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Old July 4th, 2022, 03:32 AM   #1
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[] - 2022 Husqvarna Norden 901 Review

Husqvarna’s Norden 901 is really great, except for one thing… Is it a fatal flaw?

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Husqvarna’s Norden 901 is really great, except for one thing… (Adam Campbell/)For Achilles, it was his heel. For Samson, his hair. The fatal flaw for Husqvarna’s new Norden 901 adventure bike, the fatal flaw might be—

But let’s look at the good news first. Until recently, the Austrian motorcycle company with the Swedish heritage had not presented an entirely new street motorcycle since the 2018 debuts of the Svartpilen and Vitpilen naked bikes, so the arrival of a wholly new adventure bike was eagerly anticipated by Husky fans.

I put myself in that class. I’ve loved every off-road and dual sport model the company has produced during its modern blue-and-yellow period. And the 1960s red-white-chrome machines, under the guidance of world-beaters Torsten Hallman, Bengt Aberg, and Malcolm Smith, were deeply imprinted on my preteen mind. So I am very favorably disposed to everything the brand does.

Husqvarna’s styling of the Norden 901 lets it stand out in the herd of pointy and sharp-looking adventure bikes. (Adam Campbell/)On paper the Norden looked perfect. It wears wire-spoked wheels, a 21-incher up front and an 18 in the rear, suspended with WPS Apex fork and shocks and stopped by Brembo-controlled ABS brakes, attached to a lightweight steel trellis that uses the engine as a stressed member. With geometry designed for both long-distance travel and slow-speed rock crawling and river crossing, on the same frame and powered by the same 889cc parallel-twin engine as the 890 Adventure made by Husky’s brother brand KTM, the Norden seemed like a candidate for the most ideal Swiss army bike, better all around for all kinds of adventure riding than anything else on the market. With a starting price of $13,999, it would sell for just a tick more than the $13,399 KTM gets for its 890 Adventure.

The Norden shares its 889cc engine with KTM’s 890 Adventure models. (Adam Campbell/)In person it looks even better. A dark gray field with black lettering carries the Husqvarna name, with yellow and white accents connecting the scheme to standard Husky colors. The upswept exhaust carries the traditional Husky logo, as does the front fender. A handsome headlight below the nonadjustable rally-style windscreen is bracketed by smaller fog lights. Hard plastic bark guards supported by stout metal braces, protect the hands. Buff silver aluminum panels protect the engine and fuel tank. The wheels wear tubeless Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires. A low-slung saddle carries the rider a few inches below the small pillion seat. Grab bars, part of a small rear rack, help maneuver the 449-pound (dry) machine off the kickstand and into position.

The ride experience is assisted by Street, Rain, and Off-Road ride modes, the latter of which disengages traction control and anti-wheelie control; an optional Explorer mode allows the rider to fine-tune the electronic aids. The Off-Road setting also turns the ABS off on the back wheel and diminishes it in the front for best braking practices in the dirt. The Husky Easy Shift function allows clutchless gear selection, which can also be very handy in the rough stuff.

Changing riding modes and other parameters is done through the Norden’s TFT screen and left-hand switch gear. (Adam Campbell/)Curiously, though, switching from Road to Off-Road does not switch the ABS from Road to Off-Road. That requires an additional step, making it easy to forget. Switch ride modes from Off-Road to Road and forget to switch the ABS mode too? You’ll find out pretty quickly, perhaps not in the most pleasant way.

I really liked the Norden’s feel right out of the driveway on surface streets and on the freeway. Conditions were chilly, so I wished my model had Husqvarna’s optional heated grips and the taller windscreen; Husky offers them, but none are adjustable. The bike felt tall for my 5-foot-11 frame, so I didn’t mind that I hadn’t been able to get the adjustable two-position seat into the higher position. The adjustable levers gave me angles I liked and that minimized the pull on the non-hydraulic clutch.

Ergonomics are adjustable in regard to seat height, bar position, and lever reach. (Adam Campbell /)Cruise control is standard, while grip heaters are optional. A 12-volt cigarette lighter outlet sits adjacent to the dash. Turn signals are not self-canceling, but the units themselves are rubber-mounted and flexible and likely to survive a fall, unlike the flimsy-feeling brush guards and vulnerable-looking rearview mirrors.

Although I didn’t need to do any maintenance work, I was pleased to see that battery and air filter access are quickly and easily available, requiring little more than seat removal.

