Photos courtesy of Francesc Montero (www.fmimages.com) and Sebas Romero (www.sebasromero.com)
Make no mistake: Husaberg has arrived. The 2013 model lineup is far from the “blue KTM” misnomer that many Internet pundits erroneously use as to describe the brand. While there are some definite connections between the two lines, Husaberg is most certainly a legitimate standalone enduro manufacturer with a full range of models. We were lucky enough to hitch a ride to Europe to test these machines on some epic trails at the world press launch in Spain, and we learned a huge amount about both the two- and four-strokes in Husaberg’s lineup. What follows is an inside look at these models and a first impression of how they work in the dirt.
An all-new model, this 250cc four-stroke was built for the competitive E1 race division and was designed to be as light and agile as possible. Like all Husabergs, the FE250 is set up for 100% enduro and features a high-revving DOHC engine with titanium valves that is claimed to produce 35 horsepower. As expected, this machine responds well at higher rpm ranges and likes to be shifted often. The bottom-to-mid range is slightly soft, yet it only takes a quick snap of the clutch to awaked a more lively side of the bike. Response is excellent and the electric starting is absolutely flawless. When it comes to handling, the lightweight feel of the bike is easy to notice on rapid direction changes where the weight is transferred smoothly and without any surprises. The all-new WP4S-closed cartridge fork—not to be confused with a separate function fork—features a compression adjuster on the top left fork cap and a rebound adjuster on the right. The two are not connected in any way, and the hardware in each leg is identical, yet making small adjustments on each adjuster impacts the overall ride of the bike. Our experience was that minor changes to clicker settings resulted in minimal affects to the bike; you need to really tweak these clickers in order to make any progress on setup. The stock character of the fork is slightly soft initially with good bottoming resistance and smooth action. On the other end of the bike, the shock holds up well and wasn’t overly busy or harsh. Overall, this 250cc four-stroke is a high-performance machine when compared with the likes of a Honda CRF250X, and we predict that it will become a popular US model once riders realize the potential hidden within the small engine.
Since the Husaberg 390 is no more, the new FE350 leads the mid-size four-stroke charge and provides a great stepping-stone bike for Husaberg riders who want more power than a 250 but don’t want to go all-out with the 501. This 350cc powerplant is incredible in that it really gets the power to the ground; a good rider will be able to make this rear tire find traction just about anywhere. There’s a strong surge in low-to-mid-range delivery, after which is a free-revving feeling that allows the rider to use the entire power spread—there’s no defined “sweet spot” that one must stay in to make it work. The FE350 is heavier than the FE250, and as a result you have to muscle it into lines a bit more to compensate for the increased gyroscopic effect of the motor. Shifting is buttery smooth and all of the controls feel precise, highlighted by one of the best front brakes on the market. Here, the WP fork felt soft and again responded well to a stiffer compression setting (which can be achieved on the fly, which is very cool). This is an excellent all-around machine that will likely be a hit with both racers and those who don’t need an absolute powerhouse but still want a little excitement.
Over 20 years ago, Husaberg’s first model was a 501cc four-stroke that produced scary amounts of power and was not for the faint of heart. For 2013, the 501 is back but does not have a lot of similarities to the older model of the same displacement. The new FE501 is definitely a powerhouse, but was not nearly as hard to ride as one may think. Like all Husabergs, this machine loves nasty trails and is an absolute champ on big hills. The generous engine pours on the power but does so in a surprisingly usable way that isn’t overly intimidating for lighter riders. Don’t be mistaken—there’s a ton of snap down low that can get you into trouble if you’re not prepared for it. When it comes to trail riding, though, the 501 can simply be left in a certain gear and the power modulated in smooth, controlled bursts by the throttle. The higher displacement results in increased top-heaviness that is most noticeable on slower sections and when leaning the bike. The front suspension is plush in stock form, and heavier riders will likely be clamoring for a more firm aftermarket setup to help maintain the stance of the bike.
With a brand new chassis, this six-speed, electric start two-stroke is a hugely impressive motorcycle with incredible potential. Mellower than the TE300, this 250 has an impressive power spread that does not take loads of energy to use, which means that it’ll make a great race bike for particularly long or tough events. This stock package is insane in that there’s not really anything you need to do modification-wise to “fix” it; the off-the-showroom status of the bike is beyond sufficient for the needs of most riders. The chassis upgrades take the TE250 to the next level in terms of handling, where a new swingarm and reworkd PDS shock work together to save weight and improve bottoming. Across the board, the Husaberg two-strokes received thinner (read: lighter) frame tubes and a new polymer subframe that is a virtually unbreakable three-piece unit. We dug this bike and can’t wait to tinker with it more on some trails back home.
Similar to the TE250, the best-selling TE300 two-stroke has an improved engine and is lighter and much more refined in handling. An amazing hard endure bike, the TE300 is the weapon of choice for extreme enduro racer Graham Jarvis, who chooses to race the 300 due to its linear power and maneuverable feel. One of the coolest aspects of this machine is that it can be ridden in a wide variety of gears, which makes for an easy-to-operate package when the rider gets tired or comes at an obstacle in the wrong gear. Vibration is an issue at higher rpm ranges, but simply upshifting and letting the motor lug can alleviate this. As with the TE250, there’s a predictable character to the handling that allows the machine to be steered around with the front and go precisely where you want it. The front end feels extraordinarily light, yet the fork can have excessive feedback in choppy sections resulting in a nervous overall ride. That said, the TE300 gets the job done and then some, and will undoubtedly be a popular motorcycle when it hits.
We’re riding these bikes more shortly, so stay tuned to www.dirtrider.com for more information, specs and photos. If you have a specific question that you would like answered, hit us up at www.facebook.com/dirtridermag. Go ride!