Ég sé og heyri að menn eru að velta fyrir sér stöðu Husqvarna í dag, og ekki að ástæðulausu. Sagansegir að Husqvarna opni útibú hér á landi í vetur. En ýmsar spurningar um stöðu Husqvarna eru í loftinu. Hér er það sem ég veit þó að er að gerast.
Husqvarna kynnti í fyrra nýja línu af hjólum og voru þar mest áberandi TE 250, 400 og 450. Ekki að álit mitt sé einhver stóridómur en persónulega tel ég að Husqvarna eigi ekki eins sterkt CROSS hjól og Honda CRF. En í ENDURO deildinni er stðan önnur og tel ég að TE450 sé eitt áhugaverðasta hjólið (ásamt KTM 450). Paul Edmundson hefur verið mjög ánægður með TE250 í ár sem líkist ekki í neinu “gömlu góðu” Husqvarna hjólunum. Hans helsta umkvörtunarefni er að aflið skortir eilítið í 250 hjólið miðað við Yamaha 250 sem hans helsti keppinautur, Knight, hefur ekið. Hinsvegar er kallinn byrjaður að nota TE 400 núna (í ISDE) og virðist vera drullu sáttur við hjólið. Ég sá stöðu mála í ISDE og það er gaman að sjá hversu sterk Husqvarna eru þar. Hvað varðar svo framleiðslumál hjá Husky eru blikur á lofti. Til stóð að fá nýtt fjármagn inn í reksturinn en það hefur nú hlaupið snuðra á þráðinn sem á mannamáli þýðir að peninga skortir sem kemur til með að koma niður á fjölda hjóla sem verða framleidd. Synd og skömm. Team Husqvarna UK og þar á meðal Paul Edmundson fengu ekki greidd umsamin laun frá Husky sl. season sem er tilkomið vegna áðurnefndra peningavandræða. Þrátt fyrir þetta bull hefur Paul líst yfir vilja sínum að vera í Team Husky næsta ár sem talsmenn Husky mega þakka fyrir. Þrátt fyrir allt bullið er Paul ánægður með hjólin og virðist hafa trú framhaldinu. Vonandi að nú geti þeir borgað umsamin laun. Husqvarna hefur reynt að einbeita sér að hafa hjól fyrir keppnisliðin klár en fá hjól hafa verið fáanleg fyrir almenning. Hvað varðar okkur hér á íslandi þá er stór aðili að undirbúa opnun Husqvarna umboðs með hækkandi sól, eða svo hvísla litlu fuglarnir. Ljóst er að það þarf stóran og fjársterkan aðila til að starta dæminu, það þarf að gerast af fullum krafti, kveða niður gamlar Husqvarna draugasögur og byrja að hirða dollur í íslenska endúróinu og crossinu. Auðvitað er það svo að önnur merki ss. KTM, súsúkí, Husaberg, Honda osfrv, eru ekki spör á yfirlýsingar um Husqvarna og hversu hrikalegt ástandið er þar. Því verður ekki leynt að peningavandræði ítalana eru veruleg en hvað gæði hjólanna varðar held ég að niðurstöður erfiðustu endúrókeppna í heimi (ss ISDE) þetta ár, í fyrra og svo framvegis tali sínu máli. Allavegana fyrir mig! Sú var tíða að enginn var maður með mönnum nema hann keppti á Husky. Þetta breyttist allt, peningavandræði komu í spilið og gæði hjólanna fóru hratt niður á við. Sl. 2 ár hafa orðið miklar breytingar og nú eru Husqvarna aftur með “hardcore” græjur. Hinsvegar kostaði framþróunin of mikla peninga og nú eru vændræði með að taka skrefið til fulls. Á meðan Husqvarna hefur ekki aur til að standa undir mikilli framleiðslu og standa í auglýsinga og áróðursherferðum eins og önnur companý gera, fær almenningur ekki að kynnast styrkleika nýju hjólanna. Þar til það gerist verðum við að treysta á hugsuði eins og Paul Edmundson að halda augum okkar opnum. Sjáum hvað setur.
