300 OFF-ROAD SHOOTOUT DB
Husqvarna is having its best year since On Any
Sunday came out. In a period where everyone else is
scaling back, when there’s gloom and doom around
every turn, the guys at Husky are actually using the
“F” word. They’re talking about the future, and they
say it looks good. The reason stems back to BMW’s
purchase of the company and the resulting financial
backing. Now the engineers have the resources to put
all those plans into motion that have been on the drawing board for so long. One of those plans is the Husky
WR300. This is a bike based on the WR250 two-stroke
that has been around for years. The 250 was a solid, if
unspectacular, bike long ago; it just needed some more
guts. And now the bike has a lot more, with an increase
in the bore from 66.4mm to 72mm.
In some ways, the WR is even more of a throwback
than the other 300s, dating back to the time when most
European bikes had the output shaft on the right side.
But frankly, we’ve forgotten why everyone switched; the
only drawback seems to be the awkward kickstarter
placement. There’s certainly nothing wrong with the way
the motor runs. It’s probably the fastest of the three
bikes, and it has a substantial hit in the lower mid range.
When it’s on the pipe, it pulls hard and might even keep
a 450 motocross bike in sight—for a little while. But
where it’s most impressive is below that power surge,
where there’s kind of a secondary powerband. The bike
keeps moving forward at crazy low rpm, even when you
expect it to come to a stop. That makes the Husky a real
survivor when forward motion is the primary objective
and when clawing upward a few more feet can be the
difference between success and failure.
The Husky also has an unusual ability to keep its line
in ugliness, particularly when going up hill. The bike’s
rear end sits a little high on level ground, so perhaps
that gives it the ability to keep steering on hills where
other machines are impossible to point. Conversely, the
WR has some really strange cornering manners on level
ground. Despite the hiked-up rear end, the WR requires
a lot of effort to initiate a turn. It’s an odd feeling, but
nothing you can’t get used to.
The only other complaints are that it’s needlessly tall,
with a lot of pointless room under the tank—there aren’t
many bikes that allow you to get to the spark plug with a
pipe wrench. The kickstarter is hard to even move, and
the cable-type clutch seems oddly out of place on a
Euro bike. But then the clutch withstands abuse even
better than the hydraulic clutches on the other bikes.
So, the Husky is the most offbeat bike in a field of
offbeat bikes. But there are good reasons to own one if
you love tough, ugly riding. When you throw in BMW
financing, Husky contingency and a newly revitalized
dealer network, there are good reasons if you love any
kind of riding.