Husqvarna TXC449 and TXCi250 | First Ride

European Union

By Karel Kramer, Photography by Karel Kramer

They say: “The most versatile dirtbike on the market.”
We say: “Maybe they forgot about the orange ones?”

For those who follow all things Husqvarna, the original Swedish models have genuine cachet earned by iron men like Arne Kring, Bengt Aberg and Heikki Mikkola in Europe and Brad Lackey, Kent Howerton and Dick Burleson in America. Some purists feel the name was tarnished during the 20 years Cagiva owned it, but Italian-built Huskies tallied far more race wins and championships than the Swedish bikes ever managed.

The Husqvarna/Cagiva union may have racked up a lot of trophies, but it did little in the way of improving the production bikes’ reliability. New owner BMW may not have the racing heritage, but the company sure knows how to build a rock-solid machine. The Swedes made the brand famous and the Italians moved the engineering into the modern age; hopefully the Germans will give the bikes a reputation for quality, longevity and value.

The TXC449 is the first fruits of this new collaboration, and what a first effort it is! The character and performance of the BMW G450X-derived engine are flawless. Husqvarna boosted output by a claimed 8 bhp and added another cog to the five-speed gearbox for a total of six. The Keihin EFI is perfect, with none of the sudden throttle response sometimes found on “fuel-infected” engines. Power spans the entire rev range and is always easy to modulate and control. The unusual, crank-mounted hydraulic clutch turned out to be a non-issue. Pull is a little firm, but the action and feel are fine.

While the basic chassis design stems from the G450X, Husqvarna made the frame into a full cradle before adding linkage to the top of the swingarm and switching to Kayaba suspension. The underseat fuel tank’s filler cap was wisely moved to the rear of the seat. Husky opted to keep the BMW-inspired CTS (Coaxial Traction System), which reduces chain-tension fluctuations and helps combat rear-end squat under acceleration.

While the TXC449 works exceptionally well, it takes some getting used to. The bike has a long, stable feel that’s great at speed, but it lacks the low-speed lightness that more traditional chassis designs display. The bike is also on the tall side, which makes its weight more evident in tighter terrain. The seat height was reduced by trimming its padding to the bone, thus while it’s long and easy to move around on, it’s hard as a board.

The TXC concept encompasses all aspects of off-road riding. It’s a sound approach, and the 449 is a welcome entry here in America. BMW’s guidance is apparent in the fit-and-finish compared to Husky’s previous offerings, and the bike has a solid, quality feel. Still, its handling is different enough that it will require a period of acclimatization. Whether the 449’s chassis and handling traits will gain mainstream acceptance is an unanswered question, but the same was true of KTM’s linkageless PDS bikes when they were introduced, and they redefined off-road competition. Husqvarna is a great marque, and support behind the bikes is at an all-time high, so expect to see a greater number of the red-and-white bikes on the tracks and trails near you.

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