Life’s not fair. Even in the dirt world, there are a lot of things happening that we’re not happy about. For one, there’s the struggling economy, which affects every aspect of our sport. Two, finding
places to ride is getting tougher. And three, the cost of fuel is insane. The good news, however, is
that despite all the problems, there are some new technological advances that are expanding dirt
bike riding into new territory. Dual-sport bikes are coming of age. The equipment needed to explore
the off-road environment while using the highways and byways to get there has reached a technological peak. You can ride to tough off-road country on a street-legal dirt bike, and then attack, conquer and rip into the toughest terrain imaginable!
This month, we tested the new KTM 500EXC and the Husqvarna TE511. Both are decent road
machines, but they are better off-road. And since this is where we spend the majority of our fun time,
we did the bulk of the testing on trails, crossing stream beds and climbing mountains. Here’s a look
at both scoots—their strengths and weaknesses. Both are stunning machines, but, as in life, there’s
usually one leader, then followed by the crucial and necessary troops.
HUSQVARNA TE511 vs. KTM 500EXC
This category is fairly broad and covers starting, EPA-legal performance, gearing and the ability to
ride the machine stock to the trails.
Starting: Both are excellent starters, though the KTM takes the lead because it has a kickstarter
and the Husky does not. The Husky doesn’t have a key, but we don’t consider that a major problem.
EPA-legal performance: Stone stock, both are super quiet and have useable power, with the KTM
being the stronger of the two. The EXC is fuel injected, comes mapped pretty lean and tends to backfire
quite a bit on decel—live with it. It doesn’t hurt the powerband; it’s just a skosh obnoxious. It makes
superb power and will embrace the nastiest terrain with more enthusiasm than any other dual-sport
machine we’ve had the pleasure to abuse. The Husky doesn’t pop when the throttle is chopped, but
overall, the powerband feels about 15 percent weaker than the KTM’s. It lacks the KTM’s hit, feels thicker
and is not as light on acceleration.
Gearing: The KTM comes geared for Bonneville speed runs. To keep the stock chain, swap to a
14/48 combo. This is ideal for almost every condition imaginable. The Husky is a six-speeder, too,
and is also geared tall.
Clutch: KTM’s hydraulic unit has a better engagement and feel and a lighter pull than the Husky. Kram