Husqvarna has had a varied old life. Despite starting as a firearms manufacturer in 1689, the Swedish company turned its hand to motorcycles in 1903. (Making it the world’s oldest motorcycle manufacturer, something Harley-Davidson will argue…)
Considerable on-road race success followed but from the 1930s onwards the company concentrated its efforts on the off-road market. In 1986 the Cagiva Group (who also owned Ducati at this point) purchased Husqvarna and the company was moved to Italy where it has remained ever since. With its off-road sales strong the latest chapter in this bizarre life of Husqvarna started in 2007 when BMW bought the company from Cagiva for 93 million Euros. What did BMW want with an off-road brand? Simple, Husky was an established brand that appealed to young riders. BMW wanted a ‘cool’ brand in much the same way as Mini to appeal to a fresh audience. Four years after the takeover, and after nearly 50 million Euros of investment that has included an overhaul of the Italian factory’s production facilities, and the first fruits of BMW’s investment have been launched.
Somewhat unsurprisingly the Nuda takes its influences from Husky’s off-road heritage. There has been a trend towards ‘big supermotos’ in the motorcycle market of late, which are effectively off-road styled bikes with sportsbike 17-inch wheels. Think Ducati Hypermotard, KTM 990SMT and in some ways Triumph’s Tiger 1050. The theory is that you get the comfort of an off-road style bike such as BMW’s GS thanks to the wide bars, with the improved handling due to the sporty sized wheels which allow the use of sticky tyres.
Thanks to the link with BMW the Nuda borrows a lot of BMW’s already established technology. The engine is based around BMW F800 parallel twin however Husky have been allowed some freedom and have big bored it to 898cc and altered the position of the con rods on the crank and added a funky red cam cover. While the BMW’s rods are set at 180-degrees to give it a Boxer engine note, the Husky’s are set at 315-degrees for a sportier sound. Power is a claimed 105bhp while torque it 100Nm. The chassis is also BMW-derived, based around the F800GS’s steel frame with a few changes, and so are the wheels and fuel injection system.
Is it just a re-badged BMW then? No, the styling and character are all Husky and unlike the BMW models, the Nuda comes in two forms – the more touring orientated Nuda and the sportier Nuda R, which has uprated suspension and comes in Husky’s racing red and white paint scheme. Husky chose to launch the Nudas in Sardinia with the R version on track and the basic Nuda on the roads. Our group got track first, which was a little annoying as it had rained the night before, meaning we got limited time on a dry circuit.
Riding on a damp track isn’t necessarily a bad thing and it highlighted the plus points of the motor. The parallel twin engine feels totally different to the BMW lump it started life as with a nice smooth bottom end and good chunk of grunt at around 5,000rpm when the meat of the torque comes in. Powering out of damp corners I found the throttle’s pickup suited the relaxed nature of the engine and didn’t deliver any nasty surprises such as a too abrupt jerk of power. The only criticism I had was with the brakes, which felt a little strong on the initial bite, especially when you see a damp patch on the track ahead and you are stopping from high in fifth gear…
For our final few sessions the track was virtually dry and with the level of grip increased the Nuda R came alive. It’s not the fastest bike out there, but under track use it performed well. I would have liked to have fiddled with the fully adjustable suspension a bit (the stock bike has limited adjustability) to take out some of the pitching on the brakes due to the long forks compressing, but time was limited so I concentrated on putting a few laps together. People argue about the best way to ride a supermoto on track – some favour a leg dangle, others go for kneedown. I’m a kneedown man and although it feels a bit stupid, the Nuda could be hustled around at a decent lick. In all honestly I can’t see any Rs being taken on track, it isn’t that kind of bike, but on a tight and twisty circuit it fares well.
It’s no supermoto race bike by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a good looking easy to ride machine that has some sporting potential and most importantly can easily be used as a fun daily commuter. Try riding a ‘proper’ supermoto day to day and it’s a nightmare, the Nuda R has the sporting look with a road bike’s practicality! Although it has to be said the seat isn’t the comfiest… Onto the roads and it was the turn of the stock Nuda.
Despite having the same chassis and motor as the R, the basic Nuda gets non-adjustable forks and a shock with adjustable spring preload and rebound only. Handily for a bike targeted at road riders it also get a softer seat and less ferocious brakes. Carving through Sardinia’s twisty roads the Nuda demonstrated the same smooth engine characteristic as the R, but the suspension did feel a bit soft. To be fair to the Nuda we were going at quite a rate, but it did feel a little on the bouncy side when I encountering bumps mid or just turning into a corner. Considering the bike is aimed at a more relaxed rider who may wish to take the bike touring the soft suspension isn’t really an issue, however the slightly firm seat and lack of wind protection may be. I tried a bike with an aftermarket screen and it did virtually nothing to deflect the air. Despite looking quite aggressive (Husky have a marketing campaign that says ‘mistreat the street’) neither Nuda is an aggressive motorcycle.
The engine is smooth with a nice spread of power and the handling easy and non-threatening. Both bikes are softly sprung for comfort (this can be dialed out on the R) and to me seem aimed much more at the town commuter than the back road hero. I can’t see riders getting up early to pull wheelies on the Nuda, instead I can see them cutting through town traffic with a smile on their face enjoying the relaxed ride on a good looking bike. I am slightly concerned that with just a 13litre tank they may be limited in their range, however Husky claim they will do over 150 miles to a tank, something I’m yet to be convinced by. So where does it stand in the great scheme of things?
That’s the funny thing, if you are in the market for a great looking, decent handling and characterful supermoto that has an easy going nature then try the Husky. But if you think it will perform like a ‘proper’ Husky supermoto then you will be disappointed, it’s a bit more show than go and is very much a road bike, not a fire-breathing racer. The key to the Husky is the fact it has BMW’s backing and reputation behind it but all dressed up in a far cooler looking product - just like the Mini in the four wheeled world. Yep, the Nuda is the four-wheeled Mini, just a bit cooler and better at wheelies!!! The Nuda costs £7,850 while the R is £9,250. Husqvarna are extending their road bike dealer network and you should see Huskys in selected BMW dealers in the near future. See www.husqvarna-motorcycles.co.uk for you closest dealer.