INSIDE THE 2009 HUSQVARNA TC450 TEST
Husqvarna has made history in recent months. For starters, they were purchased by BMW, which, to make a long story short, should improve the company’s financial picture in the future. Second, they have moved to an all-new factory (still located in Italy), which should improve production capabilities. Third, improvements are evident in the product line for 2009. Husqvarna’s biggest buzz has been generated by their completely new TC250. The new bike, which we have already started to test, has an incredibly light and compact engine design. Fourth, while everyone else is giving up on two-strokes, Husqvarna’s CR125 weighs less and has an even more compact engine than the TC250.
While Husky’s major updates are highly anticipated, the 2009 Huskys are rather late releases. MXA had hoped to see them last July when we went to Italy for the official 2009 model intro, but no such luck. It took this long for them to get us a TC450, and the TC250 will be at least a month behind.
We can’t escape the feeling that great things can happen at Husqvarna…eventually. New bikes, new owners, new factory and new possibilities lie ahead for the Swedish/Italian/German brand. The MXA wrecking crew is happy to start off our relationship with a test of the all-new 2009 Husqvarna TC450. It should be noted that MXA tested its first Husqvarna back in1973.
Q: WHAT’S NEW ON THE 2009 HUSQVARNA TC450?
A: Here’s a list of the updates:
(1) Frame. The biggest update is the new frame. It is still steel, but it is 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) lighter than last year’s frame, and it is more rigid. Husqvarna’s goal for the 2009 frame was to improve its traction properties and overall feel.
(2) Brake rotors. All the 2009 Husky motocross models receive new scalloped brake rotors to improve performance under extreme conditions.
(3) Case guards. There are new engine protectors on both sides of the engine.
(4) Exhaust. The full titanium exhaust system has been revised to provide a more progressive engine response (even at low revs). The Husqvarna pipe is very well-made and meets the AMA/FIM 94 decibel sound limits.
(5) Suspension settings. The 50mm Marzocchi forks and Sachs shock absorber now feature new calibration settings.
(6) Shifting. A steel gear change linkage, steel fork drive shaft and new gear selector are utilized to improve shifting accuracy and precision.
(7) Relief valve. The TC450 has an oil circuit pressure relief valve to improve performance and starting when the bike is cold.
(8) Oil filter and timing chain tensioner. Both are more efficient and improve reliability.
(9) Aesthetics. The 2009 bikes feature new colors and graphics. Also, there are new plastic engine protectors on both sides.
Q: HOW DOES THE TC450 ENGINE RUN?
A: The defining characteristic of the TC450 engine is that it really takes its time building rpm. It is tempting to say that it is slow for a 450cc motocross bike, but this needs further clarification. Normally the word “slow” is associated with a lack of power, but the TC450 engine is really only slow in a more literal sense. It makes competitive horsepower once the revs are up, but those revs are slow in coming. The positive aspect of this is that the power delivery is very tractable and easy to manage. If you utilize the entire powerband, it will never try to rip your hands from the bars, and you won’t have to shift very often.
Q: WHAT CONDITIONS BEST SUIT THE TC450?
A: There are advantages to the Husky’s metered power delivery. Off the bottom, the TC450 makes usable, tractable and fairly robust power. On hard-packed and slick sections, the Husky hooks up and pulls like a tractor. On smooth, flowing, faster turns, the bike is at home. A rider who plans ahead and stays in rhythm can put in quick laps.
Q: WHAT CAN’T THE TC450 DO?
A: The TC450 can’t be quick. It can’t deliver a burst of power to get you out of trouble when you accidentally get yourself in trouble. Even with a hearty fanning of the clutch lever, the TC450 powerplant seems to fight against gaining rpm. It is torquey more than anything.
Q: IS THERE A TC450 WITH A BETTER ENGINE?
A: Yes. It’s called the TC510. Not only is its displacement different, but the bigger engine adds a pound and requires different gearing. It makes more power and magnifies all that is good about the TC450 with no real downsides.
Q: HOW IS THE TC450 GEARING?
A: The stock 14/50 gearing is about as tall as Paul Bunyan wearing platform shoes. We added two teeth to the rear for a final drive of 14/52. After adding two teeth, some testers had a lingering desire to gear it down even further. This desire, however, stemmed from the wish to punch up the powerband and get it into a higher rpm quicker.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2009 HUSQVARNA TC450 SHIFT?
A: Shifting is a performance aspect that is usually taken for granted by consumers (until there is a problem). Husqvarna’s new steel gear change linkage, steel fork drive shaft and new gear selector are doing their job, because the shifting on our TC450 was spot-on. To be fair, however, bikes that are soft on power generally shift better, since the gear box isn’t under as heavy a load.
