They say: “A new breed of
We say: “Welcome back,
Husqvarna making streetbikes? No way! That was the general response when word of Husky's twin-cylinder Nuda 900 project surfaced last year. Off-road aficionados feared it would be a disaster, like the Ferrari station wagon built for the Sultan of Brunei. Husqvarna used to make streetbikes, but halted the effort in 1961 to focus on its off-road machinery. The next year, the Swedish company swept the World Motocross Championships. Now, 71 world titles later, Husky has gone back to the future and is offering it fi rst twin-cylinder streetbike since its JAP-powered V-twins of the mid-'30s.
Developed as a crossover model between a supermoto and a naked bike, the Nuda 900 and up-spec Nuda 900R can't be shoehorned into established categories. Sporty yet elegant, sleek yet purposeful, the Nuda is a bold move for Husqvarna and unlike anything else the company has ever made. Despite their total practicality and fun factor, bikes like the Nuda don't sell well in America, so Husqvarna isn't expected to import it any time soon.
To power the Nuda 900, Husqvarna engineers ordered up an 898cc parallel-twin from their colleagues at BMW. Built by Rotax in Austria, the engine is loosely based on the F800R's and shares that engine's clutch and transmission. An extra 100cc and plenty of tuning have yielded a 24 percent increase in power, pushing peak output to over 100 bhp. The chassis is an all-new tubular-steel trellis unit, equipped with Ohlins suspension, Brembo Monobloc calipers and carbon-fiber bits on the R-model, Showa suspenders and two-piece Brembo pinchers on the base bike.
Attending the press launch on the Mediterranean island of Sardinia offered the opportunity to test the Nuda 900R on the Mores race circuit and experience the base model on the local mountain roads. The consensus? Husqvarna has produced what the Italians are calling a motardona -a supermoto with hair on its chest. It's an appropriate title, perhaps more so than the bike's given name!
Slim as a single and as tall as a motocrosser, the Nuda 900R seemed improbably narrow for a parallel-twin. You sit higher on the R-model, but the riding position and engine performance are identical to the base model. Thumb the starter button and you'll find yourself relishing the hubble-bubble lilt of the Nuda's engine, which comes courtesy of a 315-degree crank. The character is similar to that of a Harley V-twin, but without the shaking and vibration inherent in that design.
Damp morning conditions were perfect for testing the alternative Rain map, but as soon as the track surface dried, I switched to Standard power mode and the Nuda's true character was revealed. The Italian-designed bike's engine pulls from idle and takes full throttle from as low as 1800 rpm without hesitation. Power is plentiful from 4000 revs up to the 9000-rpm limiter, but short-shifting is preferred with this torquey engine.
It's immediately noticeable that the bike changes direction very easily, and not just because you have a wide handlebar to lever it from side to side. Sportbike geometry, a claimed curb weight of 430 lbs. and a carefully placed center of gravity make the Nuda extremely agile yet unshakably stable, even through high-speed bends where supermotos aren't always at ease. The bike is impressively quick, well balanced and a blast to ride. But try to avoid removing your toe-sliders while assailing corners; the low-set footpegs touch down well before you reach the edge of the rear tire!
The superbike-spec Brembos on the 900R bite a little too hard, making the base-model's lower-spec binders preferable. Those brakes don't risk front-wheel lock-up and do less to upset the chassis when touched while turning. The Nuda is completely intuitive to ride; you really don't have to think about what to do-just flog it! The beauty of this bike is its composure under pressure. A key component is its use of Metzeler tires, which heat up fast from cold-an asset when most riders will find it hard to resist going for it from the moment they fire up the motor.
On the tight mountain roads around the Mores track, the Nuda 900 was easily as quick as any supersport would have been. It does pretty well on the straights, too. Husqvarna claims a top speed of more than 120 mph, but with the upright riding stance. anything approaching three digits gets uncomfortably windy. For those who want to go the distance, Husky offers a windscreen, heated handgrips and both hard and soft luggage options to turn the Nuda into a sport-tourer.
Husqvarna's challenge here is simply to persuade potential customers to give the Nuda a try, because once they do, they'll be hooked! There's nothing quite like it, and unless you're swooned by the flashy red-andwhite paint on the 900R, there's really no need to spend the extra cash on it. The base bike works just as well (better on the brakes, actually) up until 9/10ths, when the Öhlins suspenders start to shine. And if the Nuda's style doesn't suit you, just sit tight: Husqvarna says it will have many more road-going machines powered by the 900cc twin down the road. Hopefully, some of them will make their way to America...