No-one would argue that Husqvarna has come a long way in the past 10 years, and that's been good for the dirt bike market in general. The more competition, the more the manufacturers strive to give us the best bikes they can make. Competition is healthy and encourages rapid product development. It also weeds out those who can't maintain the pace. If you fall by the wayside the mob will trample you to death; that's the gentle side of natural selection. The rough side is bankruptcy...
But judging by its popularity among Aussie dirt bike buyers, Husky won't be going broke anytime soon. You see more Huskies than ever on the trails these days - 450s mostly - in fact we see more Husqvarnas out there than Hondas or Suzukis. Yamaha and KTM would have to be the top two bikes where we ride in the NSW Hunter Valley, but those red and white Huskies are shooting up all over the place.
No doubt the warranty on Huskies has had something to do with their growing popularity. Buy a Husky now and you get a 24-month warranty that includes parts and labour. That's an after-sales deal that shames other distributors. Husky is offering the kind of warranty you get with a new car ... while the other guys are still offering billy-cart warranties on bikes worth $13,000.
Husqvarna is lucky in having a solid range too, starting with the WR125 two-stroke and climbing to the TE510 big-bore four-stroke. There isn't a 'most popular' bike in the catalogue, but only because the Aussie distributor sells an equal number of 450s and 510s. If nothing else, that shows that despite the growing number of riders buying 250cc four-strokes, Husky's mid-range and big bore machines are paying the rent.
Husqvarna sells half as many 250s as 450s and 510s in Australia. If it weren't for the obsession with 450s at the moment they would surely sell a lot more TE250s. It's a fantastic little bike.
For 2007 the TE250 gets the red and white colour scheme that hit the motocross range in 2006, a stronger clutch basket, a one-piece integrated Brembo rear brake master cylinder, a new kickstart shaft and some revised suspension settings - and all for the same $11,495 plus ORC price that got you the 2006 model.
I've never been all that sold on 250cc four-strokes, because you have to rev them hard to make them work, but just how friendly the Husky 250 is was rammed home to me a few weeks ago. We'd been riding all day and it was stinking hot, the kind of heat and humidity that makes you want to fall face-first into a creek. Well, it would if we had the time - but we had some testing to get on with.
After a short rest stop somewhere in the steaming funkhole of a jungle in which we found ourselves, I switched from a 450 to the TE250 - and in less than 30 seconds I discovered just how much more muscles the 450 needed over the 250. Bloody hell; I felt as if a weight had been lifted from my shoulders (and hips and knees and toes). The little TE was so easy to flick through the bush compared to the bigger bike, and consumed half the body fuel in doing it.
The crap we went through that afternoon reminded me of a conversation I had with Aussie enduro star Jake Stapleton. He told me a couple of years ago, before he became a TM factory rider in Europe, that he chose to ride a 250cc two-stroke because he "...can't hold on to a 450 four-stroke all day - it just beats me up". And I knew what he meant. The thing is, even a guy with that much talent has to race the bike that suits him.
Meanwhile, I'm down here, not up there, but I still have to ride a bike that suits me, and as far as I'm concerned the TE250 is perfectly matched to the single line I ride most of the time. So I made the decision right there and then; if I end up buying another bike it'll be a 250cc four-stroke, and it could very well be the Husky TE250.
I rode the TE a long way that day but I'm buggered if I could find serious fault with it. I thought the gearing felt a bit too high in first gear on the scrabbly stuff, but the suspension suited my weight of about 93kg and the ride was plush everywhere. I got off the Husky convinced that I could ride it faster than I can ride anything else, particularly when the trails became technical, because it was quick to turn and change direction - and it didn't knacker me from the waist up.
Engine: 249.5cc, liquid-cooled, four-stroke, DOHC, four-valve, single cylinder
Bore and stroke: 76 x 55mm
Fuel system: 37mm Keihin FCR
Frame: steel single tube cradle
Front brake: single 260mm disc with twin-piston Brembo calliper
Rear brake: single 240mm disc with single-piston Brembo calliper
Front suspension: 45mm Marzocchi USD forks, adjustable for compression and rebound
Rear suspension: Sachs monoshock, fully adjustable
Wheels: spoked alloy
Tyres: Michelin Enduro Competition 3; 90/90 21 front, 120/90 18 rear
Seat height: 970mm
Claimed dry weight: 108kg
Fuel tank: 9.2L
Price: $11,495 plus ORC
Colours: red and white
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres