In one year, Husqvarna moves a decade ahead

If you had been frozen in an iceberg for a decade and thawed out last year, you?d go nuts. Between the internet, freestyle motocross and four-stroke dirt bikes, the world would seem like a scary, weird place. For therapy, doctors would probably tell you that George Bush is the same guy and they would have you stare at 2000-model Husqvarna brochures. See, the world really is the same.

But by the time 2001 came around, you?d really lose it. Both George and the 2001 Husky 570 look, well, different. It?s a mind-bending thought, but yes, Husqvarna can change. The 2001 Husky four-stroke MXer has made more progress between 2000 and 2001 than it did in the previous 10 years. It?s about time. With four-strokes advancing every day, it was a case of move or die.

The guys who designed the original Husky four-stroke back in the early ?80s are probably bummed out. They were a decade and a half too early. Nowadays, most people give Husaberg the credit for beginning the thumper movement, when in fact the first Husaberg was a copy of a Husqvarna. Back when Husky was a Swedish company, the early 510TC was quite a mind blower. It was the lightest, most competitive four-stroke ever. But people didn?t get it. Why would you even bother building a four-stroke dirt bike?

Then the Italians took over and the Husky 510 became a 610 which was bigger, heavier and more four-stroke-like. It was lumped into the XR600 category and there it stayed for years. Husqvarna struggled as a company and wasn?t even imported a couple of years.
But now something is happening. Husqvarna is back in the U.S. with a real, live motocross team and some serious changes in the model line. In the four-stroke department, Husqvarna had to make serious decisions. Should the bike be tossed in the recycle bin or should the company make serious cash investments to update the existing machine? Husqvarna chose option B and invested heavily in the bike, which means this model will be around for a few years to come.

The reasons are obvious. If you were to design a new four-stroke from the ground up, what would you do differently? The original Husky motor was so far ahead of its time that it virtually was a 2000-era four-stroke. That motor had potential to be lighter and more powerful than a YZ motor. For 2001, Husqvarna built a new crank that shaved off considerable mass, and changed the cam and ignition mapping to give the bike more snap. Even though the model is now called a 570, the bore and stroke are unchanged. The 610 always measured 577cc. The bosses probably thought about making it into a 550 so that it would qualify for U.S. Nationals, but then the word came down that the rules were changing?the limit for a four-stroke in the 250 class would be lowered to 450 for 2001. KTM will have to scramble to come up with some new displacement for its race effort.

The engine cases are still rather long, which forces Husky to stick with the same frame design?an old single-backbone configuration which is about as diametrically opposed to a perimeter frame as possible. But again, there?s nothing inherently wrong with that design. The engineers just changed the steering geometry to bring it up to date and gave it a new shorter, lighter swingarm. A huge chunk of the investment went into plastic. The 570 has a new tank, seat, airbox and number plates. That?s incredibly expensive, which is why we are guessing that this bike will be around for some time to come. It was necessary, though, to bring the bike into the 21st century. There?s no way that ?80s ergonomics work in today?s market.

Our test bike came to us stock, with one exception. It already had a Pro Circuit T-4 stainless exhaust in place. We aren?t sure what that says about the stock exhaust (well, we have a good idea). Other than that, we used stock jetting, stock gearing and stock fork and shock springs throughout the test.

Don?t ride behind a Husky 570. It?s like facing a firing squad of potato cannons. The bike makes incredible, crazy torque. Consider it the absolute king of the four-stroke MX bikes in the power department?it makes more power than a KTM 520, more power than a VOR and way more power than a Yamaha. All of that is focused down low. There?s no real hit to the powerband, because in order to have a hit, there has to be some place in the revs where the bike doesn?t make power. Nope. The 570 makes kooky torque right from idle. It?s a ride-around-the-track-in-one-gear type of bike. Accordingly, the gearbox only has four speeds. For motocross, that?s three more than you need.

Well, if it?s a really fast track, you might use three gears. And if you go trail riding, you could use five or even six, like the cross-country version has. But for motocross on a tight track, it doesn?t take very much skill to use second or third for the entire moto. It does, however, take some skill to hold on. This is an Open-class motocross bike. And there?s a reason why the Open class is so small these days. This much power is hard to handle.