(Ég skora á alla að lesa þetta skemmtilega test frá Ástralíu)
IN THE LINE OF FIRE
The all new 250 and 450cc Husky four-strokes represent a massive departure from the Italian company’s traditional lineage of thumpers, and probably its most significant off-road model release in a long, long time. They are about to make their mark on an eager Australian market, but are they good enough to meet the market-leading Yamahas and KTMs head-on? We went bush on the first 2002 Husky TEs in the country to get the skinny on their chances.
Words and pics: Wigan
Huskys that rev harder than Yamahas? Double overhead cam powerplants? Lightweight flywheels? Titanium valves? Instant throttle response? Pinpoint steering? Plush and predictable suspension? Functional ergos? Electric start? Japanese carbs with TPS? Christ, the new 250 and 450 even runs its chain and exhaust pipe on the “conventional side”! Is this really a Husky that we’re throwing a leg over for the first time? Even a few years ago, the mere suggestion to a loyal Husky man that this is where the Italian thumpers would find themselves in 2002 would have been taken as a blasphemous travesty of the European laws of thump! But desecreation of hallow Husky heritage or not, the all new TE250 and 450 machines from the Italian manufacturer clearly mean business. The 2002 TE range has seen a lot of attention from designers who were obviously perpared to listen to its world class race team. Meanwhile, the 2002 570 also cops a Japanese Mikuni carb as well as electrical and clutch upgrades for 2002.
But are these revolutionary new Huskys merely European replicas of the high-revving DOHC design Yamaha has proved to be so succesful for the small- and mid-bore thumper classes? Or are the new generation Husky 250/450s a stroke of Italian genious in its own right? Well, the new TE 250/450s may now run a DOHC donk, but the essence of Yamaha isn’t overly evident anywhere else. There’s no doubt that a few WR-F motors were sitting on the Husky designer’s benchtops in the early stages of development, but the boys could quite rightly argue that they’ve gone about producing new four-strokes on they own terms – bikes that are world beaters. After all, the Husky 250 is reigning class champ in the World enduro Championship and the International Six-Days Enduro!
As the new DOHC machines are completely new models for Husky, we decided to dedicate the majority of this test to descibing the performance of the 250 and 450, and what the appearance of these bikes will mean for the big-bore king of the TE fleet, the TE570.
TEST BIKES …
The three test bikes we got our hands on for this test ride were the first 2002 model Husky four-strokes in the country. (Even the Husky dealers were yet to lay eyes on them!) Thanks to the unrelenting insistance of Husky Imports’ head honcho Hans Appelgren, the Italian factory had no choice but to air freight out the bikes for ADB’s January testing. The TE570 was a production bike, while both the TE250 and 450 machines were pre-production units. How do they differ from the final production machines you’ll see on dealer floors? A few areas … but we figured not significantly enough to preclude us from getting in early to test the revolutionary new Huskys and give the Aussie market an indication of their relative performance with the existing players.
The biggest difference the final production TE250/450s will see is a six-speed transmission. Our pre-production test units ran five-speed boxes – the same gearboxes that Stefan Merriman and Cyril Esquirol used for their class wins at the 2001 World Enduro Championship and ISDE, respectively. Appelgren believes the new six-speed tranny will better match the power characteristics of both bikes as well as giving them the sort of top gear top-speed that both were clearly lacking in our testing. The other thing you may notice about the 250 and 450 test bikes is that they ran alloy fuel tanks. The production bikes will come with plastic tanks in what we expect will be an identical shape. We also fitted some Acerbis Flag Handguards for protection as our enduro test loop was tight, technical, tree-lined and rocky. Other than that, the bikes are essentially production units, which will come with a kick-starter kit (kick-start, shaft and one gear) in the spares kit to back up the new happy buttons.
