So we finally got our hands on a new Husky, thanks to Graham Jarvis and his recent trip stateside for King of the Motos. When Graham left, we borrowed the three-hunny for a couple of days of riding before getting it back safely to the new Husqvarna headquarters in Murrieta.
I have to admit, while there is tons of stuff to talk about in terms of the newest incarnation of the Husky brand. There isn’t much new to say about the 2014 model line up. Don’t get me wrong, they are some great bikes. But any way you slice it, it is still a collection of existing Husaberg/KTM parts. Lots of good stuff, but we have sort of covered that now haven’t we?
So just what exactly is a 2014 Husky enduro bike? One way to look at it would be to call it a 2014 Husaberg with a KTM XC style linkage frame. Or you could say that it is a KTM XC/XCF with an XCW motor and suspension settings. Across the TE/FE model range, that pretty much sums it up. So perhaps what we can claim, is that it is a combination of some of the best KTM parts. Ones that are not available anywhere else in this exact combination.
As for our TE300 it is essentially identical to the TE300 Husaberg that I rode at Romaniacs last summer. Is that a good thing? You bet, I was very happy with just about everything on that bike except the ultra soft forks. Other than that, I felt the 300 was a great riding companion.
With all the changes to things that are orange or white & blue, it is easy for some of the important details to get lost in the mix. One of those is the subtle changes that have come to the 300’s in the last few years. The power characteristics have evolved in a very positive way. Today you see top racers riding 300’s all the time. But ten years ago that was not so.
Perhaps it is getting too far back to remember, but 300’s were not popular with the top offroad guys like Mike Lafferty. The reason was because of the way they made power. They came on a little slow and then too hard. They were great for trail riders, but could be a handful when pushed hard. A 250 was much easier to ride aggressively. Then the four strokes started to really develop and everyone made a mass move to valved bikes.
These days 300’s are everywhere on pro start lines. Part of the reason is due to changes in the way they make power. They are much smoother and tend to feel more like 250’s but with more grunt down low. In many ways they are the best of both worlds. The same can certainly be said of the new TE300. It is nice and smooth down low. The transition to serious power making is smooth and controlled. And it will still scream up on top. It should also be noted that the difference between feel and performance of a 250 vs 300 has never been closer, it goes both ways.
The change to the Boysen reed valve probably had some effect on the motor feel also. But in truth it is hard to say without riding an identical bike with the older V Force reed. Who knows what is based on business decisions or performance benefits.
We played with the powervalve setting just a bit. We tried running it way open (adjuster out flush with case), but decided on something just a bit milder, about one turn back in from the flush setting. This was running the stock yellow spring. I tend to feel that keeping the stock spring in and playing with the external adjuster is the best way to dial in the power settings.
I found this powervalve spring information from the owner’s manual interesting. What it does not help with, is understanding the effect of the external screw adjustments. That remains a trial and error practice.
As for jetting, we went with the leaner needle from the supplied kit (N4dK) and dropped it one clip position to the #2 slot. Overall this worked pretty well. It was still a little rich at the lower elevations, but as we were running in the desert we felt it best that way.
The “new” 4CS fork is the same basic spec as last year. It is still too soft, but shows potential. My biggest problem with the 2014 ‘berg at Romaniacs was that every time I pointed the bike down hill, the forks collapsed and the fender was touching the wheel. I had no travel left. It was a constant battle not to go over the bars.
Our KTM 450xc-f has the opposite problem with its 4CS unit. Excessive valving keeps the fork riding too high in the stroke and the ride is harsh. There is a happy medium in there somewhere and the fork is going to be good when they figure it out. As for now, a set of springs in the KTM open chambers with stock valving makes for a better fork.
The shock is fine. Other than being a little soft in the spring, it rides good and gives little reason to ponder it. I almost hate to admit it, but the more I ride with the linkage, the more I feel at home with it versus the PDS system.
One other thing I can say about the linkage bikes; they have made me quit running stabilizers for anything except desert racing. The bikes tend to be much more solid feeling in the front. That is probably due as much to continuing frame design as it is to the shock itself.
For now the new Huskys carry the composite subframe of the last generation Husabergs. I don’t like it. The side covers are harder to get off and a heavy hand will brake the pins. The right side cover has to be removed to get to the silencer. The air filter is secured by a plastic tab and that tab interlocks with the side cover. It’s not terrible, but the existing KTM subframe is better. They should have used this as an opportunity to ditch the design.
I have to say that the white and blue Husky is a real looker. It drew crowds everywhere and the response was universal. The black wheels and white frame really set it off. But both are parts that will show age quick in those colors too. They did go to the effort to make the clutch cover look like a vintage Husky part, that is kind of cool.
It seems I can’t extract myself from any conversation regarding Husky without being asked the inevitable question “..so where is this company going?” I have no idea. There is plenty of pressure being put on everyone involved on both the Husky and KTM sides. The operation is being directed by KTM employees, no two ways about it. So the talk of stand alone operations is referring to some future time.
The 2014 model year is primarily just for show. Bikes are due to start arriving in showrooms in March. But let’s face it, the 2015 model details will start leaking in just a month or two later. I don’t expect much news for ’15. Perhaps I will be proven wrong, but the real future of Husqvarna probably won’t show itself until 2016. Will it be dirt bikes, street bikes, dual sport? Who knows. For now that is all just a lot of talk and speculation. The biggest gap in the line right now is the lack of an EXC street legal equivalent, perhaps that will show soon.
It seems there is plenty of demand for something that is not orange. Sure, why not, there is plenty of it around already. Even if the new Husky isn’t so much new or even historic, there is plenty to like once the wheels start turning. No matter what you call it, this is a pretty nice motorcycle.