2022 Husqvarna Norden: Husky Traveller
BY: PHIL JAMES | PHOTOS: NIGEL PATERSON/SUPPLIED
The forest road slowly descended into the valley, offering spectacular views for 30km. We ride for the roads, of course, but great views are another reason to get out there on a bike.
A sheer embankment hung above the road on the other. Soon it was getting steeper, the washouts deeper — this was rapidly degrading from ‘good dirt road’ to ‘snotty unmaintained trail’ much quicker than I expected. There were signs indicating things might turn properly ugly. Track damage from 4WDs was increasing.
Those who’ve done off road work know one of the nightmare scenarios is descending a brutal hill only to find there’s no way forward … resulting in a non-negotiable backtrack up the hill. It’s worse when 4WDs have suffered the same fate — and winched themselves out.
And so, it was. The wettest year on record had destroyed the creek crossing on the valley floor, we were going back up that hill…
With traction control disengaged I attacked the climb. It wasn’t enduro speed, but it was enough to carry the bike through the slippery sections — momentum is everything. No problem, the larger wheels held the desired line and managed to achieve grip (where a 19/17-inch combo might dig in). The plush suspension prevented front wheel deflection as sharp-edged bumps were absorbed.
Twenty minutes later we were back on sealed road ripping along at “good speed”. The Husky feet planted and composed despite its intermediate block tyres, its rider pampered behind the protective fairing.
Twenty-one-inch wheeled bikes aren’t usually on Road Rider turf, but the Norden is different. When ARR looked at the spec sheet, it was clear that this is a road bike with formidable capability. Consequently, we wanted to introduce it to readers as an all-road option.
As an aside, the ARR test staff have the best part of 100 years of dirt and adventure experience, so we always enjoy an opportunity to return to our roots ...
WHAT’S THE NORDEN ALL ABOUT?
Husky has identified a largely vacant niche in the market and dropped the Norden into it. It’s obviously a long-distance all-terrain bike, but there’s more to it than that.
Touring riders in Australia often rack up long distances on all types of surfaces. Finding the capability sweet spot is what the Norden is all about. Most current offerings are either 30/70 dirt/sealed, or vice versa. The Norden aims to be 50/50 — and to be good at both. Previous 50/50 attempts from other manufacturers have often been bad at both.
The Norden takes a lot of components from the KTM 890 Adventure. Not surprising as Husqvarna is owned by KTM. The spec sheet suggests they are twins, but they’re not identical twins.
The Norden uses the KTM’s 890 engine, electronics and other minor components. The frame design is strongly related to KTM’s Adventures.
The suspension is from WP and is a standout feature, not so much for its technical specification, but for its tuning to suit the bike’s intended uses. It offers compression and tension (rebound) adjustment on the forks. The shock comes from KTM’s 890 Adventure S. In the Norden it has different settings and offers remote preload and screwdriver tension adjustment.
The 890 parallel-twin engine is compact and powerful, giving Husqvarna packaging options not available with a larger capacity engine. Getting the seat close to the ground, without compromising ground clearance, is one of those options, and the shortish wheelbase is another.
The electronic package is good with features one would want, without being overly complex to use. There are three ride modes (Street, Rain, Off-Road), ABS can be disabled on the rear for extremely slippery descents (or show boating), Switchable Traction Control, Quickshift up/down and Motor Slip Regulation to reduce the chance of wheel lock on down changes. Cruise control is included.
Other noteworthy inclusions are quick change seat height, auxiliary lights, LED indicators, illuminated switch blocks and power socket. All of this goes some way to justifying the Norden’s $25k price.
WHAT’S THE RIDE LIKE?
Taking delivery of the test bike involved a solid motorway stint in rain, revealing a lot about the bike’s capability. It exhibited comfort and composure similiar to a 17-inch wheel bike, consequently it scythed through the rows of red lights like a shark through mullet. This ability to smoothly drone along at three-figure speeds is rare for bikes claiming strong off-road credentials.
