In terms of performance, the TE will hold some pretty low revs without stalling. It allows the rider to crawl through rock gardens with less clutch work than historically necessary, making it more “rideable.” The off-the-bottom power is surprisingly usable, though a bit muted. It isn’t really torquey feeling so much as it is flat. Regardless, it will hold lower revs than you would think. After a few test laps we changed the gearing from 13/50 to 13/51 which helped add a little pull off the bottom. And despite some significant time experimenting with various jetting specs, we ended up following the manufacturer’s recommended settings for the 40 degree weather we tested in. While there was noted improvement in the bottom end as a result of the gearing change, the TE is still flat feeling until it comes to life in the mid-range. The mid-range hit is gentler than an MX-bred TC 125 but still lively. Once in the mid-range, the 125 comes in to its own, emitting a sweet sounding 2-stroke buzz that begs a constant and speedy delivery of fuel. You need to tap dance all over the shift lever to keep it singing, but that’s life on a 125.
When properly wrung out, the 125 slings through the woods with ease. Its 20mm triple clamps provide sharp turning and cornering characteristics while the suspension does a remarkably good job soaking up the roots and rocky terrain. It’s also incredibly agile. Where it shines most is slinging through faster single track. You would think that because the bike feels so light that it would get kicked around over the roots and rocks. That wasn’t the case. In fact, out of the box, the TE 125 is well balanced and may have the best stock suspension in the Husqvarna line up; it is remarkably plush and transitions through the travel with minimal deflection. As you will see, our varied test pool of riders all agreed that the suspension was pretty darn good. All we did was set the sag for each rider and fine tune the clicker settings. Note that all but one of the test riders was within the ball park for the spring rates.
I admit that I am not a fan of the 125 in the technical woods, so we brought in someone in much more adept at utilizing and assessing the strengths of the small bore. Here’s what 1991 Blackwater 100 winner (aboard a 125 no less!) and the most successful small bore rider in GNCC history had to say about the TE 125.
Tommy Norton (Pro)
I liked it. Overall it handled great, the stock suspension was really good – better than expected. It was a typical 125 enduro bike with a heavy flywheel that allowed you to crawl around and not stall. It was slow to transition into the mid-range, but once there it had plenty of power – with some clutch action in between. In the open straightaways I could grab gears and the motor would pull hard. I don’t have a modern 125 to compare it to but it’s definitely not an YZ 125. After riding a 350 for a couple of years, the 125 was so agile. It’s not a lazy man’s ride, but I really enjoyed it.
Kevin Hubbard (Expert)
This 125 was so light, it was too easy to throw around. The suspension was a little soft for me but the linkage did a good job of absorbing all the rough terrain and it seemed to track the straightest out of the corners. The power was smooth but it did lack a little off the bottom. The midrange and beyond was good. I had to shift a lot to keep it singing but I never had it bog down on me and I couldn’t help thinking a faster track would be perfect for this 125. The brakes would stop on a dime.
Sean Lawson (Amateur)
The TE is a fun little bike, as long as you keep it howling and don’t mind shifting a lot. It was pretty much stall proof and didn’t need much clutch action when crawling along. The suspension was a little soft but overall it did well through the chop. I loved how agile it is. I would have really enjoyed it in more open terrain. In the technical woods, it’s nothing I would gravitate towards. It was a great bike to play around on and even better for learning to be more aggressive. Often, the 125 is pointed to as a good beginner bike. This can be bogus advice if the terrain you ride isn’t conducive to wringing the snot out of it.
Greg Hewitt (Novice)
I don’t have a lot of experience with 125’s, but they seem to be experiencing a resurgence in the New England offroad world, not in any small part due to the class structure of the wildly popular J Day Offroad series. I had never swung a leg over a modern incarnation of one, but my favorite race bike was a 2009 KTM 200 XC-W, so I felt I had some background with small-bore two-strokes – a thought that was immediately banished upon taking the 2015 Husqvarna TE-125 around a tight, twisty, and slippery piece of single track in western Massachusetts.
If I took away one memory from riding this machine, it’s the sense of lightness. It’s uncanny. This is conveyed to the rider immediately, even before taking off, by the light feeling in the handlebars and ease of leaning it side to side while standing over it. This benefit is made most clear when entering and exiting turns. Minimal energy is required to guide this machine through the handlebar-wide trees and abrupt sharp turns provided to us at the test track. It made my own 250 four-stroke seem like a pig.
I suspect the first thing that enters your mind when contemplating a 125 is the noise, followed by the peaky and narrow power with minimal ability to lug up a big hill. The TE 125 is more or less in line with these thoughts. The midrange power is adequate to mobilize you through the trees, but the party piece is found in the upper revs. Sadly, I was unable to keep the engine screaming through each and every corner, as this machine requires a consistency of corner speed that I am only partially able to deliver. It can be frustrating to have to cut the throttle to recover from a mistake, only to find the power has gone missing. This is rectified with a quick shift, a skill any C-class rider like myself would have to master prior to taking it onto the race track.
I enjoyed my time on this machine; I only wish I had the skills to use it fully. It’s incredibly fun, and fairly forgiving for a machine with such a high-strung nature. Not enough can be said for the feeling of keeping a 125 on the pipe while shredding through the trees – it’s the in-between times that worry me.
Anna Svagzdys (Newb/Novice)
To get me on the Husqvarna TE125, they first had to pry me off the KTM Freeride. Going from the torquey KTM 250 to the peaky 125, I was worried that I would be stalling and dropping it all the time, and I didn’t want to dent it up. With its gleaming white frame and retro-futuristic yellow and blue plastics, the Husky looks like it belongs in a museum. KTM must have conscripted a Viennese painting school to staff Husky’s industrial design department or something, because everything that comes out of there looks great.
Anyway, only having ridden one 125 before in my life, I climbed on the TE and set off into the forest at an absolute crawl. To my surprise, the little motor was willing to lug down in the RPM’s and creep along through the tight stuff—yes, with less torque than my 250 XC, for example, but it never once stalled, not even when I forgot to downshift before hitting a hill. The seat height is average at just under 38 inches, so if your legs are as short as mine, you won’t be doing much dabbing. Still, it is very light (about 212 pounds without fuel) and very easy to turn: Greg called this feature “precognitive turning,” as in before you can even think about how to approach a corner, you’re around it. In my brief time on the TE125, I didn’t drop it or tap a tree once, which for me is saying something.
On the rare occasion that the track opened up, the Husky got particularly fun—I’m not talented enough to keep it in the power in the switchbacks, but at least I can hold it open and go in a straight line. The engine gets zippy in its upper reaches and I found the suspension to be very plush and forgiving when jammed into roots and rocks in third gear. This stability was particularly noticeable coming from the Freeride: the 125 turns like a bicycle in the tight stuff, but on the straightaways, it handles like any other full-sized enduro bike.
I would have liked to spend some more time on this bike—maybe not now, but a few years down the road when I can do it more justice. I think it would take a major increase in skill for me to go fast on it, particularly on big hills and mega-gnarl where it has little torque off the bottom to help me out. Still, its nimble handling, minimal weight and surprisingly friendly motor would be worth the wait. If the Freeride is the perfect bike for the under-150-pound novice, the TE125 is probably similarly ideal for the under-150-pound pro. My favorite part of riding the TE125 may have been getting off it so I could watch Tommy Norton ride it instead.