Tag Archives: BMW Sertao 650

Morocco: 1000 miles on a Husky TR650 Terra

Since writing this I got myself a broadly similar BMW 650X Country then went off big singles

hs1

I organised a short tour in Morocco renting bikes from Loc2Roues in Marrakech. The ride report with lots of photos is here.
With their BMW XCountrys no longer offered, I picked a 13,000km-old Husky Terra for myself, a bike I took for a quick spin in London last year. You may want to read that to get some background info on the TR and it’s competitors. Previously I’ve ridden an XT660Z Tenere in Morocco and a BMW F650GS twin last year.

Terra in a line
Brilliant canyon carver, but hard work on the dirt beyond fire roads and too juicy for long range travel.

Liked
Soundtrack
Power
Seating position
Brakes while they worked
Gearchange
Robustness

Didn’t Like (excluding delivery faults)
Dashboard
Weight and suspension on rockier tracks

As we know, since then Husqvarna was flogged by BMW, production stopped and they’re discounting the remaining stock, including the TR650 Terra and Strada for as little as £4500 new in the UK. At that price you wonder if it’s a viable contender as a travel bike.
I gave that some thought over a 1000 miles of bendy Moroccan roads and mountain pistes, riding with a Sertao, some XR250s plus an unexpected a car carrying the baggage. Because of that this isn’t the usual review based on self-sufficient travel, but you’ll get the gist.

Comfort
The Husky comes rather naked for long highway rides, but perhaps because I was having such a blast, on the road over 2-300km days I found the seating position no great problem. The whole set up suited my 6′ 1″ height. Vibration is something that’s only just occurred to me so that’s not a problem either. A stepped seat can limit moving about but never caused soreness, although after a while it helped to stretch the legs forward on top of the crash bars. I never had a pillion on the back for long but I imagine it’s not such a cushy perch out back. If the bike was high, I can’t say I noticed with the getting on and off, as I did on the Tenere.
With the bike unloaded, the suspension is certainly on the hard side but that must have reaped benefits in the bends on the road. I didn’t meddle with it or even look to see if that was possible.

Economy
HS03I knew the Terra would be the thirstiest of the bunch and my fuel consumption came in at:
76 mpUKg – bendy mountain roads
62.5 – flat road
58.5 – backroads and gnarly piste
75 – fast twisties
67.5 – tricky mountain pistes (ave: 67.9)
90 – (may have miscalc’d) easier mountain  piste and road.
A fuel converter for US gals and kpl is here.
Generally the XR250s and the Sertao were 20% better.

In 1000 miles no oil was used that I could tell. Never even thought to check the water and even without oiling the chain hung in there.

Performance
HS12The Husky comes with some noticeable poke which adds up to more than just the rorty pipe with a crisp response that reminded me of a TT600. It made the bike a whole lot of fun to ride on the road. Even then I rarely felt the need to rev it much over 5000 rpm to crack on. It’s really more power than you need on a travel bike where economy is a priority, but it sure is nice to play with. And all this was with the efi hesitating from low rpms, something I just got used to. On the dirt the road tyres made pulling away smoothly a bit tricky, but you just spin until the bike caught up with the tyre.
The ABS wasn’t working but the single front and rear brakes were fine until the front went soggy following an early puncture. We gave it a partial bleed after which it was good enough. The back tended to lock up, especially when panicking on the dirt, but that was not helped by the mushy front end. For the short time the both were working the balance seemed fine. No need for double discs as on the Yam Tenere.
The suspension felt hard front and back: good for the road, less good when going slow on the dirt where with the tyres it was hard to push the bike too far. The stiffness gave the bike and rider quite a hammering but amazingly nothing broke on the bike.

hs-gasroad

I was filming this bit; what a shame the wind drowns out the Husky’s stirring soundtrack.

