Video: Husqvarna 2008 610SM, 510SM & 450RR review

TWO's John Cantlie reports back from the launch of three exciting new Husqvarna models

You put your left leg in, your left leg out...

2008 Husqvarna Supermoto launch

Benidorm isn’t a very exciting place in February. Scores of half-dead English people on £129 package holidays roam the place like zombies. It’s like 28 Days Later but in slow-motion. Not the most obvious place for a high-octane supermoto launch, but tucked away in the hills is a twisting, turning karting track that packs more corners into just 3/4s of a mile than most people see in a weekend. And so we’re here for the new Husqvarna supermotos.

Bloody hell, the build quality on these new bikes is stratospherically high. New Husky have got BMW backing behind them now and the smart new red/white paint schemes look shit-hot. Anyone still thinking of the old-school Huskies with dodgy reliability needs to think again. These new bikes are razor sharp and, we’re assured, built to run and run.

There are three models we’re testing: the 610SM, which is the heaviest and most road-orientated of the trio. The 510SM, which with its twin-cam motor, short wheelbase and light weight (a whole 20kg lighter than the 610!) promises to be the lunatic of the bunch. And then there’s the exclusive 450RR, track-use only and a monstrous price tag of £10,000. Only 10 are coming to the UK and they’re all sold out anyway. There’s also an electric little 125SM with screaming 26bhp motor, huge in the Italian market but of limited appeal in the UK.

I started on the road-orientated 610. It’s predictable, easy to ride on the karting track and doesn’t have any terrors in store. On the road it will feel rampant and bulging with midrange power. On the tight, twisty track we’re on, it feels predictable and forgiving. Perfect when you haven’t been on a supermoto round a circuit in 3 years (guilty, I’m afraid!) The 55bhp motor pulls right from the bottom, the vast Brembo brakes up front are incredibly strong, and it feels solid and punchy. Very easy to throw around and the motor sounds fantastic, although it does run out of revs a little early (I can’t tell you where exactly because I was too busy watching the track) and you have to dance around on the excellent gearbox to keep it in the power.

Jumping straight onto the 510 afterwards is like jumping forward 10 years in 4-stroke technology. This new fuel-injected supermoto is bloody brilliant. It’s short, solid, sharp-nosed and very, very aggressive after the larger 610. Despite being 90cc smaller in engine size it makes the same peak power, but gets there much faster and hangs onto its power for longer. Instead of a traditional 4-stroke single bark out the back of the exhaust, the Husqvarna 510 makes a noise like ripping aluminium as it scorches out of corners. Does it wheelie? Oh sweet Lord yes, down the straights, out of corners, wherever you want to. The chassis is incredibly well-balanced and even for an old fart like myself, the 510 feels plugged-in to your every command without being at all intimidating or brutal to ride. Husky reckon to sell around 150 of these rocketships in the UK this year. At £6k it’ll be hard for many to justify the outlay, but what a potent weapon for the lucky few who can. You could say I liked it.

The 450RR was just too much for me. I hate to admit it but I’m disgustingly short of being bike-fit at the moment, a winter commuting back and forth on a massive tourer has left me slug-like and useless, and after tiring myself out but grinning like a meerkat on the 510, the 450RR was too fast, too good and too much. This track-only handbuilt monster is assembled to go racing, nothing more, and only when you have the strength and ability to ride it like it NEEDS to be ridden will it feel right. In my quivering hands, it was pathetic, like giving an AK-47 to a baby at a spud-gun party. After three laps I handed the thing back to the Husqvarna technicians who smiled politely and promptly sent me out on the 78bhp, £150,000 works 660RR of supermoto World Champion Gerald Delepine. Thanks guys. And weirdly enough, this fire-breathing Cyclops of a motorcycle was actually easier to ride than the 450RR. The ridiculous power was smooth and not as frenetic as the 450, the handling less rabid and despite me not even approaching 30% of what it could do, it’s remarkable how rideable the thing was.

The SM125 is surprisingly tractable and insanely good fun to ride (God it’s good to hear that two-stroke noise again and feather the clutch exiting corners), but the SM510 is the star of the show for me. Stylish, damn sexy and impossibly fun to ride, the 510 is one of those bikes that everyone who rides a GSX-R1000 should sling their leg over just the once. It will re-arrange your concept of fun riding forever. Husky, it would appear, are well and truly back.