The ergo performance at speed is a big feature of the Norden. The seat is one of the most comfortable in this segment, although its wedge shape may constrain a rider’s ability to shift weight backwards in off-road attack mode. There is a single seat option improving this (at the likely cost of long-distance comfort), so if it’s an issue there’s a fix.
When standing in a moderate attack, or cruising posture, I found the bar position a bit low. If it’s an issue, there are risers of various heights available (the same ones are used on both KTMs and Huskies). The simple fore/aft bar adjustment is something other manufacturers could learn from.
The screen isn’t adjustable but works quite well. There have been reports of minor helmet buffeting but it’s not something neither my basketball tall editor, nor my jockey-impersonating self, noticed. Both peaked and road helmets were used during the test. However, all peaked helmets react differently and if it is an issue, there’s the option of another helmet and/or the accessory tall screen to deal with it.
Back to the ride. When the straight road ends, the corners start and the Norden needs to perform in this environment, so does it?
On smooth sealed roads the Norden is at its weakest because of the wheel/tyre package. This is discussed in more detail in the sidebar. On these roads it has less performance potential than a typical road bike, but that’s not to say it will limit most riders. The Norden will convincingly flick through a series of tight corners in such a way your mates on road tyres won’t immediately disappear … unless they really want to test fate.
On typically sealed country roads with bumpy corners, the Norden is genuinely quick. The whole package of punchy engine, powerful progressive brakes, well-tuned suspension and large wheels comes together, allowing the Norden to laugh at bumps. It can jump out of a corner and into the next one, with an ability reminiscent of a two-stroke dirt bike (especially in the sharper “Rallye” throttle mode and with enthusiastic use of the quickshifter).
On dirt roads, for reasons already mentioned, the Norden will happily go as fast at the rider dares, or the tyres will allow.
The Norden can tackle just about anything off road if that’s required. It’s essentially a well-suspended trail bike and this is where it differs from KTM’s hard edged Adventure R (which is more for aspiring Rally Raid racers). Suspension tuning and performance is a core design feature in this category, so I’ve looked at the detail of what Husqvarna is supplying in another sidebar.
The 889cc engine is possibly the best parallel-twin on the market. It has a smooth, broad spread of power and a slick gearbox further optimised by excellent quickshifter software. In Euro5 form it’s fuel efficient, with the test average being 4L/100km (25km/L). There’s a minor downside to this economy with the bike occasionally exhibiting uneven fuelling at small throttle settings. This seems to be a characteristic of Euro5 bikes as they try to burn as little fuel as possible. Otherwise, fuelling is excellent.
The electronic package offers riders a solution to most situations they’re likely to encounter. Throttle responsiveness and traction control settings vary noticeably between modes.
The test bike had the optional Explorer mode fitted. The bike is fine without this, but it does bring something to the table for the $324 price.
It is configurable and has two significant benefits. The first being, once rider’s choices for throttle response, ABS mode and TC settings are made, the bike retains them.
The second is nine-stage traction control. On the OEM electronic package TC can be turned off. Unfortunately, this needs to be done every time the ignition is switched on, and whilst it can be a heap of fun with it off, the rear tyre will be gone very, very quickly.
The standard “Off Road” mode comes with a fixed TC setting and it’s usually too much or too little. With Explorer mode, it’s the rider’s choice between tyre preservation, destruction or somewhere in between. When set to level 1 there’s almost no TC, and the Norden’s buried Mr Hyde personality shows through. When set to level 9, the rider’s tyre bill comes right down. It’s also handy in slow, greasy situations.
One minor glitch with Explorer mode; on the dash it shows the TC setting where the gear position normally resides (the gear position relocates to another part of the screen). Initially, I kept trying to change up gears as I thought I was in fourth, when I was in sixth. We’re sure an owner would get used to this, but it’s still a minor “opportunity for improvement” for Husky.
Whilst discussing opportunities for improvement, there’s a rookie error with the seat. In the high position, the decorative yellow stripe on the side panel doesn’t line up.
