We were jumping for joy once the 2010 Husqvarna TE310 reached our garage. It didn’t stay cooped up inside for long.
Husqvarna released the TE310 in 2009 and instantly had a successful model on its hands. We missed out on testing that bike, so we snared the updated 2010 model as soon as possible. It was worth the wait, but we wish it hadn’t taken so long after riding and racing the new Swedish/Italian/German for nearly two months in Oregon and California.
Twisting the right grip reveals that the fuel-injected 298cc Single has way more motor than a 250F enduro machine. Quarter-liter motocrossers have considerably more punch due to their state of tune, but also thanks to a significant weight advantage. The TE tips the scales at 275 pounds (130 on the front wheel) with a full 1.9 gallons of fuel. That heft takes some extra muscle to move around, but the TE manages well for the most part. Sheer power is nowhere near a 450 machine and the 310 is best described as smooth and easy-to-use. It’s excellent for trail riding and around-town commuting. Very fun, but not necessarily a race motor. That didn’t stop us from trying, however.
We entered the Fort Rock Enduro immediately after taking possession of the Husky. The ISDE-format enduro ran 100 miles through the high-desert terrain of Central Oregon. Our preparation consisted of about 30 miles of commuting to get acquainted, a new set of Dunlop Geomax tires and removing the mirrors. We even left the license plate holder to see if it would survive. Not only did everything survive, the Husky produced an excellent result considering it was a completely stock machine and we had no off-road experience with it. That alone is significant since we were expecting some break-in time to get a feel for this European brand. Instead we were able to hop on and go fast, nothing to it.
The 298cc motor uses an 83 x 55mm bore and stroke to produce its smooth, linear power. MotoUSA’s V.P. of Design and regular off-road tester, Brian Chamberlain, rode the same minute on his 450 and was able to watch the Husky from an outsider’s perspective. He commented that while I was riding very aggressively when running our fastest pace, he was able to lug his larger-displacement machine to achieve the same speed. Not necessarily surprising, but it confirmed that the 310 is best ridden high in the revs like a 250F in order to get the most out of it. It just doesn’t have the brawn to pull that heavy front end over obstacles in low rpm. It also proved that the Husky is capable of running near the top of our comfort level without any serious personalization; remember, it carries a plate.
If anything about the TE throws us off balance, aside from the lofty 38-inch seat height, it’s the exhaust header. This is the only feature that looks like old 4-stroke technology as is exits the cylinder to the left-hand side with two headers that combine into a single midpipe. The muffler is sleek and modern, but it’s also pretty loud. We passed tech inspection at 96 decibels, but nobody would have guessed it due to how obnoxious it is when riding. We even got comments about it from spectators and a photographer. Considering it’s just barely street-legal, and we often fudge the rules with non-DOT tires and removed mirrors, we definitely want to see that quieted down. No need attracting extra attention from the fuzz.
There’s a strong engine brake effect which took some getting used to. Slowing too early and then having to accelerate again into corners, we started to rely more on the engine to scrub speed and then slide the rear into corners. This was more effective than using the front brake, especially in sandy soil. Unfortunately, hard engine braking also means that it likes to stall. It’s necessary to keep the throttle on and slip the clutch in corners like you would with a 2-stroke. Fortunately, the hydraulic unit is a pleasure to use with its steel-braided line and easy pull.
The front brake lever is hard to reach. Once you do get ahold of it, the twin-pot Brembo caliper and 260mm wave rotor offer substantial power, but the lever needs to be more accessible, especially when transferring from standing to sitting. A long reach makes it very hard to drag the front brake while applying throttle in corners. Both techniques are necessary to keep from stalling and to help the front suspension compress for more bite.
The 2010 Husqvarna TE310 is a dirt bike first and foremost. The fact that it has a license plate just makes it that much easier to reach your favorite places.
The Fort Rock course featured a lot of open quad track with flowing berms in the tight sections and deep whoops in the straights. We rode on a late minute so the course was getting beat up by the time we got to it. Even though it was fast terrain, we actually softened things up after our first loop. The front end stays a little too high in the stroke entering corners and gives a chopper feel. Backing out fork compression four clicks helped a small amount with the handling and also had a minimal positive effect on the high-speed headshake. The TE gets a nasty bout of handlebar wag on occasion that will scare you. Though it likes to shake, the front end resists deflection. Most unexpected line changes were minor and likely a result of the high tire pressure for desert racing. Likewise, the rear end is planted. A swingarm that’s 15mm shorter for 2010 drops the wheelbase to 58.4 inches. Traction is excellent and the power displacement is perfectly suited to finding grip. The Sachs shock is run through linkage and the only thing needed to satisfy us was to soften the high-speed compression two clicks to handle square-edge holes that developed on the second loop.
