Beta versus Husky, carburetion versus fuel injection—we load up two very similar but different 300cc two-strokes and see what each one has to offer.
Photography by Joseph McKimmy/Handsome Rabbit
For 2020, all the Husqvarna (and KTM) two-stroke off-road motorcycles are fuel-injected. Are the fuel-injected bikes better than the carbureted options still on the market? We wanted to find out for ourselves, so we got our hands on a new carbureted 2020 Beta 300 RR to put up against the fuel-injected Husqvarna TE 300i.
Husqvarna and KTM introduced their fuel-injected two-strokes in the 2018 model year, so we are now on the third generation of the Husqvarna TE i model (which shares a lot of parts with the KTM XC-W TPI that we tested HERE. Husqvarna has two off-road two-stroke 300 options, the TE (two-stroke enduro) and the TX (two-stroke cross country). We chose the more all-around off-road-oriented TE 300i to go up against the Beta 300 RR since they both are aimed at a similar type of rider.
The European brands of KTM, Husqvarna, Beta, Sherco, and GasGas (which was recently purchased by the KTM Group) has continued the development of two-stroke off-road bikes and dominate the extreme off-road racing scene both in the U.S. and abroad. Like most of the other brands/models, the Husqvarna and Beta include electric start, with no kickstarter backup. Each bike contains two different ignition maps (one more aggressive and one mellower option for low traction or technical conditions). Both bikes feature traditional spring forks (rather than air-spring forks found on the more race-oriented TX 300i). And in the rear, both the Husqvarna and Beta include linkage style suspension systems. Headlights/taillights are standard on both bikes, and we were grateful to have those as we ended up finishing more than one ride after dark. Both bikes are too much fun to stop riding just because the sun sets.
Unlike two-strokes of the past, both bikes do not require mixing oil in the gas as they have oil-injection systems. You fill a separate tank with your two-stroke oil, and that will last for several tanks of fuel. This seems like a small thing, but it is nice to share gas cans with your four-stroke riding buddies or fill up at a gas station as we did in Moab without needing to carry oil. Speaking of fuel, the stock tank on the Husqvarna holds 2.2 gallons while the Beta holds 2.5 gallons.
For the sake of this test, we installed fresh Dunlop AT81 tires on both bikes. In fact, we went through two sets of tires on each bike. We spent a total of seven days testing on the two bikes in diverse terrain that included two days in Moab, Utah, a day at the Motoventures training grounds in Anza, California, and four days in the desert with varying conditions.
Fully fueled up and ready to ride, the two bikes were within a pound of each other. The Husqvarna weighed in at 245 pounds while the Beta was 246.
2020 Husqvarna TE 300i: What’s New
The 2020 Husqvarna TE 300i gets a new chrome-moly steel frame, which changed the motor position slightly and moved the radiators down 12 millimeters. The designers also designed it to increase the longitudinal and torsional rigidity. One of the differentiating factors between Husqvarna and sister brand KTM is the composite subframe, which is 70% polyamide and 30% carbon fiber. The new frame gets an updated subframe as well as new plastic, which trickles down from the TC motocross line.
The Husqvarna motor has some updates that include a new CNC-machined exhaust port for more precise port timing and a new powervalve drive mechanism. There is also a new water pump cover to improve cooling. Airbox and boot are also redesigned. The exhaust is new for 2020 and includes a unique ribbed structure that is said to decrease the sound and increase the strength. The oval shape also allows for more clearance.
The fuel injection system has been an ongoing development process, and in fact, we have been told that there are updated maps even since the first 2020 models hit showroom floors. If you already have one of the bikes or are buying one from a dealer, it will be worth checking to see if you have the latest version as we have learned first hand on some KTM test bikes that it does make a big difference in performance.
2020 Beta 300 RR: What’s New
The 2020 Beta 300 RR includes an entirely new frame aimed at increasing the rigidity and improving the handling. They also sought to improve the durability by using precision-cast components in places like the footpeg mounts. The entire subframe is also completely redesigned to improve durability and includes a new integrated airbox, which houses the electronics and oil reservoir. The 2020 Betas have completely new bodywork as well. One cool feature that was further improved is the push-button seat release.
When KTM/Husqvarna introduced their counterbalanced two-strokes in 2017, they set a new standard for vibration management. Beta has now answered with a counterbalanced motor that is not quite as smooth as the KTM/Husqvarna but has significantly less vibration than the previous generation Beta’s. The Beta also includes a new cooling system, with some of the hoses placed inside the frame to go along with new radiators.
The 2020 Beta’s also get updated Sachs forks and shock. The forks get a new inner cartridge to lower the center of gravity, and the valving has been updated to compliment the new fork. The shock features a new top out system, longer shock bumper, and revised valving.
