First Ride: Husqvarna Nuda 900

BMW makes Husky road bike

These people, I think you'll find, are about to 'mistreat the street' as this is the launch slogan of the new Husqvarna Nuda 900. Make of that what you will. That is the R version on the right - more on that here

The heart of the matter is this - an 898cc parallel-twin - raided from the BMW store cupboard. To further confuse the diverse ethnicity of the 21st century Husqvarna brand, the engine is made by the Austrian firm, Rotax.

Speaking of origins, Husqvarna was established as a company in Sweden in 1689 as a supplier of weapons to the Swedish Army. In fact their logo is a view down the barrel of a flint-lock musket, that's how olde ye brande art. 

That famous Italian, Claudio Castiglioni, bought the motorcycle division from the Swedish parent company in 1987 (thus making it briefly Italian) and sold it to BMW twenty years later, thus making it German. This could well be the brand's best chance of survival, though. The polished and ubiquitous BMW dealer network might just be the firm's pit-prop of longevity...

Back to the engine: sandcastings of outer cases are a beautiful silky finish and the battery - hidden under that black, plastic cover - can be removed without taking the bike to bits, so I was told. Water pump location has clearly caused the frame designer a few sleepless nights. Red rocker cover is a crazy Husqvarna-only modification, said to be worth 2bhp.

Oversquare bore and stroke of 84x81mm of the dry-sump motor runs a fairly giddy 13:1 compression ratio. Power is a claimed 103hp but the most useful figure (and noticeable) is the 100Nm of torque which provides the real character of this engine. 

Rotax have always had a thing about the chain running on the offside and the 900cc twin in the Nuda is no different. Swingarm is an aluminium alloy casting.

USS Enterprise front mudguard is certainly distinctive. 48mm Sachs forks have a whopping 210mm of travel but it's nicely controlled and a very, very good balance between slow-riding comfort and brain-out performance. Twin Brembo set up offers masses of single-finger power with heaps of feel and feedback. Compound of OE Metzeler Sportecs  could maybe do with being a touch softer for this 174kg bike.

Masses of off-road experience manifests itself in mysterious ways. The grips were lovely - super-soft, super-grippy and beatifully detailed with the Husky logo. Nice.

With a riding position like a supermoto bike it's kind of instictive to trail a foot even if this kind of riding technique will unleash the full force of apoplectic advanced motorcyclists with infinitely more riding experience and training than me. Obviously this dangling business isn't an option in faster corners but here. trail-braking into a second gear downhill right, it's a useful psychological aid. 

Ridden hard, there's a fair degree of fore and aft weight pitch but use it to the tyre's advantage and it's a very satisfying bike to ride hard, up and down twisty roads. I found the on-off, small throttle opening fuelling quite savage - enough for me to feather the clutch a bit to smooth it out. Apparently the bikes we rode were pre-production and there are still some fuelling tweaks to be made to the maps. Throttle response, apart from this, was spot-on. The engine is really snappy and responsive. Sounds great, too. The exhaust note is a bit like a Harley Sportster with a fruity 2-1 exhaust system (but obviously faster revving). A rain map (push some buttons on the dash) is available if you so wish.

Note proximity of stainless downpipes to tarmac.

This bike's running the optional hard panniers and fly-screen. Note flat spots on stainless downpipes. Sorry. Add a salad-dodging passenger and fill the pannier with pies and this right hand ground clearance could be an issue...

Thirteen litre fuel tank is a perfect match for that narrow seat, if you see what I mean...

Mega piece of Sardinian road. This third gear left/right/left/right combo needed a fair bit of counter steering to put the bike exactly where you wanted and with each flick and flack it'd give a little head shake, particularly on a steadily applied throttle with some weight off the front wheel. Any supermoto bike does this - it seems to be a trade-off of the geometry and weight distribution.

The Nuda runs 1,450mm between the front and rear wheel spindles, 24.5 degrees of headstock angle and 101mm of trail. Tyres are 120 front and 180 rear - both are 17in diameter. The seat height is 870mm.

To be honest, on a road like this, you're never going to keep a well ridden Nuda 900 in your sights. This sort of terrain is its spiritual home. One gear, throttle brake, throttle brake. Most of the power and torque lurks between four and seven thousand rpm so the engine has great in-gear flexibilty. I tried a top-gear flexibility test and through a small town I ran top gear down to 25kmh without any snatch or backlash once the engine was loaded up with full throttle. Impressive.

Its spiritual home in the UK? Well, if there was a timed hill climb up Alston Pass, I'd choose a Nuda on slicks.

Conclusion? With a small fuel tank and narrow seat it's not a bike to go touring for thousands of miles on which is why the hard panniers are slightly mysterious. It's a fun bike with a fantastic engine and some really high quality chssis parts and components. The engine is a real peach and the bike is superb fun to chuck around tight, twisty roads. It'll be fun in town, too. 

Nuda 900 price is £7,995 OTR.

Feeling flush? You can order one online, here

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