Legendary Swedish off-road maker Husqvarna has sometimes seemed rudderless in recent years, existing on the fringes for a while as a dirt-stained division of Italy's MV Agusta then making a detour as a subsidiary of German BMW, where Husky seemed poised to become the two-wheeled version of BMW's Mini automotive brand—complete with a line of quirky streetbikes.
Now a wholly owned division of Austrian manufacturer KTM (since 2013), Husqvarna is back, totally refocused on building world-class off-road machinery, and stronger than it's ever been in its 112-year history, selling more than 16,000 motorcycles last year alone. Leading the charge is Motorcyclist Magazine's 2015 Best Dual Sport Motorcycle, the FE 501 S (see our First Ride review here), a street-legal dual-sport that is literally just a tire swap and a few stick-on numbers away from a national enduro-racing podium.
The engine is unchanged from the race-only FE 501, and the rest of the package makes only the most minimal concessions to legality, so nearly all of the race-ready performance and capability remains intact. Whether you’re looking for a razor-sharp—and electric start—woods bike capable of connecting trailheads without trailering, or a solid foundation for constructing a truly off-road capable adventure-touring machine that puts the emphasis squarely on adventure, Husky’s $10,249 FE 501 S won’t be beat.
ALTERNATIVE TAKE // HONDA CRF250L
We've been huge fans of the street-legal Honda CRF since its 2013 introduction, mainly because of its cheerful disposition and low price tag. It's $500 dearer these days at $4,999 but still a fine, affordable companion for exploring trails and running around town. Its lack of power makes urban freeways something of a challenge, but in the right element there are few more docile, flexible dual-sports.