2008 Husqvarna TC 450 Bike Test

MotorcycleUSA Staff | December 5, 2008
Brian Geddis is a former professional-level rider who works in conjunction with Tom Watson of Watson Performance. The popular suspension and motor development shop in Hood River, Oregon is testing the Husqvarna as part of a trial program to evaluate its potential for a factory-supported race machine in the increasingly popular AMA WORCS series.

2008 Husqvarna TC450
Husqvarna is another of those smaller Euro companies that values uniqueness and high-quality parts over conformity and affordability.

“Can you say power, now?! Power here, power there and power everywhere! If not, step away, go to the gym, do your reps, max out and come back in a month.

“A few months ago a European publication claimed that Husky’s TC 450 has six more horsepower than any other 450 in the field. When I read that article my mind was full of doubts… Until now. This bike is hands down the fastest stock 450 I have ever ridden, and I have thrown my leg over heaps of motorcycles. It feels like a bored-out 450 that has a secret turbo charger under the tank.”

Comments like this one from expert-level tester and Production 262 honcho, Wiley Watson, was typical of everyone we met who had an opportunity to swing a leg over the new Husqvarna. Amazing power everywhere! However, getting that power to work for the rider instead of against requires some serious effort. This is the first bike that Watson Performance has tested which has to be dialed in completely in the suspension and setup department to unleash the monster that lurked between our legs. The Husky is possibly the fastest stock 450 on the planet, and is only surpassed by the TM 530 and of course it’s bigger brother, the Husky TC or TXC 510.

Yes Margaret, there is another world out there beyond the Big 5. The Supermoto world in Europe is ruled by the motors from TM and Husky. Here in the states, Scott Summers dominates the GNCC Vet A (over 30) class on the ’08 Husky TXC 510, and Glenn Kearney and Gordon Crockard finished seventh and 13th, respectively in the XC1 Pro Class
Our favorite 450 to date has been the 2007 TM 450. We had the opportunity to run the TM and the Husky head to head, and the excitement and rivalry got intense. As we all know, it’s not all about the motor, so let’s get down to the nuts and bolts of the matter. The guys at Watson Performance anticipated the delivery of the Husky like a new father in the delivery room. Would it have all its arms and legs? If it’s premature, can it be incubated into a future champion? Well the answers are mixed. When we first took delivery from the good people at GP Husqvarna, we were asked to evaluate and do initial mods for the debut at the WORCS series and possibly the outdoor nationals. Before the bike was even started, some things had to be done.

“What’s the deal with that pipe?” Wiley asked politely. He was referring of course to the knuckle that protruded outside the frame at the connection to the silencer. After doing our best “I’m melting… Melting!” Wicked Witch imitation, everyone agreed that we weren’t going to give up our brand new SIDI Crossfires to entertain the short-bus crew that came up with the pipe design. On a good note, the pipe and silencer are all titanium, and quiet.

2008 Husqvarna TC450
There were a few changes that needed to be made before this bike was ready to ride. A heat shield for the exhaust was one in particular that created issues.

Two hours later we had fabricated a heat shield which will serve as the mold for the carbon fiber version that we hope to produce soon. Paul Lima at GP Husky informed us that a carbon fiber shield is already available from other vendors online, along with a larger tank from IMS that is available only through Hall’s Cycles in Illinois.

The next immediate complaint was that Euro graphics suck, a resounding consensus from everyone who tried to remove the sputum covering the Husky stickers to protect them during transit. Not only do they look as funky as the crap that came on old CZ’s, Maicos and… Oh yeah… Huskies of the ‘70s and ‘80s, you can’t get the spooge off them without destroying the sticker.

Quality, tapered aluminum bars are mounted in rubber grommets, with lift blocks included for those of us that prefer higher bars. The young guns in the shop demanded that they go away, so we removed them to lower the bars about 0.75 inches, and rotated the bar mounts 180 degrees to place the bars about an inch further forward. There’s a compression release lever on the clutch side which caught everyone off guard. After checking the English portion of the 22-language service manual, we found that the bike has both! Cool. The bike sports the finest components, including a hydraulic clutch from Magura, and Brembo brakes with high quality thin diameter stainless steel-braided lines.

All the neighborhood moto-heads made the pilgrimage to the shop as the prep carried on, and it was amusing to hear the various opinions on look and feel.

“The bike feels wide at the tank, and high, and the seat feels like a brick!” claimed Matt.

“I don’t know,” argued Wiley, “the seat feels pretty damn good to me. A little stiff, but it should be nice after it gets broken in.”

The tank and shrouds got mixed reviews, and Tom and I were disappointed in the tank from a functional standpoint. The center of effort couldn’t be any higher unless you mounted one of those old Up-Tite Husqvarna gas/water bottles on the crossbar, but of course there’s no crossbar. The petcock is a thumbscrew affair borrowed from a ’71 Rickman Zundapp, and the tank is black so you can’t see the fuel. Good thing though; because you’d probably get seasick watching the fuel slosh forward-and-back in the shallow and long tank. Everyone agreed that the rear fender, with its phallic, out-and-up shape that looks like someone at the factory already looped out before shipping. Maybe it is a tribute to Doug “The Wheelie King” Domokos. The Euros love our American heroes.

