Story Written By Michael Allen
For years we have been hearing rumors about the elusive fuel injected two-stroke. Everything from reading about Honda’s patent on a fuel injected two-stroke to seeing spy photos of KTM test rider Lars Enockl riding one at an extreme enduro. We have to admit that when we heard from a reliable source it would be imported to the US we were excited and nervous at the same time. It’s not that we didn’t think it would work, but we were concerned about reliability. Why? Husqvarna/KTM was taking arguably the most simple engine design (not to mention an engine that has a powerful, easy to ride delivery) and possibly complicating the process of how it breathes. However, we knew that if Husqvarna felt it was ready to be introduced to the media, it must of passed and performed to their standards.
Now we all know that Husqvarna is similar to the KTM, so it’s not a coincidence that they just so happened to introduce a fuel injected two-stroke in the same year as the orange giant. Nevertheless, Husky is importing a handful of TE250i bikes although they’re not importing any of 300cc models. When Kris called me to ask if I’d like to test the new 250i, my inner two-stroke off-road lover about jumped through the phone at the opportunity. I even started packing my gear bag before I was even off the phone and headed to the high desert.
The 2018 Husqvarna TE250i that we got our hands on had some extra Husqvarna branded accessories added onto it. The beautiful looking TE250i had blue crash proof levers, a pipe guard (where the exhaust meets the cylinder), a rotor guard, FMF pipe and Powercore 2 silencer, brake pedal tip, swing arm guard, anodized blue Husqvarna triple clamps, Guts Racing non-slip seat cover, bib mousse tubes and even a Colton Haaker pre-printed backgrounds. While shooting some glamour shots of the bike itself I noticed the 250i looks very similar to last year’s model, but upon closer inspection the engine is obviously much different, not to mention the carburetor seems to be missing and there is an expensive piece of aluminum in its place (a 39mm Dell'Orto throttle body). The Kill switch is now a toggle on/off and there is also a map switch on the right side of the handlebar with two map settings, standard and soft.
Admittedly it was a bit odd to pour straight gas into a two-stroke bike’s gas tank, but with the pre-mix oil tank being in the frame, the days of mixing your own gas are long gone. We rode the bike several hours without having to add any oil, but we did here from Husqvarna R&D stating: When the oil indicator light does goes on, you still have a couple tanks of fuel to ride with before there is zero oil circulating through the oil pump system. When starting the 250i, there is a “choke” on the 39mm throttle body that gets pulled out and turned 90 degrees to stay on, but once the bike is slightly warmed up it can be turned 90 more degrees and will disengage. Our bike seemed to have a very low idle, so I adjusted the idle screw which is right above the choke to where it sounded about right. When I took off I noticed the clutch, like all hydraulic clutches, was buttery smooth as surprisingly so was the power delivery. Right away I noticed it didn’t seem to have the typical cold blubbery two-stroke feeling, it was smooth and crisp the whole time it was getting warmed up.
Once warm I was able to start ripping the bike around a bit and see where it shined, being that we were testing in the desert it was soon made clear that the TE wasn’t designed for being screamed across valleys. That’s because the TE isn’t a desert race bike, the T to us stands for "two- stroke" and the E stands for "enduro", so I left the whooped out open areas in search of tight single track and rock gardens. For the 250i, the tighter the terrain the better engine feels, the engine runs so crisp at such low rpm, it’s nearly impossible to stall. If you’re the kind of rider that likes to use the lower rpm (lugging) meat of the power and ride a gear or two high, you’ll be in love with the 250i. The throttle feels incredibly connected to the rear wheel and with how smooth the power is, it almost has a traction control like feel (in a good way) as the rear wheel seems to stick to the trail like Velcro. In tight, sandy, uphill switchbacks, the 250i could be kept in second gear and kept the bike moving forward, instead of just spinning and digging itself into the ground. On the more open and flowy type of trails where the bike could be opened up, the power was almost too smooth and lacked some excitement that usually comes with riding carbureted two-strokes. I’m not saying that it will fall on its face, but the excitement just got shifted a little higher up in the rpm range. The majority of the exciting power is in the mid-top end range, if you’re looking for that familiar peppy two-stroke feel. However, it can take some clutch work to get into that exciting part of the power if you’re in a higher gear in some corners or tighter areas. If you’re looking for that lugable, traction-esque power then the TE250i is the machine to give you what you need. There are two maps on the TE250i, Map One is the standard map and Map Two is a smoother map. I used map one most of the day as it had the most pull with a great amount of traction. Map two was a little too mellow for my liking, as it kind of took that excitement from the mid range away a little too much for the type of terrain I was riding in. If we had some slick conditions here in California I could see where this map would be beneficial. Hey, as a rider it’s good to have options and now we have two options when hopping on the TE250i. The Husqvarna always sounds crisp, like it has a perfectly jetted carburetor which is music to any two-stroke fans ears as well as throttle hands.
The WP XPLOR 48mm fork on the TE is great for tight terrain. Initially the fork was a bit soft for big drop offs or g-outs, so we added a few clicks of compression (stiffer), as well as slowed the rebound down to try and slow the action of the fork some. This helped the bike from springing back up too quickly once low in the stroke. From middle to the bottom of the stroke the fork still has somewhat of an empty feeling and can blow through on larger obstacles. Although the fork and shock are a bit soft for fast pace riding, both work well together in tight, rocky single track. The balance of the TE250i is good and I could tell what Husqvarna/WP was after when going to this soft type of a feel. They were after plushness and they achieved that in the tighter spots I tested in. When going over multiple rocks the front and rear of the bike stayed straight and tracked right over any small to medium sized obstacle. The traction I felt was superb (with the softer feel) and this feeling instilled a lot of confidence in my riding, since I was able to focus on the next obstacle instead of fighting the bike. When standing on the pegs and riding, the 250i feels light and changes direction easy with minimal input when weighting the pegs or handlebar movement. Doing leg plant pivots around tighter areas took minimal effort and when entering corners the TE250i felt light on tip in.
After spending some time on the 250i with not one hiccup, it’s clear that Husqvarna has really done their homework and made a great off-road machine. It also shows that there is a real future for clean and crisp two-strokes in the off-road market place. Husqvarna set out to make the ultimate bike for tight trails and extreme terrain and I’d say they did a pretty damn good job on the TE250i. If you’re an east coast style guy (or gal) who loves riding woods, tight single track, and extreme conditions this is definitely the bike for you. If you’re a west coast more open terrain style rider it can still be a formidable weapon, but you might want to get a slightly stiffer suspension set up. I’d be willing to bet that with the success of the TE250i, Husqvarna will be tuning a fuel injected two stroke engine for the TC250 in the near future. Keefer and I will be spending a little more time on the Husqvarna TE250i before it goes back to the manufacturer, and we will be playing with different power valve springs, adjustments, and gearing to see if we can get a little more bark out of the HusqvarnaStay tuned to KeeferIncTesting.com for more updates and an in depth podcast on this sexy looking Austrian/Swedish ride.