Misfit Motorcycles | CRANKED

Husaberg in its 25th and final year of existence.

Husaberg will celebrate both its 25th anniversary and its final year of existence in 2014, having been excreted into the sewer pipe of history by parent company KTM earlier this year to better concentrate on both the KTM and Husqvarna brands, the latter of which is now also owned by the Austrian manufacturer. This is too bad because despite a convoluted history involving ex-Husqvarna employees, the occasional rebadged KTM, an ill-fitting gorilla suit, and an affinity for the bizarre, Husaberg built some truly cool dirt bikes.

Picture the 50cc horizontal single from the original Honda Super Cub. Now picture that same motor punched out to 570cc and rearranged in a Dali-esque orientation with the gearbox directly below then hung inside a modern dirt bike frame, and you’ve got the 2009 Husaberg FE 570, once the object of my obsession.

There’s nothing wrong with KTM’s dirt bikes. That hazard-orange color scheme is kind of monotonous, but there’s no denying the company makes great motorcycles. I just wanted the other, something unusual and wonderfully strange. Husabergs were not different to be better, just different to be different, which is exactly why I wanted one. Don’t judge. You might choose a motorcycle based on merit. I need something more than ruthless efficiency. I need a motorcycle that won’t outshine my fragile ego. The more clinically perfect the motorcycle, the shabbier I look in comparison.

I never got that delightfully quirky Husaberg; I settled for a more mainstream Husqvarna SMR510 supermotard instead. At least they both begin with "H." With its conventional engine layout, my particular Husky—which was actually made in Italy by MV Agusta, before the once-Swedish brand was acquired by BMW and then eventually sold to KTM, if you can follow that—makes up in flaws what it otherwise lacks in uniqueness. I don't care. On this bike, I feel like someone special. I feel unique. I am my own snowflake.

Except for Steve McQueen's iconic Husky 400 from the movie On Any Sunday, too few of today's motorcyclists have ever even seen a Husqvarna motorcycle, much less one with a license plate, so I can pull up to virtually every bike night confident I will have the only Husqvarna in the parking lot. That kind of easily won notoriety shouldn't matter to me, but it does.

Purchasing a personality is not without its costs, however. The Husky’s seat was designed by the Marquis de Sade, hungover, on a Monday. You’d think kickstands would be a settled science this far into motorcycling’s evolution, but the SMR510 is constantly finding new and ever-more-damaging ways to topple over. The dim, 35-watt headlight bulb is nevertheless slowly melting its surrounding plastic reflector—luckily, the headlight only works half the time. It stalls, it shudders, first gear is ridiculously high, and its 90-mile range keeps me close to home. To be perfectly honest, no one is more impressed than me that I actually go anywhere on the damn thing.

I’ll give BMW credit: It showed some respect by waiting at least a year before it slapped new plastic and Husqvarna decals onto existing BMW models, leaving me an orphan Italian motorcycle and the first tender shoots of a Mikuni fuel-injection complex. I hold no grudge against BMW. It did what big companies do. For me, the final blow came when KTM purchased the Husqvarna brand from BMW and proceeded to plaster Husqvarna logos onto existing KTMs. Now I’m avoiding bike nights in fear of the first motorcyclist to sidle up next to me, look over my twice-orphaned bike, and say, “Nice KTM, dude!”

Which brings us back in a crooked circle to the Husaberg from the beginning and a hard lesson in compromise: Small-volume, exotic brands are not to be trusted. If you’re going to be orphaned regardless, you might as well go all in and get the freak-bike you need to complete your image. In the end, parking lot credibility is paramount, which is why I’m once again on the lookout for a Husaberg FE 570.

No, the motor wasn’t mounted “wrong,” just differently. Worth it, I say, if you don’t see another coming the other way.