Husky is in a familiar yet all-new place right now. It is starting another chapter of the long-standing brand’s history with a whole ’nother face-lift. It has a tough task ahead, as usual, but there could not be better times to do it in for a brand focused on the American market for dirt bikes, which is wide open and hungry for new off-roaders. But as the brand manager and an all-new U.S.-based effort here, who is your target?
See, I’m a different rider and customer segment than young Associate Editor Chris Green. I knew about Husky’s legendary run of off-road titles before I was riding, rode the bikes when they were still produced in Sweden and watched the company turn Italian and produce some good machines, a few great ones and a lot of bombs, too. Green, on the other hand, had never ridden a Husky prior to working at Dirt Rider and likely never had any intention to, either. But now he’s ridden them as much as he has a KTM.
The TXC 449 is a bike that is not very Husqvarna-esque at all, but so Husky at the same time. It breaks a lot of long-standing motorcycle design traditions and uses technology and new ideas in the dirt bike market that most will just scoff at, since the norm is working so well for everyone else (and maybe that includes you). Why does a bike need the countershaft sprocket on the center of the swingarm pivot? The clutch on the end of the crank? The linkage upside-down causing the use of a more laid-down shock? The gas tank fill at the rear of the seat? When you go back in history far enough, you’ll find that all of these things have been tried at one time or another, some just a few years ago by parent company BMW, with limited success if we are to be truthful.
Yet one of the things that has made smaller brands into bigger players here in the U.S. is bringing a different game to the riders who are willing to go and ride a different bike. Look at that orange juggernaut which not only jumped on the competition four-stroke engine as early as anyone (back in the two-stroke era) but packaged it with a then-unique PDS linkageless rear suspension. Those bikes even had, oh so daring at the time, hydraulic clutches, and a lot of riders just laughed and ignored them. And in a few years it was all normal and many bought a KTM for the first time. Husaberg is tracking a very similar path (it should, it is KTM as well) and is worth paying attention to.But back to the TXC 449. At every angle you see another strange and often confusing sight on the bike. From the concave fenders and number plates to the strange places that the engine bulges to the gaps and angles around the swingarm area. Do we really need all these changes? Is this how it is going to be? Strange?