Plus Ca Changes
So are there many differences between the 2013 Bergs and the KTMs? Of course! Despite KTM’s requirement to significantly reduce manufacturing costs between ‘competing brands’, they’ve been careful to ensure that the Husaberg brand hasn’t become TOO diluted. In fact there are actually a few quite marked differences between the two makes of bike.
For the last few years Husaberg has been positioned as Matighofen’s premium brand, and just like they did when they introduced the (KTM-engined) two-stroke models, so they’ve stuck to a formula of giving the new 4T Bergs uprated suspension, machined triple clamps, larger fuel tanks, unique plastics, a high-tech airbox-cum-subframe and a bashplate. And of course they’re blue!
Naturally they still look quite a bit like KTMs and ride a lot like KTMs – no surprises there – but they do feel different enough to be considered an alternative to the orange brand.
The frames and engines are to all intents and purposes identical now between brands AND between models (both 2T & 4T – though there are marginal differences in geometry with the 125). That means a return to a traditional cro-moly steel backbone frame with a single downtube that splits into a double cradle. A single frame design across both brands is not only less costly and simpler to produce but – claim Husaberg – there are gains to be made in both stability and traction with the new chassis.
But whereas the KTM uses an alloy subframe to support the rider, Husaberg have stuck with their more futuristic GRP-reinforced plastic-moulded version, that incorporates the airbox, battery box and underseat unit in a complex three-part moulding. They claim that it’s virtually indestructible – in extensive testing they’ve never managed to break one yet – but even if you do it’s possible to order each of the three separate sections individually.
Aside from greater strength and flexibility, one of the advantages of using a ‘plastic’ subframe is that they’ve been able to incorporate handholds (for lifting up the bike) in precisely the right position. I got a freak chance to use these on the launch test when a bike I was riding, somehow inadvertently(!) ended up in a lake (it’s a long story), and I can confirm that the handholds work extremely well (ahem). Husaberg have also returned to a traditional double-bolt seat mounting (Japanese style), rather than a single bolt system that has become the norm – I’m sure lots of people will like that. And just like on a KTM, the airfilter can easily be changed within 20sec without using tools. Excellent.
At the front end of the bike, the Berg features lightweight CNC machined triple-clamps. According to Husaberg, the triple clamps are one of the most important aspects affecting a bike’s ‘feel’. I wasn’t quite sure exactly what they meant by this. I mean, sure… if you adjust the offset then that alters the geometry and thus the handling. I get that and I can feel that, but I think Husaberg were claiming that simply switching over to forged and machined clamps (rather than the cast ones you get on KTMs) improves the bike’s feel. They also claim that the new-shaped lower triple clamp is not only 50g lighter than before, but offers a better feel in corners… I’m not certain I agree with this claim (or can notice it, at any rate) but hey, machined triple clamps look sexy and are far stronger…
Gripped by the lovely black anodised triple clamps are a completely new set of closed-cartridge fork (the same as you get on the KTM Six Days model, but of course they are standard equipment on the Berg, and lighter than last year’s ones). The science says that these new four-chamber (4CS) forks are more consistent in use – suffering less cavitation than other forks. Quite possibly, though it was difficult to tell in the 40-degree heat we were riding in, as the rider that was more prone to fade than the forks!
One thing you WILL notice is that both compression and rebound adjusters are now located on top of the forks – and offer a greater range of adjustability via their respective plastic clickers (no tools needed): compression on the left, rebound on the right.
The thing you need to know about these fork legs is that internally they are more or less identical to one another. In other words unlike Kawasaki’s new system whereby one fork leg contains the damping and the other contains the spring etc, the Berg’s forks BOTH contain BOTH elements of damping and springing. But only one of these elements is adjustable in either fork leg. In other words if you decide to adjust the amount of compression damping, all you are doing is changing it in ONE fork leg; likewise the rebound damping only adjusts the other fork leg.
