-- Husqvarna TR650 Strada and TR650 Terra Review
-- By Trevor Hedge
While Husqvarna’s TR650 Terra and Strada might not be such a big deal to the
majority of Australian motorcyclists, those that find their two wheel fun
primarily on relatively light adventure bikes have been waiting for an
affordable alternative to Suzuki’s DR650 and Kawasaki’s venerable KLR650, for
almost two decades. To this sector of the motorcycling public, the arrival of
Husqvarna’s new TR650 models is significantly welcome news.
The stalwart models (KLR650/DR650) still sell in large numbers. Over the past
two years Kawasaki has shifted 999 KLR650s. To put that figure into perspective,
over the same period Team Green sold 697 ZX-10R sportsbikes. Clearly, the market
for this sort of bike is large, much larger than the sportsbike market, so it
comes as no surprise that Husqvarna see this as a potential growth area for
Borne from the fruits of the BMW-Husqvarna tie-up, Husqvarna’s TR650 models draw
heavily from the proven BMW parts bin, primarily the excellent 650cc
single-cylinder engine. Husqvarna have massaged this motor to boast 20 per cent
more power than seen in BMW guise. That’s nothing to sneeze at as even in base
BMW spec’, this engine easily bests the DR or KLR by a country mile. In
Husqvarna spec’ the engine doesn’t even deserve to be compared to the 20+ year
old designs found in the Suzuki or Kawasaki. Power, torque, throttle response
and starting are all a generation ahead. Economy is a factor of huge importance
to the more serious adventurers that buy this category of machine, and here the
Husky also easily trumps its competitors by around 20 per cent.
More power, better economy, and tractable manners - what’s not to like...? Even
the five-speed gearbox/clutch is pretty good.
The Husqvarna’s 14-litre (primarily under-seat and low) fuel cell bests the DR
by a litre, but is well short of the KLR650s huge 22-litre capacity. We know
from experience, however, that if you are up it for the rent (and due to its
very modest output that means nearly all the time), the carburetted Kawasaki can
easily use more than eight-litres per 100km. By comparison, the BMW derived mill
uses half that on the highway and even when thrashed mercilessly never returns
any worse than six-litres per 100km. That has to be taken into consideration
when comparing tank sizes.
Husqvarna Australia did tell us that aftermarket suppliers of extended range
tanks are currently evaluating the possibilities of providing larger tanks.
Although, at first glance the Husky layout might prove a little challenging in
that regard. With two mufflers at the rear the solution may be to go to a single
muffler, allowing space on the opposite side to tuck a small extended range tank
in the void left by a muffler. A solution that is often used by owners that
modify KTM’s 990 Adventure machines. I still think that for most, due to the
frugal nature of the engine, the 14-litre tank will offer enough range for
virtually all endeavours.
The Husqvarna machines like Suzuki’s DR, offer, very little weather protection.
The KLR650 will prove a much more pleasant long-range companion, as will BMW’s
G650GS (not the Sertao). Although having to wring the neck of the Kawasaki
everywhere to make any significant forward progress on the road, can get tiring.
The TR650 machines come in two guises, the Strada (more road bias – 17”/19”
rims) or Terra (More off-road bias – (18”/21” rims).
As far as we are concerned the Terra is clearly the star of the show.
That’s not to say the Strada has little to offer; it certainly does, but we
think there are better options out there for similar money if you intend to
primarily stick to the tarmac. For road work BMW’s G 650 GS offers more comfort
and protection, and if you are spending 99 per cent of your time on the road,
then you simply can’t go past Suzuki’s bargain - and brilliant - latest
generation DL650 V-Strom, which at $10,890 is, in our opinion, the best value
road motorcycle ever made.
Clearly, as the more adventurous mount of the Husky TR650 pairing, it is the
Terra that will also excite adventure-touring motorcyclists, and with good
reason. First of which is the $700 saving in opting for the $8995 Terra over the
ABS-equipped $9695 Strada. The second is the Terra’s more off-road oriented rim
sizes and spokes over the Strada’s cast alloy wheels. The spoked rims will prove
much tougher when the going gets rough when venturing off the beaten track.
Both machines benefit from that massaged, Chinese-built BMW engine that in Husky
guise boasts 10 more horsepower, amassing 58 ponies at 7250rpm, matched to a
well-endowed 60Nm of torque at 5750rpm. These are heady numbers for a
single-cylinder engine, particularly one whose manners are so exemplary. Gotta
love technology. Thanks to Mr Marelli (EFI) and the wonders of modern cylinder
The engine is smooth and tractable enough for beginners while
delivering plenty of wheel-lofting oomph for advanced riders. In standard form
this engine is the best single-cylinder donk I have sampled, besting the more
expensive options from Yamaha (XT660R) and a standard KTM (690 Enduro)
by a fair margin, in every facet of performance and usability. Forget what you
previously knew about powerful singles, this big 100mm piston pushes against an incredibly
high, for a single, 12.3:1 compression ratio and makes big power, but is a
complete and utter pussycat. It’s a seriously impressive powerplant, by any
The Husky TR50 machines are also available in a slightly neutered LAMS learner
version. Even without sampling the LAMS versions first hand, I reckon restricted leaner spec’
TR650s would still put archaic DR/KLR650 engines to
Chassis-wise the Husqvarna machines do feel a little more roadbike than enduro
bike. A steel twin-spar frame is the backbone of the design with beefy 46mm
Sachs forks handling the bumps up front, matched to a preload adjustable shock
absorber from the same company. The forks offer no adjustment but handled all we
threw at them with aplomb. Likewise, the shock coped admirably across riders of
all sizes and the suspension package is fairly impressive, despite the lack of
adjustment. The 186kg payload capacity is quite generous and I believe the Husky
will cope with being loaded up with fuel and gear for an epic adventure without
turning into a wallower.
