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Project Husqvarna TE610 Part 1: Dual Sport Adventure Bike Options

Project Husqvarna TE610 Part 1: Dual Sport Adventure Bike Options

By Dan Barnes

Buying a semi-obscure Italian motorcycle and riding it out to the middle of nowhere may not seem to be a well-thought-out plan, but really, there was some thought. I swear. An off-road bike is ridiculous fun, but it's also kind of like having a track car that needs a trailer. The goal of this project is a bike that can be ridden out of the driveway, cruise on the freeway to get to the mountains, then hit dirt roads, jeep trails and singletrack, stringing them together with a patch of pavement here or there if needed. A go anywhere, do anything bike.

I am a big guy and usually get the call when a friend has something heavy to move. This bike needed to be big, with plenty of power, but not heavy. I wanted it to look like a motorcycle, not a garden tractor or, worse, a garden tractor wrapped in Tupperware®. And it needed to be good enough off-road to climb obstacles and thread through trees on singletrack. Not a low-buck touring bike with sorta-long-travel suspension. A dirt bike. And it needed to have benefitted from a few years of depreciation. The list gets short really quickly.

Honda XR650R
Honda's XR650R was built from 2000 to 2007, originally with one purpose: to win Baja. And it did win, every time it was fielded in a factory effort. Photo courtesy American Honda Motor Co., Inc.

 

The XR650R is a great bike: lightweight for a thumper over 600cc, powerful and fast. It looks right. The fact that it's kick-start only doesn't bother me, but some people strongly prefer a "magic button". One could still buy new XR650Rs several years after their model years, but their hanging around in dealerships may have been due to the lack of electric start and the impossibility of registering one for street use in California after January 2004.

Because it was conceived as a race bike, Honda never made the XRR meet federal emissions requirements for road use, and California is one of a growing number of states that choose to enforce those rules. There are 2002-and-older XR650Rs in California with valid license plates, but if you didn't own the bike before the cutoff to convert it to road use in 2004, even buying one with a current plate seems to leave you liable to eventually receive a nastygram from Sacramento, inviting you to trade your now-useless piece of stamped aluminum for an OHV sticker.

It can be debated whether there are strategies for getting around this, but after reading everything I could find about the issue, I decided not to take the risk. In spite of that reality, it seems that most XRRs have had the equipment installed to make them street-legal where that's possible: lighting, horn, etc. If you are strong enough to not worry about kick-starting a big thumper and live in a state that will give you a plate for pretty much anything with two wheels, lights and a horn, an XRR is a solid choice.

 

KTM 530 EXC
KTM's EXC series is among the best options for a dirt bike-with-a-plate, but its high-performance focus leads to compromises that make it less suited for long distance adventures. Photo courtesy Mathis P. and KTM

 

KTM has both the 530 EXC, which is a fairly conventional dirt bike, and the 690 Enduro R, which is shifted a little more toward dual-purpose work as well as being reorganized from standard motorcycle architecture, with the fuel tank under the seat. New or nearly so, they both cost more than I was prepared to spend for a toy.

The older 525 EXC is another good bike, but neither it nor the 530 have the long legs and ranginess I wanted for the highway parts of longer rides. A tiny engine oil capacity causes the oil to run hot, necessitating frequent changes. Valves need to be checked frequently, though they at least have threaded adjusters instead of shims.
 

Suzuki DR650SE Kawasaki KLR 650
Photo courtesy American Suzuki Photo courtesy Kawasaki Motors Corp., U.S.A.


The Suzuki DR650SE and Kawasaki KLR 650 make good long-distance touring bikes for dirt roads, but are just too heavy for the dirt I plan to ride. Kawasaki also made the much more dirt-oriented KLX650 from 1993-1996 in kick- and electric-start versions, but sold about 12 of them and then stopped. People who have them say they are great bikes, but the newest one is now 15 years old and there is virtually no aftermarket support.

