Husqvarna TE300i Review – The new benchmark for enduro ?

In Motorcycle Reviews by Julian

Go back ten years and the paddocks and car parks of every enduro event and trail ride would be filled with a sea of orange. From 125s to 500s KTMs were the bike of choice. But things have changed, and now if somebody arrives on a new bike, chances are that it will be white and what’s more, it’ll be a two stroke. Fuel injection has bought a new era to off-road strokers and at the top of the pile is the all-new Husqvarna TE300i.

We had to test one ….

Husqvarna TE300i
IS THE HUSQVARNA TE300i THE NEW BOSS? IMAGE H MITTERBAUER / KTM

To say that Husqvarna are on the way back to the top in off-road motorcycling would be a massive understatment. KTM’s revitalisation of the classic brand has been a masterclass in marketing, taking the formerly Swedish marque from BMW and putting it back on the map like never before.

In AMA Supercross they already have one 250 title in the bag thanks to Zach Osborne and if the season pans out as it has been, Jason Anderson looks likely to bring them the coveted 2018 premier class title.

In enduro and hard enduro, Huskies are back on the podium across the world and if that wern’t enough, the white bikes are also making serious inroads into the rally championships.

In commercial terms, the fact that Husqvarnas are constantly increasing their market share compared to sister brand KTM is far from accidental. KTM have simply restricted the availability of the orange bikes and as the two brands are are very, very similar and Huskies are the new and exciting bike to own, buyers have willingly jumped ship and gone white.

It’s a pretty unique and enviable situation for the Austrian brand to be in …

THE ENGINE

OK so although there are all kind of sweet details and innovative technology on the Husky, by far and away the star of the show is the motor.  KTM’s two-stroke lumps have always been super-strong and reliable, helping them to multiple world championships in off-road sport.

Naturally the new breed Husqvarnas have shared motors with the KTMs since the takeover – not one former Husky or BMW era bike or motor, whether two or four stroke, was carried forward after the buyout.

So the 250 / 300 motor was a great unit to start with, but the new generation unit that came to KTM EXCs for 2017 model year raised the bar again. The motor was much more compact, the mass was centralised but more importantly, the engineers had fitted a counterbalance shaft which transformed the usually buzzy and vibey power plant to something that was every bit as powerful, but now so much smoother.

Husqvarna TE300i engine
THE TWO STROKE MOTOR IS SUPER COMPACT.  IMAGE H MITTERBAUER / KTM

 

But that was always going to be the prelude to the main feature, because the step that has taken the KTMs and Husqvarna two-strokes to the next level is ditching the carbs, binning the pre-mix and fitting the engines with fuel injection. And not only that, it’s completely different to four-stroke EFI systems  –  it’s the oil and air that enters through the 39mm throttle body while the petrol is injected direct into the transfer ports at the back of the cylinder through two injectors.

The new system means that the bikes ECU can judge just how much oil the bike needs and deliver just that amount, significantly reducing oil consumption and cleaning up combustion. The 700cc capacity oil tank is built into the down tube of the bike’s frame and there’s a low level warning light to tell you it’s time to top up – which will not be that often!

The days of a set pre-mixed fuel ratio regardless of whether you are riding flat out in the outback or trickling slowly through tight single trail are gone, This is the future and it looks good.

Husqvarna TE300i engine
THE PIPES AT THE BACK OF THE CYLINDER ARE FOR THE PETROL, THE THROTTLE BODY HANDLES OIL AND AIR.  IMAGE H MITTERBAUER / KTM

 

With the new EFI system taking centre stage,  the spec on the rest of the engine is fairly unremarkable in comparison with most components coming from the same parts bin as the  250 and 300 KTM. The bike displaces293.2 cc using a square bore and stroke of 72mm. There’s a six speed gearbox lurking behind the cases and the clutch the now usual wet DDS – double diaphragm – system activated by a Magura hydraulic unit at the bars.

