The 2012 Husqvarna TE250 dual-purpose machine is very much a serious off-roader first, and pavement-capable motorcycle second. This Husky is a dirt bike with a license plate, no doubt about it. And the company is refreshingly honest about the TE, saying it’s “designed for 90% dirt and 10% street.” Truth in advertising wins the day.
Husqvarna (now a BMW property) has always been a brand dedicated to the dirt, with a strong racing heritage dating back many decades. The TE250’s racing pedigree shines through in its very capable trail and off-road performance while its street manners are sufficient enough to get you to the next dusty, rugged trail.
Upgrades For The 2012 TE250
Propelling the 246-pound (dry) TE is a race-derived liquid-cooled, fuel-injected 249.5cc (79 x 50.9mm) single cylinder with four Ti valves operated by dual overhead cams. The rev-happy Thumper remains unchanged from the previous model year, but the TE enjoys a number of upgrades in other areas for 2012.
The shock is now a Kayaba unit rather than Sachs, and comes with firmer settings. Although the 48mm Kayaba cartridge fork carries over from last year, like the shock, it also has stiffer settings for 2012. The fully adjustable front and rear suspension provide 11.8 and 11.6 inches of travel respectively. Compared to the mechanically similar TE310, the TE250 built for the U.S. market has a seat height two inches lower (35.5 inches) to better accommodate street/commuter riders.
Complementing the suspension is a more rigid chromoly frame, and a new adjustable two-position clamp now holds the one-piece tapered aluminum handlebar. Bodywork graphics are now of the in-mold variety for improved durability (they won’t peel off like standard decals), but this is only the case for the graphics around the fuel tank area: the Husky logo on the front fender and the TE250 model name on the rear side panel area are both stick-on decals.
Topping off the 2012 updates is a new Leo Vince exhaust with a wonderfully aggressive four-stroke Thumper sound that had us wondering how Husqvarna ever got it past the EPA. My neighbors likely pondered this same issue.
A few other key components indicate the TE’s upscale 250 status: silver anodized Excel rims are built around polished Grimeca hubs, while a Brembo dual-piston floating caliper effortlessly pinches a barely-there 260mm wave rotor up front, with a Brembo single-piston floating caliper clamping a 240mm disc out back.
As expected from a mostly off-road bike, instrumentation is Spartan, but the TE’s compact all-LCD display provides a good array of data, such as: speed in mph or km/h, clock, trip meter, chronometer and digital RPM display. Keeping things simple is single-button operation to toggle the instrument’s displays.
The instrument’s compactness is appreciated, however, other than the speedo, the rest of the display’s characters are on the small side. Three tiny warning lights sit atop the LCD panel: blue for headlight high beam, green for turn signals, and orange to indicate an issue with EFI. But don’t look for a Neutral indicator of any kind.
More Dirt, Please!
As expected, the TE’s 90/10 dirt/street split was evident any time a ride route included a hefty chunk of freeway mileage.
Zipping along in 6th gear on paved surfaces reveals engine buzz, and the Metzeler Karoo tire’s large tread blocks only added to the vibey ride. Furthermore, the narrow dirt bike saddle’s firm foam density will have you squirming often in search of a comfortable position.
Fueling from the Mikuni D42 EFI system is chiefly trouble-free with reliable throttle response. A lean condition exists, but this off-idle stumble improves as the engine warms to operating temps and is likely the result of environmentally friendly engine tuning required to meet EPA regulations.
While the TE250 doesn’t have the torque we’re used to from large-displacement dual-sports, this Single doesn’t shy away from lugging second gear at lower rpm. Power development is linear, and the Husky mill spins up willingly as you wrap the throttle to the stop. However, the meat of this TE’s power shows up prominently in the upper 3/4ths of the rev range.
Shifting action from the six-speed gearbox is precise, and I often made clutchless upshifts (as well as downshifts) without any protest from the trans. The clutch engages near the end of lever travel, which is usually a quality we bemoan on streetbikes, but the TE’s clutch is surprisingly easy to modulate even when crawling at low speeds in technical terrain.
A standout performance came from the wispy-looking Brembo front caliper/rotor combo. Stopping power is excellent, as is feel at the lever; the rear brake performed well, too.
Canyon carving is a hoot on the TE250. Steering action is light and responsive, yet the chassis remains stable and predictable even while leaned over like a road bike. Once the TE finishes with the concrete jungle and is put back in its native habitat, it fully expresses its athleticism and ease-of-use.
Rugged Jeep-type trails and poorly maintained fire roads don’t stand a chance at slowing the Husky. Ruts and rocky sections are easily absorbed without any notable deflection from the fork. As delivered, the front end feels on the firm side. Nevertheless, the fork (and shock) is plenty adjustable, and aggressive riders will better appreciate the firm suspension and its resistance to bottoming.
If we had to assign a hallmark trait in the TE250, user-friendliness would vault to the top of the list of good things about this Husqvarna.
The bike’s light weight, narrow chassis, lowish seat height, and overall engine performance conspire to make this Husqvarna an excellent off-roader for riders (like myself) with a street bike background. Factor in the fluidness with which the TE changes directions on non-paved surfaces and you’ve got yourself a helluva tractable dirt bike – it's a hero maker for those of us that didn’t start riding dirt bikes minutes after birth.
Above praises aside, readers shouldn’t infer the TE is a breed of a fettered beginner bike. This Husky possesses a high enough performance quotient that it’s capable of meeting the demands placed on it by veteran dirt demons.
Top O’ The Class
The 250 dual-sport segment is limited in offering motorcycles with a solid background in serious off-road performance. Honda and Kawasaki have dual-sport models that meet or come close to the displacement range, but neither the CRF230L nor KLX250S have chassis or engine performance on par with the TE250.
Of the Big Four, only Yamaha’s $6690 WR250R has a chance at keeping pace with the Husky, but the Yamaha doesn’t provide quite as much suspension travel, has less aggressive tires, and it weighs roughly 35 pounds more than the TE250. The only viable competitor to the Husky is KTM’s 350 EXC-F; yet, with an additional 100cc of displacement and a price tag dangerously close to $10,000, the KTM is in a class of its own.
At $7600 the 2012 Husqvarna TE250 has what seems like a rather lofty price of admission for a motorcycle that by design will compromise one level of performance for another. But unlike many machines in the dual-sport segment that compromise both aspects of their on-road/off-road performance, the TE unabashedly declares that it is superbly suited for aggressive dirt riding by willingly sacrificing some of its street bike talent. And compared to the equally off-road-ready KTM 350, the Husky is a relative bargain.
Factor in smiles per dollar, and the Husky stands apart – far apart – from the rest of the 250cc dual-sport class.
NOTE: Husqvarna recently announced updates for its off-road lineup for model year 2013, with the TE250 picking up an R designation (TE250R). Updates on the TE 250R include a new Keihin fuel-injection system (which we hope will improve upon the 2012 model’s low-RPM throttle response), revised cylinder heads with steel valves, and a new manifold layout. Husqvarna claims increased power and torque throughout the rev range, with 250 models getting an 8% increase in both peak power and torque.
The 2013 TE250R (and TE310R) comes standard with street-homologated engine mapping, with two competition maps available as an option.
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