Italian Enduro Series, but occasionally he ventured out
against the best riders in the world—and did quite well.
Back in 2008, we got the chance to ride Meo’s 144 in
Europe. At the time, we considered it a one-off racer, but in
hindsight, it was clearly a prototype for this bike. And even
though years have passed, the similarities between the
production bike and works racer are striking. Even the fit
and feel of the chassis is similar. Back then, Meo’s bike
was reinforced in a few key areas, and all those changes
eventually showed up on the production version. For that
matter, Meo was also using a KYB fork—another change
that would make its way into production.
We first rode the bike in 125 form. We didn’t know what
to expect. In the bad old days, several European manufacturers offered 125 off-road bikes that were much slower
than their MX counterparts. That’s not the case here. For
the most part, the WR feels just like a modern, full-blooded
125 motocrosser. In other words, it’s a blast. It’s impossible to ride it without cracking a smile. You just have to get
into the right spirit, and that means you have to shift like
crazy. On a track, train yourself to downshift two gears
instead of one for every turn. And never, ever let off. The
WR makes surprisingly good power when it’s singing.
The biggest difference between a 2012 125 and one from
the old days is what happens when you don’t keep it singing.
When the Husky falls off the pipe, it doesn’t just stop in its
tracks; it runs cleanly and smoothly off the bottom. It just
doesn’t accelerate very fast. You don’t have to worry about
the motor making that “whaaa” sound and then sputtering
out. When you’re ready to go faster, you just downshift—
that’s all there is to it. The WR’s six-speed transmission is
identical to that of the motocross model, which is fine. It
never has a problem pulling gears. If you compare the Husky
to a full-time motocross 125 like the Yamaha YZ125 or the
KTM 125SX, it does exceptionally well off the bottom. On
top, it runs out of revs a little earlier, which eventually
becomes an automatic trigger for your shift foot.
For a back-to-back comparison, we swapped the
Husky’s top ends at the racetrack. It took about an hour.
The horsepower difference is impressive. When you get the
144 into the sweet zone, it’s probably as fast as some
250Fs on the track. With its power-to-weight ratio, it’s
capable of much faster acceleration, given perfect traction
and quick shift foot. But, that power does come at a price.
The WR loses a little bit of its fun factor. It doesn’t rev quite
as high on top, and that means the powerband gets shorter
instead of longer as you might expect. To take advantage of
the extra power, you have to shift a little earlier, and that
means more often. So it goes.
In either form, the WR is a blast off-road. It feels so light
that it almost seems to dissolve and leave you flying bike-less
3 feet over the trail. Husky always had a good handling package—it was good on the 250F, and it’s great on the 125/144.
The suspension is, of course, very soft. It’s made for small,
light riders. We confess that most of our testers don’t fit that
description. Most of them are full-grown men entering a second childhood. That’s fine. Even with a soft fork and shock,
the Husky never does anything wicked. That’s one reason it’s
so much fun. It makes you feel like a hero.
There are a few lessons you learn quickly, though. When
you have a bike this small, you might have to adjust your riding accordingly. Most of our off-road test riding takes place in
a canyon famous for endless hill climbs. That’s out. Climbing
hills on the Husky is a little boring. Even with the 144 kit, the
bike gets sucked down quickly. It’s not much fun being the
last one to the top. Instead, plan your rides around gnarly,
low-speed ravines and twisty, tight trails. There the WR is as
sweet as they come, leaving four-stroke riders cursing in its
dust and bulldogging down hills that you barely noticed.
The Husky sells for less than $6000 with the extra top
end. It’s a fantastic value. It’s not like you’re buying a budget product, either. The Husky is extremely well made and
full of nice touches. The seat comes off without tools, and
the front axle has a grab handle for quick wheel changes.
The wheels are strong, the handlebar is as good as they
come, and the levers might bend but they don’t break. It
has very few negative points, although we do hate the
spring-loaded kickstand. Not only does it come up on its
own at the worst times, but the spring broke on a ride, leaving the kickstand to flop. We wish the WR came with a
spark arrestor, and it is a little on the noisy side. Our advice:
remove the kickstand completely and leave money in the
budget for a spark arrestor/silencer, then you’ll have nothing to complain about.
While we’re at it, we have one more piece of advice. If
your buddy gets a WR125 and you still have a 450, don’t let
him choose where you go riding. ;
Magura bars, V-Force reed, Brembo brakes—Husqvarna gives
you good stuff for the money.
The Husky handles like it’s half the weight of many four-strokes. Actually, it is.