Among other things, Italians are known for their style. As a result, many of the products that originate in “the Boot” are laced with a unique, innovative and altogether cool attitude that is hard to ignore. Take, for example, the all-new Husqvarna TC449, which looks like nothing else on the moto market and possesses an inventive approach to MX technology that is quickly raising eyebrows all around the world. Husqvarna held the official release of this machine last week in Fano, Italy, and Dirt Rider was on hand as one of the first American media outlets to give the new steed a spin. You’ll be able to read all about the bike in an upcoming first test in the magazine, but here’s a quick recap of what we thought after spending a day with the 2011 TC449:
- The Husqvarna TC449 is as innovative as the flight to Italy is long. Among the major features of the bike are the new rear linkage that sits above the swingarm, a centrally located fuel tank that fills from the rear and allows the seat to extend all the way forward to the crown nut, and a BMW-esque tilted motor complete with Keihin Electronic Fuel Injection, electric starting and a Brembo Hydraulic clutch. Clearly, the engineers did a bit more than just apply new graphics when they made the new model!
- Want power? The TC449 has it, and then some. When the throttle is cracked open, the Husqvarna produces a gnarly boost of power that can make keeping the front end down slightly difficult when the proper amount of traction is applied. The stock Akrapovic exhaust makes for a throaty note and supports smooth yet utterly strong acceleration. This is the type of motor that can rev out in a lower gear or be lugged in a higher gear, though we found that third was sufficient for most MX track conditions.
- This Husqvarna is a lot of things, and lightweight isn’t one of them. The machine feels heavier than its claimed 108 kg (238 lbs.), and as a result it can be difficult to change lines, adjust in the air and slow down when jamming into a corner. However, the weight is not all carried up top on the bike, so at least it’s not “tippy-heavy” like a big Adventure bike with a huge tank. Rather, the mass seems to be in the middle of the machine, making for a stable yet immovable feel on the track.
- Speaking of stability, the Husqvarna drives straight as an arrow through nasty chop and big, burly braking bumps. It may have a lot of weight, but that same mass never once steps out or throws itself around laterally.
- Ergonomically, the Husqvarna is a roomy machine with a unique style. Due to the long seat, the pilot can really scoot up on the bike and settle in for turns, providing more incredible freedom of movement. Similarly, the single side panel sets you up for less snagging and interference, and it also allows easy access to most of the major components. The Magura handlebar isn’t the most forgiving thing on the planet—we felt a lot of vibration and feedback—but there’s no doubt about its durability.
- Both in the front and rear, the Kayaba suspension has been precisely calibrated to the Husqvarna’s needs, though more setting up may be required based on rider preference, size and speed. The fork likes to ride down low in the stroke and has a tendency to periodically blow through, though it responded well to additional compression adjustment (1-3 clicks stiffer). In the back, the shock has a similar though firmer feel, and in comparison to most machines has decent bottoming resistance and damping. We played with the ride height continually and slowed down the rebound a tad, but otherwise left the shock’s compression stock.
- The stance of the TC449 is naturally high in the rear end. Even when the race sag is set to the specified 100-108mm range, the bike still feels tall out back. Heavier riders may like this feeling, but lighter pilots will likely have to do some major adjusting in order to make the bike sit more comfortably. On the track, this attitude can be felt when braking coming into turns, as the front wheel can tuck from having too much weight placed on it.
- As mentioned before, the TC449 is a cool looking machine that sports a sleek, aggressive design. But it isn’t all about looks: The body of this bike is described by Husky as “fast undressing”, meaning that the air filter, oil filters, greasing points and diagnostic plug are all easy to access and quick to get to.
Though we only got in one day of riding the new Husqvarnas in Italy, we’ve already begun assembling a comprehensive first look story revolving around the company’s 2011 product line. Word has it that we’ll receive a dedicated TC449 test bike sometime near the end of this month, so stay tuned as we put the big bike through its paces and see how it really settles when ridden on a variety of tracks by several different test riders. In the meantime, please post a comment below if there is something specific you’d like to know and we will do our best to answer it!