We can't risk testing Husky, KTM or GasGas as the press units in OZ are not insured. Luckily, Euro contributor Chad was at the world launch of the Norden 901 Expedition, so we are in luck...
It has been a decade since Pierer Mobility, who own KTM, snapped up Husqvarna from BMW. Since then, the brand has gone from strength to strength, last year launching the Norden 901 – a first step into the ultra-competitive adventure market and now the Expedition…
Obviously, the Norden shares its key components (including its LC8 parallel twin engine) and design with KTM’s 890 Adventure, and slotted in between the road-biased 890 Adventure and the seriously competent dirt-focused Adventure R. Now Husqvarna has introduced the Norden Expedition, which is positioned closer to the R.
Check out our quick-test of last years Norden 901 here…
Engine performance remains the same but the Expedition is ready to take on the world. It gets longer-travel WP suspension, similar to the R model, for more off-road ability. There’s a new screen, heavy-duty bash plate, a heated seat and grips, plus a pair of soft panniers and a centre stand. A GPS mounting bracket hints at a more adventurous ambitions, while the Explorer riding mode that is an option on the stock Norden comes as standard on the Expedition.
Further evidence of its intended focus comes in the shape of the test route laid on by Husqvarna for the press launch. The venue is South Africa, the ride is a genuine 500km plus adventure, 80 per cent of it off road, into the wilderness. Conditions vary from fast, dusty trails to deep sand and water crossings. We even loaded the soft bags, ready for a night’s camping (with Zebras for neighbours).
The LC8 motor is carried over, unchanged, to the Norden 901 Expedition. That means the same 77kW/103bhp@8000rpm as the stock Norden (and the KTM 890 Adventure and Adventure R.) with the same peak torque of 100Nm/73.8 ft-lb@6500rpm. The Expedition does get the additional Explore’ riding mode as standard (it’s an extra-cost option on the base machine) alongside Rain, Street and Offroad settings. The standard Norden’s up-and-down ‘Easy Shift’ quickshifter is also carried over to the Expedition, offering clutchless changes in both directions through the six-speed box.
Check out our review on the KTM 890 Adventure & Adventure R here…
As noted, the LC8 twin is a proven recipe, and while some might be disappointed the Expedition doesn’t have an increase in power and torque over the standard bike, it is simply not needed. 77kW and 100Nm puts it right in the ballpark with the competition, delivering a little more peak power than Honda’s Africa Twin, and a smidge less than Ducati’s Desert X.
I immediately feel at home with the LC8: power levels, throttle response and fuelling are just-so. There are no glitches or niggles and, while the twin is distinctly lively, it’s not overpowering or intimidating either, just easy to ride.
In Street mode, jump on, and ride – it’s that simple. The 889cc parallel twin is hugely versatile, pulling cleanly from low in the rpm thanks to a helpful spread of torque, or lofting the front wheel at will in the first two gears as the numbers build on the tacho. On a private section of South African road, the Expedition reaches an indicated 200km/h without fuss and is happy to cruise at high speeds – and, yes, cruise control comes as standard.
In Offroad, a soft, easy-to-live-with power delivery gives the rear Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR an easier time when searching for grip over large rocks or sand. In Explorer mode, the option to trim the throttle further is there, or opt for a quicker ‘Rally’ response to give an instant kick of torque to lift the front over deep puddles or smaller obstacles. You can also trim the slip control to your setting (between levels 1 to 9) rather than going with a fixed setting from the factory.
In Offroad mode the throttle is given a gentle, dirt-friendly setting and slip is fixed on level four. In Explorer mode, however, you can have a faster response with that Rally throttle and reduce slip to 1 or opt for a maximum of 9. The traction control can be completely removed in all modes, even on the move, but automatically reverts to ‘on’ when the bike’s ignition is turned back on.
Away from Tarmac, riding on terrain that varied from deep sand to large boulders to loose-top tracks that we ‘cruise’ at 110km/h, I prefer the dedicated, pre-prepared Offroad mode. Then, once back on the road, I flick back to Street, with or without TC, depending on traffic and how much one-wheeled fun I was planning.
Rain mode caps the power output to 82hp and softens the throttle response, making it feel lazy and elastic. But given the scorching heat and complete absence of a single cloud, I only sample it for test purposes but imagine that in the wet it might become more useful.
All the Expedition’s riding modes are clearly shown and understood on the colour 5in TFT dash, and it’s relatively simple to scroll through the options and even turn the TC off and on again. Incidentally, the cruise control can’t be activated if the TC is removed.
