Fun, inexpensive, go-anywhere transportation is at the heart of motorcycling. It’s the reason many of us got started riding and a segment that Husqvarna has its sights on with the release of its new 2013 Husqvarna TR650 Terra dual-sport ($6999). The Terra is one of two new motorcycles the European brand has launched designed to appeal to motorcyclists seeking more performance than what’s currently offered in the class.
Many of the motorcycle’s components, including its fuel-injected and liquid-cooled 652cc single-cylinder engine, are based off parent company BMW’s existing G650GS. But the Husqvarna mill utilizes higher specification tuning including a lighter piston, different camshaft timing and a boost in the compression ratio (12.3:1 vs. 11.5:1) allowing it to produce more power throughout its 8400 rpm powerband. How much more? Husqvarna claims eight extra horses, and based on dyno testing it’s pretty darn close at 6.71 extra HP (see the 2012 BMW G650GS Dyno Chart). Peak torque is also up by just over one lb-ft. Pair that with the Terra’s relatively low rolling weight (408 pounds with a full tank of gas) and it has enough acceleration to easily overtake cars at highway speeds, even up inclines.
A manual five-speed transmission shifts power to the 18-inch wire spoke rear wheel through a cable-actuated clutch that offers four-way lever position adjustment for different sized hands. Easy lever pull and a wide engagement window make it friendly to launch regardless of riding experience. The transmission’s shift lever has a fairly long throw though which equated to some mis-shifts if we were lazy with our left foot. Besides that complaint it’s hard to find any other flaws with the Terra’s drivetrain.
The Husqvarna TR650 Terra has the ability to take riders to places they might not be able to explore on a street bike.
Crack open the throttle and the engine pumps out smooth torque-rich power pulses. Low-end power is mellow which aids traction when riding on slippery surfaces or off-road. Power builds steadily until around 6500-7000 rpm before tapering off—signaling it’s time to upshift. The engine’s just peppy enough to pull you out of a sticky situation, but not so strong to overwhelm the senses. Engine vibration is fairly muted, too. For sure the tone of the engine and the exhaust note is rather sedate and industrial-sounding but it’s hard to argue with the TR’s low noise emissions with it belting out just 79 dB at idle and 91 dB at 4200 revs (about 65 mph in top gear). This helps avoid unwanted attention from motorists, neighbors or others wishing to experience Mother Nature’s serenity when riding off-road.
The Terra delivers reasonable fuel economy with an average in excess of 50 miles-per-gallon through our mixed riding conditions that included stop-light-to-stop-light city riding, speedy freeway jaunts, and a few fast paced runs through curvy canyon roads. Not to mention some light off-roading. This gives the Terra a useable range of around 178 miles based on the size of its 3.57-gallon tank. We expect even better fuel efficiency if you have the willpower to refrain from any high-speed riding (we didn’t).
Swing a leg over the bike and the Terra feels similar to a big dirt bike—especially if you’re seated in the forward part of the saddle. The seat starts off tall and narrow but slants downward, becoming wider (and shorter) through the center. Measured seat height is right at 34.4 inches. The height of the seat increases and the width tapers as it reaches the tail but still has an adequately-sized hump for a passenger. There’s also a small plastic rack that can be used to bungee-tie some extra gear or to mount luggage available from Husqvarna’s accessory catalog. Much to our surprise, the seat offered no discomfort during the course of an all-day ride—which is a big testament to its capabilities as an everyday commuter. The handlebar offers a relaxed, upright bend with rearward sweep which makes it comfortable to hold while still providing a fair amount of steering leverage.
Although the TR650 Terra feels like a big dirt bike in motion it doesn’t feel as heavy as the spec sheet implies.
On the pavement the TR is plenty agile initiating turns without much effort. Suspension damping is aligned toward the comfort side of the spectrum but it still has enough prowess to keep a smile on your face through corners—especially the tighter ones that would be more tedious on a larger motorcycle. The soft-ish spring rates however pay a dividend over rough surfaces with the chassis confidently using all 7.5-inches of travel to absorb semi-truck bumps and pot holes which in turn reduces rider fatigue. Stability-wise the Terra is a trustworthy motorcycle but does get a little flighty as you get going upwards of 85 mph. It also lacks a windshield which makes windblast a bit excessive at those speeds. But it’s a small price to pay considering its versatility off-road.
Which is probably the best feature of the Terra – its ability to take you to places that you typically wouldn’t think of exploring on a standard street bike. The Metzeler Tourance EXP tires have a big block pattern which gives decent traction on gravel and dusty fire roads, though they do get a little squirrelly in the really soft stuff. Carry some momentum and avoid slamming open the throttle or grabbing the front brake lever however and the tires will work just fine for all but the most extreme situations off-road.
Brakes are comprised of Brembo hydraulic disc brakes fore and aft. The front brake is actuated through a durable stainless-steel brake line while the rear uses a less expensive rubber line. Curiously, there is no brake lever position adjustment in contrast to the clutch side. Since achieving a favorable sub- seven grand price tag was a big factor, U.S. bound Terra’s aren’t available with an anti-lock brake option. While ABS is a nice feature for some, the brakes are so easy to modulate that most won’t miss it—especially when riding off-road.
The spring rate and damping on the Terra are on the soft-side but still work well in tight slow speed turns on the road.
In terms of design and appearance we’re big fans of the clean, uncluttered lines of the Terra. With its angular front fender, halogen-style headlamp and twin gun-barrel style mufflers it appears much more contemporary than others in the class.
Aside from our small shifting gripe and the quirky self-retract function of the sidestand, it’s really hard to find any glaring faults with the TR650. It delivers more than adequate performance on and off-road. Plus it’s comfortable, easy-to-ride, and looks cool. Factor in its reasonable price that’s only a few hundred dollars above the Kawasaki KLR, and Husqvarna should have no problem luring buyers over to the brand.