Husqvarna is a storied brand that goes way back. It takes its name from the Swedish town – now spelled Huskvarna, which means “millhouse” – where it was founded in 1689. The fledgling company used hydropower from a nearby waterfall to make muskets, and its logo depicts a gun sight viewed from the end of a barrel with an “H” in the center. In the late 1800s, as the world became more mechanized, Husqvarna started making sewing machines, cast-iron kitchen equipment, and bicycles.
In 1903, the same year Harley-Davidson began operations, Husqvarna started manufacturing motorcycles, first with imported engines and later its own. In the 1920s, it produced a 550cc side-valve V-Twin similar to those built by Harley and Indian, and in the 1930s it began competing in Grand Prix racing.
As John L. Stein chronicled in “Striking Vikings,” Husqvarna produced its first purpose-built enduro, the Silverpilen (Silver Arrow), in 1953. Husky made a name for itself on American and European motocross tracks, and the brand was popularized in the iconic 1971 film, On Any Sunday.
Husqvarna sold its motorcycle business to Cagiva in 1987, building motorcycles under the same name while the original company – now headquartered in Stockholm – focused on chainsaws and lawnmowers. After 20 years of Italian ownership, Husqvarna Motorcycles was sold to BMW, and it continued making motocross, enduro, and hardcore dual-sport machines. In 2013, Husky introduced the 50/50 on-/off-road TR650 Terra and the road-going TR650 Strada, both powered by a tuned-up version of the 652cc Single from the BMW G 650 GS. We praised both bikes in our reviews, but they were short-lived. That same year, Husqvarna’s German owners sold the brand yet again, this time to Austria’s KTM.
The motorcycle industry has a long history of consolidation, mergers, divestitures, bankruptcies, and resurrections. When brands are under the same umbrella – Pierer Mobility Group owns KTM, Husqvarna, and Gas Gas – it makes economic sense to share costly resources such as engine platforms. Just as the TR650s were based on the G 650 GS, current Husqvarnas are adapted from KTM models. The Svartpilen 401 and Vitpilen 401 street models were based on KTM’s 390 Duke, and the 701 Enduro and 701 Supermoto are based on KTM’s 690 Enduro R and 690 SMC R, respectively.
Which brings us to the Norden 901, Husqvarna’s first foray into the red-hot adventure bike market. Not surprisingly, it’s based on KTM’s highly capable 890 Adventure platform. The standard 890 Adventure is geared toward a mix of street and light off-road touring, while the 890 Adventure R is aimed at more aggressive off-road adventure riding (and the R Rally version even more so).
Where does the Norden 901 fit in? Right in the middle, says Husqvarna. It’s designed to be more off-road capable and versatile than the 890 Adventure, but not as hardcore as the 890 Adventure R. It’s even priced between them. At $13,999, it’s $800 more than the 890 Adventure and $200 less than the R (based on KTM’s 2021 prices).
Why would Husqvarna build an adventure bike like what KTM already offers? It showed a Norden 901 concept at the EICMA show in 2019, and the positive response encouraged Husqvarna to carve out its own niche within the segment. For some buyers, it simply comes down to styling. Perhaps they don’t like the sharp angles or orange paint on the KTMs. The production version of the Norden is very similar to the concept, with a smoothly curved rally-style fairing, a large round headlight, fog lights, and a wide, flat seat. If you’re a fan of the look, not to mention the fluorescent yellow stripe and matte black-on-black paint and graphics, then the Norden 901 offers unique appeal.
Husqvarna hosted the launch of the Norden 901 (Swedish for “the north”) on São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores, an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean that is an autonomous region of Portugal. The Gulf Stream contributes to the Azores’ mild, wet climate, and over the course of two days we experienced the full spectrum of conditions one might encounter on an adventure bike: rain, fog, wind, gravel, sand, mud, water crossings, dry roads, wet roads, slick cobblestone roads, mud- and manure-smeared roads, and even roads carpeted with moss. São Miguel is impossibly green, and with giant volcanic craters filled with scenic lakes and more cows than people, it feels like a cross between Hawaii and Scotland.
Having put lots of miles in lots of places on nearly every model in KTM’s adventure/travel lineup, the Norden 901’s touch points, engine character, and performance feel familiar. On the left switch cluster are four buttons (up, down, back, and set) that simplify navigation of the bike’s menus. The 5-inch color TFT display has bold, bright, detailed graphics that clearly convey information. For example, when switching from Road to Offroad ABS, which disables ABS at the rear wheel, a graphic illustration of the bike changes from green front and rear wheels (ABS is active at both ends) to green on the front wheel and red on the rear wheel (rear ABS is deactivated).
Equipped with throttle-by-wire and a 6-axis IMU, the Norden 901 has riding modes (Street, Rain, and Offroad), cornering ABS, and lean-angle-sensitive traction control. Each mode has a preset level for engine power, throttle response, and TC intervention. There is an optional Explorer mode that allows the rider to customize the settings, as well as make on-the-fly adjustments of rear wheel slip over a 9-level range.
Unlike other adventure bikes that bundle all relevant settings into each riding mode, those made by KTM and Husqvarna require riders to make separate selections for riding mode and ABS mode. On our test ride, we switched back and forth between paved and unpaved roads and wet and dry conditions many times each day, and I had to constantly remind myself that changing the riding mode from Offroad to Street does not automatically change ABS from Offroad to Road. I had to change both, which requires extra steps. I did not want to go into a blind, wet corner on a paved road with the rear ABS turned off, but sometimes it happened.