Road riding
The Terra had a Dunlop Trailmax radial on the back and something similar on the front. Despite the lame front brake and stuttering efi I don’t recall having so much fun on a bike in years. Warm, sunny weather with dry, empty roads and no luggage all helped rekindle a rediscovery of the raw joys of biking. Even with the large front wheel the Husky makes a shit hot canyon bike: pipe, brakes, firm springs and a lithe build all add up to  thrills without the need crazy speeds. The Strada version comes with a 19-inch front, but with a 17 on the front it might even give a KTM Duke something to think about and costs £2000 less.
hs-gashavenI’m not an especially fluid road rider but I’ll long associate this Terra with chasing Andy on the Sertao from Tazenacht up to Gas Haven, playing the box and the pipe on a blast down the Todra Gorge, leaving the other bikes far behind while launching off the concrete ramps in the fords. And the final day swinging left and right and left around the hundreds of bends up and over the Tichka pass back to Marrakech, passing overloaded DRs and GS trundling southwards. Never mind the piste and adventure motorcycling, Morocco’s deserted southern blacktop is a fabulous place for a sporty road ride.

HS11

Off road riding
All that sporty taughtness unravels a bit on the dirt, especially rocky Moroccan tracks. First piste we took just made me feel sorry for the beating the bike was getting (it soon undid a puncture repair from the previous day). And while they proved to be much better than expected in the dry conditions, the road tyres held you back. On the toughest climb, controlling the weight of the Terra’s mass rebounding off football-sized rocks was exhausting and required drenched backed, dry-mouthed rest stops every couple of kms, while the XRs tiptoed up without a worry. You’d hope more sophisticated after-market springs might make the bike more manageable here but the old Sertao was substantially worse. The fan came on a few times on this climb, but overheating didn’t cause the efi to flip out like it did on the BMW 650 twin last year.
As usual, high and wide lower gearing mean you had two speeds on the dirt; second and first for steep descents with brakes. I didn’t record a speed but tickover in first was just too fast at times for the terrain.

Equipment
hy-clocks
I didn’t get on with the digi speedo or dashboard. Rpm was very clear of course but the speed reading was only sometimes legible in the sunlight while the other numerical data was way too small to read on the move. The seat lock was broken on my bike but there was a wire to pull and if the Terra has a toolkit, I never found it.
Didn’t need the rack much but good to know it’s there and my rental bike came with engine bars, a bash plate, Barkbusters and bar risers which made standing just right as the knees tucked in the narrow waist (unlike the Sertao). I never clanged the bash plate.
The lights were on full-time and survived the beating better than the other bikes, but I never got to try them out in the dark.
HS02I wired up my own 12 volt PTO plug directly from the battery for the satnav which I eventually mounted over the dashboard on a piece of foam with rubber bands.
I was having so much fun I neglected to check the odometer reading against the satnav as I usually do, but at one point I noticed the XR had recorded 185km alongside the Terra’s 195km.

Durability
It was only 10 days on a 13,000 rental bike but I suspect not too many have taken it on the dirt in that time. Nevertheless it stood up to the beating very well when you think of the weight of it and typical rental user profile. Yes the seat lock was broken, so was the ABS for some reason; the dodgy  fuelling could be diagnosed out I imagine.

Terra in a line
Brilliant canyon carver, but hard work on the dirt beyond fire roads and too juicy for long range travel.

Liked
Soundtrack
Power
Seating position
Brakes while they worked
Gearchange
Robustness

Didn’t Like (excluding delivery faults)
Dashboard
Weight and suspension on rockier tracks

HS07

Compared to the Sertao
hs-sertThe well-used Sertao (45,000km) was much more comfy on the road and more economical overall and so makes a better travel bike. Supposedly there’s only 6kg difference, but the BMW feels more like 20 kilos heavier on the dirt, although the softer power was easier to use. Standing up was awkward because of the wide underseat tank. A barely experienced rider on the tour preferred the Sertao to the TR. It had better clocks, cushy seat, amazing economy and a bit of a screen. If only it could lose a couple of stone.

