By Brendan Lutes
Photos by Michael Antonovich and Lutes
As a company, Husqvarna has been around for over 300 years, manufacturing everything from guns to chainsaws to sewing machines to motorcycles. In fact, 2013 marks the company's 110th year of producing motorized vehicles. Husky's first motorcycle rolled off the production line in 1903, pumping out only one-and-a-half horsepower and reaching an impressive top speed of three miles per hour. Needless to say, things have changed since then. Today, Husky is owned by BMW, has a vast network of dealerships, and produces a wide variety of motorcycles including the TC250R that we recently got our hands on.
We must admit; it has been a while since we've swung a leg over a Husky, and we really weren't too sure what to expect before this test. Previous models have been subpar performance-wise, unreliable, and outfitted with poor suspension. For the latest generation TC250R, Husky has made a ton of improvements. With help from BMW's Formula One engineers, the TC250R's motor was completely redone last year, featuring a new finger-following head design that is both more compact and more reliable than the traditional head design. The motor also received larger radiators for better cooling and reliability and a new updated Keihin Electronic Fuel Injection throttle body. As for the suspension, Husky has thrown out the antiquated and difficult to set up Sachs shock and WP forks for Kayaba suspension on the front and rear. The new suspension makes it much easier to set the bike up for any level of rider, and furthermore is easier to find a suspension shop to dial it in and re-valve. Other impressive parts on the bike are over-sized bars, a titanium Akrapovic exhaust system, Brembo brakes, Regina chain and sprockets, and a hydraulic clutch.
FIT AND FEEL:
We aren't going to lie to you; the TC250R does have some nuisances that take some getting used to. And with that said, we believe that it’s a bike that is built for the average weekend warrior rather than the serious intermediate to professional level racer. The first thing we noticed when sitting on the bike was just how light and compact it felt. The seat is very flat and allows for the rider to move around on it easily. What we didn't like about the cockpit, though, was how soft the seat was in the rear and how firm it was up towards the top where it goes over the gas tank. It made for a very awkward feeling transition when sliding up for corners. The bar bend is very neutral and normal, and it's a huge plus that they are over-sized bars. The grips, however, are another story. Before we could even get one moto in, the clutch side grip came loose and spun under our hand. The first thing we would change on the bike would likely be the grips.
Moving from the feel of the rider compartment, the suspension was a huge improvement over previous model Husky machines, but there is still plenty of room for improvement. Overall the KYB forks and shock work well together, but for faster riders they are very soft. We were able to get the forks and shock working better for us by stiffening up the compression, slowing the rebound down, and getting the sag set to the exact specification between 105-108mm. In spite of all the adjustments, however, we still feel that for the faster or more serious riders--or slightly bigger boned--getting it re-valved and set up just right is a must. Even though the suspension was on the soft side, we did find that the bike turned remarkably well. With the suspension stiffened up and working in the proper portion of the stroke, diving into ruts or railing berms was easy and confidence inspiring. We would likely rank the turning prowess of the Husky up there with some of the best 250cc four-strokes we've ever ridden.
The motor on the bike is reliable and, as we mentioned, comes equipped with some very impressive components, but it isn't very fast. The power delivery is soft and requires the rider to keep the bike revved out and in the upper portion, or sweet spot, of the powerband in order to carry good speed. While the low-end hit is unimpressive, to say the least, the top-end pull is actually decent, as the bike pulls far in each gear before falling off. We even found that when we normally felt we needed to shift, we could hold the throttle on and the bike would continue producing power. This became very useful for jumps right out of corners. We really liked the hydraulic clutch, which didn't fade during a long hot moto and made it easy to gain a little more hit when powering out of corners.
WHAT WE REALLY THINK:
Overall, we came away from testing the Husky pleased to know that the bike is improved over the version we rode years ago. While it would need quite a few changes to be competitive for an intermediate or professional level racer, the bike is a reliable, well-equipped choice for the average weekend warrior looking for a durable bike that already has high quality components. And with a price tag of $7,199, it’s a very affordable option for someone looking for a 250cc four-stroke that won’t break the bank. Don't forget to check out an up-coming issue of TransWorld Motocross for a more in-depth test on this bike.