The Expedition’s switchgear is easy to navigate but not immediately intuitive. There are short-cuts available from the menu but, when transitioning from road to off-road terrain, it took me several glances at the dash and stabs at the buttons to choose the correct mode. Not ideal when riding at 110km/h-plus on potholed tracks patrolled by gangs of baboons…
Chassis-wise the Expedition moves closer to the 890 Adventure R, with the same long-travel WP Xplor 48mm forks for 240mm of front travel, replacing the 43mm WP Apex items used on the standard Norden. At the back, there’s a similar upgrade. The standard Norden 901’s Apex monoshock is gone and in its place you’ll find a WP Xplor PDS, boosting travel from 215mm to 240mm. Longer travel suspension increases ground clearance from 252mm to 270mm and pushes the wheelbase out from 1513mm on the base Norden 901 to 1529mm on the Norden 901 Expedition.
Making sure the Expedition can take on the world, the addition of rally parts, including a heavy-duty skid plate to protect the belly-mounted fuel tank and engine, a centre stand and standard-fit luggage, unavoidably means the Expedition is heavier than the stock Norden 901.
Although the Expedition shares the taller, longer-travel suspension of the 890 R, its internal spec differs from the KTM in terms of springs, shims and settings. The new Norden might look as full of the same gnarly dirt intent as the 890 R but is in fact a little more compliant and easier to live with.
“The new Norden might look as full of the same gnarly dirt intent as the 890 R but is in fact a little more compliant and easier to live with.”
On the road, I initially wonder if its forks are on the soft side, particularly during the early part of their stroke, and I plan to add a little compression damping or spring preload (easily done via adjusters on the fork tops). However, road performance and high stability are excellent. Our test route took the Norden Expedition through towns, along high-speed sweepers and even a motorway, and the 21in front wheel remains planted and sure footed.
On tighter roads, that slight softness and dive become more noticeable when closing the throttle and braking into the corner, and taller, heavier riders may want to add a little more support on the suspension (sporty suspension settings can be found under the seat). But the 901’s handling on challenging roads is truly impressive – crisper and smoother than the excellent 890 R’s – with the Pirelli Scorpion Rally rubber offering great feedback and instilling confidence on unknown surfaces.
Husqvarna put us on some of the most challenging off-road riding I’ve experienced on a road bike launch. Clearly, they are confident in their product as we were invited to take on everything from mud, water, rocks and rubble to cliff-like ascents and my favourite of all: deep energy-sapping sand.
“It is truly amazing what the Norden can put up with and do so on standard tyres with standard suspension and the added weight of fully loaded saddlebags.”
One section of the wretched stuff is so deep the Expedition landed on the floor four times in 20 minutes, while my average speed turned down to barely 15km/h. We head to a fast, flowing section of loose gravel and for over an hour averaged 110km/h. It is truly amazing what the Norden can put up with and do so on standard tyres with standard suspension and the weight of fully loaded saddlebags.
Over the two-day test I drop the bike a few more times, but nothing broke or got damaged beyond the odd scuff. We attempted to drown it on several occasions and bounce it cruelly off rocks, the large bash plate taking a hammering, and coming out laughing. The Expedition soaks it all up, it’s an incredible bike to ride off-road, one that compliments the rider and is happy to take on challenges I’d normally only contemplate on a dedicated enduro bike.
For riders who don’t ride off-road every week but have a genuine yearning to pilot their adventure bikes into the wild, the Expedition will prove more than enough. It’s worth mentioning that the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres that are so accomplished on South African asphalt excel on the dust-dry dirt too.
However, there are limitations to the Husqvarna’s abilities, and a few moments of off-road instability when riding rough and potholed tracks at 110km/h show themselves. These brief but alarming head shakes may have been in part due to that softness of the forks in the first part of their stroke. It may also be a result of the sheer loaded-up weight of the bike. With the heavy-duty bash plate, rack and bags, the Expedition’s weight is a claimed 214.5kg, up 10kg on the Norden 901, 229kg with fuel.
It doesn’t feel heavy on the move and rolls over rough terrain, but it does give the suspension a hard workout, especially with a bulkier rider and luggage fully loaded. Certainly, more experienced riders who are pushing to competition levels of riding will want to tweak the suspension accordingly. And it will be interesting to compare the Husky directly to the KTM 890 R, which I suspect will be slightly more composed on super-fast dirt trails.
On harder, more technical terrain, with the rider standing up but leaning back to take weight off the front, the Expedition’s front end is faultless and takes all the punishment sent its way. But if I was planning a trip where I’d be taking on some high-speed gravel trails, I’d look to set-up the fully-adjustable quality suspension to match my riding and style.
Off-road, the ABS is outstanding: not lean-sensitive but the clever system finds grip that you just don’t think is available, and more than once the system rescued me from a tricky situation. In Off-road mode the ABS is no longer active on the rear, which allows you to flick the rear around on sharp turns.
Back on the road, in Street and Rain modes the ABS becomes lean sensitive with ABS working at the rear too. Only once when hard braking in Street mode I feel the system kick, yet even then it was smooth and faultless. You can turn off the rear ABS for street riding should you wish.
