The classic dirt bikes that we call motocross bikes today have been around since the late 1950s, it’s since then that Husqvarna has been in the foreground of motorcycle development and also keeping up with the front runners. However, it was through the 1960s and 70s that ‘Husky’ became a dominant force in motocross and enduros, winning 14 motocross world championships, 24 European Enduro championships, and 11 Baja 1000 victories.
Decades later and motocross as a whole has become an extremely popular sport where pro riders become instant celebrities overnight. The milestones in motorcycle development have also changed the game, to the point where you start to wonder; what more can be done in this petrol-powered space?
To answer this question, Husqvarna Motorcycles South Africa invited us to Sir James Van Der Merwe at Katy’s Palace Bar to see the new milestone that they have set in the motocross segment, and boy have they raised the bar. As with Husqvarna’s orange siblings which we tested a few weeks ago, the latest 2023 crop of motocross bikes comes packed with updates, and who better to give us the low down than Husqvarna’s marketing manager Grant Frerichs.
Husqvarna started off the proceedings with a quick introduction and an awesome promo video featuring, believe it or not, Husqvarna South Africa’s very own Joshua Mlimi roosting and whipping his way around a test track in America. If that’s not a good enough testament to the current talent we’ve got in SA and Husqvarna’s passion for racing, then I don’t know what is.
So, right off the bat we quickly notice the new plastics and handsome livery across the range, bringing a new premium look to the brand and a closer similarity than ever before—without the model sticker on the bike, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. This is thanks to the many parts shared between the bikes, like the frame, swing arm, wheels, brakes, suspension, plastics, and even the radiators. What clever thinking from Husky, this allows parts to be easily interchangeable when it comes to after-sales, servicing, and even handling characteristics for riders jumping onto bigger or smaller bikes.
Husqvarna has improved the rider triangle with a greater surface to squeeze the bike with the knees, 8 mm narrower inserted footpegs and 5 mm lower, a flatter seat, a new and more robust subframe combining both polyamide and aluminium in a 60/40% ratio, also dropping the weight in the process by 1.8 kg.
To further the mechanical grip and to improve the anti-squat of the bikes, they have introduced a new hydro-formed chromium-molybdenum topology-optimised die-cast aluminium swingarm. Yes, a mouth full but grip and less weight are what this setup brings.
On the motor side, particularly the 2-stroke, the most noticeable change is electronic fuel injection. Rather than using “TPI” Husqvarna has changed to a throttle body type injection system similar to the ones on the 4-strokes. In return, this gets you a more ridable bike, more power, enhanced reliability, and overall lower running costs. To top it all off, Husky has made its smokers easier to start by introducing an electric start.
Don’t worry, the four-stroke engines have also been shown some love and have been updated making them more compact, durable, easier to service, and offer the best power-to-weight ratio, as well as contributing to better mass centralization—with the new placement of the motors.
The biggy in my opinion is the all-new electronics suite, which Husqvarna has truly taken to the next level. All the electronic wizardry can be adjusted and engaged through the new multifunctional ‘Map Select Switch’, which allows riders to activate the quick-shifter, traction control, launch control and change engine maps. The quick-shifter is only fitted to the 4-stroke models and helps with seamless upshifting, before the jumps and especially when trying to get the perfect holeshot. With each model being equipped with a map select switch, riders can now personalise and adjust their bikes’ characteristics as the track conditions change.
The WP XACT suspension has been tweaked for 2023, with a more progressive end-of-stroke damping up front and a refined main piston for improved comfort at the rear. The biggest talking point and change on the suspension is the tool-free adjusters for fast setting changes. Yes, clip off the right plastic panel, make your preload or rebound change and hit the track in seconds. This seems like something so simple, yet no one has done it.
We will only be able to report on how these bikes ride and how they feel in the next coming weeks, but if the test scores reflect anything, this is that Husqvarna is at the top of their game. With the number of changes and passion behind their latest MX range, it’s clear that Husqvarna doesn’t have their fingers anywhere near the brake lever, especially when it comes to the development of their petrol-powered MX bikes.
Husqvarna 2023 MX Range
For more information on the latest 2023 Husqvarna MX range, click on the links below…