Unlike the four strokes, the Husqvarna strokes maintain the kickstart although with the electric starter now quite so reliable, you’re only really going to need it if the battery goes down but in those circumstances your fuel injection systems aren’t going to be that happy …

THE CHASSIS

As is the way with KTMs, Husqvarna continue to ignore the Japanese obsession with aluminium frames, keeping with a Chromoly steel spine frame which now is hydro-formed, laser cut and welded together by a team of Austrian robots. Unlike the KTMs however,  the Husqvarnas have a composite carbon fibre subframe rather than an aluminium one, and the three piece unit encorporates the air box yet still weighs in at just 1.4 kg.

The front suspension uses the WP Xplor 48 open cartridge forks with springs in both sides but the compression and rebound damping spilt between the two legs and delivers 300mm of travel. At the rear there’s a single WP DCC rear shock with adjustment for compression damping at the top and rebound damping as the bottom, and a lockable plastic ring for preload adjustment.  The travel is 330mm.

Husqvarna TE300i swingarm
THE STEEL FRAME ALLOWS FOR BETTER FLEX THAN ALUMINIUM

 

For the brakes, the usual Brembos have been ditched in favour of Magura units, with the floating calipers biting onto a 260mm ventilated disk at the front end and a 220mm version at the back. Pro Taper bars are standard equipment.

Ground clearance is 300mm and the seat height is an inside leg stretching 960mm and the wheelbase comes in at 1495mm.

But amidst all these figures, one stands out and that’s the weight which comes in at an incredible 105.4 kg. Add in the 9.25 litres of fuel that the translucent tank will hold and that’s pretty much 115kg ready to go.

Impressive stuff.

THE TEST BIKE

So to test the all-new Husky we needed a suitable bike and our solution came close to home. The owner of the Husqvarna had been a confirmed four stroke fan for years and prior to the new purchase had been quite happy with the 2017 FE350 he’d d been riding. The change to the stroker came from hearing good reports of the new bike and maybe not coincidentally, encouragement from his son who now has the three fiddy.

With demand for the new bikes high, the closest dealership Midwest Racing where the 350 had come from was out of stock, so the 300 was sourced from Husky Sport near Winchester.

Husqvarna TE300i
THE HUSQVARNA 300 IS A PURPOSEFUL LOOKING MACHINE

 

Husqvarna TE300i
MIDLY TWEAKED WITH SENSIBLE UPGRADES AND A BIT OF BLING 

 

Of course the bike hasn’t remained entirely stock, even though it had only been owned for a few weeks. The main change was the Rekluse automatic clutch which had been an addition to the previous 350 and clearly one that works well for the owner. Once you get used to them, you’re pretty much converted!

Underneath the bike, a substantial hard plastic  AXP bash guard had been added, the protection extending right back to protect the vulnerable linkage, something the PDS system never needed …

Husqvarna TE300i 2 stroke exhaust
THE HEART OF THE BEAST – THAT SUPER SWEET  MOTOR
Husqvarna TE300i 2 stroke exhaust
IT’S SHINY AND UNDENTED NOW, BUT WON’T STAY THAT WAY FOR LONG

 

The only other major change it to fit an Acerbis X Seat – a fantastic looking bix of kit that screams factory. The fact that a solid seat is softer than the stock version says a lot, but the Acerbis unit manages that with looking great too.

The Pro Taper bars had been swapped for a set of Renthal 922 Twin Walls in a RC High bend – again like the Rekluse, bars tend to be a thing that once you are converted you stay with what you like.

Beyond these, the rest of the changes are functional or cosmetic – Kreiga Haul loop, Ultimate Pursuits phone holder for GPX tracking ,wraparound handguards, rim tapes, anodised brake pedal end – the usual suspects to customise your ride.

Husqvarna TE300i
THE HEADLIGHT COWL IS STILL UGLY BUT LOOKS BETTER WITH GRAPHICS
Husqvarna TE300i
THE HUSQVARNA PLASTICS ARE SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT TO THE KTM EQUIVALENT
Husqvarna TE330i x seat
THE X SEAT HIGHLIGHTS THE SLIM WAIST OF THE HUSKY

WE RUN GREAT MOTORCYCLE ADVENTURES - THAT'S WHAT WE DO!

and we are pretty damn good at it!

