You don’t need a thermometer to see that the adventure segment is still the hottest around. Not because everyone has to plow through deserts or wants to ride from the North to the South Cape, but simply because these bikes are so comfortable. And because they look nice and cool of course. And at the same time they give you the feeling that you can just pack your bags and go on an adventure.
So it’s quite logical that Husqvarna came up with an adventure bike too. After all, they have plenty of experience in motocross and enduro, and since they’ve been partnering up with KTM, they don’t have to beg hard to borrow some parts.
The result: the Husqvarna Norden 901. Look at the engine, the frame, the swingarm, the tank, the buttons … Isn’t this just a KTM 890 Adventure turned into a Swedish design object? I took the Norden and my tent for an eight-day trip to the French Alps, looking for an answer to that question (the report of that trip is still “under construction”).
Let’s start with the design that Kiska came up with. It clearly matches the identity of the Vitpilen and Svartpilen: sleek and stylish. The bike looks nice from all sides and you can tell they’ve taken care of the smallest details. It has beautiful graphics (on the panniers they’re even reflective), the 12V connection and the fog lamp button are neatly incorporated into the dashboard, the fairing runs nicely around the fog lamps … Not a single dot on the i was missed.
The Norden doesn’t want to be a pure adventure bike like the KTM 890 Adventure. It’s more of a travel enduro. You’ll notice that from the first second on the seat. The cockpit is wide and puts you well out of the wind. In combination with the hanging tank cheeks that can keep your lower legs and feet dry, a rainshower isn’t much of an issue.
However, it is mainly the seat that stands out: my test Husky had the optional comfort seat. At 874 mm in the highest position, the Norden sits at exactly the same height as my Ténéré 700, but while on the Yamaha I can easily touch the ground with my feet flat, the Husky’s exceptionally wide seat means it takes some effort to touch ground with the tips of both boots. I have to tell you everything though: I had turned the preload of the rear shock fully open. I was on the road fully packed after all. FYI: in the lowest position you sit at 854 mm, and the standard seat has the same width and heights as the optional comfort seat.
After a day on the motorway to just below Lake Geneva – and with nearly 1000 km on the counter – I am completely convinced: the ergonomics of the Norden 901 are among the best that I‘ve experienced. The seat stayed comfy the whole time, the riding position is comfortable too, with the legs at a not too sharp angle, and the handlebars also fall into place nicely. The non-adjustable windshield can’t divert all the wind, but at least your torso will be out of the wind. Add to that the standard cruise control and you know that grinding out the miles on the Norden takes very little effort.
The footrests are XL sized and because you can put your feet anywhere, so to speak, it sometimes took a sec to find the clutch or rear brake, which are placed reasonably inwards. However, I got used to it fast.
I can’t say the same thing about the mirrors. Couldn’t get used to them. I understand why they picked this design, but the view is simply too limited with a whopper of a blind spot.
Not only on the highway, but also when the real work started (read: doing twisties in the Alps), the Norden proved to be a more than capable motorcycle. The main cause of this is of course the base around which it is built. The 889 cc two-cylinder has no shortage of enthusiasm. The twin picks up early and you can go quite high up the rev range without complaints. The well-functioning (and standard) quickshifter fuels the fire even more: switch full throttle from 1 to 2 and you’ll quickly notice that the nose becomes light and the wheelie control intervenes.
Just make sure your shifting instructions aren’t too subtle, because this Austrian Swede (or is it Swedish Austrian?) tends to find a false neutral. Happened to me repeatedly. Not much fun if you want to exit a curve swiftly.
Outside of that shortcoming, you can find little to fault the engine or rolling frame. Due to the low center of gravity, the Norden seems lighter and more manoeuvrable than you would suspect due to its size, even with two full panniers and a large bag strapped on the rear. Short hairpin or wide bend, it hardly took any effort. I never really had a top-heavy feeling, which gave me confidence: during the almost 4000 km with the Husky, I didn’t think for a moment to lower the seat.
The adjustable WP Apex suspension filters out potholes and traffic islands with remarkable ease without getting too blunt when cornering. You have to take some nose dive, although you can dim that slightly with a few clicks on the forks. I also liked the fact that the engine has quite a lot of engine braking during our thousand-turns-a-day rides. And there’s no problem lazy shifting either.
In Street mode you have the full 100 Nm and 105 hp available, Rain weakens it all and lets the traction control intervene earlier. In Off-road mode, ABS at the front and traction control intervene late and both are no longer sensitive to lean angles. Rear ABS and wheelie control are completely disabled in this mode. Finally, there is the optional Explorer mode where you can adjust all settings to your liking.
You control all these things via the buttons on the left side of the handlebars. The menu structure is simple so you find your way around quickly, and the display manages to grasp the information in a clear manner. It all seems dead simple and obvious, but if I remember our previous test bike (the Yamaha Tracer 9) … You can also screw it up quite easily.
Finally there’s the price tag. The Norden costs £12,349. Are you in doubt between this model and its brother from another mother? Prices aren’t that far apart: the 890 Adventure retails at £11,449 while the better-equipped R version retails for £12,499. So the main question is: are you more of the offroad or rather the traveling type?
There’s no such thing as a “travel enduro” page on Wikipedia yet, but if anyone’s in the mood, the main image must definitely be one of a Husqvarna Norden 901. I don’t think there’s a bike closer to its definition. Comfortable on the long distance, it has the potential to explore more difficult paths, there’s no excess for unnecessary power, but still more than enough punch in combination with good handling. If you have lost your way in the maze of adventure bike offerings, you just might have found it again with this one.
+ Real all-rounder
+ Excellent engine
+ High comfort level
– Too much false neutrals
– Could use some better mirrors
– The wide and high seat might be a turnoff for some
Cooling: Liquid cooled with water/oil heat exchanger
Power: 77 kW / 105 pk at 8000 rpm
Torque: 100 Nm at 6500 rpm
Starter: Electric starter
Stroke: 68.8 mm
Bore: 90.7 mm
Clutch: PASC™ antihopping clutch, mechanically operated
Displacement: 889 cm³
EMS: Bosch EMS with RBW
Design: 2-cylinder, 4-stroke, parallel twin
Lubrication: Forced oil lubrication with 2 oil pumps
Weight (without fuel): 204 kg
Tank capacity (approx.): 19 l
ABS: Bosch 9.1 MP (incl. Cornering-ABS and offroad mode, disengageable)
Front brake disc diameter: 320 mm
Rear brake disc diameter: 260 mm
Front brake: 2x radially mounted 4 piston caliper
Rear brake: 2 piston floating caliper
Chain: 520 X-Ring
Frame design: Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel frame using the engine as stressed element, powder coated
Front suspension: WP APEX 43
Ground clearance: 252 mm
Rear suspension: WP APEX – Monoshock
Seat height: 854 mm
Steering head angle: 64.2 °
Suspension travel (front/rear) 220/215 mm