There was some marking on the fork legs as clearance between the mudguard and fork leg is tight. This appears to have caused some rubbing during extreme suspension moments. It’s not something we’d expect to happen on every bike.
The test bike came into our care with 3000km on the odometer and a new set of Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres. During that time, it had been resisting the best efforts of journalists to pound it into submission. We’re pleased to report it had survived the ordeal well and rode beautifully.
The OEM tyres are a good choice, as with all 50/50 tyres, slippery mud or road marbles defeat them. Otherwise, the dry grip they offered was as good as any in this segment we’ve tried. Where they did impress was wet grip on asphalt. They’re a big plus for the Norden’s aim of good performance in all conditions.
In summary, the list of bikes with the Norden’s level of road/dirt capability is very short — so much so, it may be a list of one.
On the road the Norden rides like a comfortable, faired bike most of the time, not a 21-inch wheel adventure bike… until a 21-inch adventure bike is needed. Then it’s got your back unless we’re talking steep, rough, slippery hills. In that situation, nothing with two cylinders is going to work well, but the Norden will work better than most.
So, the Norden is not quite an iron fist, but certainly a bronze fist, wrapped in a plush velvet glove. We think it’s Swedish for fast, frugal and fabulous.
The standard Norden is quite a complete package. Many would buy it, strap a roll bag to it, and have years of happy touring experiences.
However, this is 2022, and as is the adventure bike norm these days, Husky offers many things to improve the Norden “experience”. The standard accessory dilemma applies of course; the more stuff you bolt on, the heavier the bike gets. Accessories need to earn their keep.
A good range of luggage (both soft and hard) is available, as well as comfort items like heated seats and grips. The centrestand makes rear wheel removal easy and reduces the bike’s parking footprint.
Slightly lighter and fruitier sounding slip-ons are available from Akrapovic and Remus as well as various protection items (one of which is a dash protection film, and this is highly recommended as it’s easily scratched in dusty conditions).
Although no details were available at the time of writing, Husky advises fall-over protection bars are coming. To us that large side panel above the engine looks easily damaged and expensive to replace, it would only take one poorly executed U-turn… The taller screen isn’t shown in the catalogue yet, but it too is on its way.
The tyre pressure monitoring system would be worthwhile if it’s within the buyer’s budget, as it can prevent a small problem becoming a large one. Those who use a GPS will find the accessory mount is the best solution to fitting it.
Other stuff includes premium levers, alarm system, quick turn throttle and phone connectivity unit.
Finally, there are the suspension options. Commendably, Husky has all bases covered as I’ve discussed in the suspension sidebar.
The Norden is a premium adventure solution and buyers in this market want good suspension. Suspension isn’t always about the specs however, but rather execution. Husky has gone for a set-up offering comfort and grip at high speeds: ie, soft, allowing the wheels to quickly respond to surface fluctuations, but with control. They’ve hit the target on this.
At three-figure speeds on rough roads, the Norden rider isn’t pounded into submission, nor trying to manage a wallowing blob of jelly. Grip is good in all situations, and if it does get airborne, it can manage a landing with reasonable bottoming resistance (it’s quite good for lighter riders like myself).
The range of adjustment is good with just a few clicks changing the damping characteristics. Riders of all sizes and tastes should be able to find a setting that works.
The OEM suspension isn’t as good as electronic semi-active suspension can be, nor as good as top shelf conventional suspension. However, it’s good enough we could live with it as is (and ARR are notorious for being suspension fiddlers).
We’ve heard comments it lacks serious off-road capability, but that’s incorrect. Its ability in all but off-road racing conditions will be limited more by rider skill and tyre choice than suspension performance. Given it’s not trying to be an enduro bike, it comes with plenty up its sleeve if drainage mounds or wash outs are unexpectedly brutal.
