2013 Husqvarna TR650 Strada

First Ride Review

A few months ago I attended the U.S. press launch for the all-new Husqvarna TR650 Terra and Strada, two street legal models powered by a more potent version of the liquid-cooled 652cc single from the BMW G 650 GS. We spent the day riding the 50/50 dual-purpose Terra on pavement and sandy tracks near Husky’s U.S. headquarters in Corona, California, and then I took a test bike home for a longer evaluation (read the first-ride report for the Husqvarna TR650 Terra). A few weeks later, I swapped the Terra for the street-oriented Strada.

Whereas the multi-surface-ready Terra is equipped with spoked 21-/18-inch wheels shod with Metzeler Enduro 3 Sahara dual-sport tires with tubes inside, the street-focused Strada has cast 19-/17-inch wheels that are wider and wrapped in tubeless Metzeler Tourance EXPs. Smaller wheels reduce rake and trail—from 27 degrees/4.4 inches to 26 degrees/4.0 inches—and drop the seat height from 34.4 inches to 33.8. ABS is not available on the Terra, but it is standard equipment on the Strada; a button on the left switchgear turns it off. The Terra’s high fender was left in the parts bin, but both share the same minimalist flyscreen and angular bodywork around the “tank”—the 3.6 gallons of fuel is actually stored under the seat, which helps keep the center of gravity low.

Everything else about the Terra and Strada is the same, from the 58-horsepower (claimed) engine to the steel-bridge frame, steel swingarm with progressive linkage, BMW-sourced 5-speed gearbox and cable-actuated clutch, and the nonadjustable 48mm male-slider fork and preload/rebound-adjustable rear shock with 7.5 inches of travel each. With curb weights just over 400 pounds, the TR650s are little rippers, accelerating with mucho gusto. Throttle response is crisp, clutch action is light and shifting is a breeze. The only problem I experienced was a tendency for the bikes to stall when the engine is cold, and even occasionally after it had warmed up.

Built to a price, the TR650s offer few frills. The clutch and front brake levers aren’t adjustable, instrumentation is minimal and the suspension and brakes—though made by Sachs and Brembo, respectively—are good but not great. The single-disc front brake requires a firm pull at the lever to extract full power, and the lever squeezed my two little fingers against the grip during two-finger braking. Both models have standard metal luggage racks but there are few attachment points for bungees or straps. And the plastic exhaust shields are flimsy; I melted them (and a pair of precious Rok Straps!) against the hot pipes when I strapped on a tail bag. Oh, and did I mention how much I dislike the hair-trigger sidestand?

Both the Terra and the Strada encourage an aggressive, elbows-out riding style. Their wide handlebars, narrow tires and low weight make it easy to pitch them into corners, and they’ll carry ridiculous lean angles, never dragging hard parts. The larger front contact patch and smaller-diameter front wheel on the Strada help it feel more planted and somewhat more maneuverable. And I really appreciate the added safety margin of the standard ABS. Both models cruise easily at 80-plus mph, but the lack of wind protection beats up the rider pretty bad.

It was a hoot blasting around town on the Strada, but if I was going to buy a TR650—and believe me, I’ve seriously considered it—I’d go with the Terra because it’s a more versatile machine, ready to keep going long after the pavement ends. But if you only ride on the street, the Strada makes more sense, especially with the lower seat height, more durable wheels with tubeless tires and ABS. At $6,999 for the TR650 Terra and $7,499 for the TR650 Strada, either is a great deal. An extensive accessory list allows buyers to tailor the bikes as they see fit.

(NOTE: BMW Motorrad recently announced that it had sold Husqvarna to Pierer Industrie AG, an Austrian company headed by Stefan Pierer, CEO of KTM. What exactly this means for the availability of Husqvarna models and its U.S. dealer network remains to be seen.)