2012 Husqvarna TC449 First Ride
pics by Karel Kramer, Scott Cox, Chilly White
Best Foot Forward
As I prepared to head out to “The Ranch” for a first ride on all the new 2012 Huskys, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As a brand, Husqvarna often leaves me more confused than anything else. Let’s face it, this company has been through a lot in the last few years. For that matter, it has seemed in continuous turmoil for the last 20 some years.
Yet for all that, there is reason to have hope. In a time when a tight economy is putting the squeeze on everyone, BMW is showing a sincere commitment to the Italian marque. Nowhere is that more evident than in the TC motocross lineup. Like everyone, they want to compete at the highest level of motocross both here at home and on the world GP scene. For 2012, the TC 250 and 449 models get some significant improvements.
During the course of the first day of riding all the new models, I spun laps on seven different bikes. I rode until I was completely exhausted in the near 100 degree temps. Therefore, you can imagine that my head is swimming with impressions from all the bikes.
2012 TC449: Cream of the Crop
If we could turn the calendar back a year, if this bike would have been the world’s first impression of the new model. If only Husky would have spent another year of development before unleashing the 449/511 line up. Well then, things might be very different today. The German-Taiwanese come Italian bike might have been well on its way to developing a strong dirt worthy credibility.
When Husky talks about what is new for this year, they aren’t just blowing smoke. They have really worked to address performance and handling across the entire line up. For the TC449 the list of new and improved includes:
I work hard to be more analytical than emotional when testing bikes. In some ways this is easy because most bikes are a mix of things that fit and those that can use improvement for each rider.
It is rare to find one bike that instantly hits every one of my buttons. But that was the case when I climbed onto the TC449. Within half a lap, all objectivity had gone out the window and I was lost in the joy of the ride.
The motor has a great visceral feel. It has loads of torque and a muscle bike feel. It is not very particular about what gear it is in, it will pull strong out of the corner regardless. The fuel injection mapping provides good response. It is like a direct connection between the throttle and rear wheel. Power delivery is smooth. It will only spin the rear wheel when asked to do so, then it will drift the rear smoothly through the turn.
Transmission and clutch action both feel smooth and precise. This motor does not need very much assistance from the clutch lever. There were no other particular blemishes to mention. The electric start brings the bike to life easy. At no point did I stall the bike either by flame out or abrupt braking.
Helping to keep the bike in touch with the ground is very nice suspension package. A fork that suffered from a strong spike and deflection hampered last year’s bike and the shock just never seemed up to the task.
The 48mm Kayaba closed-chamber fork feels like it was dialed in just for me. Spring rates and valving are perfect for fast-paced offroad work. It shows the best of what a closed-chamber fork should be. It is supple in initial action, keeping the wheel planted in turns. Then on the bigger hits it has a good progressive feel and resists bottoming.
The switch to the new progressive rate shock spring seems to have cured some of the problems from last year’s bike. When you think about how much was new on the bike with the CTS system, top mount linkage and a new and radical engine & frame combination, it isn’t surprising that the shock set up would be a challenge. The 2011 shock would bind up mid stroke and then the bike would go into a flex-rebound that left the rider unsure what was going to happen next.
In my short time on the 2012 bike, I absolutely could not do anything to disrupt the stability of the rear end. I suspect that the progressive spring is a big part of this. One of the typical problems with a progressive spring is that the natural torque force of the chain causes the bike to squat and the resulting load blows through the initial soft part of the spring rate. With the CTS system, the Husky does not have this natural force, so perhaps this is the ideal application of the progressive spring.
So how does this bike handle? When I think back to the tech talk and reviews of last year, this was a bike that promised all kinds of things, but never quite delivered. Again with the new motor, frame, CTS system, and top link shock there were so many variables to deal with.
After riding this bike, I honestly cannot tell you how any single one of these features works individually. Why, because I find it nearly impossible to sense any one item while riding. This bike consistently feels like a complete package, not a collection of pieces. Everything is working together and quite well at that.
The TC449 does have a longish, stable feel. But it moves around very easy and consistently feels light on its wheels. The Carlsbad replica track has a number of long flat corners and the TC leans over and carves very well. It is fairly accurate when trying to hit a specific line or berm. This is not a point and shoot feeling chassis, it is happiest carrying a steady arc.
If you haven’t noticed yet, I am working towards another important point. I can see plenty of potential in the TC. It is a bike that I want to get some race time on, it has a natural cross country and desert feel. But, it probably is not going to make anyone’s list of top motocrossers for the year, it is just not “that” bike. Although frankly, for someone of my skill level I find it much easier to ride than most 450 mx bikes. As for the rest of Husky line up, this is much closer to being a serious XC racer than the stock TXC511.
So there you have it. This is my favorite bike in the ’12 Husqvarna line up. It makes me want to go ride. I wish it were sitting in my garage so I could go ride right now and no one is more surprised about that fact than me.