 

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Comments
JDMized
JDMizedlink
Friday, December 09, 2011 12:42 AM
Oh man, you bring back good memories!
I had an XR650 back in....2002-2003? I bought it from the local Honda dealer, and as you said, it was not street-legal (at that time), but I worked my way around (here in California) and bought a Baja-Design kit from those folks in San Diego (I'm not sure they're still around).
It took me SEVERAL DMV to register the bike, but I finally got my green sticker, then I started modding it with HRC kit and other goodies: Pro-Circuit exhaust, Excel rims, RACE-TECH forks and shocks....and like you said, I refused to buy a electric starter, so the kick-pedal was the only choice.
Being at 5'6' and with a high comp. piston from HRC, cranking the bike became an headache.....I ended up selling it back to the dealer for a CR450 and never looked back:)
Marillionado
Marillionadolink
Friday, December 09, 2011 5:13 AM
Good move there, Dan.
Huskis need some maintenance done on a regular basis, but then, so does every dirt bike. Fun is guaranteed.
Will there be an upgrade project on this one?
I'm still waiting on Mr. Kojima's updates on the litle Aprilia RS50..
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Friday, December 09, 2011 5:38 AM
I love the Husky but hate the seat height. I am 1 foot away from touching the ground. Dan is super tall though so no problem.
priapism
priapismlink
Friday, December 09, 2011 5:53 AM
Oh man, as a long-ish time Husky owner I was surprised to find this HERE! I will say, be cautious of the breakin. A long, gentle break-in is CRITICAL on these motors. It's the difference between getting 10,000 miles out of a top end and 1000. If it's got throttle stops or restrictors in there, don't even take them out. Talk to George Erl down at Uptite Husky if you want to hear some killer stories =)
SixCylinders
SixCylinderslink
Friday, December 09, 2011 7:12 AM
Neat project, can't wait to see where it goes.
Ockham
Ockhamlink
Friday, December 09, 2011 7:58 AM
Dan, just how tall are you? I shop for bikes based on what comfortably fits a 6'5" rider, which really isn't much. Is the Husky that big?
priapism
priapismlink
Friday, December 09, 2011 8:00 AM
Dirt bikes typically sit very tall, if you're expecting to flat foot you'll never find one that fits!
hallskiwallski
hallskiwallskilink
Friday, December 09, 2011 8:30 AM
Hi, long time reader first time poster. huskys are top-o-line bikes, are a bit tall, but easily lowered. I owned an SM a couple of years ago and the only issue i had was a broken chain in the middle of a 600 mile trip. This was after a measily 3500 on the clock, so I would change that straight away. Also, change the tiny filter w/ oil frequently if off-roading or you will be sorry. Expect blow-by at speed on the hwy, thats just what they do. Other then that it will be a barrel of monkey's!
Rockwood
Rockwoodlink
Friday, December 09, 2011 9:39 AM
I used to ride my Dad's old 'zuk 185 to some local trails and such (I live right on the edge of the boonies) and it was an absolute blast. Been wanting to get into a dual sport again, though luckily I'm only 5'11", 180lbs, so just about every bike out there is built for me. :)
Dan Barnes
Dan Barneslink
Friday, December 09, 2011 10:13 AM
@Ockham-
I'm 6'4" and can flat-foot it with the stock seat height. Though the bike is big, the actual relationship between foot pegs and bars still needed to grow a bit. "Fit" seems to be pretty dialed with some fairly simple changes now. I'll get into that in a future piece. As for "comfort", the stock seat pretty much leaves that to the imagination. Haven't fixed it yet, but will.

@hallskiwallski-
The reports of early chain breakage worried me. The next article will address a likely cause that I was really surprised to discover. I'm confident we have that issue dialed.

@Rockwood-
There are guys down around 5'6" who ride TE610s all over the place. Depending on what you want it to do, you could consider something like the newer 250cc injected bikes from Yamaha and Honda that are designed for higher-mileage use like the 610, pick a middle-of-the-road lightweight like a TE310 or KTMs for day use, or go up to something with a lot more carrying capacity than the 610/630.
Der Bruce
Der Brucelink
Friday, December 09, 2011 12:16 PM
Having owned and ridden Husqvarnas for the better part of a decade, I'm happy with the decision you made Dan! For me it would've been a REALLY close call between the Husky and KTM. My first bike was of the old Swedish variety while my last was of Italian origin. My last bike was a 610 WXC to which many similarites to your TE can be made but my understanding was around 2000 there was a refresh to distance my 610 from yours.

I'm also 6'4" which means I've never had any complaints about seat height, ever!

Well maintained the TE should take car of you well but lessons I learned from my bike that may transfer over include: Finding the right tire compound. The torque is hard on knobbies that are too soft. I upgraded my chain and don't think I ever had a problem with the upgrade. A Hot Start kit was a must have after long hard rides through the trails (btw after all those years of kick starting, I'm peachy with the electric start on my quad).

