Husqvarna are always serious about enduro and are fast to introduce new model changes to their range. Their motocross models always see major change first and then the enduro bikes follow. So after last year’s total makeover of its motocrossers, it’s no surprise that the 2017 enduro bikes have now got the all-new treatment with new engines, frames, suspension and styling.
The bikes’ characteristics are completely different to the old 2016. The fresh new look is just the start of it because the new range is lighter, faster and more nimble thanks to increased mass centralisation and a focus on redesigning the motors to make the gyroscopic forces work to aid handling, rather than having to fight against them. We rode the bikes in Husqvarna’s historic homeland of Sweden and came away mightily impressed.
Two-strokes for maximum fun!
The TE125 has been designed for closed-circuit racing but also offers a huge range of power, making it very useable in lots of ways. But unfortunately it’s not fitted with an electric start – the only bike in the range that isn’t. And as the KTM and Husky 125s share most major components, you can use the KTM 150 kit and really give the bike a power upgrade.
The mass centralisation has been improved by altering the position of the crankshaft and clutch shaft. The new design includes modified crankcases and a wide-ratio gearbox plus a new cylinder. You can really feel the improvement in power and torque, too.
The suspension is new and the forks are still spring rather than air, but have adjustable preload. I'd leave the spring preload alone on the suspension on the little bike. When I adjusted it and put more load on the forks it made the bike feel off balance and the front end became very nervous.
The 125 Husky has always been brilliant fun and it's just got better as it’s lighter and the power has increased. The overall rideability is good, too. This is still one of the most fun bikes on the market to ride anywhere. I don't know anyone that rides bikes that doesn't want to push a bike to its limits, and a 125 is made for this!
But because it's the easiest bike in the fleet to over-ride due to the manageable BHP output, it's also one of the trickiest to get over tough obstacles. A rider with less skills could ride up or over a obstacle with ease on a more torquey four-stroke 250, for example.
I found the 125’s carburettor needed some attention as there was a little delay in power delivery off the bottom and which suggests the pilot and needle may need to be leaned out more. The 125 isn't just a bike to learn on but it's also a machine to advance your skills on, too.
For most riders, the big-brother 250 will be the favourite of the two-stroke range, as the power delivery to the ground is so good.
The bike is easy to control and I found the motor and suspension worked in perfect harmony. The power delivery was so good I wasn't wanting for any more. For me as a two-stroke racer, it’s perhaps my ideal enduro bike because the bike just handles everything. It tackles rock section with ease, and you could choose second or third gears and it would climb its way over anything. It didn't get you in trouble even if you were undecided on gear selection. In second gear the delivery was still smooth and even in third you had good response and the motor’s torque would pull without any delay.
The top end power doesn't leave you wanting more either, because the motor revs so high you can twist the throttle back and I'd be surprised if you run out of BHP before you ran out of track.
The bike has had a massive upgrade and the motor now has a balancer shaft which hugely cuts down vibrations that used to afflict the older 250 and 300s. It is really noticeable over the older models.
The TE300 is great to ride and it's been the most popular bike in the past, due to its power delivery and massive amounts of torque. The power has always been ideal for the majority of riders as its smooth delivery is very easy to use.
Out of the crate, the bike outperforms the 250 for the majority of riders. The 250 needs adjusting a little more. The power has improved but the way it’s delivered has been affected. That's not to say it won't be loved by lots but it's more racy so has narrowed who it appeals to.
The 300cc two-stroke’s setup is more dialled in for typical enduro use. The bike ran smoother and the throttle response was on the button, and the suspension wasn't nervous.
I felt I could get into trouble and the engine would pull me out of it, and it just felt different to the KTM300 I tested recently. Both 250 and 300 have less vibration through the footpegs and handlebars. And the electric start is a huge benefit. The amount of time a push of a button saves is incredible not to mention, especially if you’re stuck in tricky enduro going.