Note also that when we compare these new Huskys with the existing competition, we speak mainly of the Yamaha and the KTM. This is largely because they lead the sales race for four-stroke enduro bikes in Oz and, as they placed 1-2 in ADB’s 2001 400cc enduro bike shooout (“Seven Way Sex!”), they still have to be regarded as the benchmark by which any new entrants are judged. We mean no disrespect to the other mid-size enduro four-strokes from Husaberg, Suzuki, VOR or Honda.
In addition, we should also warn that comparisons we make are done with the 2001-model Yamahas and KTMs, rather than the 2002 models. Also, any comments we make about comparable power delivery of the Husky with either of those two brands may change when Husky settles on the exact ratios of the six-speed tranny which the production bikes will come with. We ask that you bear those factors in mind when we make comments about the Husky’s relative performance. WHAT ARE THE ERGOS LIKE?
In three words: modern, refined and different! Different from what we’ve come to expect from Husky, but very similar to the Japanese bikes which sell in much greater numbers on the Australian market. And when we say “different”, we’re not only talking about the fact that the drivetrain, brakes, exhaust pipe and kick-starters on the new 250 and 450 have been moved to the conventional sides of the bikes! Compared with the 2001-model TE400, the seat/peg/bars relationship of the new TE250/450 machines is a world apart. The new bikes are totally different and if you shut your eyes while riding one for a moment, you could be on a Yamaha WR-F. While being more conventional is not necessarily a good thing, it does remove the reason some riders cited in the past for not buying a Husky: “Because it feels so different from what I’m used to when I first got on the thing!”
Test riders all said that they were instantly comfortable on the new TE250/450. The bikes’ all new riding position and functional cockpit configuration clearly inspired confidence in our test riders to jump on, feel instantly at home, and get straight into it … without having to make allowances for an “unusual riding position of weird ergos” of previous model Huskys that take time to get accustomed to.
Using a frame based heavily on the existing two-strokes, the new 250/450 bikes definitely appear much smaller and more compact that previous Husky thumpers with a less raked out look to the fork. The seat is hard and race-oriented but a better qualty seat foam makes it more comfortable and better at absorbing some of what the suspension doesn’t. The 250 and 450 are much narrower though the gitrth and shrouds than the 2001-model TE400 and there’s a heap more room to get forward on the bikes without tangling with the handlebars. For the first time in many years, the production Husky enduro bikes are equipped with quality alloy bars. They’re a good bend to create a comfortable riding position when sitting or standing. Mounted on the bars is an all new brake master cylinder (which comes straight off the Husky motocross models), an all new Magura hydraulic clutch (a la KTMs and Husabergs), new quality brake and clutch levers, the first appearance of an electric start button ever on a competition-model Husky, a neat little lightweight multi-function digital speedo, and a new and more stylish switch block for lights, blinkers, horn and kill switch. It’s nice to note that the factory has modified the rear brake pedal this year as well, making it easier to get to without doing the old pidgeon-toed routine! The only negative aspect of the all new ergos we could find was that we reckon the gear shift lever is too short. Most testers got their boot buckles caught on the thing and unwittingly changed gears a few times during the testing.
ANY STANDOUT BITS?
Yes. Aside from the obvious new hardware up on the alloy handlebars, there’s plenty of them! The new 250/450 Huskys are the result of what has clearly been a dedicated race development program, thanks to the team riders in the World Enduro Championship. Not only are the new bikes home to better quality components throughout, but there has been significant steps forward in enduro-friendly access.
Specifically, the air filter on the new 250/450 can be accessed very quickly and without any tools at all. Simply remove the seat by undoing the Dzus clip, swing the hinged battery up and out of the way, and the wingnut on the air filter is ready for your attention. Similarly, the fuel tank can be removed in an instant. Unclip with radiator shrouds from it, undo one solitary bolt (which doubles as the seat’s front locator), and the thing is off the bike before you know it. Great functional mods that will pay dividends for both average punters and enduro racers alike.
