Why would anyone, especially in Utah, want to buy a Husaberg?
That is really a good question.
The short answer is… because the KTM 350 XC-W wouldn’t be out for another year – and I needed a new bike.
The long answer is slightly more involved…
At the age of 15, Jason exceeded me in height (I am 6′ 2″). He was too tall for the CRF230, and he was constantly bottoming out the shocks on very small jumps. So, I could either buy him a new bike (nah), or pass on my CRF250X to him and get me a new bike (yeah – much better idea). So, my search for a new bike began.
For the most part, I was really happy with my CRF250X. I was, however, starting to want a little more power, especially when in sand. It was somewhat underpowered to lug my bulk around.
I was leaning towards a KTM. They have a fairly broad array of products aimed at trail riders and not just racers. And they are becoming very popular – both 2 strokes and 4 strokes. On one trip to Moab a fellow rode up to me on his CRF450R and said; “you are the first Honda I have seen in 3 days!”
KTM had recently introduced the race version of their 350. I thought the trail version would come out in the spring of 2011, but learned it would not be released until fall at the earliest. That was too late.
I was nervous about moving up to a 450. I have heard of many people that can’t handle them for trail riding – they are too powerful and twitchy. I didn’t think I could handle it. But then one day I rode Sean O’Brien’s KTM 525. I was surprised at how smooth the power delivery was. I thought, maybe I can handle a 450.
So during the Thanksgiving holiday of 2010 I went down to the local KTM dealership and looked at their various models. The 450 fit me perfectly! But they didn’t have any in stock that weren’t already sold.
In the mean time, I was doing my homework. I posted questions about my quest on various dirt bike forums, including KTMtalk.com. I explained that I was looking for a trail bike, not a race bike, and that I was nervous about moving to a 450.
To my surprise, several people said I should look at Husaberg (pronounced “hoose-a-berg”). I thought, no way. I am not buying an off brand. Too hard to find parts and get service.
And then someone said; “KTM makes the perfect bike for you. It is called a Husaberg”. What is that? KTM makes Husaberg? I didn’t know that. Sure enough, Husaberg is designed in Sweden, but owned and manufactured by KTM in Austria. Well, maybe I had better take a look.
So, I started looking more closely. The more I looked, the more I liked. It turns out that most of the serviceable parts are KTM parts. KTM head and tranny, Husaberg motor. KTM controls, Husaberg frame and plastics, etc.
Here is one video that really helped sell me.
The 70 degree motor design really changes the physics. It moves the center of gravity up and to the back, closer to the riders center of gravity. Plus the direction of travel of the piston supposedly improves handling. It handles and ‘feels’ like a much lighter weight bike.
So, it indeed looked like the perfect bike for me. The only problem was, there are no dealerships in Utah. Do I dare buy a bike with no dealer support? After discussing my concern with Jeramey Finch at Southpaw Racing, he convinced me that he could fix anything – if I provide him a service manual.
I was also keen on the idea of fuel injection. Reports indicate that the power delivery is buttery smooth. Gone are the days of bog and hesitation when you give it throttle.
I then contacted the nearest dealer – Moto Tech in Boise, Idaho (who has provided excellent long-distant support). They had some 2010 FE450s in stock – and on sale. So I bought one on the spot.
I was originally thinking I would get the FE390, but they didn’t have any 2010s left. I could get the 450 cheaper – and they are the same weight. I have not regretted the move up to the 450. I installed the ignition map switch, so I can set the ignition response to “soft” for slippery conditions, “standard” for most stuff, or “aggressive” for deep sand. As I have gotten used to the bike, I am finding that I use “aggressive” most of the time.
I spent most of the winter adding accessories such as a GPS holder, hand guards, disk guards, took bag, heated grips, etc. And I got it plated – because it was so easy to do. It was fun to get familiar with the workings of the bike. I was immediately impressed with the build quality – far superior to my Hondas.
About the only frustration is how difficult it is to remove the fuel tank. I wouldn’t want to do that in the field.
So, did I make a wise choice? Yes. And no. Initially I had some fuel delivery issues (more on that in a later post). And the bike is heavy. It feels light when riding, but heavy when tipping over, or picking it up. But I have now shaved 5 lbs off the top of the bike. 4 lbs with a lithium battery (the only way to go), and 1 lb from a new muffler – which also helps the bike run much cooler.
I also got the suspension tuned up for my style and weight. That made a huge difference. Dale ‘E’O sure knows how to tune these things up. Best money I have spent on the bike.
The final question is, if I were buying today, would I buy another Husaberg. Unfortunately, the answer is no. Because of fuel delivery issues (coming later), the bikes lost their resale value. And now the KTM 350 XC-W is out! I would also be interested in trying a KTM 2 stroke. They may be the most popular trail bike right now.
But I am satisfied for now. This bike should serve me well for several more years.
Update Sept. 2012
Ever since replacing the stock fuel pump my Husaberg has run perfectly! It starts right up and runs without a hiccup. My only real complaint about the bike is the weight. If ‘feel’s light when I am riding it – it is very easy to handle and the steering is very precise – but when man-handling (loading the trailer, etc) or picking it up, it is pretty heavy for me. I shaved off almost 5 lbs of high weight by installing a new silencer (helps it run cooler too) and a lithium battery. I would still love to try the new KTM 350 xc-w, but for now, I am pretty satisfied with my Husaberg.
Note: I later sold the Husaberg and bought a KTM 350 XC-W, which I like much better.