Husqvarna has always held a special place in my heart as my father had one when I was a child, so logically real men rode Huskies. Men of grit and sweat and heart. Then Cagiva bought the brand and it all went to pot. The men that rode Husqvarna were still bad asses, but the bikes weren’t so much. There were a few gems, but they were few and far between. When BMW took the reins in 2007, things seemed promising but a class leader never materialized. Jump to 2013 when KTM CEO Stefan Pierer purchased the marque, moving the production under KTM’s roof and things looked up. The 2014 Husqvarna FE250 is the first of this new era of the company we have ridden and if this shootout is any indication, Husqvarna is back!
“So there is the Husqvarna with its beautiful retro color scheme. We were all looking at the Husqvarna thinking that thing looks really great; we all wanted it to be the best bike,” commented Dakar Legend Simon Pavey. “So you have to calm yourself down a little bit before we rode all of them.”
The Husqvarna looks striking wrapped in white plastics that share the same lines with the Husaberg, set off with yellow and blue accents. It looks the business, but what really matters is the ride. With it being built with the same bones as the KTM
and the ‘Berg there was little doubt it would match the other two blow-for-blow, but we really wondered if it could be the best. Would Pierer and his team get it right or would it be another near miss?
On our MotoUSA dyno the FE250 held its own as expected with its shared powerplant between the three Austrian-built machines. The DOHC Single features the same updates both the KTM and Husaberg received. Larger intake valves mated with flow-optimized ports provide 10% more breathing for more power. Output numbers placed it closer to the KTM than the other “Swede” with a maximum 31.25 hp at 10,600 rpm and 17.16 lb-ft of torque at 8000 rpm.
Power feel from the Husqvarna is on par with the orange and blue bikes based on seat-of-our-pants impressions. It has the same grunt right off the bottom, pulling with a snappy character out of corners. The throttle response itself may have been more crisp than the other two, but it was a minute difference if any at all. On the top end the Husky screamed to its redline without hesitation or any sort of stumble, and the midrange rush was satisfying. We all agreed the engine category was a dead heat.
“The Husqvarna had the control and the fueling that in any situation, high grip, low grip, you could just drive yourself out of it,” explained Chris Northover. “It would never cough out or be fluffy on the throttle. I definitely felt really happy on that bike.”
Where the Husqvarna set itself ahead in this test was in the handling and suspension category. Up front it shares the same 4CS WP closed cartridge, upside-down fork with the Husaberg, yet the settings seemed to be dialed in for the bike much
better. At the rear, a linkage suspension with a WP piggyback give a ride that is more familiar feeling to those that are more experienced with modern Japanese dirt bikes.
Suspension action is balanced and controlled at just about any speed. The linkage rear end is less finicky to sag settings and deals with harsh or square-edge bumps better. The rear tire is more apt to drive forward when smacking a rock rather than deflecting like the PDS-equipped bikes. This also gives the front a more planted feel when dancing across obstacles. The spring rates are very similar between all three Austrian-built models, but the Husky is more sure-footed and less likely to bite when you screw up.
“I know this may not seem the most scientific,” said Pavey. “But I have this feeling riding the PDS-equipped bikes. Even though you can get them to work really well, when you get to the edge of your ability and you have that little mistake, you are more apt to swap out. It seemed to me with the linkage, you get the bike back easier.”
“I really like the way you are instantly comfortable,” he added.
Handling from the FE250 was light and quick, but more settled than the ‘Berg and the KTM. It dropped into rutted corners just as easy, but stayed in the rut with less effort as the rear didn’t want to ride up and out on the power. At higher speeds there was no indication of headshake or twitchiness. No matter the situation the white bike was stable, letting you ride with more confidence.
“It’s just made the steer-ng more neutral,” said Llel Pavey. “It’s more consistent and predictable, and that means it is just more confidence inspiring. It is just easier.”
The cockpit of the Husqvarna is a dead-ringer for the Husaberg. If you painted the plastics flat black and removed the emblems, you wouldn’t be able to tell which of the two you were sitting on. And that is a good thing. The layout is roomy with a thin feeling despite having a larger fuel tank than the KTM. The seat is much stiffer than the Honda, but that is to be expected with the harder-edged performance of the Euro bikes.
Grabbing a handful of brake gives you the same firm and powerful stopping power as with the other two Brembo-equipped bikes. The hydraulic clutch and transmission is spot-on with its brethren as well.
Husqvarna got it correct right out of the gate. In just about every area the FE250 out-performs the rest of the field. Being a little bit better here and there adds up to a much better bike overall. It was unanimously the enduro bike we would all choose to race or play on. It just makes you feel like not only a real man, but THE MAN. And for that the 2014 Husqvarna FE250 is the winner of the MotoUSA 2014 250 Enduro Shootout.