Closer inspection reveals many more small but significant mods that appear on the 250 and 450. There are larger diameter axles, two oil pumps, three oil filters, high-efficiency radiators, redesigned subframe extentions, a floating rear brake disc, rubber mounted exhaust system brackets, and a much tidier looking electrical system. In fact, there’s very little of the previous model Husky thumper that hasn’t come in for effective and functional mods on the 250/450s.
HOW QUICK DO THEY STEER?
The 2001 Huskys saw a radical steepening of the steering head angles they ran to make the bikes steer quicker, and that offered them improvements in the tight stuff. The new 250/450, however, take a quantum leap from those ’01 models in the steering stakes and inspires lots of confidence in the bike’s front-end. The new machines no longer feel hesitant to flick quickly from side to side, and they steer with pinpoint accuracy and minimal rider manhandling. Combining with the new two-stroke inspired chassis, lightweight engine and low tip weight feel, the 250 and 450 steer as well as the best of them in both the tight trails and fast, open firetrails. Even though we didn’t notice any nervousness or headshake on the test bikes, there is a good 15-20mm of fork protruding above the triple clamp to allow owners to rake the bike’s geometry out if they want to for fast, sandy desert races such as the Finke. Combined with excellent suspension packages, the 250/450s are as nimble as any four-stroke enduro bike on the market, if not more so.
BUT DO THEY HANDLE?
The enduro test loop we used to put the 2002 TE range through their paces was mainly tight and tree-lined with heaps of undulating technical sections full of rocks, tree-roots and off-cambers. In other words, we reckon it would produce a fair indication of how the bikes will handle in the Aussie bush.
All three machines were plush over the small stuff, predictable at speed, and yet sprung decently enough that our two 85-90kg Aussie enduro champ testers didn’t bottom the things out all day. The balance and action of both the 250 and 450’s suspension was particularly impressive and the things were easy as all hell to throw from side to side through tight first and second gear trails. Neither fork or shock produced any nasty surprises in terrain that’s make you expect plenty, and both had a smooth and spike free action.
On fast firetrails, they were also well mannered and stable at speed. The new 250 and 450 TEs actually make you feel like a better rider than you really are! Each has a suspension package that’s forgiving enough for the average trailrider, and yet manages to offer the progressiveness to keep pace with a fast Expert enduro pilot. Out of the crate, we’d put our goolies on the line to say that if the production bikes handle the same, the new Huskys will boast the best out-of-the-crate enduro race suspension that the market has seen! And that’s a big call for suspension that is yet to earn such accolates around the world. Let’s hope that the development of the Sachs shock for ’02 have removed its tendency to fade when the going gets really hot.
… AND STOP?
The Brembo brakes have always been strong on recent model Huskys, and with the new lightweight 250/450 boasting a new MX-spec master cylinder for the front and a floating disc on the rear, stopping power is better again. While the feel of the front anchors was excellent, a few testers noted that the rear, despite the new floating disc, was a little touchy and made the bikes too easy to stall. And despite it’s overwhelming trend in Europe to run wave discs over the past year, Husky has retained the more conventional brake discs.
WHAT’S THE TEs’ POWER LIKE?
The TE250/450 runs a completely different designed powerplant than the SOHC donk which drove the earlier model Huskys for so many years. As such, you’d expect it to be completely different, and it is! The new TE powerplants have a much more refined and modern feel to them than even last year’s TE400. The 450 has significantly more power across the board – as is it should with 50 more cubes at work. It still has that smooth and usable delivery, but the 450 is a more much free-revving engine with less vibration. It has a lighter flywheel and less engine braking, and a more potent punch than the ’01 TE400.
Throttle response is more instant and Pro riders will feel that they don’t have to wind up and “work” the bike as hard as they did last year’s model to keep it honking. Despite the 450’s more willing top-end, it can still be short shifted and torqued around at very low revs. It’s way more versatile than the TE400; a Pro can rev the crap out of it and a punter can short shift and dawdle around in fourth gear. The new hydraulic clutch makes the pull at the lever noticeably lighter and it has excellent fade-free feel. While we remind you that the five-speed trannys tested will be replaced by six-speeds on the production bikes, the gearbox on both 250 and 450 were smooth, notch-free and seemed to powershift with less objection than previous models.
