There is no better way to experience a vast amount of countryside in a short period of time than on a motorcycle. In fact, the same can also be said for a big city. This is the aim for the 2013 Husqvarna TR650 Terra and Strada: exhilarating, go-anywhere rides that are also affordable and fuel-efficient.
Husqvarna’s European press launch for these new, attractively styled BMW G650-based Singles began with an ascent into a majestic Spanish forest on a curvy single-lane highway—a perfect scenario for the more-dirt-oriented Terra. The wide power range of the claimed-58-horsepower 652cc Single backed by a five-speed transmission with well-chosen gear ratios smoothly accelerated the Terra from one apex to the next. The tubular steel chassis, long-travel suspension and 21/17-inch wire-spoke wheels (U.S. models will be equipped with 18-inch rear wheels) were at home among the cork trees with their eerie, post-harvest, bark-free red trunks, and easily carried the nicely balanced Husky through the corners.
ABS, optional on the Terra, surpassed my expectations. The system performed really well in the dry, slippery conditions in which safely slowing quickly would typically have required precise feel at the lever and pedal. On clean asphalt, however, the brakes were not as effective. The front single-disc setup lacked power, and using the rear to hastily compensate activated the ABS, which resulted in a spongy pedal and further decreased stopping power.
Nearing the mountain summit, our little group ventured deeper into the forest and onto loose gravel roads. Even though the fully-fueled Terra weighs a claimed 405 pounds, its suspension is tuned exceptionally well and made great use of its 190mm front and rear travel to absorb the washboards and g-outs along the way.
Husky says the fuel-injected Terra with its 3.57-gallon gas tank will return nearly 66 mpg when ridden at a steady 75 mph, so our mid-morning break was for coffee rather than gas.
Switching to the supermoto-influenced Stradas with their 19/17-inch cast wheels, we sliced through the congested little mountain pueblo on our way back to the countryside. It was a great reminder of just how much freedom a bike like the TR650 can provide in a metropolitan surrounding.
On the fast, flowing open highway, the Strada revealed some instability above 80 mph. Okay, it’s a bit unusual to ride a Single at such high speeds, but it was nevertheless quite unnerving to feel the bike weaving back-and-forth underneath me while traveling in what was supposed to be a straight line. Also, the engine vented a lot of heat onto my thighs and had a high-frequency vibration that I felt mostly through the handgrips.
Back in the curves, my attention returned to the entertaining, albeit-slippery Spanish tarmac. Riding foot-down supermoto-style with the standard ABS disengaged, I initiated each turn with a rear brake slide, adding lean angle and throttle to spin the rear tire through the middle of the corner all the way to the exit. Icing on the cake for this beautiful ride was that it just as easily could have been someone’s morning or evening commute. Better yet, we covered more than 130 miles on only two gallons of fuel.
Admittedly, from a pure performance perspective, the $6999 Terra and $7499 Strada are a compromise. Despite their few flaws, they will get you to your destination with a grin on your face and wallet intact.