… and the XR250
hs-xr25Amazingly, on the road the Brazilian-built 250 XR Tornados (3LA5 model) held their own up to, but couldn’t sustain the pace through the mountains. Having said that, at one point Andy was flying on the Husky down a tough mountain piste on which I was unwilling to catch up on the XR, even with a front knobbly. The engine just purred like only a Honda can, brakes were great, and at least 10 inches of suspension. Dashboard was a bit of an enduro computer job I didn’t get to grips with, but stood up on the dirt the XR’s slides and skips were all just part of a ride rather than giving you a fright.
Compared to the CRF 250L I had earlier in the year, the XR felt at least as good and lighter. The carb fuelled fine up to 2200m (7000′) and returned up to 100mpg, hitting less than 70mpg only once. The gearbox was silky and the electric start was a treat. More…

Husqvarna TR650 Terra – quick spin

November 2013: 1000 miles on a TR650 Terra in Morocco
Jan 2015 – It seems these Huskys may be being reborn by Shineray under the old SWM brand.

As long as it’s smooth, a big single comes close to the optimal configuration for a do-it-all travel bike, especially if you intend to  ride dirt roads occasionally. You’ve enough power to pull a load, the economy to carry it a long way, and all without too much mass making the rig hard to handle on muddy or sandy tracks. And these days efi has managed to introduce smoothness and hopefully seamless starting too.

huskbroI’ve done Sahara trips riding, or riding with just about every big four-stroke single going, so when I read of Husqvarna’s new TR650 Terra and Strada I was curious to see if I might like to add one to that list. There are no press bikes in the UK for a couple of months so I paid up and took a short test ride from a BMW dealer in central London. FYI, this review adds up to no more than an hour’s ride around west London on a 650 Terra.

I’ve never owned a Husky, but it’s quite likely that in their 1970s heyday they were a better known brand in the US than the UK. I recall in the late 70s and early 80s reading in Dirt Bike magazine about US enduro champion Dick Burleson’s epic annual battles with the Blackwater 100 enduro aboard a two-stroke Husky 390WR (below left). And a few years earlier we had no less than Malcolm Smith, flat tracker Mert Lawill and the ‘Cooler King’ Steve McQ (all flying above left) hooning around in On Any Sunday – a film so good I’m going to slap in a clip right here. In fact his 400 Crosser (right) was up for auction soon after I wrote this.

Globalise it Husqvarna is the name of the former Swedish maker of off-road competition racers who were bought off Italian owners Cagiva (MVA) by BMW in 2007; it’s said to give the German marque a bit of dirt bike credibility. Then in early 2013, in the course of realignment towards urban mobility and nothing less than e-mobility, BMW Motorrad sold the brand to Pierer Industrie AG, a private company owned by Stefan Pierer, the CEO of KTM. As things stand Huskies continue to be made in northern Italy, with the new TRs using the Chinese-assembled 650 engine made by Rotax that appears in BMW’s Sertao and GS650G among others, two models more or less separated by wheel size with the implied trail- or road bike use. It’s a common ploy these days; use one motor/chassis platform to sell two or more options.

The two TRs are in this mold; identical frames and motors with the road-oriented Strada running 19/17 cast wheels and tubeless tyres (left) and the Terra trail bike with 21/18-inch spoked rims. In the UK the Strada gets ABS as standard; on the Terra it’s an option. Most expect the Terra will be the better selling of the two, although I’ve found a 19-inch front wheel rides fine on the sort of unsealed roads you do when overlanding. I believe tubeless tyres are better too. Don’t think you’ll be doing the modern version of the Blackwater 100 on a Terra just because it has a 21-inch front wheel.

Replace ‘X’ with TR? I wondered whether the two Husky TRs were reiterations of the failed X-series of 650-single BMWs from around the time BMW bought Italian-owned Husky in 2007.