Whether it is riding the highest roads on the planet in the Himalayas or scything through the dense forest in Vietnam, our motorcycle tours are simply epic life affirming experiences, the like of which you will never have experienced.
We’d say they were once in a lifetime experiences, but with so many return customers coming back year after year – that’s clearly not accurate!

THE TEST

OK so a proportion of these bikes will be bought by full-on racers, taking on everything from club enduros to international hard enduro. And no doubt the bike will excel in a competition environment.

But a massive proportion of the Husqvarnas leaving the showrooms across the world will go to recreational riders, from trail riders in the UK to dual sport enthusiasts in California or weekend warriors in Western Austraila. So this bike has to add up if it’s going to take over the top spot.

Husqvarna TE300i in action

So that’s why our test is a tad more real world than just belting a box fresh bike round an immaculately groomed track and prepared test circuit. We caught up with a bunch of  riders for a Sunday trail ride, just like thousands of riders do every weekend from Baja to Brisbane, starting the day with a cup of tea and a bacon buttie rather than a press briefing from the marketing director…

And so on to the bike – slinging a leg over onto the seat the immediate impression is just how light and slim the Husqvarna is. This is highlighted by the X Seat although in reality it’s no narrower than the stock version. The Acerbis saddle is very firm, but as this has been fitted as it’s softer than stock, the OEM seat must share DNA with a plank ..

Thumbing the electric start, the motor spins into life instantly with that wonderfully familar two-stroke crackle. What’s not familiar unless you’ve been riding one of the 2017 KTMs is just how little vibration and buzz accompanies the twist of the throttle. The counterbalance shaft makes the motor buttery smooth, and twinned with the fuel injection only word for the motor is crisp – unbeleivably and beatifully crisp.

It’s actually hard to remember that this is a 300cc motor – it spins up and revs like a factory prepped 125, and just in case you are wondering – that’s a good thing ..

Husqvarna TE300i on the track
STANDING POSITION IS NEUTRAL AND COMFORTABLE

 

Opening up the throttle and getting underway, the smooth feeling continues and makes for such enjoyable riding. The throttle response is great from trickling over the more technical stuff, to opening the taps and letting that big two-stoke motor breathe fully. The bike feels incredibly light thanks to the narrow chassis, the free revving motor and – let’s be honest – the fact that it’s only 115kg fully fuelled.

If you are already on a KTM like our 2013 KTMEXC250 – that 10 kg or so weight saving is very noticeable – it feels like they’ve shaved nearly twenty kilos because the eight saving has been paired with mass centralisation of the chassis and motor.

getting dirty on the Husqvarna TE300i
THIS BIKE IS A JOY TO RIDE – LIGHT, POWERFUL AND SUPER RESPONSIVE

 

That lightness in the engine and frame is immediately evident in the way the bike handles. On the tricky slow speed stuff the balance is impeccable allowing with precision riding at very slow speeds, wheras as when you’ve turned up the wick, the bike can be easily moved around on the trail.

But  a downside, or at least something to be aware of until you’ve got used to it, it that the combination of the big power and immediate response of the motor with the lack of bulk can lead to some scary moments. Get a bit throttle heavy when there’s good grip and the bike will launch towards the horizon like a slingshot – respect is due.

But if you are not in the powerband, the 300 motor has huge torque and will pull like a Massey Ferguson even at really low revs – the flexibility in the power delivery makes it feel unstoppable.

On the suspension side of things, the open cartridge forks are pretty damn good from the off, but clearly would need setting up to the rider’s weight and riding style – don’t assume that the stock settings are right for all or that you just set up things like rebound and compression damping and just leave them for all conditions!

At the rear, the linkage suspension works well, but if anyone other than a top flight enduro rider tells you they can really notice any difference to a PDS system take it with a pinch of salt – KTM dominated the enduro market with PDS long before the step back to linkages.