Husaberg claims this system works perfectly well (though it sounds a bit strange to us), and that changes made to either of the fork legs simply adjusts the front end feel as a whole. Fair enough. Couple of other points worth making: there are no special tools needed to change the springs in the new forks (which is good), and now the forks use a new special high-performance 4W oil imported from Japan, which is the same spec as Kayaba use in their forks (which sounds costly).
At the rear there’s a new generation of cast alloy swingarm that’s 300g lighter than before, yet now offers even greater torsional stiffness and a more centrally located shock. That shock – a WP part of course – is now 7mm longer on the stroke, which adds up to more sensitivity and increased bottoming resistance we’re told.
There are also Japanese DID rims front and rear (KTM use Excel), Michelin intermediate tyres, and what are claimed to be weight-saving nipples! Make of that what you will. But it doesn’t end there…. New Brembo brakes for 2013 provide easier bleeding and less seal wear. New radiators are made from a slightly more flexible alloy for increased crash resistance, all four-bangers have an electric fan and the silencers now offer more volume for less noise without compromising performance.
Larger fuel tanks are a Husaberg tradition. So is the fact that despite the large capacity they never feel intrusive – not like on my old 501. I really don’t know how they manage to package the fuel in a way that it doesn’t interfere with your riding. But they do. This year the two-stroke models can carry up to 10.7L whilst the less-thirsty four-strokes make do with 9.5L. This is a real boon as it gives you peace of mind both when racing and trailriding. Of course you don’t have to brim the tank if you don’t want to, but the option’s there.
To try and distance the blue bikes from their orange counterparts, not least in terms of looks, Husaberg has developed a unique range of plastics for the 2013 Berg. There’s a broader and stronger new front fender designed to be more stable at speed, newly shaped rad-panels and side-panels which flow back into a nicely shaped rear fender. I’ve gotta’ say the looks have grown on me this year (always a good sign), as at first I wasn’t too sure about it. But it’s one of those bikes that looks far more handsome in the metal than it comes across in any of the pictures – though editor Barni reckons it reminds him of an old Sherco!
I also like the fact that the rad-panels and side-panels have their graphics already moulded in. So no more curly graphics at the end of the season, just a bike that stays looking smart throughout its life. The second or third owner will appreciate that. Of course if you want to customise your bike with your own brand of curly or peeling graphics, there’s nothing to stop you doing so…
As far as the two-strokes are concerned there’s also a new lighter clutch on the 250 and 300 models with less lever force required for operation, whilst a new carbon-petalled V-Force reed valve offers extra durability. Oh and one other thing two-stroke owners will be pleased about is that for 2013 the electric-starters have been given extra power for easier starting. Now the bikes start instantly the second you push the button instead of churning for a second or two like the old ones did. Still no starter on the 125 tho!
Hop on board the bikes and it’s KTM all the way – just like it has been for the past few years. Ever since KTM took control of the brand, Bergs have used KTM equipment in the cockpit area, and the super-light feel of the clutch and throttle along with a fantastic bend of braceless bars, make for a fatigue-free ride – for your hands at least!
The modern style of bikes is that you perch right up high on their backs like a jockey riding short stirrups, and you particularly notice this feeling with the new Bergs. I’m sure the riding position and peg/seat/bar ratio is identical to a KTM but somehow you notice it more on the Bergs. The flat seat means that when you sit down you can place your bum anywhere on the saddle and still be able to move about. As far as ergos go, it’s about perfect.
Suspension-wise, you notice the slight extra firmness of the 4CS forks, but it’s all relative – the suspension action is still smooth and extremely compliant, even if the standard setting is just towards the firmer side of ‘supple’. I adjusted the clickers on a couple of machines, and sure enough just a couple of clicks less compression softens up the front end noticeably.
It’s hard to draw any notable conclusions about the suspension when the terrain you’re testing on is so different to what we get back home. I will say this though, the bikes handle amazingly well. They track the ground and dispense with bumps in a way that almost completely eliminates any headshake or nasty surprises. I never once fell off any of the Bergs at the launch, because they simply don’t get out of shape. I like that in a bike…