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.