Oh, and I got a TON of comments on how sweet my dual mufflers were. Everybody thought I used an aftermarket kit, haha :)
Option13
Option13link
Friday, December 09, 2011 8:05 PM
Mike, do you think you guys could do an article about engine break in? There are advocates for both gentle and aggressive ring seating methods, and after reading firsthand accounts of non explosive results with no ill effects caused by hard running to seat the rings, I've been converted. At the same time, I'd love an expert opinion.
priapism
priapismlink
Friday, December 09, 2011 8:49 PM
^ Husqvarnas are a special case for breakins, they use soft metals that need many heat cycles to harden. I had a Husky SMR510 that was broken in hard by the previous owner; it absolutely shredded itself within 1200 miles. I had huge chunks of metal in my oil. On the rebuild I broke it in soft and I've got 4k HARD miles on it and it barely sheds any metal on oil changes now and I still have great compression.
Option13
Option13link
Friday, December 09, 2011 10:08 PM
Any engine uses both soft and hard metals in its construction, but I've never heard anyone say any engine part needed to be heat treated after the engine was assembled. Example please?
Dan Barnes
Dan Barneslink
Sunday, December 11, 2011 8:06 AM
Break-in is the one thing I'm worried about with this project. I added the recommended mileage at part throttle and keeping it under 5500 rpm before cranking it open, but I can only guess what the previous owner did in the 6xx miles he rode it. Fortunately, the bike is fast enough that people who don't ride a lot probably aren't going to use very much of what it has.
Alkaline707
Alkaline707link
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 10:48 AM
It's crazy this article popped up here as I am doing my own search for the perfect dual-sport.

How much did you pay for that bike?

A lot of my friends have been trying to discourage me from buying a semi-obscure euro bike because of the price of parts. Did this worry you?
Jeff Naeyaert
Jeff Naeyaertlink
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 11:22 AM
I wanted an all around bike too a few years ago with a little more street use than it looks like you were looking for Dan. But I'm a wimp and wanted a somewhat comfortable seat--not a 2x4. Ended up getting a pretty sweet deal on my BMW 650XCountry. The Rotax engine is a gem, but would LOVE a 6th gear. This thing is pretty buzzy and strung out on the freeway at anything over 70. Did you look at the BMW XChallenge?? I wanna ride your bike!

Dan Barnes
Dan Barneslink
Tuesday, December 13, 2011 8:08 PM
I was offered a 2009 with the delivery plastic still on the seat at a dealer for $6500 shortly before I bought this. The yellow bike was enough less than that to make it worth the risk of poor break-in, etc., at least to me.

Parts aren't unreasonable. I've bought a few things already online from Motoxotica in NorCal, and now the local BMW bike dealer is selling Husky. Not that I expect them to have any 610 parts in stock, or available faster than ordering from Motoxotica.

My other bike is a YZ250 and I can buy stuff for it on fleabay or Craigslist all day. The Husky is not like that. Still, Husky has enough of a footprint in the dirt bike world and the different models share enough parts, especially consumables and wear items, that lots of aftermarket companies make good options. Especially the items you might expect to find yourself replacing on the road should be available in normal powersports distribution channels. You're not stuck paying the equivalent of a "Porsche tax" on anything with Huskies, at least the ones that aren't heavily BMW under the skin.

I've read where the TE's seat was called a "2x4" many times, but my mountain bike's seat is about half as wide, much harder, and comfortable for quite a bit longer than the Husky's. So is the YZ's seat, which is also narrower. I don't yet buy that the fundamental problems with the Husky seat are being too soft or too narrow. I'll be trying some stuff when I get to that point.

I never really considered BMW, probably mostly because of the feelings I have about the brand and the way its vehicles are engineered after nine years of car ownership. I'll just say I didn't want those frustrations to follow me into the dirt and leave it at that.

I actually saw a KLX650 on the road today. Purple frame and pink graphics. The mid-'90s rocked.
Dan Barnes
Dan Barneslink
Saturday, December 17, 2011 9:06 PM
Husky has launched an owners' magazine called "RideMore Journal". There's a forward by Kris Odwarka, President of Husqvarna North America, including the following comments about parts supply:

"Our support infrastructure has taken a giant step forward. As you read this, we’re putting the finishing touches on an industry-leading fulfillment organization for our bikes, parts and accessories. By accessing the BMW car and motorcycle Regional Distribution Centers on both the east and west coasts, we can ship bikes and parts to dealers more quickly and at lower costs than ever before. We expect to be able to ship a part for arrival by noon the next day in a pinch, and standard two-day shipping and handling will be of no charge!"

Just thought I'd add this info after the comments above.
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