Like I said, the Husky isn’t a race bike, even if it has fancy components like the Brembo calipers and a 240mm floating wave rotor out back, so our next major outing was another 100-mile stretch, this time chasing Malcolm Smith across the desert outside of San Bernardino, California. Malcolm’s annual dual sport ride must have been just what Husky had in mind when designing the TE310. Similar to the enduro race, wide-open territory stretched the 13/50 gearing and six-speed gearbox, but this time our leisurely approach made it easier to adapt. Fuel stops were spaced just about right, but we were forced to skip the best portion of the trip due to limited range. We never ran it completely dry, but the Husky scratches at the 50-mile mark. Even still, it was a blast to cruise through the mountains and we were able to dart off on side trails and hammer through deeper whoops while riders on larger dual sports were forced to pick their way through the main trail.
Black Excel rims add to the excellent visual qualities along with the motorcycle’s straight, clean lines. The Husky looks very different from Japanese machines. Red accents on the motor and shock adjustment knob give it a factory look and the bike as a whole is attractive. Cemoto flag-style handguards are stock and the seat is removable with a single Dzus style fastener which makes getting at the air filter very simple.
Husky makes things easy with the majority of common bolts using an 8mm hex head for simple maintenance. We needed just one tool that wasn’t already in our toolbox – a 12mm Allen wrench for the front axle. The only problem that ever cropped up was a penchant for displacing the license plate holder bolts. I lost two before Loctiting them, and then lost another. But, the street-legal components themselves are bulletproof. A mirror broke off when it tipped over in the driveway (thanks to the spring-loaded kickstand), but all other crashes had no impact. We never kicked off a blinker with our boots, and they didn’t melt from the left-side exhaust. Eventually we cracked the license plate holder, but only when practicing 180-degree pivot turns. Under normal use, the Husky’s street extras held up much better than most European brands we’ve seen and tested.
Another feature that Husky prides itself on is that the emission controls don’t have to be removed to make the bike perform properly. Unlike many brands, Husky engineers didn’t put the charcoal canister inside the airbox. Instead it is located on the right side of the engine where the exhaust header would normally go. The left-side pipe features an oxygen sensor and catalytic converter, both of which were removed from our test bike in what Husky calls the “Power Up” mode. We think the canister takes away from the bike’s visual appeal, but it never caused any problems or suffered crash damage. Our Husky never vapor-locked and having a backup kickstarter is nice, even though we never used it. Here’s the catch… It’s very important to turn off the ignition key when the engine isn’t running. If the battery dies you still have the foot lever, but it won’t do you any good because the EFI system is run off the battery, so you can kick until you’re blue and it won’t start. We had no problems with the electric starter, so Husky could potentially eliminate the kickstarter. However, rather than ditching the foot lever, we’d rather see engineers change its design so that the fuel system operates off the magneto like modern EFI-equipped motocross bikes.
It’s not quite perfect, but the TE310 might be pretty close for a lot of dirt-biased dual sport riders. For the time being there’s nothing else that combines a mid-size motor, unique styling and excellent dirt performance in a street-legal package. At $7999 it’s relatively affordable as well for a European machine.
The TE310 is “for riders who want a powerful, easy-to-ride 4-stroke with a sweet spot displacement.” Well, that’s exactly what Husqvarna riders will get with this machine. We enjoyed the TE every time we rode it, regardless of conditions. The market for true dirt bikes with licensing ability is becoming more popular and more important for the health of our sport. Not only does the 310 expand the available options with a lovable displacement, but it also proved willing and capable for off-road racing. It falls short only on fuel range, but we’re willing to sacrifice some of that or deal with a larger aftermarket tank for the sensation of freedom and constant urging to take the hard route. Husky does offer a 3-gallon tank in its Special Parts catalog, which also features a host of other aftermarket items like full-coverage skidplates to replace the stock aluminum unit placed between the steel frame rails with separate plastic protectors to extend around the engine.
Technically it’s a dual sport, but this is the type of bike you don’t care about street comfort. In fact, you don’t want it. Exactly where and how the BMW influence came through since the Germans purchased the brand in 2007, we can’t nail down. But the 2010 Husqvarna TE310 is a dirt bike that stands alone. Unless you count the Suzuki DR-Z400S, no other brand even offers a mid-size displacement dual sport, much less one of this caliber.