After a very rough year in 2009, Factory Husqvarna’s Glenn Kearney is putting together a solid season in the GNCCs this year on his TXC 250, and since the Titan GNCC his new TXC 310. After his podium finish at the Yadkinville GNCC on the 250 model, I really began to want to take his bike or a test ride. Visually, I think the Huskys are one of the coolest looking bikes in the pits and on the track, and having never ridden one before my interest was definitely piqued. I bugged Glenn repeatedly and he finally gave in the week before the Power Line Park GNCC to let me race in the Sportsman class on his backup race bike TXC250. With a professional rider behind the bars, it’s obvious that the Husky is becoming a competitive machine, as can be seen by Kearney nearly winning the Power Line Park GNCC and Jason Thomas’ 3 consecutive podium finishes in the XC2 class since switching brands. If you’ve never had the chance to take a spin on the Italian steed, and are of a lower skill level than Kearney or Thomas (like myself) check out my review of the ride below, you just might be surprised.
I’ll try and break this review down into simple categories and keep it short as possible, we’ll start with ergonomics. The first thing you notice about a bike besides its looks is how it feels to sit on and ride the bike. To me, the bike felt very similar to a KTM, with its seat being pretty flat and running right up onto the tank without much rise. I’ve ridden my fair share of KTMs and immediately felt comfortable on the Husky. Glenn runs his levers extremely high, bordering on above parallel to the ground so that was my first and only change to his bike setup. I’d come to find out later that I should’ve moved his bars a bit forward, as I ended up a bit cramped while standing, but while seated they felt good. The bike isn’t overly wide or overly narrow between your legs, it felt pretty much just about right. The bike I was riding didn’t have a big tank, so I’m not sure how that would change things. And, yes, I did just say it felt just right between my legs. Deal with it.
The TXC model Husky is fuel injected and features an electric start. I’ve never really ridden an electric start bike, and had a hard time remembering to flip the power switch between the handlebars and the bike, but quickly realized it when it made no attempt to fire. Glenn’s bike has motor work, and the higher compression that the bike now has means the stock electric start doesn’t have enough power to turn the motor over if it’s below top dead center. Even when it would get cranking I could never get the bike to fire. But, it wasn’t too big of a deal because it easily started with the kick start, even in gear which is huge for GNCC’s dead-engine starts. Glenn runs Renthal Twinwall bars and Acerbis full wraparound hand guards, both of which are similar to what I normally run and felt good.
The only riding I had done on the bike I was going to race at Power Line Park was from the pits to the starting line, so I wasn’t really too sure what to expect in terms of handling once out on the trail. After a mid-pack start (I think I was so shocked that the bike fired first-kick, in gear, I forgot to let the clutch out and go) I was out onto the trail dodging downed riders and trying to find my groove. I noticed immediately that the Husky tracked really well, and the MotoWorks suspension soaked up the majority of bumps and roots with ease. I watched repeatedly as riders in front of me would get kicked all over the trail by obstacles that I would hit and then barely notice. The rear end sits a bit low, and really felt like it tracked the ground well and then squatted really nicely in turns allowing you to hammer turns with confidence. The rear end felt like it was going to step out on me in a few sweeping field turns that had some good sized choppy acceleration bumps, but I just kept the Husky pinned and the bike straightened out and kept tracking in the desired direction.
One awesome addition that Glenn has made to all of his bikes is Steg Pegz. You may have seen them on Kearney’s bikes in the pits, they are rubber knobs attached to a boomerang shaped piece of aluminum that attaches to the frame near the side panels. They are intended to help keep you from sliding too far back on the bike and more easily grip the bike with your legs, reducing arm fatigue. I felt them grab me on many of Power Line Park’s numerous uphills, and most noticeably when really aggressively getting on the gas out of a sweeping turn. They made me feel like I was locked onto the bike and could more confidently put more power to the ground. They’re available for all makes and models so check out www.stegpegz.com.au for more info and to order (and yes, they ship to the US for a mere $10).
I had it in my head that the Husky was going to be a dog, and I’m not quite sure why. While it is definitely not a 450, and I’m sure Kearney has lost more positions than he cares to remembers in situations where he simply needed the extra 200cc his competitors had (which explains his better results since switching to the 310) I never really felt like I absolutely needed more out of the bike, especially for my skill level. The power was very manageable, there wasn’t a hard hit off the bottom, but I liked that I could get on the gas hard in the woods without feeling like the bike would get away from me. In the field sections the motor continued to pull and seemed like it would keep going had I the skill level or cojones to keep it pinned.
I was and still am without a doubt impressed by the Husqvarna. The bike handled really well, the power was decent, and overall it was a blast to ride. Is it as good of a bike as a comparable 250F from the big four Japanese manufacturers or a KTM? I don’t want to say for sure one way or the other, but if it’s not, I feel like it’s pretty close. With one of the best contingency programs in off-road racing, the Husky is definitely a viable and potentially lucrative option for going racing as long as you have a dealer near you that stocks parts and you’re willing to perhaps do a bit more setup work on the machine before you go racing.
I’d like to give a big shout out to Glenn and Ben Kearney for letting me thrash one of their race bikes. I had a decent race going in Ohio until I buried the Husky up to its rear fender in the infamous Power Line Park mud hole. It was fun until then! Also I’d like to give a huge thanks to Steve VanZuylen aka: Dutchy, from Moose Racing for hooking me up with the sick 2011 Moose gear that I got to nearly destroy on lap 2 in the mud. And finally a big thanks to my buddy Brad Stevens, who made up for his very sissy-like decision to not race at Power Line Park by washing my muddy bike for me!