Husqvarna's second post-BMW bikes - are they good for the Husqvarna brand?
THE TR650 Terra and Strada are the second new models to be produced by Husqvarna since they were bought out by BMW.
First was the Nuda 900, think of it as a heavily modified F800 series but for those who want a bit more 'exotic'. No, I never quite got it either.
Now we have the TR650: in Strada and Terra flavours. The more off-road Terra sports a knobbly 21" front wheel and 18" rear, while the Strada is more road-orientated, with 19" front and 17" rear wheels.
The US journo sat next to me in the press conference had it fairly well summed-up when he said: "It's just a hot-rod BMW G650 GS, isn't it?". The BMW's engine was the starting point but Husqvarna have found another 10bhp by running a lighter piston, higher compression and larger valves. Truly the essence of a hot-rod. The result? A claimed 58bhp.
First up, the Terra. It's tall and feels every bit the off-roader. Sat on tickover, it's quiet, the engine spins up freely but despite its new piston it's no angry competition supermoto. We set off in the dark, around 7am - yes the headlight is as weak as it looks.
Straight away you can feel the Terra is just one of those bikes that's more than the sum of its parts.
Maybe it's the motor, which is eager and torquey without being aggressive and sharp or perhaps its the 21" front wheel and knobbly tyres that give the Terra 'interesting' handling characteristics that mean the bars are almost always weaving, even at slow speeds and even in a straight line, which is fun and not in the least bit concerning. Or could it have been the Spanish roads, which look like someone's been at them with a can of Mr Sheene - they contain a lot of tar and not much mac, which meant grip was low and the rear tyre was eager to spin.
Cornering on the twisty mountainous roads went a little like this: approach corner a bit too fast, scrub off as much speed as you can without locking the knobbly front wheel, spend a moment wondering when the brakes are going to start biting, then remember you have ABS and so brake that bit harder, still wait for the brakes to bite, marvel for a moment at how much braking you are trying to do but at how little stopping is actually happening, then tip the bike in, feel the bars gently wobble and weave, stick your inside leg out: half for show, half to take a dab (just incase the front washes out). Make the corner, relax a bit, tap the throttle on and consider how quickly and freely the engine spins up, then realise it's actually the rear tyre struggling to grip and instead choosing to spin. Keep the power on and stand the bike up and feel the rear wheel start to grip. Feel like a bit of a hero managing to slide a bike at about 35mph for about 10 metres, giggle like a child, wonder when your luck's going to run out, but think 'bollocks, I can do this all day'. Approach the next corner...
If you like things a little more composed, then perhaps the TR650 Strada is more up your street. It's odd how two bikes that appear very similar on paper can feel so different. The obvious difference is the wheels, which are 21/18 on the Terra and 19/17 on the Strada, but running cast wheels and slightly less knobbly tyres.
Frankly I was underwhelmed by the Strada. Where the Terra felt peppy and up for it, the Strada felt numb. It didn't really do anything and I know that's not an excuse to assasinate a bike but it was forgettable. The same engine that overwhelmed the knobbly rear tyre on the Terra, felt asthmatic in the Strada.
There's nothing 'wrong' with the Strada it just screams average in every way. The handling is ok, but weaves that are entertaining on a knobbly-tyred dirt-biased bike are just annoying on a bike that's meant for the roads. The riding position is good but wind protection is non-existent. You don't feel like you're riding a road bike, it feels like you're stealing a few miles on the road linking up fields between trails. The brakes are just as lacking on the Strada as they are on the Terra, almost forgivable on a dirt-bike but not on a road bike - that single disc gets worked hard when you start to push on.
The Strada does have one thing going for it as a commuter: fuel economy. Husqvarna claim over 55mpg at 80mph, which for a single revving its nuts off is pretty good.
I look at the Strada and I want to like it. A 58bhp supermoto-a-like should be a hoot, but it doesn't do anything an Aprilia Pegaso 650 or Honda FMX650 haven't been doing (better) for the past 5 years. You can get a good used one of those for well under £3,000.
The TR650 Terra has ABS as a £700 option, it's good but I don't think it's worth the extra spend. The TR650 Strada comes with ABS as standard.
At £5271 the TR650 Terra would be a fun choice for anyone wanting a town commuter or second bike to keep the miles off their summer toy. It's also perfectly capable off-road and a much better choice than a massive 'Adventure' bike for those sorts of shenanigans. Worth noting the Husqvarna stickers on the radiator guards were already starting to peel off our test models by the end of the day. Revealing BMW ones underneath? No, not quite.
However at £5,971 for the Strada I'm not sure what you're buying because it's not doing anything that well and especially when you could get an array of similar bikes on the second-hand market for well under half the price: Aprilia Pegaso Strada, BMW F650CS, Kawasaki KLE500, Honda FMX650 to name a few.
I'm really keen to see the next BMW Husqvarna offering, because at the moment, badging up a few BMWs (with ill-fitting stickers) isn't really doing it for me.
Price: Husqvarna TR650 Terra £5271, (£5971 with ABS). TR650 Strada £5971 with ABS as standard.
Posted: 24/11/2012 at 14:16
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