For 2012 the Husqvarna TE511 received a handful of updates as its parent company, BMW, pumps more resources and R&D into the previously Cagiva held brand. Although it may look almost identical to the 2011 model, a close up inspection reveals the details. Most of the efforts were concentrated on the chassis to improve handling, such as a 4mm shorter Kayaba rear shock that lets the rear of the bike ride lower. New valving compliments the re-valved 48mm KYB fork, which is meant to be more plush on the initial stroke but actually adds rigidity.
Other updates include electric fan-cooled WP Radiators to improve cooling, a streamlined electrical system and silver anodized Excel rims. The TE511’s bodywork also got a going over with a slimmer tail section and in-mold plastic design graphics. Husky left the engine, fuel injection system and frame untouched.
Push the electric start button on the big Husky and the TE511 jumps to life immediately with zero hesitation. Throttle response is snappy and instantaneous from the Keihin D46 EFI system. Once underway on the street, the power of the 477.5cc mill puts out a strong pull of power off the bottom through the midrange. However, once on top the power feels like it tapers off. Notice I
The Husqvarna TE511 is a great dual sport with a not-so-great set of tires. Thankfully for Husky fans it’s an easy fix.
said feels. This is because engine vibes increase significantly on the top end of the power spectrum, which makes the rider want to go no further with the right wrist. Pushing through the buzz reveals more power; it’s just difficult to tell yourself it’s okay to rev the 511. Our DynoJet 250i confirms that the power is there with a 39.17hp and 26.79ft-lb of torque. Measured sound levels were one decibel quieter than the Beta with 110db at half-throttle.
On the dirt the power response is muted due to the Metzeler Karoo rear tire. Meant for heavy and high speed dual sport machines, the Karoo really hinders the performance potential of the Husky. Almost any application of the throttle produces too much wheel spin and not enough forward momentum. Only when the traction is optimal does the tire begin to work. Of course, on the street the traction is excellent and stable. A more aggressive knobby would really wake the TE511 up when the pavement ends, which is what this type of DS machine is meant for.
Up front it’s the same story in the tire department. The powerful brakes and quick-steering front-end are let down by the Karoo in the dirt. Any hard braking results in the front end knifing when going straight, while in the corners the front end pushes and squirms to gain traction.
Out on the trail our twenty-something ripper Frankie Garcia asked if anyone had found traction, because the Husky was definitely looking for it. “Off road it was almost impossible to even touch the front brake when cornering unless you wanted to end up on the ground,” said Garcia. “This is because of the zero traction policy tires that come equipped on the machine.”
The guys at Husqvarna HQ in California told us the reason the adventure touring spec Karoos are on the TE511 is because the brakes are so powerful that in testing it was too easy to lock the front wheel with a more aggressive tread pattern. And I believe them. Up front the 260mm brembo front rotor and dual-piston caliper is amazingly strong, especially in initial bite, and I
can see how those less skilled with their trigger finger could run into problems. Personally, I liked the power, especially on the street, but Frankie thought they were just a touch too grabby. At the rear, the single-piston Brembo caliper and 240mm rotor were, as Goldielocks would say, just right.
Rear suspension on the TE511 is a departure from conventional dirtbike set-ups. Employing Husky’s patented Coaxial Traction System, the countershaft sprocket is in-line with the swingarm pivot to reduce tension imparted by the engine on the rear suspension, keeping chain tension constant throughout the stoke. To be honest, you can’t really tell if the CTS makes that much of a difference when you are on the gas.
On the street the suspension is firm but not harsh – perfect for the connecting dirt sections. In the dirt the KYB fork and shock are plush on the small chop and rock, but feel a little under-sprung in the whoops and on big hits. However, this stems not from the suspension settings, but the tires. You just can’t get enough traction to propel yourself over obstacles, which causes the bike to drop into every hole rather than fly over them. With enough traction and speed the TE is capable of blitzing whoops, and when it does it’s solid as a rock.
In the handling department, the TE511’s steering is quick and agile on the street and also in the dirt, but once again the Karoos hold it back from reaching its full potential. At low speeds the front tire likes to tuck under and wash out, while at full-tilt boogie it pushes and wanders. Combine that with the inability to power out of trouble and you spend the day cursing the Husky’s tires and dreaming of what could have been.
On a positive note the layout of the TE’s cockpit was a winner after two long days in the saddle. Positioning the fuel tank under
the seat allows for a long and flat seat with plenty of room to move around. A slightly wider seat made long street stints comfortable, yet it was not too fat in the dirt.
The real story of the 2012 Husky TE511 is that of an excellent enduro dual-sport that is hamstrung by tires that aren’t appropriate for the intended usage. At every turn and bump we cursed Husky’s tire choice. Ultimately, the package is there for it to be an excellent dirt shredder. While we could tell how good this bike would be with better skins, we had to test it as is. Fortunately, the buyer doesn’t have to, and at $8999 there might be enough pocket change for a set of real tires.