In the off-road arena, two-strokes have maintained a firm grasp on the hard-core world of nasty riding. With less weight, a lighter feel from less rotating mass and easy starting, two-stroke off-road machines do very well. So why doesn’t everyone offer one? Is there a reason that KTM, Yamaha and now Husqvarna are the main players in this category? It’s simple, really. The “Big Four” fought for a four-stroke-only world, but when the other brands abandoned the two-stroke, KTM saw it as an opportunity to fill the void. Eventually, after KTM proved there was a market for two-strokes, Yamaha got in the game and is now a serious contender, as evidenced by the new YZ250X. KTM still owns the market, but Yamaha and now Husqvarna are clawing for traction. In the world of off-road extreme riding, the 300cc engine size has the ability to dig low and chew with more grit, and therefore sits atop the world of the tight, tough and brutal.
Enter the 2016 Husqvarna TE300, a machine from an historic company with advanced technology.
The heart and soul of the Husky is the 300cc two-stroke engine. The bore and stroke is a square 72mm by 72mm (whereas the 250 is 66.4mm by 72mm), and the six-speeder features an adjustable mapping switch, an adjustable power valve (via spring changes), a Boyesen reed valve, a Keihin carburetor (36mm) and a tuned exhaust system that is relatively quiet, though it does lack a spark arrestor. The Brembo hydraulic clutch has a light pull, and the engine is fit with both a kickstarter and a button/electric start. Husqvarna claims that the 300 puts out 54 horsepower.
As with the entire Husky line, the frame is chromoly steel that is laser-cut and robot-welded by WP Performance Systems (yes, the same boys who handle the suspension). They prefer the steel chassis for its combination of torsional rigidity and proper flex that helps to absorb impacts and give greater feedback to the pilot. The subframe is a lightweight, three-piece polyamide system that offers enhanced flex over traditional aluminum. The result is increased feel and comfort. There are grab handles in the subframe, and it has an integrated airbox equipped with a quick-detach entrance and filter removal. A lot of effort went into the swingarm design, a single component that eliminates welding, and is more reliable and increases feedback to the rider.
As for suspension, Husky has fit all of its machines, both off-road and moto, with linkage. Now in its third year of development, the rear linkage on the Husqvarna enduro lets the machine settle and feel planted, yet has the ability to accept continuous input. The DCC (Dual Compression Control) rear shock made by WP has a damping arrangement that allows the new valving to match the geometry and setup changes on the front end. The TE300 is fit with a new 22mm front axle with new fork legs. The new axle is lighter, and the fork legs have shorter offset and increased trail for more stability and better front-end feel. Husky uses CNC-machined triple clamps with a 22mm offset on all its bikes. The reduction in trail balances the increased trail brought about by the new front axle and fork legs, keeping the balance point optimal for agility and stability.
With the new offset of the triple clamp and fork legs, the 4CS setup has been revised to work with the new geometry. The four-chamber 4CS fork has received some criticism, but motocrossers have more issues with the system than off-roaders. Last year’s 4CS had overly soft damping, and adding compression (an easy task since the single adjuster is on the top left side of the fork) really didn’t fix the problem, as the adjuster mainly affects high-speed damping. Since our issues were with normal trail abuse, we wanted a clicker that helped with slow- and mid-speed damping adjustments. This year Husky modified the valving, but more on that later.
Husky fits its TE with some cool off-road stuff, such as the large 2.9-gallon tank, enduro lighting, a compact yet easy-to-read odometer, Neken bulge bars, comfy Husky grips and hand shields that mount at the pivot so they’re strong. The sidestand is tidy and tucks in nicely. The air filter is easy to access. The D.I.D. wheels are strong. The Dunlop AT81 tires are top-notch grippers, and the new GKS brake rotors match to Brembo brakes, which are now considered the best in the business.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
STARTING: This machine starts ridiculously easily. Poke a button and go. You can kick-start it easily as well, and it bump starts with nearly zero run. Still, the button start and immediate gratification work for us.
POWER: The TE300 makes a tremendous statement down low; it gets out of the hole smoothly and with authority. This enhanced bottom power targets hard-edged off-road terrain, where lugging and making traction equal forward momentum. The jetting is crisp enough; we don’t like it too perfect, as that seems to clean out the good four-stroke feel of a well-jetted 300. This bike tractors yet makes muscle in mid- to lower-top power that is substantial and beefy. It doesn’t yank into infinity but prefers shifting into the proper power range. The adjustable mapping switch has two modes—stock and boost. We like the stock mode for all trail, desert and enduro terrain. The boost mode is better for moto excursions and hill-climbing.