On the downside, we stalled the 450 under brakes more than we would the previous 400 and, while fine-tuning to the air screw helped this, it’s lighter flywheel makes good braking habits and feel more important on the new machine. We also had trouble finding neutral on both the 250 and 450. And did we mention we liked the new electric leg to start the things? With the kick starter not fitted to the pre-production bikes, we are not in a position to comment on how the new TEs fire up under the weight of your leg.
IS THE TE450 FASTER THAN THE COMPETITION?
So how fast is this titanium-valved DOHC Husky with a Japanese carb? The TE450’s power characteristics are best explained with reference to something we all know – the Yamaha WR426F and the KTM 400/520EXC – two bikes which are the TE450’s most visible targets in 2002 and the most successful enduro four-strokes in Oz at present.
Bearing in mind that this question can be more accurately answered when we test the 2002 TEs with their six-speed production trannys, it’s still fair to say that the TE450 combines the KTM’s smooth and torquey power curve with a dose of the revvability and top-end of the WR426F. This “best of both worlds” approach had much to so with the instant succcess of KTM’s new-generation four-strokes a few years back, and Husky appears set to capitalise on market tastes in exactly the same way. Just as KTM managed to combine the old-school tractable four-stroke engine characteristics with the snap and revvability delivered by a Japanese carb and ignition, the Husky appears determined to combine the best of the existing market leaders – the KTM and the Yamaha.
If anything, the TE450 is closer to the smooth and super usable KTM power curve, and yet shows signs that it can rev and punch like the Yamaha when called for. It is by no means as aggressive as the WR-F, but it does share the same responsive, light flywheel feel. Strangely enough, this all new engine still manages to exude some familiar characteristic Husky tones in its new and much more snappy exhaust.
How would the 450 stack up against the rest of them in an all-in four-stroke enduro bike shootout? Bloody well, we’d have to surmise. It’s definitely a front-running contender in 2002, and not an also ran playing catch-up!
WHAT ABOUT THAT WORLD BEATING TE250?
Just when Yamaha thought it had stolen the show at the 2000 ISDE when Geoff Ballard and Peter Martin rocked up on pre-production Yamaha WR250Fs, the Husqvarna factory fielded two very trick TE250s and they immediately proved to have the legs of the revolutionary new Yamaha. A year later, more production-looking TE250s were again fielded at the French ISDE and Frenchman Cyril Esquirol prompty won the hotly contested 250cc class! Not bad press for a soon to be released bike into the enormously lucrative world of the 250cc four-stroke bush weapon!
The feedback we kept hearting about these new 250 Huskys was that they revved and revved hard! And people weren’t kidding. Our TE250 test bike absolutely loved to rev and kept on asking you to hold off gear changes until she was north of 13,000rpm. While the spread of power was impressive for a 250cc four-stroke, we came away from the test thinking that it may be a little down on the Yamaha WR250F in the torque deapartment. It is certainly a less versatile engine than the 450, but we should really reserve juddgement on comparing the 250’s power delivery until we test the litle TE with its new six-speed tranny. With the five speed box tested, we found that the timing of gear changes was critical and that the bike was better suited to being revved hard and ridden like a 125. Sure, that’s what you’d expect from a small-bore machine like this, but we felt we were on the clutch more with the TE than we would be on the WR250F. Having said that, the hydraulic clutch on the 250 made that task easier; it was light with excellent feel.
With the current set-up, we reckon the 250 is better suited to a faster rider. Of course, less experienced riders will love the steering, ergos and handling of the bike, but they may also want a more usable bottom-end if they want to trailride the bike without revving its titanium valves inside out. A new six-speed transmission and refinements to the jetting are likely to deliver that.
This has got to be deja vu for Yamaha after the spate of 400cc retaliations to their revolutionary YZ400F released in 1998. There is no doubt that TE250 promises to pose the same threat to Yamaha’s domination of the 250cc four-stroke market.