If you?ve ridden a 500cc two-stroke around a track lately, you know what we are talking about. There?s an adjustment period where your knuckles turn white, your eyes water up and you think there?s no possible way that you can take charge of this beast. But eventually, you get the hang of it. The Husky has much more throttle response and low-end snap than a 500cc two-stroke, although it might not have as much in the upper middle. Most of that snap is probably the result of the lighter crank, but still, the Husky is no more likely to stall than a YZ426 or a KTM.

The Husky isn?t a light bike. It weighs the same as a YZ, but feels heavier. The fact that it has so much power makes it a brute. On the other hand, riders who are familiar with the old 610 will think the 570 is a real featherweight. The lighter crank gives the bike less gyro feel?you know, that once-on-course-always-on-course sensation. Big, heavy cranks (and all those other spinning parts) are gyroscopes of a sort and make a bike act like a guided missile.

A big factor making the 570 more manageable is the new body work. What a relief! You can actually move around on the bike. In the old days, the dip in the Husky?s seat kept you locked in the middle of this enormous boat of a motorcycle. The new Husky doesn?t feel like a big steamship any more?maybe just a medium size tug boat. Throwing the Husky into a turn takes a little bit of strength. Okay, a lot of strength. But not to sound like a broken record, it?s a virtual scalpel in the turns compared to the old Husky.
Another huge leap forward for Husky is the suspension. For three years, the bike has had the oddest combination of components; a Marzocchi fork up front and a Sachs shock in the rear. What was really strange was that the Sachs shock wasn?t half bad. The fork was. For 2001, both ends are improved. The fork made the most progress, not surprisingly, because it had more room for improvement. The spring rate is in the hunt for normal motocross. When we tested the two-stroke MXers earlier this year, we were amazed that such soft spring rates were allowed past the factory gates. The four-stroke must have a different team of test riders, because for a 160-pound expert-level rider, the rate is about perfect. Bottoming only happens when the bike should bottom. Our only complaint is that the front end is busy. In rough terrain under acceleration, the front end skips around and deflects. Changes in damping have virtually no effect. When it comes to absorbing holes, whoops and jump landings, though, the fork is good?the best Marzocchi ever.

The rear is busy too, but in a different way. The standard settings (14 low-speed, 1-1/2 high-speed, 17 rebound) seem a little underdamped on the track. Don?t give it the in-the-pits test by just pushing down on the seat and watching it return. That?s misleading. The bike seems overdamped, if anything. By the time you have the low-speed on nine and the rebound on 12, the shock feels like it?s filled with syrup in the pits, but works fine on the track. Working with the Sachs shock is odd, but eventually we were able to get it right on the money. Don?t be afraid to try strange settings that wouldn?t work on other bikes.

This is not a Japanese bike. In some ways that?s good, in others it?s bad. Starting, for instance, is inconsistent. Once you think you have the drill figured out, it changes. One big disadvantage to keeping those old engine cases is that the kickstarter is on the left side, which is outright Communism to most riders.

On the other hand, Husky is the only company that really gives you the best of both worlds. Euro bikes have expensive rims, levers, handlebars and sprockets, but are usually roughly made with crusty forgings and leaky gaskets. Japanese bikes are cleanly made and well designed but have throw-away graphics and cheap components. Huskys have all the expensive parts, plus you would swear that the engine castings came from Japan. The only non-Euro item is the cable-pull clutch. But the clutch pull is actually lighter than that of KTM?s hydraulic clutch.

Right now, the four-stroke motocross world is divided. Yamaha and KTM are in a category by themselves as four-strokes that two-stroke guys can love. Then there are others like VOR and Husaberg, which are a little rougher and more old world. The Husky falls evenly between the two camps. We don?t think that hordes of Yamaha riders will run feverishly toward Husky dealers. But there might be handful out there who want more power and are willing to build bigger muscles in exchange. The Husqvarna is for them.


Comments are closed.