New motorcycles come and go. Parts are updated, designs change and colors come in and out of fashion, but motorcycles that really change things are few and far between. The 2024 Husqvarna TE300 will change things. This bike is new for 2024, and it arrives with Austrian siblings that collectively usher in a new era in two-strokes. Ironically, the truly faithful two-stroke fan is more or less a bystander in this revolution. The TE300 wasn’t necessarily made with him in mind.
TECHNOLOGY MOVES ON
The Husky TE300 is about as high-tech as a two-stroke can be. It has more gigabytes of processing power than a supercomputer from the early 2000s. That’s why hard-core two-stroke fans view it with trepidation. They have long waved the flag of simplicity and tradition. The TE300 still has all the same moving parts that two-strokes are supposed to have, but the underlying theme is not about simplicity and tradition. The days when you can tune the bike with a handful of jets are gone. The new TE motor uses the same technology that was introduced on the TC250 and TX300 competition bikes last year. A central processing unit orchestrates a complex dance involving the ignition, fuel injection and the electronic power valve. Sensors for crankcase pressure, air density, throttle position and rpm all play a role in the final result. In this case, the bike also has oil injection, which is another task handed over to the CPU. Last year’s transfer port injection might have seemed more unorthodox than the throttle-body injection now used, but it was actually a much simpler system. The most significant piece of the puzzle is the new electronic power valve, which is no longer an open-or-shut variable. It now has intermediate positions that offer new worlds of engine tuning.
At this point, there still isn’t much that the end user can do to alter any of the inner workings of the motor. There’s a map switch on the left side of the handlebar that allows a green map and a gray map; aggressive or mild. Obviously there are worlds of more complex possibilities, but Husqvarna isn’t comfortable with just anyone going in there and doing digital surgery. The aftermarket is, of course, on the case. There are piggyback EFI tuners from JD Jetting and Dobeck, and GET/Athena is already on the case.
THE TRAIL MISSION
Husqvarna views the TE as a trail bike. This year the mechanical differences between it and the TX300 cross-country racer are more significant than ever. It has a completely different top end in addition to the programming differences. If you are familiar with the TX300, you know why. That bike is a mauler. It has a ton of power, so much that it’s hard to find an off-road environment where you can even use the hard-hitting power of the green map. The gray map is where most riders leave it until it’s time to go racing.
The TE has a very different personality. The two maps are different, but even the aggressive one is smooth down low. When it approaches peak power, it’s more of a surge than a hit. On top it dies off a little early, but you see the end coming well in advance. It doesn’t just hit a rev limiter and suddenly shut off the faucet. It’s certainly not slow, but the power is so smooth and electric, you might be fooled into thinking it is.
In some ways, the TE is a very traditional 300 two-stroke. At low rpm it’s unstoppable. No matter how low you let the revs drop, it will recover as soon as you open the throttle. It absolutely won’t quit unless you deliberately try to stall out. In this issue we also test the Rieju 300MR, which is about as traditional as a 300 two-stroke gets. The two bikes are similar in their low-rpm capabilities but have a wildly different feel. The Rieju is a pulsing, pounding living thing. The Husky is so smooth, it feels more like it has an electric motor. In outright acceleration, the two bikes once again offer similar performance, but the Husky has less snarl and rumble. There’s very little vibration or noise. The only time that there’s a hint of rudeness is when you’re really misbehaving. If you over-rev the bike, chop the throttle, open the throttle and fan the clutch, at some point the motor will kind of burp. This is just a brief hesitation, and it recovers quickly, but it seems oddly out of character in a motor that otherwise has such neat table manners. There are no other surprises. The hydraulic clutch has a light pull and never fades, the electric starter is perfectly reliable, and the gearbox is crisp and easy.
CUSH VS. MUSH
This bike has the new Xact coil spring fork, but it’s still very soft. You get spoiled at low speed because the fork is cushy without any of the telltale characteristics of being overly soft. It doesn’t dive when you grab a handful of front brake and stays fairly level. At a faster pace, however, it does dive and create a rear-high feel. It particularly doesn’t like G-outs. You can bump up compression, and all it seems to do is lose some of that low-speed cushiness. The good news is that the fork has been around long enough that solutions are out there
The rear suspension is much more versatile. It does well in those slow-speed situations and handles rocks and roots, too, but then remains stable even at higher speeds and in rougher situations. Overall, the bike is very compliant. In the four-stroke world, this frame has been criticized for its harshness. It’s simply not an issue here. It also seems as if it’s a little lighter than the four-stroke version. Most of the motocross and cross-country bikes gained about 6 pounds with the new chassis.
The new TE300 weighs 236 pounds without fuel on our scale. That’s 1 pound heavier than last year’s TPI bike. Hardcore traditionalists will doubtlessly point out that the 2018 version with the carburetor was 231 pounds, and that the overall trend is in the wrong direction. Maybe so, but the new TE300 is still light-feeling and easy to manage. It’s narrow, and even the seat height is slightly lower than most 300s.
THE TWO-STROKE FACTOR
In this case, we can’t see any downside to the increase in sophistication. We like the fact that you don’t have to mix oil and gas. We like the fact that it doesn’t leak gas when you lay it over, and we like the fact that we don’t have to mess with jetting. Of course, we haven’t had the bike long enough to experience the dark side of technology. With the TPI bikes, we were at a loss when the EFI light started flashing mysterious codes. We eventually learned the weaknesses, we learned how it acted when things like crankcase sensors failed, and we learned what to do. That technology has passed into history now, and a new learning curve is ahead of us. For some, that alone is enough to condemn all technology. We’re not saying the purists are wrong, we’re just saying we love this bike.