The dual sport world has a big problem with little bikes. The problem is, every since KTM bolted lights and blinkers onto its dirt bikes and snuck them through the American legalization process, serious dirt riders who want to connect trails without getting hassled have become spoiled.
Off-roaders have enjoyed excellent equipment recently not only from KTM, but Husqvarna as well. Unfortunately, it seems like the manufacturers don’t feel the need to include small displacement options – sticking with 450 and open-class bikes. There are plenty to be found, but the sub-300cc division has a distinct lack of high-performance machines. Husqvarna finally broke the mold when it offered up its TE310 and is now taking full advantage of its new 250cc platform with the introduction of the 2010 TE250. Husky’s latest DS bike, also available in motocross and enduro trim, is the street-legal blueprint and opens the door for DS fans to a machine that was previously unavailable.
Like its larger siblings, the smallest TE offering is an uncompromising machine, which makes it unique in a market full of wishy-washy bikes. Unlike other 250cc dual sports, the TE puts a very heavy emphasis on dirt performance. For all intents and purposes, it’s the same machine as the TXC250 only with street-going hardware. Dual sporters are especially hungry for high-tech features and the Husky doesn’t disappoint. New Mikuni fuel injection is perhaps the most desirable of the best features since it’s destined to see a wide variety of terrain, temperatures and elevations in a single ride. There were no major problems with the fueling during our quick test, though we did note a bog off the bottom end. We had good luck tuning out a similar issue on the virtually identical TXC250, which is another benefit of fuel injection. One of the Zip-Ty Racing technicians was able to nearly rid the enduro Husky of its low-rpm stumble with his laptop computer and tuning software in a matter of minutes. Our testing location was near 3500 feet of elevation and the temperature was crisp. In all fairness, we weren’t able to give the same amount of attention to the TE in our short timeframe, but our experience with the TXC and testimony from Ty Davis indicate that there is plenty of room for tuning.
The motor uses titanium valves operated by dual overhead cams. A 79 x 50.9mm bore and stroke pump out power that is definitely best on the top end. A six-speed transmission gives a little extra leg room, though we argued about whether a gearing adjustment could make up for the lack of bottom end. Expert off-road racer Kyle Redmond had fewer problems getting over obstacles and claimed it was a flat spot in the motor, but our B-level rider wanted the extra snap of a shorter final drive. When at the bottom of the transmission, he constantly felt like the gearbox was stuck in second gear and was searching for something lower.
The TE carries a bit more weight than the TXC, and combined with mild dual-purpose tires, it can be very difficult to lighten the front end. Our machine was shod in Metzeler Karoo 2 tires. The front is awesome on the pavement, but the rear isn’t great anywhere. Because it obviously isn’t intended for lots of highway use or high speeds, we would prefer a much more aggressive tread – to hell with pavement considerations of any kind – just enough to make it legal.
There were a few instances where the differences in power delivery were apparent, especially a particular road jump and set of hillclimbs. Both the TXC and TC (motocross) versions were able to make the obstacles, but the TE with its added weight and sub-par traction wasn’t as willing to attempt the more severe challenges. However, it’s a phenomenal trail bike. Electric start is mandatory these days in our opinion and the Husky system works well. It also comes with a kickstarter for you masochists and paranoids.
Ergonomics were comfortable for our six-foot-tall riders with a 37.4-inch seat height. Like other Husqarna’s we’ve tested, the TE250 sits fairly low in the rear end which makes it simple to touch the ground by dirt bike standards. A 57.8-inch wheelbase and the same double-cradle steel chassis as the TXC make it a quick-handling, agile mount. The chassis and suspension encourage aggressive riding and the new Kayaba/Sachs suspension is a welcome addition. The closed-cartridge 48mm fork is new for Husqvarna rather than the Marzocchi unit previously used on TE models. Again, the components have no engineering for street applications, but it performed well on our trip over mild trails and dirt roads. The fork has less bottoming resistance than on the TXC, likely due to the extra weight. We didn’t have our scales on hand but Husky claims the TE weighs 234 pounds dry. Add in the weight of engine fluids and 1.9 gallons of gas and the 250 has about a 1:1 pound-to-displacement ratio.
Husqvarna puts high-quality wave rotors on the TE for excellent stopping power, but the kickstand is a little goofy. We did appreciate the small-but-effective, single-piece plastic skidplate and the kickstart as a second option to the e-start.
Like the TXC, one of our few gripes is the lack of red accents on the motor. Husky has done everything else right by us in the looks department, but for some reason has switched from red to black on the cylinder head and hose connectors, and since we feel the need to complain about something on this otherwise awesome bike, this is it. We also don’t like the grips. At first they feel great, but once the riding starts, a hard ridge in the thumb flange wears a hole in gloves and skin. The fuel tank is excellent for aggressive riding with its slim profile and fuel injection is economical, but we wouldn’t mind seeing another half-gallon or gallon of capacity to help us enjoy longer dual sport rides. Also of note, we’ve used better kickstands. This one has a weird angle and small footprint.
Okay, so with those minor annoyances out of the way, we must say that we loved the exhaust heat shield. Husky gives all of its 250 machines the standard header guard, but the left-side exhaust destroys pants from the midpipe. We had to throw away a brand new pair after riding the TXC, but the TE comes with an additional shield that bolts to the subframe mount and works wonders. (Buy one if you are a TXC or TC owner).
We know plenty of riders who spend lots of money and equal amounts of frustration in modifying their underperforming dual sports or legalizing their dirt bikes. Performing the latter is increasingly difficult, which means the TE250 is possibly the perfect solution to the genre’s biggest problem. The best thing about the TE250 is what it represents for small-bore dual sport riders – its an extension of the dirt-first line of thinking. Until now the class was mostly affordable but underwhelming machines like the Kawasaki KLX250S and Honda CRF230L. Yamaha’s WR250R was one of the highest in terms of performance and price, but the TE tops it in both categories. The Husky is more expensive at $7599, but all things considered, the TE250 has more in common with a WR250F or even KX250F in that it’s a real dirt bike – not a bargain bike and not something that belongs behind an RV. Throw in fuel injection, sexy European styling and a growing dealer network and the Husky really starts to shine; this new quarter-liter Italian lumps technology, styling, performance and utility into a very tidy package.