I grew up in a home where WSBK, MotoGP, WRC, Dakar, S1GP and just about every other form of racing was consistently being watched or playing away in the background as grey noise during our Monday-to-Sunday family dinners. Frankly, I’m not sure where I would be today, had there not been petrol-powered excitement in my life. Having a love for all things adrenaline-filled in my teens, my taste buds made me yearn for motards, race replica sportbikes, vintage racers and my all-time favourite, middle-weight nakeds.
My obsession with these motorcycles and sports happened to leave me asking myself questions, questions like: why is adventure motorcycling so popular? I couldn’t wrap my head around it until much later…
Just like adrenaline feeds the hooligan, so too does adventure feed the adventurer. Adventure motorcycling is completely different to what I grew up loving, it’s not about banking a bike onto the edge of its sidewall into a corner or clearing a massive jump, you don’t chase those kinds of thrills on an adventure. Adventuring is about welcoming new and beautiful sceneries, chatting to like-minded travellers, finding wide open spaces and more technical rocky terrain which leads you to places most will never see in their “tarred road only” lifetime. It has without a doubt enhanced my reason for riding motorcycles and has left me with a completely different perspective to what I now think is truly the best way to spend time on a motorcycle—it’s a feeling that is tough to explain.
Growing up I thought the natural progression as a motorcyclist was to buy an adventure bike when you finally decided it was time to start winding down from the crazy things one used to do. But, as the saying goes, how are you going to climb into your Lamborghini and drive it like it should be driven when your best years have passed and that eyesight and now bad back no longer communicate because of the inevitable ageing process? There’s no age restriction or limit behind the box that is motorcycling, enjoy it all and don’t let anything or anyone stop you from living your dreams.
It is now in my later twenties that I find myself opening my eyes to adventure and there are a couple of people that have inspired me; Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor from “Long Way Round”, Adam Riemann with his War and Darkhorse stories amongst many others, Chris Birch showing the potential of the latest adventure bikes, Jamie from MotoGeo and his wild adventure ideas, our good friend Dave Cilliers preaching how any bike can be an adventure bike and lastly the originals, Mondo Enduro.
We all have a bit of mondo inside of us, I mean the riders who make up the Mondo Enduro team had no sponsors, no backup vehicles, no modern equipment and most of the time they had no idea where the heck they were going. Sound familiar? This didn’t stop them from riding 71,000 km together, so why should anything stop you from getting an adventure bike and going on a small breakaway adventure trip?
This is the mentality I’ve inherited, one of seeking new adventures, which means I make just about any excuse to ride and luckily we as ZA Bikers have good relationships with local motorcycle importers that feel the same way. With another itch to explore, Husqvarna SA rolled out a Norden Expedition 901 out of their stable for some weekend shenanigans.
Why choose the “Expedition” for the adventure? Well, if the name doesn’t already suggest it, I’ll try to explain…
For the short weekend away the hunt was on for a simple loop or zigzag around the stunning Magaliesburg before setting up camp and then doing it all over again the next day. We all know that Husqvarna is the sister company to KTM and therefore the birth of the Norden is thanks to the 790 and now 890 Adventure project. The best way to describe the Norden 901 Expedition is to just imagine KTM’s 890 Adventure and Adventure R having a blue-eyed baby. The Expedition version of the Norden 901 is made up of the best parts of both these bikes, with the gem being the awesome LC8 889 cc parallel twin making an exciting 105 hp and 100 Nm.
The Expedition gets its dad’s fully adjustable WP Xplor suspension with 240 mm travel at both ends and a decent 270 mm of ground clearance. What in my mind takes the Expedition to almost KTM 1290 Adventure R levels of comfort and features is that this 901 is loaded with everything one could want; a full aluminium bash plate, cruise control, quick shifter up and down, heated seats and grips, touring screen, tubeless wheels, centre stand, Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres and built-in spotlights. If you’ve got a roll bag or soft luggage bags the Expedition is ready to go anywhere without complications stock standard.
On the road just like any adventure motorcycle the Norden stands tall, and if you are short or even average-sized like me at 175 cm, you will tippy toe. Luckily the seat on the Norden is adjustable from 895 mm to 875 mm which makes it a shorter ride than the 1290 R, even though it still has way more ground clearance. One of my favourite features on both the orange and blue middle-weight adventures is the low-slung fuel tanks. For shorter riders, this will balance the bike at a stop and for the faster or more technical riders, directional changes are smoother and easier to manage because of the lower centre of gravity.
Just like the “GS” riders have been preaching for years about a low centre of gravity from their boxer motors, you can experience almost the same effect without having the mishap of knocking a cylinder head on a rock or tip over. Facts aside, once you’ve ridden off-road at a hard charge it’s difficult to imagine going back to a top-heavy adventure bike. Enhancing the lower centre of gravity around Magalies awesome dirt roads was the Explore mode, which allows you to dial in your slip control (fancy traction control) with 9 different lean-sensitive traction control settings.
If you are never going to dive into these settings and turn things off for some fun, then the standard programmed modes Street, Rain and Off-Road will do you just fine with their pre-programmed ABS and traction control settings taking care of it all for you.
Fancy gizmos aside, the Norden feels slim and easy going which is exactly what you want when standing on those footpegs taking in the beautiful continent of Africa. It’s a bike that stops you from thinking about the mechanicals of riding and it just allows you to connect with the world around you—the Norden just makes easy labour of all-terrain it’s handed. Don’t get me wrong, the 901 can be a serious off-road weapon in the right mode and at the twist of the throttle, but when you want to ride at “stop and smell the roses” pace, it’s happy to pluck a bouquet for you.
Comfort-wise the Norden has one of the most comfortable seats I have ever experienced with its wide covering and its jell-like plushness. At 175 cm the touring screen throws the air right over my helmet, for summer I might even consider the better-looking and shorter base model Norden screen. The motor is so smooth, which makes me think most riders will end up popping the rubber centres of the adventure footpegs out and never feel the need to put them back again. For long open roads, fast twisties and off-road adventures the Expedition scores an A. The A+ is sacrificed by the vortex of engine heat that radiates behind the fuel tanks, which isn’t a deal breaker as many bikes in the class suffer from the same directional engine heat issues.
At the end of a good day’s ride the Norden and I watched the flames and listened to the crackle of a well-earned campfire. Sometimes adventures are overthought and calculations get in the way of experiencing something that’s supposed to come naturally. That’s why having an adventure bike in the garage and just popping out onto a trail after work or leaving on a Friday for the long weekend can just reboot the mind, body and soul. So, don’t wait until you think you are old enough, fragile or financially stable enough to start adventuring—there’s no better time than the present. When are you setting out on your next Expedition?
Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition
For more information on the bike featured in this article, click on the link below…
Husqvarna Functional Wear
For more information on the Husqvarna functional wear featured in this article, click on the links below…