After about seven hours of prep, we were finally ready to fire up the beast. We headed out to the Archery Range, a short loop outside of Hood River with some vertical features including a couple of good uphill pulls. What followed reminded me of a scene from X-Men, the one where Wolverine gets into a cage match and kicks everyone’s ass. We had the TM 450 there, which sports the same 50mm Marzocchi forks, and is offered with the same Sachs shock, although ours had the Ohlins rear. Even though we were doing the initial break in, everyone came back giggling and sounding like my teen daughters.

2008 Husqvarna TC450
Geddis (2125) was able to use the Husky’s massive motor to overcome this early disadvantage at the Honey Lake WORCS to pull a sizeable holeshot against the likes of Chuck Sun (63) and buddy Tom Watson (639)

“OMG!” cried the younger ones. That’s OH MY GOD to you guys that rode Huskies in the 70’s and 80’s. Even as the motor was tight and fresh, it was apparent that it would out-pull anything; everyone was in shock. Gone were all the thoughts about the funky tank and euro-graphics. This bike is a winner! It didn’t hurt that it was grabbing traction with the excellent Bridgestone M403/404 tire combination.

My setup choices proved right on, and the bike felt great straight away. This bike doesn’t turn like your old desert sled. Its turning ability most closely resembles the TM 450, which we think is simply the best turning 450 on the market.

The Sachs rear shock is amazing, but it’s difficult to tell how good it is because the 50mm Marzocchi fork is so bad off the shelf. Although Husky has it set up with their own specs, they were just as bad as the ones on the TM. Marzocchi is making the effort, and have developed a great concept, and produced a machinist’s work of art, but unfortunately it needs to be revalved, especially the compression components. From the factory they are definitely funky, usually have air in the high-tech bladders, blow through the initial stroke and feel harsh in the midrange. The bike also shipped with mismatched springs, with soft front springs, or stiff rear, depending on your weight. As for the shock, it is set-up surprisingly healthy, and offers a large shaft diameter. In our opinion, it rivals Ohlins as the best stuff on the market.

One significant failure occurred during our testing. The rear sprocket bolts are too short and don’t engage the locking nuts. After re-tightening the sprocket bolts after the first two sessions, they came loose after the first full moto session and trashed the swingarm and sprocket. During further testing at Washougal and Mountain View motocross parks, a few things came to light. The rear brake lever is junk, and splintered when Wiley tangled with a deep rut/rock combo while trail riding. With regards to the shift lever, t needs to be a half-inch longer with a different bend, or you need to have midget feet. A size 8 or larger boot and your foot migrates under it in the whoops, finds a false neutral and you perform a ‘Kiss of Death’ with the front fender. We moved the lever up one spline, but it hit the side case.

2008 Husqvarna TC450
There are definitely quirks with the TC 450, but the unbalanced suspension was the major complaint. Watson Performance fiddled with the valving and was able to make life much easier on the brutish Husky.

The brakes are some of the best in the moto world. We still like the TM arrangement a little better, but the big KTM and the Honda are not as impressive. Unlike the cheese-ball junk available on the Japanese McMotocrossers, the TC’s hydraulic clutch is a pure delight to thrash because you don’t have to continuously adjust it or have Schwarzenegger forearms. The big, red hot start button is on the carb, and some of us would rather have it on the bars. Wiley was right about the seat, it broke in and felt terrific. The gas cap is junk, and the sealing gasket has to be reset each time you remove it. The bike backfired while kickstarting during break-in enough to put a hurt on Tom’s already aching hip. After break-in the kick back subsided, but still nailed Tom one more time for good measure.

After the Watson Performance guru did his suspension magic to both ends, the bike came alive, and Tom’s love for the Swedish/Italian blonde returned. We could now flog the massive motor, and enjoy the huge brakes. The big Husky would turn on a dime, and felt somewhat similar to the factory Suzuki RM-Z250 that Wiley recently tested for Dirt Bike Magazine. The bike was geared correctly for motocross, be we would opt for the 6-speed TXC for WORCS racing or general off-road use. The 6-speed TXC shares only the same fourth gear with the TC, providing a lower first and a taller sixth. Both the 450 and 510 TC models offer the optional electric start kit, while it is standard on the TXC crew.

All in all, Husqvarna has upped the ante in the new modern 4-stroke world. The fit and finish is good, and all the main components that come stock on the bike are top notch, not to mention the motor is championship material. This bike, like the TM 450, is a factory bike for privateers. The same bike, under the supervision of SIMA Husqvarna in France, won several MX3 events, including the season opener and finale, and challenged to the end for the MX3 world title. It just goes to show that with some proper attention, the TC 450 is winning material.

MotorcycleUSA Staff