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Husqvarna Nuda 900 and 900R: MD First Ride

You almost certainly know the Husqvarna brand by associating it with off-road racing. The famous movie On Any Sunday featured Malcolm Smith and Steve McQueen riding Husqvarna bikes through the desert and the sand, as well as at the famous International Six Days Enduro. Surprisingly, the roots of the Husqvarna brand trace back to road racing events in the 1930s, including the Isle of Man TT.

Those deep roots have been revived now by the new owner of Husqvarna, BMW. The German mark has allowed its extremely light weight 800 cc parallel twin to be developed by Husqvarna into a larger displacement (900 cc) motor for use in a new chassis that seems to straddle the supermoto and naked categories.

There are two models, the standard Nuda 900 and the 900 R. We were invited by Husqvarna to test both models, including the 900 R on the track and the 900 on the tight and twisty roads of Sardinia.

Both motorcycles feature the same 105 hp (at 8,500 rpm) engine. This engine has not only grown 100 cc from the BMW it is based upon (courtesy of increases in both bore and stroke), compression has been increased to 13:1, and the crankshaft timing has been changed to generate a “big bang effect” and smoother power delivery. There are also new camshafts, larger valves and different connecting rods, together with unique pistons and crankshaft. Vibration is held in check by a counter-rotating balance shaft, and lubrication is by dry sump. The 900 R has one less tooth on the countershaft sprocket to improve acceleration.  Further details and photos of these models can be found in our earlier story here.

The trellis frame is much more rigid than the one found on the BMW cousin. The 900 R features a fully adjustable Sachs front fork, as well as Brembo monobloc front brake calipers. The standard model makes do with a nonadjustable fork and lower-level Brembo calipers. Another difference is a higher spec rear shock on the 900 R, an Ohlins as opposed to a Sachs on the standard model. The standard model also has a slightly lower seat height.

Both motorcycles have very complete instrumentation, including gear position indicator, ambient temperature and average fuel consumption, but curiously lack a fuel gauge. Both bikes feature selectable ignition maps, one with full power and one for riding in slick conditions.

We rode the 900 R on a small track ideal for carting or supermoto. Here we had a great opportunity to determine whether the 900 R is as flickable and fun as we anticipated. The 900 R is dressed in Husqvarna racing colors, red and white. The seat is relatively narrow and high, reflecting, perhaps, it’s racing pedigree. For our track testing, Husky fitted the optional Leo Vince carbon exhaust system, which both reduced weight and increased power. Sound was also amplified.  We noted that this is not a BMW F 800 sound, but rather a more angry, serious tone when accelerating. More exciting!

We found ourselves on tiptoes, but the bike felt light and well-balanced. The tight track brought out the best in the 900 R. The motor has a broad spread of generous power, which allowed us to exit corners a gear higher.

We got into a nice rhythm on the track. At first, we found the suspension too soft, but a couple of clicks of added compression and rebound corrected that. This bike felt like a lightweight supermoto, but with more power and stability. The Brembo monobloc brakes were fantastic, although probably overkill for the street where they might prove a tad touchy.

After lunch we got aboard the standard 900 for 60 miles, or so, of Sardinian roads. The seat on the standard 900 is a bit more livable, that is, somewhat softer and more generous for road riding, and not as tall as the “racing” seat found on the 900 R. The slightly lower seat height on the standard model, combined with excellent ergonomics, that made for a comfortable and confident mount.

Indeed, Husqvarna views these bikes as extremely versatile, and we sampled a unit with the optional saddlebags and windshield to drive home the point.

We followed a group of skilled riders at a high pace through mountain roads that were tight and twisty, and featured a variety of pavement quality. The new 900 works superbly in these circumstances. It was great fun, fast, nimble and stable all at the same time. The lower specification brakes were perfect for the street, not as abrupt as those found on the 900 R, but with plenty of power. The lower spec suspension on the standard model also worked well for us. Husqvarna seems to have done a good job finding a compromise setting with the nonadjustable fork on this model.

Despite the slightly taller gearing and the lack of an aftermarket exhaust, we had plenty of power and acceleration on the road with the standard model. If we trust the instrumentation, fuel consumption is also very good (close to 60 mpg during our street ride) … something BMW is known for.

The Nuda turns out to be a blast to ride in these circumstances. This is an elemental bike that stops well, corners easily and allows you to achieve severe lean angles with confidence. You have a great feeling of control, and the big twin launches you out of corners with authority. Could sport bikes have kept us in sight on these roads?

As I noted earlier, we tested a unit with the optional saddlebags and screen attached. Together, they are not very attractive, but we did notice improved wind protection. The bags are not huge, but they are expandable and running with this setup did not appear to affect the agility or performance of the bike.

