2010 Husqvarna TE310 vs TW 450

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2010 Husqvarna TE310 vs. TE450

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Then: 2010 screamers - Now: 2011 bargain…

When Brendan Ferrer (General Manager) from South Sound Motorcycles asked me "do you want to take a couple of our Husqvarna's out and do an evaluation" my response was a resounding," heck yah, sign me up!" You see the truth was that I was already eyeing the Husky dual-sports as a possible replacement for my devoted, reliable, easy to ride, inexpensive, yet somewhat boring Suzuki DRZ400S. With a continuing decline in motorcycle sales, dealers are looking to make great deals on last year models. Sales for off-road models are down another 23.3 percent for 2010 following a 40% drop in overall motorcycle sales in 2009, according to the Motorcycle Industry Council. Now that I have a mid-size adventure bike in my stable, my DRZ has been relegated to a life of almost exclusive trail use, so the idea of picking up a more trail-oriented dual-sport is in my future.

South Sound Motorcycles (formerly South Sound BMW) picked up the Husqvarna brand a little over a year ago and this year purchased several Husqvarna's to allow test rides to potential buyers. This is REALLY COOL! Think of how many dealers have offered a dirt bike test ride or allow you to take a dual-sport off-road on a test ride!

I told Brendan I was interested in taking out the dual-sport Huskys. We set a date, location and loose plan of events.

Our riding group consisted of me, one other PSSOR off-road instructor, Brendon, Jason (a new dirt rider) and a female rider with previous off-road experience. Our evaluation began in the sand pit at the Tahuya State Forest north of Shelton. The weather was perfect with a light snow fall, lots of iced-over puddles and fresh mud; a perfect day for riding!

The 2010 TE310 is essentially a sleeved down TE450 motor and frame. This may leave you to believe that the TE310 is overweight and underpowered. Although the TE310 does not have the power of the TE450, it has enough power to keep up with anything below a full-on race pace and is very smooth and predictable. Husky starts all its TE series with a pure dirt chassis and then builds its dual-sports from there. Other than those items added to make them street legal, the TE dual sports are identical to the dirt-only TE models. This was evident as the TE310 acted more like a dirt bike with turn signals than a street bike with knobbies. Just what I was looking for…

The TE310 has a peppy motor and significantly more power than the Kawasaki KLX250s or the Husky TE250 and feels like it has as much get-up-and-go as my 436cc DRZ400s (although with a much different power delivery). The TE450 had the power advantage all the way across the board and could be ridden at the same pace as the 310 at much lower revs. I was the only rider in our group that preferred the high spin motor in the 310 over the 450, ironically I was also the most experienced rider. Compared to the DRZ and the KLX, both Huskys have higher-quality suspension with a full array of adjustments available front and rear (preload, rebound and compression). The DRZ has fully-adjustable suspension but is not of the same quality at the Huskys. The TE450 felt heavier on the trail than the 310 even though the difference in scale weight is minimal. The TE450 also has noticeably more torque and power than its smaller brother, but carries a penalty of more vibration. On the trail this was never an issue, but if I was riding the TE450 for long distance this might be something to think about. Neither of these bikes are intended to be loaded up like mules and then ridden around the world, so if that's what you are looking for, keep looking. With only 1.9 gal of gas world traveling or long distance dual-sport use could be a real challenge unless you add a bigger aftermarket tank.

Most dual-sport riders are interested in how easy a bike is to ride in the real world, how well it holds the trail and how fatigued they will be after a day of riding. On a graded forest service road, the Huskys can fly, but you can ride forest roads on any dual-sport. If all you want to do is cruise forest service roads, riding one of these bikes is like commuting in a Ferrari. You can do it, but there is a lot more bike than what you need for the job. Of course you would look better commuting in a Ferrari than in a Toyota Yaris… sometimes cool factor does count.  

The riding position of both TEs is definitely dirt bike with wide comfortable bars, wide foot pegs for a sturdy foundation and a tall seat (38") that allows you to sit all the way up on the tank. If you spend more time standing than sitting while riding or spend the majority of your time on the trails, you'll really appreciate this. Our ride was entirely off road consisting of trails and access roads

Anyone that has spent time riding 2-strokes in their past is going to like the motor on the TE310. If you're used to lugging around on a large displacement bike, you'll likely prefer the TE450. The clutch felt fairly heavy on both, but particularly on the TE310, which seemed to be equal to the 450. I would have liked to have a lighter clutch on the smaller motor. Clutch engagement on both bikes was predictable and there was no clutch fade with heavy use. Fit and finish on both bikes was very nice. The controls, gauges and lights appeared less like an afterthought and more like they were designed to go with the bike; more Suzuki-like than KTM. The front signals are tucked in tighter than any other dual-sport I have seen and resisted any damage; the rear signals were more exposed, but are still tucked in tighter than most. The Brembo brakes on both bikes are also top notch. The fuel injection on both works as well as most and allowed immediate starts after unplanned stops (read crash). Although we never needed it, both bikes are equipped with a kick start along with the electric start - just don't totally kill the battery or this won't do you any good with the EFI.

Clearly my favorite was the TE310. I liked the predicable power delivery with the hit halfway through the power band (like a 2-stroke). I found myself riding faster on the TE310 than on the TE450. As similar as these two bikes are on paper, they are very different when ridden back-to-back.

If the TE310 isn't as fast at the TE450, then it makes up for it in fun! The TE310 was good at maintaining traction with enough power to pick up the front end to clear obstacles but not so much power as to break traction at the back wheel…  unless you want to.

The Huskys are top tier motorcycles and worthy of a serious look if you're wanting something with outstanding quality and top performance. 2011 looks like a good year for Husky fans, but don't walk past the 2009s or 2010s without at least stopping to take a look. Just last month Husqvarna was offering 1.9% financing for some older models. These are great bikes and the dealers are ready to wheel and deal…

Bret J. Tkacs/Winter 2011

If you want to try one out for yourself, call Jason at South Sound Motorcycles and find out when you can take your own evaluation ride! 

Bret Tkacs runs Puget Sound Safety , a Northwest motorcycle training facility.

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