But there’s more. Husqvarna knows some owners want racing performance and sister company WP offer two premium suspension upgrades. One offers an additional 20mm, the other an additional 50mm of travel. However, there are no half measures, one should buy the lot to maintain the bike’s geometry. That’s forks, shock, plus the longer side stand, that adds up to the best part of $8k. It’s expensive, but it would transform the Norden into a proper off-road warrior.
On the other side of the coin, some owners want even better seat accessibility. To assist, Husky offers a reasonably priced lowering kit consisting of shorter front springs, a preload adjustable shock and a shorter stand.
WHEELS AND TYRES
The off-road wheel set drives much of the Norden’s character and like much of motorcycle design, it’s all about compromise. Or, to put it another way, it’s all about limiting the downside.
The 21/18-inch wheel set allows the Norden to roll over, rather than fall into potholes. A big plus. However, at higher speeds there’s a lot of centrifugal stability and typically, getting the bike to lean will take more effort than a 19/17-inch bike.
The large wheels also maximise the off-road tyre choice, but limit street tyre choice. The tyres it runs are high profile for a better ride and improved resistance to rim damage. The downside is, there’s less rubber at the tyre’s edge, limiting grip in extreme cornering situations.
A bike with this set up (over 100hp and off-road tyres) has the potential to be dreadful at high speeds and in twisty corners, but the Norden isn’t. How have they managed it?
The Norden mitigates the edge grip limitation with a shortish wheelbase (for this class of bike) and geometry. Neither spec is extreme but does allow it will turn more tightly for a given lean angle. Effectively giving the tyres a bit more edge rubber.
At salt flat speeds the bike does take more effort to change line than a 19-inch bike, up till then, it’s acceptable and something an owner would adjust to. Getting the bike to turn is helped by its low centre of gravity. With half a tank of gas, most of the bike’s weight looks to sit below the cylinder heads. Throw in thinner tyres, requiring less effort to get off the narrower, flat centre strip of rubber and you have a bike that tips in easier than one would expect.
The result of all this is a chassis that strikes a nice balance between off and on road ability. This is its strength compared to competitors.
2022 Husqvarna Norden
Type: Liquid-cooled, 4-stroke, DOHC, 4-valve, parallel 2-cylinder
Power: 105Hp (77Kw) at 8000rpm
Torque: 100Nm at 6500rpm
Bore x stroke: 90.7 x 68.8mm
Compression ratio: 13.5:1
Fuel System: Bosch engine management, DKK Dellorto
46mm throttle body
Final drive: Chain
Clutch: Wet multiplate, mechanical activated PASC anti-hopping
CHASSIS AND RUNNING GEAR
Chassis: Chromium molybdenum steel trellis with engine as stressed element
Front suspension: WP Apex 43 telescopic upside-down fork, compression, rebound, preload adjustment, 220mm travel
Rear suspension: WP Apex monoshock with rebound and
preload adjustment, 215mm travel
Front brakes: Radial-mount 4-piston calipers, dual floating 320mm discs, ABS
Rear brake: 2-piston caliper, single 260mm disc, ABS
Wheels: Tubeless spoked aluminium, Front: 2.50 x 21-inch,
Rear: 4.50 x 18-inch
Tyres: Front: 90/90 – 21, Rear: 150/70 – 18
ELECTRONIC RIDER AIDS
Brake Control (ABS): Yes, Bosch 9.1 with cornering ABS,
offroad mode, disengageable
Ride Modes: 3 modes Street, Rain, Offroad (Explorer
Traction Control: Yes (MTC)
Engine Brake Control: Yes (MSR)
Quick Shifter: Bi-directional and off
Cruise Control: Yes
Connectivity: Turn by Turn navigation, Call-In, Music selection
DIMENSIONS AND CAPACITIES
Claimed weight: 204kg (no fuel)
Ground Clearance: 252mm
Seat height: 854/874 mm
Wheelbase: 1513mm +/- 15mm
Fuel capacity: 19L
Price: $25,050 (ride away)
Test bike supplied by: Husqvarna Australia
Warranty: 2 years, unlimited kilometres.