These machines will never be great tourers. Nevertheless, you can travel in reasonable comfort (there will surely be optional saddles available), and the truth is that we really like both of these new Husqvarna Nuda motorcycles. They are not only great fun to ride, but are suited for many purposes like the standard motorcycles of old. They should be reasonably priced here in the United States, so we expect them to be quite popular. As a journalist, I ride a lot of different motorcycles, and I frankly wouldn’t mind owning a Nuda, myself.

So Husqvarna returns to the street with an excellent recipe for motorcyclists looking for the thrill of riding a relatively light, powerful bike that allows them to sit comfortably upright and even carry along some luggage.  If, as expected, it is reasonably priced, Husqvarna will have returned to the street with a vengeance.  Visit Husqvarna’s web site for additional details and specifications.

39 Comments

    • Artem says:

      There is a problem I see. Even if the engine is BMW, it is too small for 105 hp.
      Will brake apart soon.

  1. Bill says:

    Paint this thing orange and you’d be looking at a KTM. Geometric, angular lines, if that’s your thing.

  2. blackxjr says:

    Up to date retake on the Yamaha TRX850, which isn’t a bad thing, think I’ll get one.

  3. Doc says:

    Exactly! Bring in the CB1100F and I’ll buy it. The old CB’s, Z-1, KZ, they age well. My W650 is another. Not only do I love riding it, I love looking at it. Classic looks will always be in style. The Nuda and the Brutale in the previous article are great for right now and maybe the next couple of years, but they will not hold up styling wise with age. The Z1000 and CB1000F are in the same boat. Great for right now but not down the road. My Roadking Classic and W650 will still look good in 20 years. Unfortunately these bikes won’t.”rights” icyrice

  4. Rocky V says:

    MXS

    I just always wanted a 1200 V twin sport bike — but i like the Aprillia’s looks–
    i have a Superhawk – but i would like a more modern V Twin

  5. Doc says:

    I have no doubt these bikes would be fun to ride. But I don’t think they will age well. Many bikes produced today have the the same problem with styling. It’s a fad that I don’t care for. Too funky. Something a little more traditional would not only look good today, but years down the road.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I personally love the funky styling, but I can’t disagree with your point. An old honda cb looks as good today as it did then.

      • Gutterslob says:

        I too personally love the styling (though the exhaust being on the left seems kinda odd, me being used to them on the right for so long). Looks pretty aggressive.

        I agree that they don’t age well though. Same can be said for modern cars in many respects. Take the Duc Monster for example. The new style already feels kinda naff after only a few years on the market, but the original is still as sexy as ever, in my opinion.

  6. Milo says:

    cool bike but the seat looks very high

  7. Asterix says:

    You guys have any problem with the downpipes dragging in right turns? Visordown’s first ride had them grinding the pipes pretty badly. Wondering if they just got a badly set up ride.

  8. SpikedLemon says:

    It’s be nice to see a F900R version… Does the 900 have similar buzziness as the 800?

  9. blackcayman says:

    Hey…where is the Wheelie Pic???

  10. Superhawk says:

    Can we get more pics of the R Model, both sides and tell us the difference in performance feel outside of a tall seat… please!!!

    Thanks.

  11. ABQ says:

    I am fortunate to have a dealership in my town, Albuquerque. I get a close up, real world look at these, and most other motorcycles. Unfortunately, in the real world, these bikes are tall. I would prefer that these, and BMWs, would lose a couple of inches in seat height. Most of us are not tall leggy statuesque models that dirtbikes, supermotos, and adventure bikes are made for. Otherwise, it’s a great line of bikes!

  12. RD350 says:

    I love this type of bike. Here in Connecticut, these large “real world” super motards are my preferred weapon for our frost-heaved, pot-holed back-roads.

    If this revised BMW engined Husky proves to be more durable and reliable than my air-cooled Ducati HyperMotard, I would jump ship for the German in a NY minute.

    I wish the Japanese would make a bike like this .. ie twin cylinder, lightweight, quality suspension/brakes. Suzuki could use the SV650 motor, Kawasaki the 650R motor etc.

    • Kjazz says:

      Doesn’t the Versys sorta address you needs?

      • RD350 says:

        I think the Versys is close to what I’m talking about. But not quite on target. The Versys does do a very good job in trying to be all things to all riders .. light adventure tourer, commuter, decent back road road scratcher, etc. And its inexpensive. However, I wouldnt exactly call the Versys sporting.

        Although none of these street-motards is an actual “motard” I wouldn’t even call the Versys “motard-ish” .. its just too tour-ish. And because its built to a price, the suspension is (understandably) budget.

