Behind the cases of this GS-turned-TR single-cylinder engine hides a new piston, crankshaft and camshafts. These changes in combination with a new cylinder head design are worth an added 10 horsepower when compared to BMW’s iteration.
Manufacturer pairings are nothing new in the two- and four-wheel markets, although some partnerships make a definite amount more noise than others — think Audi and Ducati. BMW and Husqvarna’s affiliation falls on the less profound end of the spectrum, but with an increasing number of Husqvarna-labeled street bikes already hitting the road, it appears that the collaboration has been successful thus far. The TR 650 Strada in particular stands as Husqvarna’s second street-oriented model and is more dual-purpose structured than last year’s non-U.S.-bound Nuda 900 and Nuda 900 R. Like both Nuda models, however, the TR 650 is one part German engineering, one part Italian design; another match made in two-wheel heaven, clearly.
The TR 650 not so secretly traces its roots back to BMW’s G 650 GS, with the engine being the primary connection. The reworked, 652cc powerplant has fallen fall from the tree, however, and features a reshaped cylinder head in addition to a lighter piston, larger valves and altered camshafts. The result is a modest increase in compression ratio (12.3:1 versus 11.5:1) and 10 added horsepower — good for a slightly wider grin come time to open the throttle. A revised crankshaft and counterbalancer correspond with the updates up top and are better suited toward increased revs and lower vibrations, claims Husqvarna reps, who are also quick to point out that BMW engineers have had no less than three years to fine-tune this engine platform.
The TR 650’s split-backbone chassis is not to be confused with the G 650 GS’ frame and “actually operates like a trellis-style frame,” say Husky reps. Slightly different rake (26.0 degrees for Husqvarna versus 28.1 degrees for BMW) and trail (4.0 inches for Husky versus 4.4 inches for BMW) numbers further confirm the disparity between the GS and TR frames, and also suggest that the TR is slightly more agile through a tighter section of road. A reconfigured fuel tank positioned under the seat works hand-in-hand with the 650’s chassis to provide a lower center of gravity.
Suspension action out back is handled by an adjustable rear shock that provides at least some flexibility when compared to the nonadjustable 46mm front fork. Both suspenders provide a whopping 7.5 inches of travel and vary drastically from that of the 2013 TR 650 Terra, a more dual-sport oriented model that will ship alongside the Strada. And whereas the Terra rolls on larger diameter spoke wheels, the Strada uses sportier cast aluminum examples that half-heartedly assert it a spot next to a selection of more aggressive road-going bikes. ABS rings are mounted to both the front and rear hoops, with a 300mm disc up front and 240mm disc out back handling stopping duties.
Husqvarna’s background in off-road racing has clearly influenced the design of its new breed of street-focused models, and it’s hard to not think dirt bike when you first glance at the Italian-designed Strada. That opinion is only heightened by the bike’s semi-obtrusive 33.9-inch seat height and 34.5-inch wide handlebars. Having not ridden a surplus of supermoto-inspired bikes, I admittedly took some time to get accustomed to the Strada’s upright riding position. As for the design, the TR 650 has Husqvarna written all over it (figuratively), with aggressive lines matching a typical onslaught of Husky-red paint; there are more head-turning designs no doubt, but in the end Husqvarna intends for the TR to be more aggressive and edgy than its BMW counterparts.
The Strada has a noticeable amount of BMW engineering left tuned in once the key is turned and throttle rolled back. The throttle application is very precise, for instance, with just a small amount of surge to speak for when the throttle goes from open to close. The GS-turned-TR engine runs happily around 5000 rpm, with what most riders would claim to be a bit livelier performance when compared to the Beemer. The single’s extremely flat torque curve works in your favor on a tighter section of road, and the bike manages to tractor out of a corner almost no matter where the needle rests on the tachometer; all this at the expense of a slightly intrusive amount of vibrations. As far as that buzz is concerned, however, Husqvarna has done a good job of keeping the footpegs and handlebar relatively quell-free via over-engineered rubber inserts and bar ends.
A few minutes spent riding the TR 650 Terra prior to calling the Strada’s admittedly stiff seat home proved eye-opening; the cast-aluminum-wheel-equipped Strada is a much more composed motorcycle than its dirt-oriented counterpart, with dramatically better spring rates for on-road use and more linear steering characteristics. Both bikes steer lightly, but the road-going Strada feels much smoother as it transitions into a corner thanks to its smaller wheels. The nonadjustable front fork is fairly well damped, with enough stiffness to keep the chassis composed but not enough to necessitate spine realignment. The enduro-style Metzeler tires were more of a concern for me than anything through the middle of a corner or as temperatures built. Fortunately, that should be a relatively easy fix once the original rubber is past its sell-by date, tire availability depending.
The TR’s Brembo front brake caliper clamps onto a 300mm disc but provides underwhelming stopping power. Fortunately for Husky riders, the bike weighs a — claimed — 410 pounds, meaning there’s rarely a time where one finger won’t suffice for getting the lightweight slowed down. Some forethought goes a long way in panic-stop situations nonetheless. As for the ABS system, you can easily switch it off via a button on the left handlebar, ultimately allowing you to relish in the bikes supermoto-esque nature.
As Husqvarna continues the development of its “street lineup,” it’s looking more unlikely that the company will completely alter its course and head toward a less off-road-inspired model — as I’d hope to see. It’s still refreshing to see an increased number of models being offered stateside, however, and the TR 650 Strada in particular feels very new-rider friendly thanks to its light steering, light controls and smooth power delivery. The fact that you get BMW technology alongside this bold new look is just the cherry on top. sr
|Specifications 2013 Husqvarna TR 650 Strada|
|Type: Liquid-cooled, DOHC single-cylinder, 4 valves/cyl.|
|Bore x stroke: 100.0 x 83.0mm|
|Compression ratio: 12.3:1|
|Induction: Marelli FI, 43mm throttle bodies, single injector/cyl.|
|Front tire: 110/80R-19 Metzeler Tourance EXP|
|Rear tire: 140/80R-17 Metzeler Tourance EXP|
|Rake/trail: 26.0 degrees/ 4.0 in. (101mm)|
|Wheelbase: 59.1 in. (1501mm)|
|Seat height: 33.9 in. (860mm)|
|Fuel capacity: 3.08 gal. (13.5L)|
|Claimed wet weight: 410 lb. (186kg)|