Husaberg is one of those companies that has struggled gaining a legitimate foothold here in the US, most likely because of its early days in the 1990s when firing up a ‘Berg was like pulling the pin on a grenade. Once it went off
engine pieces scattered to the wind, and getting parts was downright difficult if not impossible at times. But then KTM stepped in and purchased the Swedish brand in 1995 and things improved, but American enthusiasm for Husaberg had already waned. Even with all of the technical innovations coming from the blue and yellow marque that raised eyebrows and piqued interest, sales have been much lower than its parent company KTM.
Interest and sales have grown of late thanks to the racing exploits of Graham Jarvis, not to mention the sharing of technology and powerplants with the orange brand. Even with the comingling of hard parts, you’d be mistaken to describe the 2013 Husaberg TE 250 as a blue KTM. It’s different, and it’s better.
The basic architecture of the $8349 Husaberg TE 250 is the same as the KTM 250 XC-W. The frame and engine are identical, however the bits bolted to that frame give the Berg its own flavor. Of course the blue bodywork is unique to the brand, and the rear subframe is a high-strength, injected molded plastic unit rather than the aluminum set up on the KTM. This shaves weight from the chassis, but any losses are counteracted by the larger 2.8-gallon tank. The TE tips the scales as the heaviest at 245 pounds when full of fuel.
The front-end of the TE 250 differs as well with a WP Suspension 48mm 4CS closed-cartridge fork. One leg handles the compression damping and the other the rebound. Both adjusters are on the top of the fork and are easily adjusted. Additionally the fork offset has been reduced 2mm to 20mm through new triple clamps for better stability in the corners and smoother function of the forks. Out back the same WP PDS shock keeps the rear end in check.
Our team ranks the suspension action and handling as the best of the bunch thanks to the 4CS fork that handles the varying terrain better than even the Beta’s much-lauded TFX forks. The front is still not as supple, but it does not deflect and soaked up big hits with much more composure. In the turns the Berg has an excellent mix of the KTM’s sharpness with the stability of the Beta. The light steering effort makes for a nimble bike when changing direction.
“The Berg is by far the best handling of the bunch,” says Garcia. “The front-end stood out more than anything because of how well the bike steered using almost no effort from the rider. The fork is a little soft but a few adjustments of the clickers easily fixes that. The rear shock was up to par with the fork as they worked together to provide the smoothest ride of all three bikes.”
The biggest mystery of this test is how the engines of the TE and the XC-W felt completely different, although they are supposedly exactly the same. Where the KTM spun up the rear tire quickly and struggled for traction on the slick rocks, the Husaberg revved slightly slower and seems to carry momentum easier. We even asked the KTM and Husaberg rep if the blue bike had a heavier flywheel installed. He assured us there wasn’t, perhaps the suspension settings allowed the power to be put down more effectively, but we suspect there might have been differences in jetting. Whatever the case, we all came to the same conclusion; the TE 250 sports the most useful powerplant in the test.
“The Husaberg had the best engine package for the terrain we were riding,” adds Garcia “The bike is easy to ride and the power is very manageable in all situations from slippery dry trail to ultimate-traction rocks.”
In every single subjective category the Husaberg is the top choice for our team when the scores are averaged. In the rider interface column the Husaberg just barely squeaks out the win over the Beta thanks to a roomier layout and better set of bars. Although the static seat height of 37.8 inches is the same as the KTM, it feels lower as the suspension, front and rear, settles slightly deeper into the stroke for an easier reach to the ground.
Squeezing the front brake lever gives the same excellent bite that the KTM’s identical units do. The power from the front master cylinder and caliper is so strong yet amazingly controllable. Out back the rear stopper is just as good, allowing for extremely useful modulation on the slick rock sections of McCain Valley.
Before the scoresheet was tallied we all knew that the Husaberg TE 250 would be the winner of our 2013 250 2-Stroke Enduro Shootout. While sitting around the truck as the sun began to dip below the horizon, we all agreed the TE was the best. Not by a long shot, but by just enough to make a difference. And in a contest as close as this, even the smallest advantage is all that is needed.