For 2012 Husqvarna is making a big push to be a bigger player in every dirt segment, and its parent company, BMW has allocated a vast amount of resources to the cause. BMW has unleashed it’s now idle F1 engine engineers on the once-Swedish company’s powerplants in order to put the entire line-up on more equal footing with the Big Five. In the past few years, Huskies have been praised for excellent ergonomics and capable handling, but have failed to impress in the power department. Things at Husqvarna are changing for the better, and we headed out to the 2012 full line introduction at The Ranch in Anza to find out just how much.
The model that has received the lion’s share of attention from the brains at BMW is the 2012 TC250 motocrosser. In a class where every ounce of horsepower can make a difference, the TC250 has been a resounding dud. Determined to not be left in the dust, Husqvarna has put the smackdown on the small bore racer’s engine and chassis to create a more competitive machine.
Some serious attention was given to getting more power out of the TC250’s engine, unfortunately more needs to be done.
Starting with the powerplant, a new, lighter piston has been installed with the goal of freeing up some revs and snap. A new cylinder head is based on BMW’s F1 technology using valve finger followers versus the conventional shim and bucket valve actuation that has been adopted by the majority of motorcycle engine designs. The followers have also been treated with DLC coating to reduce friction and increase durability.
The ignition has been upgraded to a CDI system with three preset maps matched to a Keihin ECU, and the throttle body is also now a Keihin unit, dropping the finicky Mikuni set-up on the 2011 model. To help the newly revised engine breath, the airbox has been redesigned for more volume while a revised velocity stack crams the o2 into the throttle body to produce a substantial power increase on the TC250 with an emphasis on top-end and over-rev.
To complement the re-vamped motor, the chassis got a going over as well starting with the frame. An all-new chromoly frame has an increased tensile strength that creates a stiffer frame with the aid of reinforcements at the steering head. Gone is the Sachs rear shock that no-one seemed to like, having been replaced by a Kayaba unit that balances out the ride with the front 48mm closed-cartridge KYB fork.
Husqvarnas have always been good looking bikes and this year is no exception. The frame is now black, while the Excel rims are silver anodized instead of the black of 2011. Polished Grimeca hubs complete the wheel set. Striking red radiator shrouds feature graphics that are molded into the plastic to prevent premature wear and tear.
While all that sounds great on paper and in presentations, the proof is in the pudding and we wanted a taste. Right from the first kick, starting the TC250 was not as consistent or as easy as we have come to expect from modern 4-
Railing the corners and keeping up momentum is the key making good time around the track on the TC250.
stokes, especially for our newest and shortest test rider, 2001 WMX Champ Tania Satchwell. After the first few stops she resorted to bump starting the bike rather than trying to kick it. For my 5’10” height, the hard starting was more of an annoyance than a real problem.
The Husky PR team claimed a six-horsepower increase from the 2011 TC250 to the 2012 model, and if that is the case the 2011 must have been pathetic. Even with the bumped up HP, the TC is frustratingly slow. There really is no way to sugar coat how anemic the motor feels, especially having turned laps on the 2012 Yamaha YZ250F the day before. BMW definitely created a free-revving engine, but it just doesn’t go anywhere. The sound from the Akrapovic exhaust system is sweet, but it’s more show than go with this Lites bike. Coming out of corners with the throttle to the stop, I thought to myself that a 125cc 2-stroke has to be faster than this thing. Husky may have made some big strides on the way to having comparable power output, but they still have a ways to go.
On the flip-side the improvement to the chassis has made the TC250 an excellent handling bike. The KYB-equipped front end sticks like white on rice in the corners, no matter the surface. Not once did the front end wash out or push
With a some more horsepower the Husqvarna TC250 could be a competive motocrosser, but for 2012 it falls a bit short.
unless a mistake was made. With such a precise front end, we were able to put the TC250 anywhere we chose, and the rear end would follow with gobs of traction. Perhaps the lack of power has some positives. The stiff chromoly frame feels solid and allows you to discern what the front and rear wheels are doing at all times.
While the frame is stiff the suspension is soft, even for Tania who tips the scales at 125 pounds. Granted she is fast, but most suspensions are based off a baseline of around 165 pounds. Saying the suspension was too soft for my heft is an understatement at best. While the main track at the Ranch is very smooth, the Carlsbad GP replica course’s square-edged potholes put the hurt on the rear shock.
The Brembo-equipped brakes and clutch master cylinder are top quality and always seem to offer a level of feel that other systems lack. Initial bite from the front caliper squeezing a Braking Wave rotor is strong but not grabby. Out back the brake feel was a little less precise, but we adapted after a few laps. Just a light tug on the clutch allowed us to click through the 5-speed gearbox without a whimper.
At the end of our day on the TC we were left torn. How could Husqvarna allow such a great handling bike be spoiled by an engine that clearly isn’t on the same level as the Big 5 engines? Then it hit us, Husky is in a building year just like any major sports team. You have to get the good players when you can, and they are half way there. Here’s to 2013, hopefully BMW’s engineers will find some more power hidden in the TC250. If they do, Husqvarna could be a contender.