That may be the vague idea, but in fact the new TRs bear a closer resemblance to a previous Husqvarna, the 2010 TE630 (right: 160kg wet; up to 57hp claimed; £6200 in 2010). Only now they’ve moved away from the TE’s off-roader attributes towards a trail and road bike using a significantly worked over BMW engine, which may help explain the drop in price.

Using this same base engine, in this respect the Terra would compare with the old X-challenge (left, on the gnarly MH5 piste in Morocco) while the Strada would equate with a 19-inch X-country. In AMH, Walter ‘Sibersky’ Colebatch describes the substantial mods he made to his air-shocked X-challenge to create a hardcore overlander, while I myself might have erred towards a tubeless 19-inch X-country.

I still haven’t got to the bottom of why the X bikes were a flop other than perhaps looks and that buyers didn’t associate BMW with light trail bikes. As far as I know it certainly wasn’t down to a disastrous reliability record out of the crate. I always thought BMW gave up on the Xs too soon – or did so to focus attention on the new 800cc twins which came out around that time (and initially had more teething problems than a chocolate gearbox).

According to the power specs issued on the TRs’ launch in Spain a couple of months ago, the Huskies both claim a notably higher 58hp over the 650GS BMWs’ 48hp, but for many the weight specs were disappointing. At 186kg a Terra with the ABS option is said to weigh just 6 kilos less than the portly Sertao (right) and some 26kg more than the preceding TE. The old BMW X-challenge with its air suspension but no ABS clocked in at just 156kg wet. And yet looking at a Sertao while sat on the Terra in BMW Park Lane’s underground hangar, it’s hard to believe there’s only 6kg or 13lbs in it. The Terra is slinky slim alongside the Sertao – like an old TT600 sat by a Tenere. And it can’t be that the motor is inherently heavy if they managed to get an X-challenge some 30 kilos lighter. This all assumes the factory figures are correct – one day some diligent publication will spend some quality time with a pair of scales. Yes we all know that the weight of something even as large as a GSA1200 magically evaporates once on the move along a nice road, but in the real word of overlanding there will be muddy diversions or gravel track opportunities where that weight (combined with tyre choice) becomes very much apparent. When the going gets tough, weight does matter.

Claimed kerb weights (wet) • TR650 Terra 186kg (with ABS) • BMW Sertao 192kg • Yamaha XT600R 181kg (no ABS) • BMW X-Challenge 156kg (discontinued) • Husqvarna TE630 160kg (discontinued)
The KLR650, and pre-Cambrian DR650 and XR650L continue to be churned out for the US and maybe other markets.

Testing testing
Like I say I’d sooner run a 19-inch front-tyred bike for long distance travels which are mostly roads, but figured more would be interested to read about the Terra. Apart from appearance, only the handling would differ; according to the specs seat height is just half an inch and non adjustable.

Manoeuvring out onto Park Lane, first impressions where of a slim, small bike with what felt like an oddly heavy front end. That and the conspicuous thud from the high-compression engine. High comp motors don’t do so well with low octane fuel out in the world, but up to a point modern computerised ignition and efi systems can cope with it. As for the heavy front, I don’t know if the Sachs UPDs and the rim are cheap items, but at least they’ve not lumbered the TRs with an unnecessary second front disc as on Yamaha’s Tenere. Even at 180 kilos, a bike can surely manage with a single, well calibrated front disc, especially when you have ABS as a back up.

The Terra is as slim as a rake (right) – my knees were about 8 inches apart which gave confidence to split the West End traffic like a pushbike. Even the pipes are slim and tucked in, compared to some cans you get. The Terra’s agile dimensions and snappy engine helps here too in a point-and-squirt sort of way, while popping on the over-run as some efi does. The high-comp blat reminding me of a TT600 from years back.

I pulled over in the park to have a closer look over the TR650. There’s really not much to it; you can see they’ve equipped it down to a price (the rack – more below – is about the sum of it) although the fit and finish were of a high standard compared to some Jap bikers I’ve owned.

