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.

TECH SPEC

EVOLUTION
BMW’s short-lived G450X, rebadged and vastly improved with more power and an all-new chassis.

RIVALS
Honda CRF450X, Kawasaki KLX450F, KTM 450 XC-W, Suzuki RMX450Z, Yamaha WR450F.

Tech
Price: $7999
Engine type: l-c single
Valve train: DOHC, 4v
Displacement: 449.6cc
Bore x stroke: 98.0 x 59.6mm
Compression: 12.0:1
Fuel system: EFI
Clutch: Wet, multi-plate
Transmission: 6-speed
Claimed horsepower: na
Claimed torque: na
Frame: Chromoly double-cradle with aluminum swingarm
Front suspension: 48mm Kayaba inverted fork with adjustable compression and rebound damping
Rear suspension: Kayaba shock with adjustable spring preload, compression and rebound damping
Front brake: Brembo two-piston caliper, 260mm disc
Rear brake: Brembo single-piston caliper, 240mm disc
Front tire: 90/90-21 Michelin Enduro Competition 3
Rear tire: 120/90-18 Michelin Enduro Competition 3
Rake/trail: na
Seat height: 37.9 in.
Wheelbase: 58.7 in.
Fuel capacity: 2.5 gal.
Claimed curb weight: 258 lbs.
Colors: Red/white
Available: Now
Warranty: 30 days
Contact: Husqvarna Motorcycles North America
300 Chestnut Ridge Rd.
Woodcliff Lake, NJ 07677
866.236.8029
www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com

VERDICT 3.5 out of 5 stars
BMW finally gets it right—sort of.

Husqvarna TXCi250
Fuel-Infected

In 2010 Husqvarna redesigned its 250—the last bike born from the Cagiva marriage—to be the lightest and most compact engine in the class, and the result was a World Enduro Championship. For 2011 the bike was updated with a larger, 2.2-gallon tank, 18-inch rear wheel, sidestand, spark arrestor, hand guards and Mikuni EFI. The changes bring the new bike’s price up to $7399.

The TXCi250 is sleepy in off-road-legal trim, but when converted for closed-course competition with the available kit, performance improves dramatically and the motor positively screams on top. With six gears to choose from, the bike makes quick work of any terrain.

Suspension is stiff for technical trails but somewhat soft for serious motocross work, so it’s a good match for closed-course competition. Handling is crisp and accurate with amazing front-end feel entering fast turns. It’s hard to imagine a rider not liking this chassis.

The 250’s only weakness is its EFI. For fast, open running it works fine, but throttle response down low is poor—like a carburetor with an idle jet that’s way off. Working with a dealer to tweak the EFI yielded no improvement. We ended up installing a JD Jetting Power Surge fuel-injection tuner ($209.95; www.jdjetting.com) to get the throttle response where we wanted it. Once the fueling was up to the level of the excellent chassis, the 250 became a joy to ride.

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