AUTOS

Husqvarna unveils 2016 dual sport and off-road motorcycles

The legendary Husqvarna brand, which among existing marques has the world's greatest off-road legacy and racing history, has released images and specifications for its model year 2016 dual sport and off-road machines.

And they're beautiful.

Husqvarna will feature a field of seven motorcycles for the coming season. They span from the TE 125 two-stroke to the FE 501 four-stroke, and include street-legal, dual sport versions of the off-road FE 350 and 501 models, the new FE 350 S and FE 501 S.

For trail, motocross and desert riders who came of age between the 1950s and 1970s, there is no more heralded name in dirt bikes than Husqvarna.

Torsten Hallman and Bengt Aberg won world motocross championships on Huskies. J.N Roberts and Malcolm Smith won Baja 1000s on Huskies. Steve McQueen rode Huskies and helped popularize the Swedish machines in the 1970s when they were, for a time, the dominant off-road brand in the U.S.

Husqvarna, which began life in 1689 as an armorer to the Swedish crown, has been alive in its modern form since 1903. It has had many owners along the way. Most recently, it passed from BMW to KTM hands.

I have had the good fortune recently to spend some happy hours on the 2015 FE 350 S. I think it might be the best dual sport bike currently on the market -- in the sense that, out of the box, it is the most capable off-road motorcycle I've encountered.

Most dual sport bikes lean one way or the other -- toward the street or toward the dirt -- and mostly it's the former. They're usually so well-fitted for the asphalt that they're really not adequate off of it.

So while I love the Honda CRF 250 and 450X models, they're not street legal. And while I love the Kawasaki KLR650 and Honda XR650L, they're too big for the trail or track.

In fairness, I haven't ridden enough of the Yamaha or KTM line to be a fair judge of their dual sport lines, so this isn't a survey.

But beside this Husqvarna, only Suzuki's DR-Z400 comes this close, to me, to a motorcycle you could ride right off the pavement onto the trail without compromising any of its off-road capabilities.

And this Husky beats that easily in terms of off-road application. It's a motocross bike, basically, with turn signals, mirrors and a license plate.

Upgrades on the 2016 models include new shocks on the FE 250 and 350, improved clutches on the FE 450 and 501, better brakes on all models, and new graphics.

Husqvarna hasn't released pricing yet, but the new bikes should start appearing at certified dealers this fall.

Twitter: @misterfleming

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