The dashboard has the usual array of Christmas lights which chime up on ignition as the rev counter needle does its sweep. The salesman had inadvertently set it up to read kilometres and I couldn’t work out how to reset to mph without RTFM. (The salesman also said one of the menu buttons was a redundant ‘mapping’ button, although the LCD on the right indicated an enigmatic ‘Map II’…). All I could do was scroll the LCD read-out below the speedo between temperature, trip and odometer. A light also comes on when ambient temperature nears freezing, you need a service or the fuel gets low. The ABS can be disengaged in the usual way with a button on the bars (right).  I was also pleased to see non-BMW indicator switchgear: left, right and press to cancel like my aged Suzuki. The radiator (left) is wide and when you fall hard the plastic wing scoops may not protect it.

Where trail bikes or 21-inch-tyred bikes with high mudguards often lose their composure is at higher speeds, so I swung up onto the urban Westway freeway to see how the Terra responded. Back in my despatching days this was always a welcome blast out from the heart of town. Up to around 70 the Terra felt stable, though of course without any protection, sitting like that for a while would have its limits. The step-free MX-style seat plank felt firm, though as we know it takes an hour or two for a saddle’s true measure to shine through too. As in town, out on the flyover’s expansion joints the suspension felt reassuringly firm, but I don’t recall seeing any adjustment other than preload and maybe damping on the back. When needed, the brakes pulled the big single up sharply, though with suspension dive I couldn’t manage to get the front to ABS. Again, as in town at lower speeds the five speed gear change was slick and notch free. And on the short high-speed run along the flyover I can’t say I noticed any vibration from the seat or even the tell-tale mirrors. Despite its high-comp motor, this must be one of the smoothest big singles around which bodes well for long-range comfort. My test bike had 19 miles on the clock.

Further down the A40 I pulled over again for another look over the bike. The lack of  any protection around the engine jumps out at you – though of course a bashplate will be on the options list which includes luggage, a tiny fly screen, hand guards, heated grips and other stuff (see below). With drain plugs (below right), oil lines and exposed brake linkages (left), you’d think a chunky bash plate is one thing they could slap on, out of the crate, if for no other reason than to make the Terra look the part, alongside the Strada.

Oddly, the Terra never starts first dab of the button as you’d assume efi bikes would; it takes a few churns. It stalled on me only once. Unexplained stalling was the bane of the early F650s and could be extremely dangerous when it happened as you pulled out onto a major road. Big singles especially seem prone to efi anomalies – the big swept volume of the single cylinder makes it tricky to get it right first time, though it can be done (on an XT660Z for example, despite ropey fueling on earlier 660 XTs). Trickling through traffic on a near-closed throttle I did detect a very slight unevenness, but nothing as bad as has been said of the previous TE630 – or on my carb’d GS500 for that matter. And though I’ve not read up on it yet, there’s been a lot of talk about hot-starting issues with the new Sertao; you’d hope Husqvarna have worked around that using their own efi and ignition combination.

On the back what feels like an alloy rack doubles as a pillion grip and baggage loop, but it hangs way out behind the fixtures; a weighty box combined with a sudden thud might just snap it. As mentioned, the Terra appears a basic package after looking over the better equipped Sertao back at the shop. Even with its comparatively flabby looks, it did look like you get more of a bike with the Sertao, especially when I was told by the salesman they were about the same price.

In fact the original price difference was huge – at £6700 the Sertao costs some 28% more than a Terra without ABS at £5271. ABS manages to raise that by a rather staggering £700 to £5971 – making the Sertao now 13% pricier. Factor in the Sertao’s screen, fatter seat, thin bash plate and hand guards and you may still be ahead with a Terra if choosing better or better value third party equipment as opposed to what are often lame or over-priced OE accessories (see below).