GEARBOX: It’s a six-speeder with kind of a low initial cog. Second through fifth are spaced well for trail work. Sixth is tall enough to pull some top speed. Overall, it’s an excellent combination, especially when you consider the Brembo hydraulic clutch, which has excellent action, engagement and an easy pull.
FORK: Overall, the 4CS forks get a B rating this year. The feel is plush, and the bottoming resistance is quite good. Husky improved the soft feel through the mid damping, although twisting the clicker still works mainly with high-speed hits—and that isn’t a priority for trail riding. A GNCC star might embrace this kind of damping control, but we’d like it a bit more usable for the average Joe. We kept our compression settings at #7–#10.
SHOCK: Overall, the action is excellent. It’s responsive on little hack and roots without shimmying wildly under acceleration, and it stays up pretty well under hard throttle, making traction and giving good feedback to the rider (although adding compression damping— low speed—tended to thicken up the action and make it less responsive). Adding high speed (1/4 turn at a time) definitely keeps the rear end from drooping, though it can make it very hacky and harsh if you go too far. Note: if you’re over 185 pounds, plan to get a heavier spring.
HANDLING: Good marks for flick and feel, though we did have some complaints about ergos. Being able to set the bars forward or back is superb, but the tank felt a little wide, and the saddle sloped away, making it tough to stay forward. The fact that the seat cover is still way too slick doesn’t help, either. Still, this machine has really good trail manners, accepts lots of nasty input and stays straight and true through the majority of it. The suspension balance is a plus. Cornering is okay, as long as you get the front firm enough to resist droop and the right amount of rebound in the rear so that it won’t throw too much load onto the fork. On the good side, the fork is adjustable by hand and the rear with a slot screwdriver.
PIECES OF EIGHT: In spite of the almost 3.0-gallon fuel tank, the mileage is actually pretty grim. Ten years ago we wouldn’t have commented on this, but today’s fuel-injected four-strokes get considerably better mileage than this 300 two-stroke, so it’s worth noting now.
The tires and brakes are pretty wonderful. The Dunlop AT81s are excellent (especially the rear), and the brakes are incredibly strong and have a good feel.
This bike needs a spark arrestor. We give top marks to the FMF 2.1 series, because they are legal and quiet.
Keep an eye on the rear spokes right around the rim lock. They’ll loosen and vanish if you don’t maintain a good tightening schedule.
Top marks for the rear Supersprox sprocket. The hybrid aluminum/steel unit is excellent.
The plastic skid plate offers just enough protection. Hard-core desert riders will demand an aluminum unit, but for the woods guys, the stocker is right-on.
Once again, Husky gets awards for excellent-running hardware. We already talked about the Supersprox sprocket, but the X-ring chain and plastic chainguide are off-road musts.
Kudos to the adjustability at the front brake and clutch levers (finger adjustable!) and at the rear brake pedal where both pedal height and the amount of play can be altered.
PLAYING IN THE SANDBOX
The Husky TE300 is one of our top picks for Bike of the Year—again. It’s equipped with a magic motor, a well-rounded and broad-based powerband, electric starting, handling manners that work for off-road and suspension that does its job. It won’t shy away from anything extreme and loves the world of play riding. The bottom line is that it’s pretty tough to get any better than this. o
Engine type: Single cylinder, 2-stroke engine
Bore & stroke: 72.0mm x 72mm
Fuel delivery: Keihin 36mm
Fuel tank capacity: 2.9 gal. (11 l)
Spark arrester: No
EPA legal: No
Running weight, no fuel: 230.2 lb.
Wheelbase: 58.5″ (1485mm)
Ground clearance: 13.9″ (355mm)
Seat height: 37.8″ (960mm)
Tire size & type:
Front: 90/90-21 Dunlop AT81
Rear: 110/80-18 Dunlop AT81
Front: WP 4CS, adj. reb./comp., 11.84″
Rear: WP aluminum piggyback, adj. prld,
hi & lo comp., reb., 11.8″ (300mm) travel
Country of origin: Austria
Suggested retail price: $8899