162

www.dirtrider.com

2018 Husqvarna TE 250i And TE 300i Test

162
...

This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Dirt Rider.

I woke up early at the 1000 Peaks Lodge at the Panorama Mountain Resort in British Columbia, Canada. I put my gear on and walked down to the base of the ski lift where a total of 30 new Husqvarna TE 250i and TE 300i machines were waiting. This was the new model launch for Husky’s fuel-injected two-strokes, and it was a very good day to be a magazine test rider.

The group of us from different magazines, and even different countries, were separated into four groups and sent up the mountain four times that day, twice on each testbike. We were accompanied by two tour guides—one to lead and one to push (and make sure none of us got stuck or left behind). My group rode TE 300i’s on our first trip up the mountain. The 300 is not coming to the United States in 2018—only the 250i is—but Husqvarna gave us the day to try both.

As for the details on these bikes, both the TE 250i and TE 300i have a new engine management system (EMS) that utilizes a new elec­tronic control unit (ECU) that gathers information from five sensors in the engine to continually adjust for altitude and temperature changes. The engine is fed by a 39mm Dell’Orto throttle body where the oil is mixed into the air charge, and the cylinder has two fuel injectors that feed the fuel at the transfer ports at the back of the cylinder. The engine oil is stored in a separate tank and is fed into the intake based on the EMS requirements. In the suspension department, the WP Xplor fork receives new outer tubes and stiffer settings, while the front and rear braking systems are Magura units—a change from Brembo on previous Huskys.

What this all means is, we have a bike with an engine that keeps what’s good about two-strokes and loses a lot of what’s not so good. For instance, we let the 300s warm up for a little less than a minute before taking them a quarter of a mile up the main ski slope and turning onto a tight single-track trail. This first part of our ride was very technical, as we were faced with small rocks, tree roots, small streams, and constant switchbacks. It was so tight that I rode it mostly in first gear. I immediately noticed how I could lug the engine at super-low rpm to help the bike maintain traction.

After coming out of the tight single-track, we rode on a fire road that took us near the top of the mountain. Our tour guide stopped and pointed to a steep hill climb and asked if any of us wanted to try it. The hill was long, steep, sandy, and didn’t have much run. Naturally, we all made our way to the bottom to give it a shot.

Riding down was a bit intimidating, as there wasn’t really a trail, but we zigzagged our way to the bottom without any issues. I lined up for the hill climb and clicked the bike into third gear. Coming from a trials background, I always hit long hill climbs in third gear because second gear rarely provides enough momentum and speed for such ascents. I revved the bike as high as I could and slipped the clutch before the bike’s rpm took a dive, and I quickly turned back toward the bottom of the hill. Third was appar­ently too tall for this bike on this particular hill. I tried it again in second and the bike easily pulled all the way to the top. I actually pulled a bit of a wheelie on the way up and had to chop the throttle to avoid looping out. Yes, the bike can lug, but the top-end power on the TE 300i is also plentiful and didn’t require much momentum from the bottom to crest the top successfully in second gear.

After we all did our best to try to be like Graham Jarvis on the hill climb, we rode the remainder of the fire road to the peak of the mountain. While keeping the throttle steady at about one-third open, I noticed a bit of a surge as if the engine was briefly running really rich and then suddenly hitting the powerband. When I opened the throttle wide open before attacking an obsta­cle, this was a nonissue. After speaking with one of the Husqvarna technicians, I was likely feeling the power valve opening at this part of the powerband. The preload on the power valve is adjustable, and owners can purchase two optional power valve springs to suit the power to their liking. In fact, the optional springs are the same ones used in the carbureted TE 250 engine.

While I appreciate the adjustability, I only felt this surge on the mellow parts of my ride and therefore wouldn’t want to change the power valve spring to alter the power characteristics. The bike’s performance at the top of the mountain, which was about 7,700 feet of elevation, was flawless. The power difference was a bit noticeable after beginning our ride at the base of about 3,700 feet, but the power was just as predictable and the throttle response was just as crisp as it was when we first embarked on our journey at the base.

We then began our trek down and soon dived back into the trees and onto another single-track trail. I quickly noticed how progressive the Magura front brake was. It felt a little less grabby than the Brembo brakes I am so used to riding with on the other European bikes. I do prefer the grab of the Brembo over the Magura, especially when a sudden stop is in order. But the progressiveness of the Magura unit was nice when descending a long and gradual downhill.

We rode the TE 250i on the second and fourth rides of the day; this is the bike that is coming to the United States. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker joined us as one of our tour guides, and he eventually took us on some different and more intense trails than we hit on the 300s. But first we rode the same technical single-track beginning of the course, which is where I had found out how well the engine performs at super-low rpm in first gear.

So I tried second gear on this section on the 250 and the bike worked even better. The low rpm the engine is able to sustain combined with the additional tractability second gear offered was a winning combination. The bike was easier to handle and was less jumpy. As for the suspension on both machines, it was set up pretty soft, which helped me maintain traction and absorb all of the many small obstacles on the trail.

When we got to the fire road, Colton began venturing off the side of it to find big obstacles and steep descents. I followed him to the top of an incline and looked down at a steep, rock-filled drop-off he had just ridden down. I hesitated at the very edge and Colton looked at me as if to say, “You’re seriously not going to do it? Come on!” Colton and I are friends from our days riding national trials together, so this felt like another day of practice or competition—only this time it was on a bike with a seat. I was feeling comfortable enough on the bike to ride down the drop, so I did without a problem.

Our last photo spot of the trip consisted of a jump and a berm. I hit the jump at about three-quarter throttle and caught more air than I anticipated. Mid-air I remembered how plush the bike felt in the slow, rocky sections, so I wasn’t looking forward to the landing. But upon coming back in contact with the earth, the WP Xplor fork and shock absorbed the impact with surprising ease and plushness. I was expecting to bottom out, but both ends held up and didn’t leave me wishing I had stiff motocross suspension; so of course I launched the jump several more times. The big news here is the injected engine, but the progressiveness of the fork and shock was actually one of the most impressive parts of the bike.

At the end of the day, I enjoyed riding the TE 250i more than the TE 300i because the 250 felt nimbler, especially in the tight and technical areas we rode. The 300 is definitely a better hill climber, but the 250 shined in all of the other areas for me. Thankfully, the 250 is coming to the United States this year, and I can’t wait to throw a leg over it and take it on some of our trails in Southern California.