        What I am looking for is a dependable Japanese twin in a much lighter (325lbs?) and much more sporting package with premium suspension and brakes. Something that could really rail on tight, rough back roads and also hold its own at a track day. Something like a KTM Duke 690 but with Japanese dependability and a bit more motor.

        • Dave says:

          I think the Duke 690′s engine makes as much power as the SV650′s does, just not as comfortable a bike. Seems like 380lb is a tough mark to break in a full size street bike and only gets breached in motocross/dirtbike conversions. I’d love to have a bike that meets your description too.

  13. RAD says:

    I love these type bikes .
    They really are a wheelie good time .
    Love all the history that goes with Husqvarna .

    But I will probably never come close to buying one of these .
    This reason is simple. I have owned 2 Huskys in the past .

    With out much luck on keeping them running .
    I know times change , but there is way to much other stuff out there .

    • Dave says:

      Bear in mind, this is a Husky in name and visual design only. This is a modified version of a proven BMW engine. With Husky under BMW ownership I would have to believe that they are also now beholden to BMW engineering standards. I would really be surprised if this bike had any reliability issues.

  14. Stinky says:

    Nice article, as usual no mention of fuel capacity. I probably wouldn’t print it either if they’re as small as the BMW 800. Fuel mileage is gonna vary so much it’s not worth a guess. 8/900 usually will knock down mid 40s+. My riding varies from 10,000 to 500 ft. elevations so the mpg is all over the place and these small gas tanks are deal breakers.

    • mxs says:

      It’s not meant for touring. Short distance fun ….you don’t need 20 liters for that. Fuel consumption is and will be more and more important to many of us. The Dorso 1200 pig does I think low 30s when pushed, Nuda will do happily high 50s reportedly. That’s over 20 mpg difference. I think Dorso is what needs large tank, not Nuda.

    • Bullet Bob says:

      I saw a ride review of these online somewhere else and they claim they get 60mpg. I know someone who owns the F800 and regularly get 65mpg.

  15. Mick says:

    Is it just me? Or is this thing a sort of a nouveau eastern block Body by Ivan sort of deal?

    I like the parts. Just not the sum of them.

  16. CCulwell says:

    When’s it due here, and how much $. Dealer keeps telling me he doesn’t have anymore info than I do.

  17. ziggy says:

    Sweet Jesus!

  18. Rocky V says:

    I’ll take the Aprillia 1200 –

    • mxs says:

      Why?

      Much Better fuel consumption, better power/weight ratio. Looks are subjective, but I hope you are not buying bikes based only on that.

  19. Roadrash says:

    I think it looks like a fun bike.
    I went to the website to see what the fuel tank capacity was. They isn’t any kind of info like that there…but, what I found was probably the strangest, most useless website ever conceived.
    There are no dealers within driving distance of where I live in the Mid-West. If they would sell them at BMW dealerships, they might have a chance….

  20. Mickey says:

    Probably a lot of fun to ride and if I lived in southern California, and all I did was straf canyons on weekends, I could get excited about these type bikes. But I don’t. I live in SW Ohio, and these things would not be very useful around these parts. There are a few roads in this state and in northern Kentucky where they’d be fun to ride, but unless those roads were the only ones I planned on riding, owning one would be a waste of time and money. The previously reviewed Wee Strom makes more sense here. At least you could ride the Wee Strom to the good roads in relative comfort. Could always trailer the Nuda to North Carolina or south east West Virginia to ride I suppose.

    I still think the front fender is stupid looking.

    • Tuskerdu says:

      Stupid front fender? Because it doesn’t look like almost every other fender ever manufactured? Like its or not, its not stupid, its creative.

    • ziggy says:

      Dude just move, what’s the point of anything less?!

      • Tuskerdu says:

        Amen.

      • blackcayman says:

        Mickey – Last month some frioends and I did a 2800 mile loop of Northern CA. There are enough great motorcycle roads to last a lifetime!

        Just FYI

        • Mickey says:

          Yea at 61 with 24 years at my job, with a wife, a house thats paid for, 2 kids and 2 grand kids (+1 on the way) living nearby, I won’t be moving anywhere soon. If I do it will probably be down (about 6 ft) not 3,000 miles west.

          BTW Tucskerdu I didn’t say the front fender was stupid, I said it was stupid looking. There’s a difference. If it didn’t keep water and mud from splashing on the rider, it would then be stupid. You think it’s creative. I think it’s stupid looking. I’d say we just have a difference of opinion.

  21. EddyG says:

    Quote: If we trust the instrumentation, fuel consumption is also very good …

    So, what did the instrumentation say?