Husky’s version of the 350 motocross bike is only slightly different from the KTM model.
If you want a 125cc two-stroke off-road bike, this is it.
Husky is the only manufacturer to import one to the U.S.
The demand has never been that big in this segment, but
the little Husky is an absolute gas to ride. In the tight,
rocky trails of northern Sweden, it was as effective as
anything. The trails through Scandinavia are something
like the American Northeast—rocky, slippery and heavily
wooded. In that type of terrain, weight is a big disadvantage, and even horsepower is no friend. The TE is fast,
as 125s go, but in situations where sudden acceleration
should be avoided, the little Husky can operate below the
powerband and keep moving at a good clip. It maintains
forward motion cleanly without bogging, but not much
more than that. When you have a sudden hill or some
other need for more power, you’ll have to downshift.
Maybe twice. That’s the nature of the breed. The upside is
that the bike weighs almost nothing. You begin to feel like
there’s nothing you can’t handle. You know that you can
stop in about half a bike length, and that gives you confidence to go faster.
The other new-to-Husqvarna model is the 350cc motocross bike. This is similar to the 2015 KTM 350SXF that we
test in this issue. Each of Husqvarna’s motocross bikes is,
in fact, almost identical to some counterpart in the KTM
line, whereas the off-road bikes have more separation. For
the 350, the main difference is the polyamide subframe.
The airbox and subframe are combined in one big part.
During our ride in Sweden, the Husky 350 was just plain
incredible. We were preconditioned to like it because we
had a 2015 KTM 350 sitting in the Dirt Bike shop, halfway
around the world. It was vastly improved over the 2014
version, mostly due to the fact that it got a new 4CS fork
and reworked rear suspension. The front axle is 4mm
smaller than that of previous KTM and Husky motocross
bikes, and it sits about 2mm back. That has the result of
lengthening the trail. The bottom line is that the new Husky
350 handles much better than the KTM 350 of 2014. It
turns better, the front suspension is more compliant and
the chassis is less harsh.
We’re big fans of the 350 format, anyway. It’s just a tick
off a 450 in sheer acceleration and doesn’t punish the rider
for trying harder. The motocross track near Lulea is built
on deep sugar sand, similar to Florida. It’s exhausting to
ride, even for a few laps. The 350 lets you ride harder, longer. Is it different from the KTM? Yes, slightly. The power
has a smoother feel, probably due to the airbox. Last year,
some Husky riders vented the airbox for more airflow.
We came away from the Sweden ride with two clear
favorites. One was the TE300. No surprise there; the 300
is a great motorcycle. It got only small detail changes for
2015, but frankly, we don’t know what to improve. It’s still
an electric-start two-stroke with incredibly sweet, smooth
low-end power. It’s hard to stall no matter how badly you
mess up. On top, it has excellent horsepower. It doesn’t
rev especially high, especially if you are used to modern
four-strokes. But in the harsh Viking terrain, you didn’t
need revs. The gentle output of the 300 is perfect.
Along the same lines, the FE250 four-stroke is excellent,
but in a very different way. The 250’s power is so smooth,
it actually makes the bike handle better. Two-stroke ideologues might dig in their heels and object, but the Husky
makes it clear that there’s something about the power and
mass of a four-stroke that helps suspension work better. The FE250 has the right combination of everything to
make it nearly perfect in tough terrain. The small displacement means it doesn’t stall as often as most four-strokes,
and the mellow-power delivery at low rpm makes it easy
to control. On top, it revs forever, so if you need power
it’s there—just way high up. All those elements combined
make the little 250 our favorite four-stroke—over there.
We’ll get a chance to test all these machines and the
new dual-sport bikes on U.S. soil soon, so stay tuned.
Husky has plans to dramatically increase Husqvarna’s
U.S. import numbers in 2015. So now, more than ever,
Husqvarna is a realistic alternative. ❏
The Husky FE501 will have a dual-sport cousin later in the