WHAT ABOUT RELIABILITY?
We get the feeling the new TEs will live or die by their reliability record through 2002, as it has been the strong suit of both the Yamaha and the KTM since their launches. Only time will answer this one. What we can say is that the Husky engineers have seen this particulat acid test coming. They knew reliabilty factors would weigh heavily on consumers’ minds and they’ve paid a lot of attention to cooling and lubrication systems of the new TEs. Take a look at the large radiators and the almost obtrusive water pump on the new TE250/450s; she ain’t a petite little thing for an otherwise compact engine, but they seem to work a treat. During our photo sessions on a hot day – where most four-strokes try to boil – the TEs showed no signs of getting the slightest bit hot. The bikes also run two oil pumps and three oil filters – another clear sign that Husqvarna understand the bikes must be bullet-proof to stand any chance in today’s marketplace.
SO WHERE’S THAT LEAVE THE TE570?
No, there’s no coincidence that Husqvarna has thrown it development checkbook at the new 250 and 450 machines and delivered only minor upgrades to the 570, despite its long-standing race pedigree over the past decade. Ride the TE570 back to back with the new 450 on a tight enduro loop and you might get the feeling that the new stablemates have rendered the V8 of Husky’s enduro fleet and a tad … obsolete. But then why is the likes of Swedish Anders Eriksson not only winning the big-bore class at World Enduro Championships, but posting some of the best outright times of all riders? There’s no doubt that the 570 can still cut it in the right hands. Stefan Merriman has two such mits and he proved it at the 2001 Four-Day by winning the outright on the then new TE570.
In a country where size, grunt and horsepower matter, the 570 is likely to remain popular with fast firetrail maniacs who are always looking for another mate’s headlight to spatter with trail debris! Sure, it’s going to be regarded by some as just another unnecessarily oversized, overpowered, soon-to-be-extinct trail monster. But tractability is something the old school aren’t prepared to dump just yet. Broad, smooth, torquey grunt is an intoxicating mixture and the Husky 570 symbolises of all these things. That makes us think firetrails will still be party to their ponies for some years to comes.And at $11,295 the 570 is right on the money/
If, on the other hand, racing or riding in tight, technical terrain with frequent first and second gear sections is what you live for, let the 570 die gracefully! It simply can’t play the new man’s game in the hands of an average dirty mortal, and is outclassed in every respect by the nimble 250 and 450cc machines to come off the production line. Just as we intimated in the December issue when we first good a look at the new Husky line-up, you’d have to think that before long, “… the new generation Husky powerplants will see the grunty 570 adorned with super motard bits and put out to bitumen pastures”.
ARE THEY GOOD VALUE?
Recommended retail prices for the TE250/450/570 are $10,995 for the TE250, $11,895 for the TE450, and $11,295 for the TE570. Those prices put the TE250/450 at a premium over the comparable 2002 Yamaha WR250/426Fs, and the TE450 on par with the 2002 KTM 400/520EXCs. The TEs will sell at a small discount to the Husaberg FEs and VOR 400EN. As we said, we’d expect the market take a good look at reliability issues of the new models before shelling out the cash, and the production TE250/450s are yet to establish their record there. If consumers choose to focus on performance alone, then these new DOHC Husqky TEs are going to sell in the sorts of numbers that Australian Husky dealers are yet to experience.
Our suggestion: see if you can grovel your way into a test ride on a TE. The revolutionary new models speak for themselves.
Ready to set Australia on fire, the all new TE250 and 450 from Husqvarna. Electric starts, a DOHC complete deviation from previous Husky engines, titanium valves, Mikuni TPS carb, a two-stroke inspired frame, a hydraulic clutch, and a host of new components headline the production release of bikes that have already claimed World Enduro titles. The 570 is out of step with the new 250 and 450 and retains the old chassis and engine configuration. It does cop a new Mikuni carb, alloy bars and some clutch mods for reliability and stands to appeal for the horsepower-hungry trail masses for some time yet.