Four-strokes for the masses
Many riders love the increased torque and grip of a four-stroke, and Husky has a bike to suit everyone. And to make each bike more customisable for every rider and terrain, they all come with different ECU ignition maps options that you change by pushing a button. And there is an optional TC button for traction control. This engine management system works by monitoring the throttle and if it detects a sudden increases in RPM, it adjusts power delivery to reduce power to the rear wheel, ensuring maximum traction. For enduro riding, it’s a must-have.
Like on the smokers, Husky have gone to town on their four-banger enduro range with a total overhaul. And what they’ve done is pretty straightforward - the fastest enduro bikes on the market just got faster and better!
The first thing that grabs you is when you sit on the bike is how much slimmer they are. As soon as you get under way, it’s the improvement in power delivery you notice. Then you quickly feel the improvement in handling and steering accuracy. Mass centralisation has been the focus and boy, does it show.
All the models share the same chassis characteristics on track with a more positive feel, allowing you to manoeuvre the bikes easier and place them exactly where you want.
This really does open up line choice and gives you bags of confidence to place the bike exactly where you want, allowing you to be more creative with your lines. The new frame feels lower, smaller and slimmer. Grip really is noticeable across the board as everything compliments each other, with new rear shock and spring front forks – now with spring preload adjusters – all being ideal for enduro.
The FE250 engine is incredible and one of the biggest shocks for me was the mid-range. The 250 has always revved on well but Husky have now improved their bottom to midrange power. The bikes drives so much better, allowing you to hold a higher gear for longer into and around the turns and over rocky sections. Yes, the bike still revs on but the midrange improvement gets a massive thumbs up. And the throttle response is spot on with instant response. If you love a 250F, you’ll really love the new Husky. But however good it is, the rest of the range was even more impressive.
The 350 was just incredible, with power that’s more than enough for anybody. You'd have to be a top rider to push this to the limits. The 350 has been out for a number years now and it's been ever improving. The new engine design really compliment the mid-size bike. It's one of my favourites in the fleet as it covers all bases – it’s fast, light and moveable.
It's loved by all from novice to expert and rightly so. I added a tad more front preload and found it helped me feel more balanced on the bike.
I just loved this bike in the in the wooded sections of track and over the faster, bumpy, sandy sections too. And it tackled the extreme track with ease in standard form. For me, it’s the best all rounder.
In comparison, the FE450 has lots more grunt. It makes a stunning 62bhp yet delivers it in such a way that it rather friendly. It really is a joy to ride. The power makes your time in the saddle really enjoyable. It's clearly quick, but not scary. The power curve feels so smooth yet it does let you know how fast you’re going when you hit a fast section. On fast fire roads it’s immense and I don't think I hit the rev limiter once!
The new engine, frame, suspension and lightness really does work on this model. It’s so movable and clearly is a new generation of 450. But in a bike range which is simply awesome, I found myself really nit picking to find problems and the only one I could find was I liked the 501 even more!
To my surprise, the big-bore 501 turned out to be one of my favourites and I'd happily buy one for myself. You’d think an even bigger version of the 450 would be a beast but it’s so rideable and smooth, not lumpy and heavy like previous years.
Even ex-world champ Paul Edmondson favoured the bike as well and he loves the little bikes. But I remember the excitement and smile on his face after testing the five hundred out. It was a breath of fresh air chatting to him about the bikes on the test, especially when you agree on something which surprises you both – how good the 501 is.
I've never been a big fan of this model in the past as it had a very lumpy power delivery with an old-fashioned power delivery, especially at the bottom end.
But I'm very happy to say that's all changed now for 2017 and I'm a fan. The power delivery was second to none and it tackled obstacles with ease. You could be at a standstill on a rock face and it would just drive up it. And I even went through some really tight wood sections on a very tight and difficult course and it didn't miss a beat or stall once.
The suspension is setup good too, as it’s balanced well and doesn't need much tweaking. And I left the mapping switch in standard setting as the ground was lovely and sandy through some tight woody sections so no less or more power was needed. It’s a surprisingly good, easy to ride and nimble bike. And you certainly won’t be needing more power!