BADA BING!

The year was 2001 and Husqvarna faithful all over the globe rioted in celebration of Travis Preston’s astonishing victory aboard his factory Husky CR125 at the Houston Supercross. Okay, maybe it wasn’t that big of a deal, but it was Husky’s first and only Supercross win in their 100-year history. That’s right… In 2003 Husqvarna celebrated one hundred years of being an integral part of motorcycling across the globe. The origins of Husqvarna date way back to 1903, when a single-cylinder-engined bicycle was produced, boasting a whopping 1.5 hp. In 1986 the Swedish-born company’s motorcycle division was sold to the Cagiva Group, and since then, Husqvarna motorcycles have been conceived, designed, and manufactured in Italy. Although their U.S. motocross racing efforts have temporarily diminished, the fellas at Cagiva USA are still 100% dedicated to growing the Husqvarna brand in the States. To help do so, Cagiva USA’s Rob Keith, together with Eraldo Ferracci and a couple of Husqvarna’s Italian engineers, traveled to the West Coast to deliver the 2004 CR125 in person. So without further ado, here’s the skinny on Husky’s 125cc two-stroke….

NEW FOR 2004

Due to some unforeseen market conditions that affected Husqvarna’s production line, ultimately preventing Cagiva USA from bringing the full line of 2003 MXers to the States, we never got the opportunity to test last year’s CR125. We are told, however, that the 2004 model has received a number of improvements. A completely redesigned exhaust pipe, new intake porting, and a more direct ducting from the air box to the carburetor have all resulted in increased horsepower across the entire power range.

In the ergonomics and handling departments, a newly-designed, robust triple clamp has been added to improve the torsional rigidity of the front suspension. New handlebar clamps are utilized to allow an adjustable offset of 10mm (5mm forward and 5mm backward). An all-new competition Sachs shock absorber is in place to handle rear suspension duties along with a new shock linkage, which improves traction on all varieties of terrain. The CR125 also features a newly-designed, slimmer, lightweight brake caliper, and a new brake pad compound to help guarantee better initial bite and more consistent braking feel.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

At first glance of the Husky CR125 we quickly noticed that the Italians are focused on their attention to detail. The bike was delivered stock with Tommaselli aluminum handlebars, a Domino “quick-adjust” clutch perch, and quality Excel rims, all of which are quickly becoming must-haves in today’s market. The gripper seat has just enough texture to keep you planted without inhibiting any movement and features a quick-release fastener, which facilitates an air filter change without using any tools. The bike also comes with a gold D.I.D racing chain, a Twin Air filter, extra-wide foot pegs, and gold fasteners, which definitely add character.

Huskys are rare these days at the Southern California motocross tracks and definitely serve as a great conversation piece. At each location that we rode the Husky we were approached by several vet riders with plenty of questions about the new bike, as well as a ton of old war stories about the Husqvarna they rode back in the day. The brand loyalty, which started 100 years ago, is amazing! The 100-year anniversary graphics are prominent and help attract a lot of attention, but must quickly be removed if you plan on racing.

THE RIDE

Once on the track our testers agreed that the Husky feels very comfortable. The bike has a light, narrow feel with plenty of room to move around the rider compartment. Right away we were impressed with its cornering ability, especially in flat situations with no ruts or berms. The bike hooked up well and would hold a tight line with very little rider input. This may largely be due in part to the smooth power delivery. The bike put just enough power to the ground to finesse the inside liness without breaking loose or wanting to wheelie. The only problem raised with the ergonomics was the tendency for some riders to catch the top of their right boot under the radiator shroud/side panel junction.

Our overall impression of the CR125’s motor is mixed. While it certainly doesn’t boast the best power in its class, we’ve definitely ridden bikes with less overall power. It has a decent bottom-end with a very linear powerband. While these characteristics provide no surprises and are welcomed by less experienced riders, more aggressive riders will long for some midrange hit. The top-end is also fairly flat, which was most evident at Cahuilla Creek with its power robbing loam and hills. While the bike cornered well in the sandy berms, an aggressive approach was required to keep the motor singing. In many of the tight-rutted corners it was necessary to downshift into first gear, which would result in two quick shifts while accelerating out. To help search for the additional power that we were longing for, we changed the rear sprocket from the stock 50 to a larger 52. The result was very positive. With the larger rear sprocket our testers were able to pull a higher gear through most corners without the motor bogging down. While the transmission was smooth and shifts were typically clean, having the ability to pull second gear in tight corners was a huge plus.

The suspension on the new Husky is very balanced front to back with both ends exuding a plush, smooth action. While the stock settings are probably spot-on for lighter riders (150-160 pounds) of average ability, faster, heavier riders will definitely need stiffer springs and some revalve work to feel comfortable on all obstacles. The stock settings forced a game of sacrifice for larger riders between supple action on the small chop and bottoming resistance on the big hits. With the clickers adjusted in the stock settings the bike tracked extremely well in the fast sweepers and inspired confidence to push harder. Unfortunately, it also had a tendency to bottom on landings from mid-sized jumps and even some of the steeper takeoffs. As more compression was dialed in, the bottoming problem was alleviated (a little), but the stability was hampered in return. Adding oil to the forks was definitely a step in the right direction, but ultimately would not accomplish the perfect settings.

Aside from its tendency to bottom out on harder landings, the CR125 felt good in the air and was a confident jumper. The light feel of the bike made it easy to whip and helped with both staying low to keep power to the ground as well as with springing off the takeoffs when trying to clear larger obstacles. The controls on the Husky worked very well, even when abused. The brakes were strong (although the front was a bit better than the rear) and consistent with no squeals or chatter. The clutch had a very positive action that never faded, making the quick-adjust perch just a nice decoration.

All in all we found the Husky CR125 to be a solid machine. Without having ridden it during our 125cc shootout, it’s tough to say how it would stack up against the other 125s in its class. We’ve had a ton of fun on our Husky though, and can’t wait to put one head to head with the others in 2005.