The weekend of the 3rd and 4th of September was Fathers day weekend in Australia, and also the Husaberg & KTM Ride days in Callington, not far from where I live.
In short, the perfect excuse for a dirtbiking weekend!
After some organising, I had my brother in-law Pete and his brother Pee Wee come up with their bikes as well as booked in to the ride days.
After some quiet beers on Friday night and a good nights sleep, we went out for a bit of a blast on our own bikes first.
Pete has an XR400, and tried out the Berg FE570 and loved the power, tipabbility, and much more modern feel compared to the XR400.
I took out the XR400, first time i've ever ridden one, even though I did have an XR250 for a while. The thing I noticed most coming off the berg was the seat is not grippy. Almost did myself an injury braking into the corners. Of course its a lot softer bike as well, a different "generation" of motorbikes, really.
Pee Wee has a KX 250F, and when he got off the Berg, he was very impressed with the power, and ability to pop wheelies.
I took out his KX, and quite liked it actually, it immediately felt like a Kawasaki. Its been at least 20 years since I've sat on a green machine, and that was a KX80 two stroke, but for some reason it just felt "kwaka" immediately to me.
I did like the power curve on the 250F though, brough back memories of my WR250F. Good fun wringing it right out to get the most of the power.
We had a quick lunch and then headed off to the Husaberg ride days to throw a leg over the 2012 bergs and see what they were like.
Husaberg ride day - The setup
The ride day site/track had been used for the Australian Off Road Championships the weekend before, so there was no doubt that the tracks would be worn-in ;-)
We arrived at the track a bit early, went through the sign-in process and then got changed into the riding gear, ready to get dirty.
Once signed in, you had to wait at the appropriate tent for the style of bike you wanted to ride (two tents for Husaberg - two strokes/four strokes, three for KTM - two strokes/four strokes/motocross), usually only for a couple of minutes, then jump on and away you go.
You are issued an arm band with thre tear offs, one of which is torn off as you start each ride.
As we suspected, the tracks were well and truly worn-in by the Off Road Championships. Thick, soft sand was the order of the day, with a bit through some creek beds that was a bit firmer.
There were a few small log/stick crossings along the way as well, but mostly thick very soft sand.
I jumped on the two stroke 250 for something different first, and was immediately impressed. I'd ridden a 2010/11 KTM 250EXC a few months ago, and it just didn't grab me, but the Husanberg TE250 seemed to have more go all across the board. Suspension felt very similar to the excellent bouncers on the 2011 FE570, so I felt right at home.
Next I had to try out the updated 570, to see if there was any difference. The answer is cosmetic changes only (handguards included now, and a protector on the side frame rails). It felt instantly at home, love the power on tap, anywhere, the suspension is awesome, and it turns beautifully. Hard to go past the big girl.
I went round on the 390 last, and I was impressed. As expected, handling, and all details on the bike are identical, it just has a different power curve. It still pulled itself up onto the top of the sandy track with ease, pulled the same gear through corners as the 570, and being able to hold it flat longer did make you feel like you were channelling David Knight or Taddy Blazusiak more than normal. ;-)
Pete took out the 450 as well as the 390 and the 570, and he really liked it, a bit more revvy.
Pee Wee took out the big two banger for a lap and came back raving about instant power, and gobs of it.
There were two bikes MIA at the Berg camp, making a slightly longer wait for a ride. A second 390 that had got sand past an ill-fitted airfilter, and I think it was a second 300 that had a blocked injector.
So If you like the Two strokes, pick your size and go have a blast, both the Husabergs are weapons, but then again, so are the Four strokes. Basically, its hard to go wrong with the current Husaberg range, they are all excellent. Your choice will depend more on the type of riding you do, than the abilities of the bike.
We headed off to the Callington pub for a quick beer and more discussion on the great bikes and the riding before heading home for some more beers and a good nights sleep as the KTM ride day was 9:00am start tomorrow!
Sunday - Fathers day - KTM
2012 250EXC (two stroke)
After riding the Husaberg TE250 first up, I thought i'd do the same on the KTM's. The KTM version had softer power, and wasn't as quick to get up and skimming on the top of the sand. Handling was pretty good, but overall, the Husaberg 250 was a noticably nicer fit to my riding style. Weird, as the bikes must be virtually identical. Stalled this and had to kick start it. I dont think that two stroke e-starts are quite perfected yet.
Pete took out the 450EXC, and hated it. He reckons it was the hardest to hang onto, very touchy on the throttle, and you had to be on the ball the whole time. However I spoke to another guy there who liked it the best, so I have no idea on that one ;-).
I rode an older 530EXC a couple of weeks ago back to back with the FE570, and it was noticably down on power compared to the big Berg. I expected that to still be an issue, but really it was not noticeable on the test track, no way to get the big beasts going near full speed. I liked the KTM, noticeably nicer than the older non Fuel Injectioned versions, but the KTM's do have their own slightly funny handling traits, which showed through in this and the 350EXC. I stalled the 500 in a fluffy, sandy corner, that I didn't do on any of the others, so dunno if that was me being a Gumby, or its a bit more prone to that.
Pee Wee Rode the 500EXC as well, and thought it was pretty good, but had a big get-off after getting it hooking down one of the short straights. Hard on the brakes for the corners and it started swapping and then tossed him to one side like used socks.
I wanted to try the new 350 for my last ride, so after 5 minutes in the tent, one came back and out I went. Its quite a bit less powerful than the FE390, which is probably its closest competition, but did handle much more like the Bergs than the other KTM's did. It felt a lot like a 250F, wring the throttle on and squeeze every drop out of it.This was my last lap, and the tracks were getting even rougher as there were at least three times as many people out to try the KTM's as the previous day for the Bergs. Over one of the small logs, I miss-timed the launch and the front deflected in the sand and next thing I had a little lay down and inspected the sand.
I started to pickup the bike, then realised that two of the sweep riders (experts from the Off Road Championships) were right behind me. Damn, can't deny it happened now ;-/. Picked up the bike, all was fine, off we went back to the tents to hand it onto the next guy.
Pee Wee has an MX background, so spent some time over in that section, he rode the 350 and the 450, but liked the 450 much better for the conditions. One of them stalled and then wouldn't re-start on the button (e-start only now), so had to be pushed back to the tents. A minor issue, probably just flat battery.
So overall, I don't think we were quite as taken with the KTM's, but they certainly have a bike for every situation, and really there far from being bad, just slight riding style differences for each that you need to adjust to.
I was a bit slack and only took a few photos on the day, as you can see below.
After riding the KTM's, we headed back home and hopped back onto our own bikes to be sure we knew what we were missing out on, or to learn to love our old beasts again.
Once we'd cut a few laps, and swapped bikes a bit again, we headed back to the house for a quick shower and then "brunch".
Deb put on Bacon and Eggs, the like of which you have never seen, and I got a fathers day present from Cass ..... a Lightsaber! I proceeded to joust with random family members throughout the day and night, enjoying the Star Wars magic ;-)
Best. Fathers day. Ever.
Finally, I'd like congratulate someone in the KTM/Husaberg camps for organising these ride days, how else could you try 6 brand new different bikes within about 4 hours. An excellent idea, and I'm sure it will work well in the marketing of the new models. Well done!