Time To Ride
Both bikes have a similar riding position, making it easy to get comfortable on either one. The Husqvarna suspension is set up for off-road trail riding, and it provides a very plush ride. If you are a bigger and/or more aggressive rider, however, you may find it to be a little too soft. The Beta suspension is a bit stiffer by comparison and allows for more aggressive riding. The tradeoff is that the Beta transfers more of the small bumps to the rider. We had five different riders compare both bikes, and all agreed that both bikes had their strengths in terms of suspension. If you like a really compliant motorcycle that will be comfortable all day, the Husky is the one to pick, but if you want to be more aggressive, you will prefer the Beta suspension settings.
In terms of handling, which is closely related to the suspension, both bikes feel stable at speed but are still really good at navigating through the tight technical stuff. The past Beta’s felt a little twitchy at speeds but cornered well in tight trails, and we are happy to report that the new Beta chassis feels much more stable at speeds but still corners well. There was not a clear-cut winner between the two bikes in the overall handling.
As for the basics, the hydraulic clutch on both bikes performed flawlessly, and the same can be said for the brakes on both bikes.
The engine performance is where these two bikes differ the most. As with the past fuel-injected Husqvarna two-strokes, we have found that the bikes run well, but they don’t provide the exciting performance found on the previous generation carbureted models from both Husqvarna and KTM. They are pretty flat and lack the snap that makes two-strokes so fun. As we noted on our recent tests of the KTM XC and XCW’s, KTM/Husqvarna does not recommend that you adjust the powervalve to change engine character. However, if you want to improve the performance dramatically, buy the tool that KTM sells to adjust the powervalve (it is a square head). It is about $10 from your Husqvarna/KTM dealer. As little as a quarter turn counterclockwise to loosen the spring and open the powervalve sooner makes a big difference. For our test bike, the sweet spot was about a half turn out from the stock setting.
In stock form, the Beta 300 RR runs much better than the stock Husqvarna TE 300i. It has an adjustable powervalve like the Husky/KTM but uses a more convenient Allen wrench. However, we never felt the need to adjust it as the Beta has a very broad powerband that will allow you to tractor through slow speed stuff and still revs out and runs great on top.
One other thing we noticed on the Husqvarna was a lot of pinging/detonation when using our local California pump gas. The fuel injection is tuned to be more efficient for mileage and emissions, but the result is a relatively lean fuel ratio. We tested VP C12 race fuel mixed 50/50 with the pump gas, and that eliminated the ping completely. The Beta ran fine on pump fuel. And we did not experience a measurable difference in terms of fuel mileage between the two bikes.
Both bikes include two map options that can be easily changed. The Husqvarna has a switch up near the throttle with an “I” and “II.” The I is the more aggressive of the two, and it is a noticeable difference. The Beta has a button just in front of the fuel tank and has a “rain” and “sun” to designate the two options, which also has a white or blue light to indicate which one you have selected. The difference is less noticeable on the Beta, but as we said, it has really broad power.
Although the fuel injection on the Husqvarna should be better at compensating for elevation and other atmospheric changes, the Keihin carbureted Beta ran great in a pretty wide range of conditions and altitudes. At this stage of the Husqvarna/KTM development cycle, we still give the edge in performance to the carbureted Beta.
Conclusion, Beta or Husqvarna?
Both bikes are incredible, and if you are riding in technical terrain, you will be amazed at how capable they are. Extreme off-road racers will love both bikes, and less experienced riders will also appreciate the smooth power delivery, easy to use clutches, and light weight compared to four-stroke off-road bikes.
On paper, the fuel-injected Husqvarna TE 300i should out-perform the carbureted Beta 300 RR. Husqvarna/KTM has more resources for R&D, and electronic fuel injection should provide endless adjustability to provide perfect power in all conditions. However, the Keihin carbureted Beta 300 RR has been tuned almost perfectly, and it runs a little better in the real world in stock form. The Husqvarna was improved with race gas and tuning of the powervalve, but the slightly more race-oriented suspension settings on the Beta still had most of our test riders choosing the Beta. CN
2020 Husqvarna TE300i and 2020 Beta 300 RR Specifications
||Liquid-cooled, 2-stroke, single
||Liquid-cooled, 2-stroke, single
|Bore x Stroke:
||72 x 72mm
||72 x 72mm
||Carburetor Keihin PXK 36mm
||Wet, DDT multi-disc, Magura hydraulic
||Wet Multi-disc, Brembo hydraulic
||25CrMo4 steel Molybdenum steel, double-cradle
||WP, single shock, linkage, fully adjustable
||Sachs, single shock, linkage, fully adjustable
||48mm WP XPLOR spring fork, fully adjustable
||48mm Sachs spring fork, fully adjustable
||Single, 260mm disc
||Single 260mm disc
||Single, 220mm disc
||Single 240mm disc
|Weight (actual, wet):