The 5-inch non-touchscreen TFT dash panel felt a bit overcrowded, but the critical parts were easy to read, particularly because selections for traction control and such are done pictographically; you can see a cartoon outline of what you are changing, with colors that show green for on and red for off. After a pre-ride review of the operating system I wasn’t too confused by the several screens needed to reset the ride modes or tripmeters. The dash panel also has a place to mount a GPS, and Husky offers an optional Connectivity package that brings turn-by-turn navigation via smartphone to the TFT screen.

On a set of twisties just off the freeway, I was impressed by the Norden’s sportbike capability. It carved the corners just fine, and I really liked the exhaust growl, which may be the roughest thing about this smooth operator.

On twisting roads the Norden is a capable handler, moving though the bends with confidence beyond what would be expected from an adventure bike. (Adam Campbell/)The fine feel from the J.Juan braking hardware continued as I left the tarmac for a crumbling old paved road leading to a dusty two-track. I selected Off-Road mode, for both riding and for ABS, and commenced to enjoy some fine back-end brodies around the loose dirt turns.

But then I stood up, and the Norden’s fatal flaw presented itself.

It’s wide. It’s too wide. In standing position I found the inside of my knees banging against the bodywork and the sides of the seat, then found myself trying to ride bow-legged in order to minimize the damage I was doing. Was it just the seat? Was it the bodywork too? It was; the whole center section of the bike, which makes for a fine, flat, planted seating position even though the seat is narrower at the front, feels too wide for comfortable standing. I’ve been told accessory rally pegs help, but why not equip them as standard?

The Norden’s width presents itself when standing in off-road situations. (Adam Campbell/)Trailside I was able to correct this somewhat by rotating the handlebars forward. Aftermarket footpegs, and perhaps bar risers, would further help the situation. Also note that Husky offers a wide variety of bar riser options from the stock 32mm up as high as 52mm. When I spoke with friends who’d ridden the Norden, several made the same observation.

None had complained about the chain guard, but I did. As on some other ADV bikes that I won’t name, this was a cheap plastic thing seemingly designed to make an unpleasant chatter as the bike traversed the terrain. Why? Manufacturers spend so much time, energy, and money making a perfect machine, and then rider experience is diminished by this irritating noise.

I was also disappointed to see, after a couple of potholes sent shock waves through me, that there is no adjustment for compression damping on the rear shock and that the centerstand is an option, not standard.

A wide and flat seat is very comfortable for long stints on the highway. (Adam Campbell/)After a couple of hours standing, I was happy for the wide flat seat once we regained the road. But then I discovered another interesting development: The perch that I’d liked in the chilly morning was now a hot seat, transferring a good deal of engine heat from bike to rider. This might have been welcome on a long cold ride day, but in the warm Southern California afternoon it was a drag.

Upon refueling, I found the Norden a not-too-thirsty companion, getting about 46 miles to the gallon for the combined on- and off-road ride day. My only ambition then was to get back on the Norden 901 to run a few more gallons through it. Perhaps its flaw is not exactly fatal after all; despite my quibbles, with a few alterations this bike could easily earn a spot in the garage.

It might not be perfect, but with some tweaks perhaps it could be pretty close. (Adam Campbell/)2022 Husqvarna Norden 901 Specifications

MSRP:$13,999Engine:DOHC, liquid-cooled parallel twinDisplacement:889ccBore x Stroke:90.7 x 68.8mmCompression Ratio:13.5:1Transmission/Final Drive:6-speed/chainClaimed Horsepower:105 hp @ 8,000 rpmClaimed Torque:73 lb.-ft. @ 6,500 rpmFuel System:EFI w/ 46mm DKK Dell’Orto throttle bodyClutch:Wet, multiplate, PASC slipper clutch; cable actuationEngine Management/Ignition:Bosch EMS w/ ride-by-wireFrame:Chromium-molybdenum steelFront Suspension:43mm WP Apex USD fork, fully adjustable; 8.7 in. (220mm) travelRear Suspension:WP Apex monoshock, rebound and preload adjustable; 8.5 in. (215mm) travelFront Brake:4-piston radially mounted caliper, dual 320mm discs w/ cornering ABS, Offroad mode disengageableRear Brake:2-piston floating caliper, 260mm disc w/ cornering ABS, Offroad mode disengageableWheels, Front/Rear:Tubeless aluminum spoked wheels; 21 x 2.50 in. / 18 x 4.50 in.Tires, Front/Rear:Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR; 90/90-R21 / 150/70R-18Rake/Trail:25.8°/4.2 in.Wheelbase:59.5 in.Ground Clearance:9.9 in.Seat Height:33.6 in. (adjustable to 34.4 in.)Fuel Capacity:5.0 gal.Average MPG:46 mpgClaimed Dry Weight:449
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