2012 Husqvarna Off-Road, Dual-Sport Motorcycles
Husqvarna, or “Husky” as it has been lovingly referred to over the years, has been producing motorcycles since early in the last century. “Huskies” were a staple in the off-road racing scene in the ‘60s and ‘70s, but the brand hasn’t had the visibility of late compared to some of the other major dirt bike manufacturers. But after BMW purchased the brand back in 2007, new life was infused into the Husqvarna brand and the company is making a strong push again in the U.S.
Husqvarna recently invited us out to The Ranch in Anza, California, to throw a leg over its newest off-road, motocross and dual-sport bikes. We were also given some insight into the brand and where it is heading from the President of Husqvarna Motorcycles North America (HMNA), Kris Odwarka.
As Odwarka noted, the BMW purchase was a good thing but it came at a bad time. The purchase in 2007 came at the peak of the economic instability, and it wasn’t until recently that Husqvarna really received the attention it arguably needed. In spite of the timing, BMW has a recent track record for purchasing brands and improving them – Mini and Rolls Royce being a few recent examples.
“You know BMW for being the icon of the sports sedan. When they went out and bought Mini, I think we can all argue they did right by Mini. They sold 12,000 cars a year; this year they will break 300,000,” Odwarka said. “When they bought Husky we were all kind of thinking ‘cool,’ you know. I motocrossed Huskies in the late ‘70s, a lot of us were on air-cooled Huskies way back when, and [the support] didn’t happen."
Now a few years removed, Husqvarna has gotten the attention it deserves – and the company feels the bikes are now reflecting it. They even moved the U.S. offices from the East Coast to the off-road hot bed of Southern California.
“After 2007, after [BMW] got their ducks in a row with some of their other brands, the focus came,” Odwarka said. “We moved from, as you know in January … Bergen County, New Jersey … to where it should have been in the first place [Corona, California]. We more than doubled headcount, we tripled headcount in after-sales, and that’s important to me because that’s where I started. That issue of getting parts right, parts on time when you order them at a decent price is the very first thing we did. Second is what you’re seeing now – get the models, especially on the dirt bike side – to be on time. We were able to fix half of that this year, and by model year 2013 I think you’ll see us fix the other half and then we’ll be on cycle with everyone else.”
So there are big things on the horizon for this storied brand, and as the large lineup of off-road bikes suggests, good things are to come.
For 2012, the TXC cross-country line features three models in the TXC250, TXC310 and the TXC 511, though it’s the 310 that is an all-new model for 2012. The 310 offers a number of the same features as the rest of the TXC line, such as electric start, fuel-injection and a six-speed gearbox, but it’s the bored-and-stroked engine that makes the 310 unique. The idea behind the larger 302.4cc displacement four-stroke powerplant is that it will provide more low-end power and torque over the 250 to make it more in line with 450 power while offering the agility of a smaller bike.
Taking both the TXC250 and TXC310 back to back on the single-track trail at The Ranch, both bikes were the ideal size to negotiate through the tight, winding sections of the tree-and-cactus-lined trail, though we did notice the 310 had that extra bit of low-end grunt to get us out of trouble when needed. Both bikes performed well, but the 310’s added low-end power and torque was definitely noticeable and appreciated.
The entire TXC line receives a few updates for 2012, such as updated Kayaba suspension, new graphics and silver-anodized Excel rims. The TXC250 and TXC310 also feature new race-inspired Leo Vince exhaust systems and are red sticker designated for California. The major changes on the TXC511 is that the re-tuned rear shock that is lowered 4mm to help improve the geometry and provide more balance from front to rear. The TXC511 has green sticker designation in California.
Husqvarna still offers off-roaders lightweight two-stroke options in its WR cross-country line. The WR125 is the off-road version of the CR125 motocrosser, instead offering a kickstand and 48mm open-cartridge fork (versus a closed-cartridge fork on the CR125) and Sacks shock. The WR250 is a great enduro bike that offers race-inspired components such as V-Force reed valves, a Ducati Energy ignition and a Mikuni TMX carburetor. The WR300 fills out the WR line and is the bike used by World Enduro Championship E3-class racer Seb Guillaume, offering many of the same components as the WR250 but with a larger 293.1cc displacement.
Husqvarna’s dual-sport line is designated with the TE moniker, and there are four models in the street-legal line that includes the TE250, TE310, TE449 and TE511. The biggest different between the TE and TXC line is the addition of the catalytic converter, headlights, taillights and mirrors to make them street legal, but Husqvarna will quickly point out the the idea with the TE line is "90 percent dirt, 10 percent street." We also learned on our ride the mirrors come off very quickly for trail riding.
One of the biggest changes to the line is the lowered seat height of the TE250. Husqvarna representatives told us this is a bit of an experiment for 2012 in the U.S. market, as they feel the lowered seat height will provide more options for more riders deciding between the 250 and 310.
The TE449 and TE511 feature updates as well, such as a new one-piece tail section and a more streamlined wiring harness. A revised Kayaba shock also lowers the seat height by 20mm and works in conjunction with the CTS (Coaxial Traction System) found on the TE449 and TE511 for improved handling and balance. The TE250 and TE 310 also receive a new Kayaba shock (a Sachs shock was previously used) for improved handling.
The TC and CR line of Husqvarna motocross bikes also receive updates for 2012. The biggest news in the line are the updates to the TC250 model based upon BMW’s F1 race program, as it now features a new race-inspired cylinder head and piston for the four-stroke engine, a new Akropovic exhaust and Keihin electronic fuel injection system, new CDI ignition with three preset maps, as well as a new airbox and velocity stack to increase top-end power.
The TC449 also receives updates to increase its performance, including updated valve timing on the four-stroke engine, a new airbox with a larger intake and revised velocity stack for more midrange power. The two-stroke-powered CR125 returns for 2012, and although the CR144 is no longer available Husqvarna will include a 144cc top-end bore kit with each CR125 purchased.