Backroad Ramblings April 2008

April 25, 2008
Jason Giacchino
Jason Giacchino
Contributing Editor| Articles|RSS

A freelancer and published novelist Jason is currently the editor in chief of Mountain Bike Tales digital magazine and holds a State University of New York degree in applied science with a minor in journalism. When not hunched over a computer monitor, he can be found playing outside in the suburbs of Buffalo, New York.

The Honda XR650L wasn t the perfect fit for our Rambling Man  so he went in search of a lighter  lower-to-the-ground dual-sport.
The Honda XR650L wasn’t the perfect fit for our Rambling Man, so he went in search of a lighter, lower-to-the-ground dual-sport.

A Tale of the Almost Perfect Husky

Alert readers may remember a while back when I devoted a column to my regretfully parting ways with my 01 Honda XR650L. Truth be told, a suitable replacement to that bike has been on my short-list ever since. Every once in a while I find myself in a moment of remorse for letting a specimen with nary 1000 miles on the clock leave the stable, I take shallow comfort in remembering that it was a big bike and my own build happens to be of the “bean pole” variety.

Don’t get me wrong, the bike’s power delivery was smooth and electric, just like any dual-sporter should be, but never let anyone tell you that the old XR is slim around the waistline or that the distance between the top of the saddle and the earth won’t demand a requisite moment of panic while your toes struggle to make contact with the road at every stoplight. The proceeds of the sale, if you must know, went toward the acquisition of another Honda only this one was much more purpose-built and not nearly so plush. I picked up an ’04 CRF450R and was immediately reminded of the world of difference between the Japanese definition of a motocross bike and a dual-sport.

Long story short, while the CRF has been ultra handy at motocross tracks throughout the area I call home (District 4), there is a lot to be said about the concept of riding home from the trailhead. Especially with gasoline prices nearing $3.50 a gallon! Alas my proverbial wheels were turning (and believe me when I tell you that it doesn’t take much to get that process underway) thanks in no small part to two manufacturers not of Japanese origin: Husqvarna and KTM. See, it turns out our Italian and Austrian friends respectively must have taken a long hard look at the American motorcycle market and concluded something to the effect of: What these poor folk need is a real enduro bike that can be taken on the road.

I’m not sure whether they actually got a hold of my diary or not when realizing this but I, for one, could not have agreed more. And so it was that I began the long and tedious task of digging through the MCUSA archives, my stacks of old Cycle World and Motorcyclist magazines, and visiting local dealers in the hopes that they in feeling sorry for me, might take, oh about half off the sticker price on a new 450. After many phone calls I was able to locate one KTM 450EXC; the creme de le creme of this new breed of true dual-sport machines. The only problem was that the sticker price was firmly affixed at $8,000 and the dealer was all too aware of the truth that if I couldn’t pony up the scratch, someone else certainly would.

Now I realize that eight large isn’t a whole lot of dough in the world of streetbikes, where even double and triple that MSRP isn’t too unbelievable but for this recovering dirt junkie, sticker prices in this range usually send me scrambling to the classified ads in search of a gently used model at considerable savings over dealer stock. Unfortunately, these new KTMs and Huskys haven’t been on the scene long enough to begin appearing in my local Swap Sheet, daily news, or Craigslist just yet.

Just as hope appeared lost on my mission, a most unexpected ad popped up on Craigslist. For Sale: 2002 Husqvarna

A street-legal WR125 would have been the perfect bike for Jason  the key words being  street-legal  and  would   as the little two-stroke Husky needs some work to be a legal road machine.
A street-legal WR125 would have been the perfect bike for Jason, the key words being “street-legal’ and “would,” as the little two-stroke Husky needs some work to be a legal road machine.

WR125/ NY State license plates. Ridden primarily on road. Stop the press, a WR125 made street legal? I realize that we’re now entering the buzz-bomb territory of a 125 two-stroke here, but it’s been a while since I enjoyed the rich cloudy aroma of two-smoke, I mean two-stroke exhaust in the morning. Not to mention what a conversation piece in the era of extinction. Suffice to say, I was on the phone with my checkbook unleashed before the ad had finished loading on my flat screen.

The bike, it turned out, was located close to two hours away, despite having been advertised locally (oddly enough about three cities with their own Craigslist categories separated me from the owner). We agreed to meet up at about the halfway point between us the following weekend. Despite my endless string of interrogation, everything sounded positive.

Arrival took place just before noon on a Saturday in the parking lot of a Home Depot. Indeed, there in the back of truck, stood a fairly well used Husky but surprisingly sparse were the DOT accessories that I imagined should clutter up the simplified dirt-only appearance of the bike. True to his word, a NY State license plate glimmered brightly in the sun, drilled, in fact, directly into the rear fender. Mental note: Have to do something about that when we get her home.

“So you really take it on the roads?” I asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the bikes current owner. “It’s perfect on the secondary roads. Especially dirt and gravel base.”

“And you had no trouble making it road legal with the ever tightening emissions standards and all?”

“Well I wouldn’t call it road legal per say.”


“Yeah I mean like I said on the phone, you can ride it on the road. I do all the time. But if you happen to see the cops, better plan on making a quick exit into the nearest field and hope they don’t wait you out.”

“But what’s with the license plate?”

“It’s registered but not road legal. I suppose you could go all the way. Let’s see here all you would need is the stock exhaust system, some DOT knobbies, turn signals, horn, mirrors, brighter lights, speedometer, side reflectors, and a few other things to do it legally.”

“Okay, thanks for your time.”

Looks like I’m still in the market for a worthy replacement to the old XR650L. That reminds me, if you happen to have a late model year KTM or Husky dual-sport in showroom condition that you wish to practically give away, I’m very interested.

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