Thanks to its larger rolling diameter rubber, the Terra’s seat is a fraction
further from terra-firma than the Strada’s reasonable 860mm seat height. The
machine is very slim between the knees and while those figures might sound
unapproachable for some shorter folk I urge them to actually try the machines on
for size as the slim profile allows the legs to reach straight down and make
Husqvarna representatives declared that both models ride on identical
suspension. I have reason to doubt that claim as from my perspective the
suspension valving on the Terra seemed to firm through the mid-stroke much more
positively than the Strada.
Off-road the Husqvarna machines feel a little less like a natural dirtbike than
Suzuki’s DR650. Certainly more off-road ready than
BMW’s G 650 GS, with an off-road feel a little like the German company’s Sertao
edition of that model. The Husqvarna machines certainly feel more like a
dirtbike than, say, Triumph’s Tiger 800, and as a result are much more
manageable off-road. As impressive as the single-cylinder donk is though it does
miss out on that rear tyre frying grunt of the multi-cylinder adventure tourers.
That generally suits the sensible and $$$ conscious type that favours these
smaller machines; the amount of money saved on tyre wear would be substantial.
The more powerful machines have no trouble wasting a rear knobby in a single
ride if you hit the throttle tube with a bit of aggression. That means $$$.
Due to the Husqvarna importers (Paul Feeney Group) tie-up with Pirelli the
standard Metzeler Sahara (Terra) and Tourance EXP (Strada) tyres were replaced
with comparable Pirelli rubber. While Pirelli make some fine rubber it must be
said that the Metzeler tyres likely suit the machines much better. Most riders
on test complained of headshake and stability issues across both bikes, with the
Terra particularly nervous at speed, albeit at speeds that are probably not all
that advisable. The ride leader, not a direct employee of Husqvarna Australia,
swore to us that when he ran the machines in on the standard rubber there were
no stability issues.
Braking components are provided by Brembo and are up to the task. A 300mm single
disc up front is clamped by a twin-piston caliper suitably aided by a 240mm rear
disc. The ABS system on the Strada is switchable and excellent in operation. The
ABS system on the Strada is a latest generation system and as such is a fine
system that is an asset to the machine. There is always an ‘off’ button if you
prefer to deactivate the system in certain situations.
A 400-watt alternator is quite generous for this ‘tiddler’ level of
adventure-touring. A demonstration of access for air-filter servicing is
included in the video further down this page.
Visually, the Husqvarna machines are finished to a higher standard than the BMW
machines they are derived from. With a quality feel to the controls and
attention to detail across all components they are fine looking machines. The
Terra is the more striking of the two with its lush Husky red bodywork in
contrast to the glossy black of the Strada, which rolls on exquisite 10-spoke
alloy rims. Hmm, maybe the Strada is the better looking after all… For 9k these
bikes are very easy on the eye and put their Japanese counterparts to shame.
The lack of handguards is an oversight and you will need to cough up some
extra dollars on those and bash-plate options etc. from the Husky accessories
catalogue, which is vast and fairly reasonably priced.
The riding position of both machines feels natural. All the controls are well
positioned and the long seat gives plenty of room to move. The pew is a little
slender, however, and while quite good for this class of machine, is not the
ideal perch for long highway touring. Both machines sport excellent luggage
racks and a passable attempt at pillion accommodations. Much better than the DR,
but not quite as good as the KLR perhaps, but at least the Husky has enough
engine to pull a pillion… And the suspension tune to have half a chance of
keeping a pillion off the suspension stops over any hits.
Machines like the TR650 duo are not perhaps the most comfortable and
well-appointed mounts for long distance, all-roads touring compared to the big
jiggers like BMW’s R 1200 GS, KTM’s Adventure and Triumph’s Explorer etc. The
Husky is, however, infinitely more manageable off-road for those with limited
dirt experience, while also possessing the agility to take a skilled rider
across any terrain imaginable, at speed.
Plenty of hip-pocket-nerve conscious buyers will happily forego the creature
comforts of the big adventure-touring machines in favour of the affordable and
relatively lightweight Husky. That’s why there are already thousands of happy
punters on KLR650s and DR650s out there clocking up massive kilometres across
all sorts of terrain.
In the Husqvarna TR650 machines, that pair now have some real competition, and
unlike those long-running and very long-in-the-tooth stalwarts of this class,
the Husky benefits from the latest engine design and technology smarts to
overwhelmingly make their competitors look even more old hat than they already
did. At a price point that hopefully will force the Japanese brands to sharpen
their pencils further, revisit their own pricing strategies and offer even more
value to buyers. That sounds like a win-win scenario all round to me…