Q: HOW GOOD ARE THE MARZOCCHI SHIVER FORKS?
A: When Husqvarna first switched from 45mm Marzocchi forks to 50mm in 2006, the MXA wrecking crew was excited…until we rode with them. They gave our test riders a beating. Three years later, the 50mm Marzocchi sealed-cartridge forks are night and day better.
Our only real complaint is that the fork springs are too soft. They tend to dive and put the bike in a stinkbug stance when the throttle is chopped or the brakes are applied. Aside from the fork springs, our only adjustment to the forks was to slow the rebound by a couple clicks.
Eventually, we consulted with Ty Davis and Andy Jefferson at Zip-Ty Racing about fork setup (since they race Husky's in the WORCS series) and they suggested that we send our forks of Marzocchi's U.S. Offices in Valencia, California, and let them work on them. Since MXA's palacial offices is also in Valencia, we drove the forks over to Marzocchi and were thrilled with the stiffer springs and improved damping. go to www.marzocchi.com or call (661) 257-6630.
Q: HOW GOOD IS THE SACHS SHOCK?
A: In recent years, Husqvarna has gone from a Sachs shock to an Ohlins and back to a Sachs. For many, it’s difficult to know what to expect when throwing a leg over a bike with a Sachs shock. The only track record we have was on previous Huskys. There were a lot of expectations—good and bad. Riders with KTM seat time were inclined to expect very Euro handling and a no-linkage feel. Conversely, the Sachs shock on the linkage-equipped Husky had a more Japanese feel, and worked surprisingly well.
The Sachs shock handles small chop better than large or square-edged bumps. Larger and faster riders went stiffer on the compression settings on the shock, but felt the shock didn’t work as well with a stiffer setup, logically losing its ability to absorb smaller bumps without deflecting. Luckily, the Sachs shock was a plus, not a minus (which is a good thing, because we don’t know many suspension guys who are familiar with Sachs shocks).
Q: HOW DOES THE TC450 HANDLE?
A: One of the goals of the new frame was to improve traction and feel, and that’s exactly how the TC450’s handling has been improved. In years past it was tough to get the front end to bite, which caused the rider to have to throttle steer around corners. The overall effect made for a scary ride. Luckily, the 2009 TC450 has reasonably neutral geometry. It will bite into tight ruts on command, and it remains stable on fast straights.
While much improved, the handling isn’t all peaches and cream. With a very optimistic claimed dry weight of 229.28 pounds, the motorcycle definitely feels heavy on and off the track. That weight can be difficult to wrestle if the rider gets out of control. The heavy feeling of the bike is further exaggerated by the powerband, which isn’t anywhere near quick enough to make the bike feel nimble.
Q: HOW GOOD WERE THE EURO TIRES?
A: The TXCs (enduro models) are equipped with Michelins, while the TCs (motocross models) are Pirelli shod. The Pirelli Scorpions are a good choice for motocrossers.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Side panels. It wouldn’t be accurate to call them number plates, because they don’t accept numbers—they will accept a postage stamp, though.
(2) Gearing. We never want to race on the track that this bike was geared for. It must be a cross between the Bonneville Salt Flats and the Autobahn.
(3) Weight. They don’t call them Husky for nothing. Kudos on saving a kilo (2.2 pounds) on the frame, but you have about five kilos to go before you will fit into that prom dress.
(4) Powerband. MXA test riders were split on the power delivery. Some test riders loved the torquey, slow-revving 450. Others wanted a more gun-and-run powerband. Gearing really helped resolve their differences.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Cool factor. There is nothing like a rarely-seen brand to turn heads in the pits. When you take a TC450 to the track, you’re sure to get a lot of comments and questions.
(2) Front brake. The 260mm Braking rotor is good enough to make the bike stop on a dime.
(3) Hydraulic clutch. It has a fluid feel (literally) and never has to be adjusted.
(4) Exhaust pipe. It’s a love/hate relationship. The two-into-one titanium system is a work of art, yet we suspect with a different design and higher sound rating, the bike would feel snappier and run better.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: In recent history, the TC450 has always been a quirky motorcycle with peccadilloes that made it difficult to adapt to. For 2009 Husky has made major strides forward. With comfortable ergonomics and decent handling, the 2009 Husqvarna TC450 offers great rideability and racing potential is vastly improved. With a solid chassis underneath it, the bike has the potential to be a winner (with a few improvements). As is, when you twist the throttle of the TC450, great things can happen…eventually.
For more info go to www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com