Husqvarna is aiming right at the heart of the American motocross market with its competitively priced 2012 Husqvarna TC449 ($7999, most affordable motorcycle in this test). This European 450 makes use of innovative rider-friendly technologies giving motorcyclists yet another option when choosing a dirt bike.
The Husky’s engine feels eerily similar to early generation 450s, which were known for feeling sluggish and slow to rev. Right off the bottom it delivers smooth well metered power similar to the Honda. Most riders will consider it ‘soft’ but it does help get traction off corners with minimal wheelspin. Hard on the throttle, the motor takes more time to spool up and never feels like it pumps out the same level of mid-range or top-end power as the competition.
“It didn’t have the power to really pull you out of corners if you started falling or the corner was soft,” explains our speediest pro-level tester, Scott Simon. “The engine just wasn’t as snappy as the other bikes and it always left me wanting for more acceleration.”
(Above) The Husqvarna takes a few laps to get use to with its unusual ergonomics. (Center) With Its smooth powerband the Husqvarna hooks up well off the corner. (Below) The Husqvarna is an interesting concept and if it could shed some serious weight it could be instantly competitive.
“I know they’re building it from scratch but they still have a ways to go in the motor department,” adds intermediate-level test rider Bret Milan. “It felt down quite a bit compared to the other bikes; and when you weigh 210 pounds that’s a big disadvantage.”
One feature exclusive to the Husqvarna is the ability to switch between engine power maps on the fly via a handlebar-mounted toggle switch. This allows riders to choose a more mild-hitting ‘hard terrain’ or more explosive ‘soft terrain’ map. But even with the more aggressive map, our testers still weren’t blown away by the responsiveness of the engine. Our testers were impressed with the fitment of an expensive and ultra-high quality Akrapovic exhaust straight from the factory. Not only does the pipe look trick, it expels a moderate exhaust decibel reading of 93.7 which while quiet, was still a hair louder than the Japanese machines. Like the KTMs, the Husky offers the convenience of push-button electric start.
Based on the feedback from our test riders we were surprised when it posted competitive horsepower and torque numbers on our in-house dyno (42.19 horsepower at 8500 rpm and 28.15 lb-ft torque at 7300 revs, ranking it fourth and second best, respectively) which left us scratching our heads. It all started to make sense after wheeling it onto our scales and learning that it weighs 23 pounds more (255 pounds without fuel) than the class-leading Honda (235) and 11 pounds more than the second-heaviest bike – Suzuki’s RM-Z450 (244).
This extra mass no doubt played a part in the Husky’s acceleration performance with it achieving the slowest time in the holeshot test (5.22 seconds @ 48.7 mph). Though, the feel from hydraulic clutch made it friendlier to launch aggressively. In the third-gear roll-on test the 449 fared better, accelerating from 15 to 45 mph in a time of 2.61 seconds. This stat bested the all but the Honda and Suzuki and may be attributed to how effectively it puts power to the ground, not to mention its shorter final drive gearing. Although it didn’t really do anything funny our tester’s complained that the engine had to be shifted more frequently resulting in its low Drivetrain score.
Out on track the Husky’s extra weight was readily apparent as was its unorthodox ergonomics. Swing a leg onto it and you’ll notice how flat the seat is. Since the fuel tank is located beneath the seat there is plenty of room to slide forward at the controls, thereby aiding turn-in. Another difference is how narrow it feels in the area between the footpegs, which made it a little trickier to hold onto. The handlebar also has a flat bend which makes the attitude of the bike feel more nose-heavy than it probably is.
“It’s a very unique motorcycle,” says pro-level test rider Chris See. “From the feel of the frame between your feet, to the handlebar, it’s all very different. I loved the way it handled in a straight line and it seemed to turn okay but it felt noticeably heavier than the other bikes.”
(Above) Our most experienced test rider, Rich Taylor, said it took
some time to get use to the Husqvarna due to how unique it rides. (Center) The Husqvarna TC449 steers well and surprised us with the way it felt in turns. (Below) The Husqvarna TC449 posted competitive power but since it was so heavy it was hard to notice its engine.
“The Husky was just a very different bike,” affirms veteran test rider and EKS Goggles’ Rich Taylor. “The seat is very flat but the riding position is so unique it took a lot of getting used to. It felt stable coming out of corners and it stays pretty straight but I think that has to do with it not being as fast as the others. The chassis balance was a little off too. The fork dove a little too much; for an aggressive rider the suspension needs a little work.”
“I was very surprised by the way it turns,” says intermediate-level tester, Frankie Garcia. “Stick it in a rut and the thing goes right through the rut for you, it’s just heavy. If it lost some weight it could hang with the rest of the bikes.”
While most of our testers were impressed with the way it steered everyone agreed that the suspension is undersprung for all but a featherweight or beginner. This made it difficult to push the bike as evident by the back of the pack results in Super Lap. While the Husky didn’t really impress us with its power or handling it does in fact have powerful and easy-to-use Brembo brakes that were rated second only to the KTMs.
Low scores in many of the subjective and a few objective data-based performance scoring categories relegated the Husqvarna to last place. But it isn’t all bad. Our testers agree the Husky has potential and will benefit from more aggressive suspension calibration and powerband settings, or, even better if engineers could shave off 20 pounds.
- Smooth, non-intimidating engine power
- Turns well
- Great brakes
- 20-plus pounds heavier than competition
- Undersprung suspension
- Unconventional ergonomics