The 250cc four-stroke has a lot going for it, so it's no surprise this model is so popular with Aussie dirt riders. Problems specific to high performance four-strokes notwithstanding, the typical 250 four-stroke has impressive engine performance, it's light so it's easy to throw around, and it corners really well.
This market segment is well serviced too. Most manufacturers have a street legal, race-bred 250cc four-stroke, and they're not separated by much in terms of performance. Previous dirt shootouts on these bikes elicited an almost unanimous decision that the Husky was the nicest, and some guys who thought they'd never admit that anything was better than a Honda or a Yamaha had to eat their words or choke.
No doubt a stubborn streak of conservatism held Husqvarna back in this country, and for a long time. Despite God knows how many championship wins in cross-country events, the brand never seemed to take off here, at least not in the volumes we've seen KTM push out in the past five years. But things are certainly changing for Husqvarna. The Huskies are a top bunch, and from our highly opinionated point of view the TE250 is possibly the best dirt bike Husqvarna make. On top of that, the local distributor offers a 24-month parts and labour warranty, while the bikes themselves bristle with gold label gear. It'll be interesting to see how much further again the models, only just released, will raise the bar.
So why do we like the TE250 so much? Well, all that gold label stuff, and because the littlest TE does damn near everything so well.
There's nothing about this bike you'd dislike. The only gripes we had concern the sidestand and the gearing. The powerfully spring-loaded sidestand retracts with unwarranted aggression, and as for the gearing, it's too high for the dirt - or to be more specific, it's too high in first and second gears.
With 50-13 sprockets the Husky needs a lot of clutch dancing to get up a rock-strewn climb. It just doesn't have the marbles for that sort of work with standard gearing, and 12-50 or 13-52 gearing is probably a better bet.
But one thing we certainly like about the TE is its handling. From a trail rider's point of view the bike's Marzocchi/Sachs suspension is plush enough to keep him comfortable over the length of a long hard day, but still cope with all the crap nature can chuck his way.
We believe the suspension on this bike, and particularly the Sachs shock, works better on the 250 than the 450. The shocks might be the same for all we know, but we can only call it as we see it.
The smaller bike's suspension feels plusher and more compliant, and lacks the 450's occasional habit of kicking you in the arse on really nasty terrain.
So where does this leave us? Very impressed. All things being equal, this bike would win another 250 four-stroke shootout. And I'll go further than that. If I was buying a 250 tomorrow, I'd be signing up for this baby.
SPECS: Husqvarna TE250
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 caliper
Rear brake: single 240mm disc with single-piston Brembo caliper
Front suspension: 45mm Marzocchi 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: blue and yellow
Warranty: 24 months/unlimited kilometres