of Husaberg and KTM. For example, the Husky’s get Husaberg’s top-of-the-line WP 4SC closed-cartridge forks and polyamide subframes and KTM’s XC-W chassis - but with linkage rear suspension - and KTM-built motors. None of the new Husky’s (except the TC 85) have KTM’s PDS rear suspension system, which KTM still uses on its “W” off-road line.
The new Austrian-built Husqvarnas are a mixture of Husabergs and KTMs.
As mentioned, the Husky motors are pure KTM, with the TE and FE models getting six-speed transmissions and DDS (damped diaphragm steel) clutches (the TC 450 also gets the DDS clutch, while the other MXers still get the coil spring steel clutch). All of the new Husky’s get single component cast swingarms, CNC triple clamps with four-position handlebar mounts, black D.I.D rims and hand guards, yes, even the motocrossers.
Despite the big gathering in Sweden, the new-generation production Huskys will be built alongside the orange bikes at the KTM factory in Mattighofen, Austria, so it came as no surprise to us that these Husky's felt quite familiar – very KTM-like - once rolling. Heck, maybe even more Husaberg-like because of the 4SC fork.
Our day was spent almost entirely on the off-road models, as steady but light rain left the Uddevalla motocross track all but un-rideable. By my scheduled time on the Uddevalla track, it was nothing but a soupy mess and nearly as challenging to navigate as the technical "Enduro" loop that the Swedes (who will, by the way, remain very much involved with the Husqvarna brand, including one of Husaberg's original founders Thomas Gusthafsson) had laid out for us. They didn't cut us any slack on the enduro loop. Luckily, the new Husky's are simply phenomenal machines and very capable of handling the sloppy mud, wet rocks, slippery roots and steep hill climbs (often times all at once) that Gustafsson (I'm presuming) threw at us. No wonder the Swedes are such amazing off-road riders. I guess I would be too if this was all I ever rode on.
To emphasize Husky's legacy and off-road roots, Husqvarna/KTM held its 2014 world media launch in Sweden, but the company's new home is in Austria.
Squeezing in 10 quality rides on 10 bikes – while swapping machines among about 15 other journalists - in one short day was impossible, especially when the enduro loop took approximately 45 minutes to circulate, but I gave it my best shot, of course, and managed to throw a leg over most of them, concentrating entirely on the off-roaders.
What stood out in my mind after a full day of rocks, mud and roots was suspension. Both the four-stroke and two-stroke Huskys have remarkably good suspensions that made negotiating the extremely challenging enduro loop very do-able and even fun. Despite having zero time to custom-tune suspension settings on any of the bikes, all of the Husky’s felt as though their WP Dual Compression Control rear shock and WP 4CS fork were tuned specifically for me and my 170 pounds. On all of the TE bikes, initial stroke at both ends was comfortably soft and cushy yet had enough left over to soak up the bumps and g-outs at speed, though, I must admit, I’m not sure I ever got out of third gear on these trails.
Each of the Husky models had their own advantages in these near-extreme conditions: Both the TE 250 and 300 felt light and nimble and had plenty of torque – especially the 300 – to fall back on when things got really ugly, while the four-strokes all seemed to hook up a tad better on the wet rocks and muddy trail and seemed a bit easier to maintain a fast and steady pace. The TEs felt a little stiffer and a bit more antsy on the trail, while the FEs divvied up a more cushy ride and weren’t as busy feeling on the trail.
Husqvarna chose Sweden's blue, yellow and white colors for their new-generation Huskys to reflect a time when "Swedish-bred bikes ruled the off-road world." Pictured here is the 2014 Husky FE 350.
The TE 250 and 300 feel very similar overall, but the 300 has better lugging control off the bottom and hits noticeably harder when the motor comes on the pipe (which can get you in trouble from time to time if you get sloppy on the controls). Like the KTM 250 and 300 XCs, the TE Huskys have electric starting with back-up kick. The TE’s ignition is also adjustable between two ignition curves that can be switched by changing plug connections.
As for the thumpers, the FE 250’s DOHC motor is a revver but still pulls well off the bottom and offers decent torque, though not nearly as much as the FE 350. The 350’s larger displacement takes the edge off the rider when things start getting gnarly on the trail compared to its 250cc counterpart. Power is overall a bit smoother on the 350, too, and you tend to use the clutch significantly less. Of the Husky’s I rode, the TE 350 was the only one that I stalled (and more than once) on the trail. It would, however, start right back up - even in gear.
The TE 300 shown here and all of the new Huskys feature WP 4SC forks, linkage rear suspension, KTM-built engines, one-piece swingarms, and polyamide subframes.
The only U.S.-bound enduro model I didn’t get a chance to ride was the FE 501, though I did take a lap on the Euro-only FE 450. It’s a remarkable bike that you can’t help but go fast on, but it’s still a lot of motorcycle. It can be a bit of a handful when bopping over the rocks and roots, especially with tired muscles. The 501 I was told by some of the other journalists performs much like the 450 but with noticeably more torque and a bit more power overall, but is still pretty easy to ride for such a powerful machine. Could this be the bike designed to take over the California desert like Husqvarna once did? We know that young up-and-coming desert racer Jacob Argubright will be on one next year.
But the bike I probably had the most fun on was the TE 125, which I took a spin on while waiting my turn for one of the other America-bound Huskys to return to the stable. The little 125 is peppy and remarkably torquey; it could chug up almost anything, just like the bigger bikes. I did miss the electric start, though, even if it was super-easy to kick over. Bummer we’re not getting TE 125 off-roader in the U.S.
The bikes we rode in Sweden were fitted with Pirelli tires but US-bound Huskys will come shod with Dunlop knobbies.
While it might seem a little weird that KTM and Husqvarna are now related, we’re glad they are. After all, if KTM didn’t come along, who knows what might’ve happened to the Husky name. It could’ve gone by the wayside, and that would’ve been a lot worse than having two similar – and very good - brands on the market.
Production Austrian-built Husky’s are already coming off the assembly line and should start hitting the American shores in a few months.