In the UK, at around £5300 the Husky Terra matches up very well against say, Yamaha’s  XT660R at £6500 (right). There’s no ABS and the weight is similar at a claimed 181kg while making only 47hp on the 10:1 compression ratio (actually better for running on low octane fuel). If you can live without the ABS, the grand-plus saved over the XT or Sertao buys a lot of equipment for a Terra. First though, I’d like to be sure that seat delivers the miles. Cushier looking pads such as on the BMW twin I rode in Morocco proved to be a disaster.

The 14-litre under-seat tank (left, filled up from a conventionally located filler cap) is the same size as on the Sertao and so is difficult or costly to enlarge, but at what you’d expect will be a reliable 23kpl (65 mpg UK) it should be good for over 300km or nearly 200 miles. Another 3 or 4 litres would see it up to my overlanding benchmark of 400km/250 miles.

So at around five grand in the UK or under $7000 in the US they’ve pitched the Terra as a minimally equipped, budget priced, big single trail bike with an exotic Nordic pedigree and the highest power in its class. For overlanding the same-engined Sertao may be better equipped, but that comes at quite a premium, while losing the Terra’s perceived agility.

The British press have been typically lukewarm about the new Huskies, but in the US they seem to get it as a close competitor to their ageing KLRs and DRs. This massive Adv Rider thread has plenty to read, including recent owners’ reports, and there’s more TR chat on this thread at Cafe Husky. Official parts are listed on the right – or click this.

Me, what I’d like to see is a direct competitor to a Tenere, KLR or the old KTM 640 Adventure; a big tanked, out-of-the-crate overlander with an all-day seat and the necessary protection from wind, rocks and falls (a bit like this mock up).

It’s unlikely Husqvarna are going to go that way, but at the currently reasonable price without the ABS, you do have something a bit pokier and different from the usual XTs, BMWs and (in the US) KLRs, XRLs and DRs. Just remember in the UK the Italian-built Tenere was a £4500 bargain when it came out in 2008 – now it’s £7k…

It’s a shame that turning the Husky TE into a TR added so much weight without any noticeable substance, but as on a Tenere if that means a chunkier, load-carrying steel frame, then it’s weight in the right place. It’s hard to think where else it can be on the Terra. As one guy on Adv observed “Maybe this is good enough with the typical $2000 thrown at it…”

Husqvarna TR650 Terra specs UK price: £5271 (with ABS, £5971) Engine: single cylinder, liquid cooled, dohc 4v, 652cc Power: 58bhp  @ 7250rpm Alternator output: 400w Torque: 44lb.ft (60Nm) @ 5750rpm Economy: 66mpg (23.4km/l, 4.3l/100km, 55mpg US) (at 75mph/120kph) Fuel range: 3.1 gallon (14 litres, 3.7 gallons US) / 200 miles (320km) Seat height: 33.9in (860mm) Terra: 34.4in (875mm) Wheelbase: 59.1in (1501mm) Weight: 410lb (186kg) wet with ABS
Like
Looks
Smooth, responsive engine
ABS and brakes
Firm suspension
No detectable vibration at speed
Slick gear change
Slim profile
Competitive price
Useful rack
Lump
Heavy, for what it is
At the very least, needs engine protection
Needs a windscreen too – OE accessory fly screen looks way too small
Tank a bit small.

Husqvarna Baja

If you’ve managed to read this far, hang around and check out the Husqvarna Baja retro desert racer. The concept bike from early 2012 is here and the top pic below. Then in November 2012 at the Milan Show Cycle World, among others, reported on a street-ready Baja with all the necessary paraphernalia and twin pipes. There are several more studio pix of the street scrambler on the BMW press site where you can be assured that ‘the multi-section architecture of the body displays a very clear, purist style’. Now you know.

Looks good and low with a fat 19 on the pointy end (I told you 19s are the future!) and retro Husky styling, but with the BMW engine and chassis from the TRs. Had Husky not folded it seems likely the Baja will have reached the US where Husky is better known. But, like the Yamaha Ryoku, it looks like just another interesting concept bike that will never make it to the showrooms. Good on Husky for joining the retro bandwagon with an original and cool looking machine.