The preload was set too hard leading to a slightly stiffer feel than was ideal, but there again the owner was heavier so that was to be expected and is an easy fix to get right. With both front and rear suspension, if you have no idea how to set up your bike, setting as per the handbook is a better idea than relying on Facebook advice or a forum warriors, but if you do want to set it up correctly you could follow our set-up guide here. Still no clue – pay for a suspension specialist with a good reputation …

trail riding the Husqvarna TE300i
COCKPIT SET UP IS OPEN AND UNCLUTTERED – UNTIL YOU START ADDING NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT

 

As for how the rest of the bike performs out on the trail, there is little to report, which is exactly what you want to hear. The plastics are nicely sculpted around the rider to allow movement up and down the tall flat seat with ease, and the dimensions and relationship between footpegs, seat and hadlebars is well considered making for seamless transition between seated and standing.

We’re always a fan of Renthal bars and the 922s in the RC High bend are a good option for trail riding but as we didn’t ride the bike with the stock Pro Tapers, then we can’t really say whether they were better or worse!

The footpegs are the new self-cleaning design and although it’s not a problem we’d really agonised about on as daily basis, they do indeed let go of the dirt better than previous KTM / Huky ? Husaberg versions.

This is the first year that Husky have swapped over from Brembo calipers to Magura, and doubtless there are purists that will be up in arms about the change. Bearing in mind the Brembos were just a built-to-spec unit to Husqvarna’s requirements rather than a bespoke racing set-up, then the change in manufacturer should not make much difference and we’re please to report doesn’t – the brakes work well from gentle feathering on tricky climbs and descents to hard anchors on the road.

COMFORT

No true enduro bike should score too high here as comfort is not a major deciding factor, but the Husky is comfortable enough standing or seated

DURABILITY

European bikes don’t age quite as well as Japanese ones. OK so there are plenty of older KTMs and Husqvarnas out there so they are durable, but the quality is good, not exceptional. Think Ford rather than Mercedes.

VALUE

So is a trail bike that is nearly 8K really ever going to be good value? Well if it’s as good as this and you can afford it, then yes absolutely. You will love it!

APPEARANCE

The Husqvarna looks great in it’s gleaning white livery, but given that mud is not often white how long it stays that way is another matter. We still don’t like the front headlight – the KTM version is sharper and better looking.

REVIEW OF THE HUSQVARNA TE300i  – THE VERDICT

So after a thorough testing of the Husqvarna TE300i were absolutely blown away with just how good this bike feels to ride. Regular readers of these blogs that we’re big fans of two-strokes and particularly the KTM EXC250. This bike builds on the considerable talents of the 2017 EXC models and the new engine and thanks to the faultless fuel injection, takes it to another level again.

The fact that the owner of this bike had made the transition back to fourstokes because of this bike should be a pretty good indicator. The TE300i takes all the convenience and fuss-free running of a modern four-stoke and adds a fantastically powerful yet controllable two stroke motor.

Husqvarna TE300i review

And that’s what is going to make this bike sell by the boatload – Husqvarna can barely keep up with the demand already and once riders realise what a quantum leap this bike is then don’t expect that situation to improve.

The nay sayers will be quick to refer to the teething issues with the early fuel injected KTMs, and in fairness the change did seem to have been hurried from competition testing to production models in a relatively short time. But those same people probably also bemoaned the demise of carburetors on fourstrokes. Ignore them  – this is the future and it’s here now.

RIDE EXPEDITIONS REVIEW RATING : HUSQVARNA TE300i

If you want to buy the best and most innovative enduro bike on the market right now, the Husqvarna TE300i is that bike. Yes the 2018 MY KTM EXC300 is pretty much the same, but as the Husqvarna runs a slightly higher spec and costs just a tiny bit more, then it’s not a difficult decision to choose the white bike. It is exceptionally good to ride and we loved it.

Of course it’s so good that it’s going to cause problems. You could be quite happy with your existing bike and then somebody lets you borrow the Husky. The effect is not dissimilar to discovering that your wife has a younger and far hotter younger sister …

Husqvarna TE300i review
YOU WON’T WANT TO GO BACK

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Acknowledgements: Husqvarna, H Mitterbauer