2013 Husqvarna TR650 Terra Test
For as long as most of us can remember, Husqvarna had been a dirt bike manufacturer. Sure, a few models here and there had perfunctory equipment added to make them street legal, but the focus has always been precisely on off-road performance.
BMW purchased Husqvarna in 2007 in an effort to crack the off-road market, in the wake of the sales failure of dirt only BMWs. Buying the struggling, yet prestigious Husqvarna brand gave BMW instant access to the history and credibility of the formerly Swedish and currently Italian-based brand.
Leveraging its access to BMW technology and hardware, Husqvarna is cleaning up its act and taking it to the streets. The Nuda 900, a street-only bike based on the BMW F 800 GS twin, was the first pure streetbike from Husky; unfortunately, the bike has not yet made it to the United States.
Instead, for 2013, America gets a pair of brothers – the TR650 Terra and Strada. Ultimate MotorCycling associate editor Jess McKinley took a short spin on the supermoto-like Strada at BMW’s HP4 launch, and came away with a smile on his face, and quite a bit of enthusiasm for a full test.
However, first to fall into our grasp is the Terra, a bike that Husqvarna describes as a half-dirt/half-street bike that is powered by a motor based on BMW’s venerable G 650 GS single-cylinder powerplant. However, with a seriously retuned motor (with the distinctive Red Head valve cover) and everything else pure-Husky, the Terra is unquestionably its own machine.
Going with a 21-inch front and 18-inch rear wheel combination exclusive to the US version, the Terra has the rim options necessary for serious off-road tires. This is part of Husqvarna’s strategy of making the Terra a bare-bones motorcycle that is intended to be personalized by each rider.
To that end, the Terra and the Strada will have a wide range of Husqvarna-branded accessories, including adventure-style cargo carriers, skidplate, windscreen, footpegs, lower seat, heated grips, alarm system, and more. We took out an unadorned Terra, and put it to the test on the street and dirt.
First things first – Husqvarna worked wonders with the BMW 650 thumper. With a new Magneti Marelli EFI system, reworked cylinder head, larger valves, increased compression, plus a lighter piston and crankshaft, you would never guess it’s the same engine. Husqvarna claims a 20-percent increase over the BMW motor – peaking at 58 horses – though in practice it feels like much more.
Simply accelerating smartly from a stoplight can cause the front end to unexpectedly lift off the pavement. The motor is ready to romp at any given moment, and the throttle can be twisted from any engine speed and good response is available. The high rpm output is strong, and the five-speed gearbox is adequate for a motor with such a wide powerband.
Although Husqvarna says the bottom end is identical to the G 650 GS, the operation of the clutch and gearbox is greatly improved. On the BMW Sertao we tested, the clutch had a chronic dragging problem (so much so that it could only reliably be started in neutral) and up-shifting through the lower gears was difficult during hard acceleration. Neither of these problems plague the Terra, which is happy to get out and play hard on the street.
With a dirt-style upright seating position, wide bars, relatively narrow midsection, and a seat that is a nice compromise between dirt and street, you can attack the twisties with abandon. Its 406 pounds (claimed curb weight) disappears beneath you, leaving you with only that purely instinctive feel that tells you that you’re on a great bike.
Cornering clearance is excellent, and the street-friendly Metzeler Sahara tires allow you to make the most of it. Diving into the corners, the 300mm front disc is ably grabbed by the Brembo calipers, so braking is a strong plus for the TR650.
Taking it through town, the Terra is a blast. The temptation to jump curbs is there, though the lack of a stock skid plate tempers that enthusiasm, and there is that propensity for wheelies that is difficult to rein in.
Regardless, anyone who knows how much fun dirt bikes can be on the street will be thrilled with the Terra. It has the tires you want for the pavement, plus the agility and power needed to make any road ride as fun as you want it to be.
Hard-core dirt riders will be unimpressed with the Terra’s off-road prowess. That’s fine, as they can always hop on one of Husky’s TE models and be fully satisfied. Much like an adventure bike, the stock Terra is best kept on dirt roads in fairly good condition.
The 46mm inverted forks and linkage rear suspension (both from Sachs) may look dirt-ready, but they only have 7.5 inches of travel and aggressive riding is not greeted enthusiastically. Even the smallest air taxes the suspension when the 406 pounds (plus rider) return to, ahem, terra firma. The more challenging the dirt road or trail, the less satisfactory the suspension behavior.
The Sahara tires are okay in the dirt, but you have to be extremely judicious with the throttle or they spin like a roulette wheel on anything save the tackiest loam. Test the front end at all and it will push sooner rather than later, and go away altogether if you press the point. Still, if you take it easy and enjoy the scenery, the Terra is a better dirt road bike than most adventure-designated machines.
Husqvarna has built some flexibility into the TR650 Terra. You can add a skidplate, upgrade the tires, and slap on some of those cool panniers, and the result should be a highly competent adventure bike, as long as you don’t feel limited by the 3.6-gallon fuel tank.
On the street, it’s perfect right off the showroom floor. If you are looking for an exclusively on-pavement machine, the Strada may be a better choice. However, if you like the looks of the Terra (larger hoop spoke wheels, for instance), it won’t disappoint on the street, and you still leave yourself the option to take it out and get dirty. Husqvarna’s first foray onto the American streets is terrific.
Photography by Scott Cox and Jean Turner