The Norden 901’s liquid-cooled, 889cc parallel-Twin has DOHC with four valves per cylinder and a 13.5:1 compression ratio. Without oil, it weighs just 118 pounds, and the Norden’s claimed curb weight is 481 pounds. Power is sent to the rear wheel through a 6-speed transmission with a slip/assist clutch and a standard up/down quickshifter. During off-road riding, the transmission occasionally popped out of gear, perhaps by bumping the shifter with my heavy boot; I had the same issue when testing the KTM 890 Adventure R. Standard equipment also includes motor slip regulation and cruise control, and oil change intervals are 9,320 miles.
The engine is lively and responsive, with dual balancer shafts neutralizing unwanted vibration while allowing plenty of character to shine through. Husqvarna claims 105 horsepower and 73.8 lb-ft of torque at the crank. Those are the same figures for the 890 Adventure R, which made 90 horsepower at 8,200 rpm and 62 lb-ft of torque at 6,900 rpm at the rear wheel on Jett Tuning’s dyno in our test earlier this year.
Like the standard 890 Adventure, the Norden 901 has WP Apex suspension, with a fully adjustable 43mm inverted fork with separate functions in each leg and convenient adjusters on top. The rear shock has a linkage and is adjustable for rebound and spring preload, the latter via a handy remote knob. Suspension travel is 8.7/8.5 inches front/rear, and ground clearance is 9.9 inches. Compliance is good over a range of conditions, though launching off water bars and hitting G-outs occasionally caused the Norden to bottom out. The underside of the engine and lower parts of the fuel tank are protected by aluminum skid plates.
Tubeless spoked wheels, with a 21-inch front and an 18-inch rear, are shod with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires that have large tread blocks and provide good grip both on- and off-road. Brakes are by J.Juan, with a pair of radial 4-piston front calipers on 320mm discs and a single 2-piston floating caliper on a 260mm disc, and they offer ample power and good feel at the front lever and rear pedal. Both clutch and brake levers are adjustable for reach, the brake pedal is adjustable for height, and the rubber inserts can be removed from the cleated metal footpegs.
What most sets the Norden 901 apart from its KTM cousins, other than styling, is comfort and wind protection. The broad, flat seat has a ribbed, suede-like cover to minimize slip, and it can be set in low (33.6 inches) or high (34.4 inches) positions. In typical adventure bike style, the seating position is upright, legroom is generous, and the reach to the wide handlebar is relaxed. There’s a good-sized pillion seat with large grab handles, and on the back is a small luggage rack. The Norden has a wider fairing than the KTMs, which provides good wind protection (along with the hand guards), and visually it offsets the bulbous shape of the lower “pods” of the horse-shaped, 5-gallon fuel tank.
Many will want to outfit the Norden 901 for extended tours or off-the-grid exploring. Above the TFT display is a convenient place to mount a GPS, and there’s a 12-volt socket on the dash. An optional Connectivity Unit allows you to pair your smartphone to the bike via the myHusqvarna app, and it will display turn-by-turn navigation on the TFT. We used the nav feature on a ride back to the hotel after lunch on the first day, and it worked like a charm. Husqvarna also offers aluminum luggage made by Touratech, as well as a range of accessory soft luggage, heated grips, comfort rider/passenger seats, a suspension lowering kit (which reduces seat height by nearly an inch), and apparel. Our test bikes were fitted with optional carbon-tipped Akrapovič silencers, which add style and a nice exhaust tone.
Overall, the Norden 901 is well-balanced, ruggedly built, and capable of tackling whatever most adventure riders will throw at it. We can’t wait to get a test bike and put some serious off-the-beaten path miles on it.
2022 Husqvarna Norden 901 Specs
Base Price: $13,999
Warranty: 2 yrs., 24,000 miles
Type: Liquid-cooled, transverse parallel-Twin, DOHC w/ 4 valves per cyl.
Bore x Stroke: 90.7 x 68.8mm
Compression Ratio: 13.5:1
Valve Insp. Interval: 18,600 miles
Fuel Delivery: EFI w/ 46mm throttle bodies x 2
Lubrication System: Semi-dry sump, 3.0-qt. cap.
Transmission: 6-speed, cable-actuated slip/assist wet clutch
Final Drive: X-ring chain
Frame: Tubular-steel w/ engine as stressed member, steel trellis subframe & cast aluminum swingarm
Wheelbase: 59.5 in. ± 0.6 in.
Rake/Trail: 25.8 degrees/4.2 in.
Seat Height: 33.6/34.4 in.
Suspension, Front: 43mm inverted fork, fully adj., 8.7 in. travel
Rear: Single shock w/ linkage, adj. for rebound & spring preload, 8.5 in. travel
Brakes, Front: Dual 320mm discs w/ radial 4-piston calipers & ABS
Rear: Single 260mm w/ 2-piston floating caliper & ABS
Wheels, Front: Spoked tubeless, 2.50 x 21 in.
Rear: Spoked tubeless, 4.50 x 18 in.
Tires, Front: 90/90-21
Wet Weight: 481 lbs. (claimed)
Horsepower: 105 hp @ 8,000 rpm (claimed, at crank)
Torque: 73.8 lb-ft @ 6,500 rpm (claimed, at crank)
Fuel Capacity: 5.0 gals.
Fuel Consumption: 52.3 mpg (claimed)