The only niggle is with the brakes themselves. In common with all KTM’s 890 range and the standard Norden 901, the Expedition lacks of bite from its J.Juan calipers, especially when you compare them to the excellent Brembo race items on Ducati’s Desert X. The stoppers are perfectly adequate and have good feel but, laden with luggage and perhaps a pillion, you’ll need four fingers on the lever hauling down from speed – not an easy two like the Ducati.
The Expedition is supposedly ready to take on the world, therefore comfort is an priority. The standard heated seat and grips, plus larger screen are an obvious advantage. The Expedition comes with a GPS mount and Husqvarna’s ‘Connectivity Unit’ to link your phone to the TFT dash (both are options on the standard Norden).
The luggage, again taken from the accessories catalogue and made standard equipment on the Expedition, adds 18L of storage on each side of the bike (but can be quickly removed), and the centre stand is a helpful addition, too. The cruise control is easy to operate from the left bar.
Husqvarna have improved rider comfort with the much needed taller screen. It offers excellent wind protection on road and is low enough when you’re standing up on the pegs off-road not to be a distraction. While we are discussing height, the Expedition’s long-travel suspension means the seat height has increased from 854/874mm to 875/895mm – so it is on the tall side. The (heated) seat is narrow towards the tank, then widens rearwards for comfort. There are a few moments when the ground is further away than expected, but never toppled over, and short riders need to slide forward to the thinnest part of the seat when coming to a standstill. There is an optional lower seat, but it’s not heated, unlike the standard item.
Husqvarna claim the same fuel economy for the stock Norden 901, 4.5L/100km and the Expedition variant despite the added weight (10kg), messier aerodynamics, larger screen and luggage of the 2023 bike. In the past I’ve managed 5.1/100km on the standard Norden; on day one of the test the Expedition averaged 4.9/100km but my riding in Africa wasn’t aggressive. This will still equate to a range which more than enough, and I’d happily take on a 400km stint non-stop. Set the cruise control, sit in behind the big screen, turn on the heated grips and seat if needed and churn out the big miles.
Husqvarna laid on two long days and over 500km of mainly off-road riding in blistering heat, and wanted to show how their new machine would cope with sand, rocks, bogs, deep water and extra-rapid trails. It even had to carry my clobber in the standard panniers. It was a true adventure and test of the new Expedition, which came out with flying colours.
“I grew attached to the Norden 901 Expedition despite having to pick it up out of deep sand on more than several occasions…”
I like the new styling, and appreciate the Expedition’s looks more than those of its KTM 890 R counterpart. I grew attached to it despite having to pick it up out of deep sand on more than several occasions. The Expedition sits above the standard Norden but isn’t as extreme as the 890 R. It’s easier to ride and live with both on and off-road.
The Expedition makes the 901 more versatile. With a larger screen and heated grips and seat, it is even more comfortable; with a centre-stand and luggage as standard, it is even more practical; with longer-travel suspension and a sturdy bash plate, it can take on tougher terrain – and you have the added Explorer riding mode as standard. And this extra versatility has come without any notable sacrifices. Yes, I’d like stronger brakes with a fraction more bite, a slightly easier to use dash and, if I was intending to ride fast off-road, I’d want to tweak the fully adjustable WP suspension to suit.
But away from the drama of riding in Africa, the Norden Expedition makes more sense to most riders than the immediate competition of their own and sister brands. Why would you buy a standard KTM 890 or Norden when you can have the Expedition with all its extras for a reasonably small increase in price? The new Expedition really is a ready-made, globe-trotting adventure bike.
2023 Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Specifications
Price: From $27,840 rideaway
Warranty: 24 months, unlimited kilometres
Colours: Expedition Colour Scheme
Claimed Power: 77kW@8000rpm
Claimed Torque: 100Nm@6500rpm
Dry Weight: 214.5kg
Fuel capacity: 19L
Engine:Four stroke, parallel twin cylinder, DOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, 889cc, 90.7 x 68.8mm bore x stroke, 13.5:1 compression ratio, DKK Del’Orto with 46mm throttle body, Bosch EMS with RBW, Stainless steel primary with secondary silencer exhaust
Clutch: Cable operated PASC Slipper
Chassis: Chromoly steel frame with engine as stress element
Rake: N/A Trail: N/A
Suspension: 48mm WP Xplor, Fully adjustable, 240mm travel (f) WP Xplor PDS shock absorber, Fully adjustable, 240mm travel(r)
Brakes: 2 x 320mm discs with four piston radially mounted J.Juan calipers (f) single 260mm disc with two piston floating J.Juan caliper
Wheels & Tyres: Aluminium spoked wheels, 90/90r21 (f) 150/70r18 (r) Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR
Ground clearance: 270mm
Seat height: 875 – 895mm
Instruments: 5in full-colour TFT dash, Standard 4 rider modes, Bosch cornering ABS and cornering traction control.
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The Verdict | World Launch: Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition