An introduction to Husquvarna
From guns to gears
To the uninitiated, many people’s first thoughts of Husqvarna will be of leaf blowers, chainsaws and sewing machines. But in 1903 the motorcycle division of the Swedish company was formed. For many fans of the division, Husqvarna brings to mind truly unique bike design with a penchant for off-roading. "Husky" have produced some of the most iconic supermotos ever to grace our roads such as the rare Nuda 900r and their current 2020 701 Supermoto.
Right, pick up your jaw and wipe away the drool. Let’s see how these Swedish beauties came to be.
Have you ever noticed anything familiar about the Husqvarna logo? Those with a keen eye may have noticed that the logo is in fact a cross-section of a rifle which shows off the barrel and sights at the top. This is because when Husqvarna was founded in 1689 they began by producing muskets for the state near the small town of Huskvarna.
The company went on to produce sewing machines, bicycles, lawn mowers and chainsaws. The eclectic Husqvarna Group even went on to make robotic lawn mowers and demolition robots. This is a motorcycle website though, so let’s focus on those metal contraptions that get our hearts racing.
As with many early pioneering motorcycle manufacturers Husqvarna was making bicycles in the late 19th century. In 1903 they made the bold leap to creating motorcycles, a much more exciting premise. They began importing engines but by 1918 they had acquired the skills and knowledge to produce entire motorbikes within their own factories. During this time they signed a deal to produce motorcycles for the Swedish Army. They also began their reputation as an off-road giant by entering their bikes into cross-country races.
By the start of the Second World War they were Sweden’s largest motorcycle manufacturer and had competed in Grand Prix road racing in both 350cc and 500cc classes.
Let’s jump forward to 1955. Husqvarna were aware that moto-cross was rising in popularity and wanted to cash in on this exciting new way of riding. Their focus shifted onto lightweight racing bikes. They created the Silverpilen (which means "silver arrow" in Swedish), a 75kg bike designed for racing that was adored by Sweden’s youth. With innovations such as telescoping front forks and hydraulic dampened suspension it went on to become an international success.
The world had learnt of a new contender in off-road motorcycling. Her name was Husqvarna.
As hippie culture was emerging in the 1960s Husqvarna had made its mark as a dominant force in the world of moto-cross. Husqvarna held onto this title for two decades. They won 14 moto-cross world championships in the 125cc, 250cc and 500cc divisions. They even conquered alternative events with 24 enduro world championship wins and 11 Baja 1000 victories.
Husqvarna had become a word that was regularly on the lips of rival companies who dreamed of acquisition of the off-road innovators. By 1987 the motorcycle division of the Husqvarna Group was sold to the Italian motorcycle manufacturer Cagiva. Some of the company’s managers and engineers were not willing to move to Italy following the sale and instead founded the spin-off brand Husaberg. Husaberg was subsequently acquired by KTM in 1995.
By July 2007 board members and shareholders were still talking about Husqvarna’s unique brand, they were subsequently purchased by BMW for a reported €93,000,000. The musket producing company from tiny Husqvarna had come a long way.
BMW saw Husqvarna as a brand that should stay true to its original vision. They marketed Husqvarna separately to their own bikes in the same way they did with Mini and their own cars.
By 2013 Husqvarna had been acquired for a final time by the legendary, orange-obsessed KTM. The spin-off company Husaberg was reunited with Husqvarna therefore terminating its name. KTM seemed like the most fitting "partnership" for Husqvarna; both companies put just as much if not more into off-road as their road divisions. Both companies regularly released motorcycles with love-it-or-hate-it designs that looked like nothing else out there.
So, there you have it. A condensed version of the Husqvarna history for your reading pleasure. But what are the Swedish trend setters up to these days?
Still slathered in dirt and covered in scratches. Husqvarna’s focus is still on moto-cross bikes with a large selection of 2 stroke and 4 stroke engines with varying designs, always in their current iconic white, yellow and blue colour scheme. Naked road bikes are even under attack due to the release of the Svartpilen and Vitpilen. These motorcycles don’t have a moto-cross, supermoto or enduro look about them but believe it or not Husqvarna made them.
Next time an insecure or jealous friend of yours insults Husqvarna by spouting something about sewing machines or chainsaws, show them this article. An innovative motorcycle manufacturer forged in the cold that went from making violent weapons to violent machines which tackle dirt and tarmac with the financial backing of motorcycling giants.