Highway cruiser, backroad blitzer, dirt tracker ... Jacqui Madelin throws Husqvarna's TR650 Terra around the Waikato terrain
You could be forgiven for thinking the TR650 Terra's an Italian machine. It's big, red, oozes attitude and seems built to carve up traffic with maximum aggression.
It's built in Italy, but the Terra's a Husqvarna, with the sensibilities of a Swedish brand built under BMW ownership and designed to throw dual-purpose bikes back into the dirt.
It uses a BMW engine to throw them there - the GS 650cc single hit with a compression hike and retuned for a smidge more power, then linked to a five-speed transmission, disc brakes and, in this $13,290 guise, switchable ABS.
It's a whisker lighter than its German cousin but the sharper focus is immediately obvious. Not only does it look like a pukka off-roader, it's taller. The seat is 865mm from terra firma against the Bimmer's 780mm - more if you buy the $12,290 non-ABS variant, with its bigger, 18-inch rear wheel.
So it felt all wrong to point the 21-inch front tyre at Highway One. But with a Hamilton appointment needs must, and I soon discovered the enduro-style front deflects wind nicely, the dirtable riding position is cruiser-comfy, and the seat's actually designed for the human buttock, unlike the usual off-roader recipe that has you standing to relieve the pain as much as for extra control.
Husky's gearing ensures the engine pulls strongly in top at the open road limit, no traffic tangle's too tight to be manoeuvred through, and with that meeting soon dispatched it was time to head home via the back roads.
And that's where this Terra comes into its own. Dirt-bike geometry seems made for back-country travel, the Sachs suspension absorbing lumps, bumps and potholes, the wide bars letting you tip it deep into bends and the 60Nm torque hit geared to pull assertively away as you swing over the seat to hang it out into the next corner, the bike slinging left-right-left like an adrenalin-fuelled hare with a dog at its heels, the handling making up for a relatively modest 43kW power figure (less if you're a learner seeking a LAMS option).
So far so fun, though this bike's more powerful Nuda stablemate would trounce it point-to-point - on the seal. Then came that interesting break in the trees, the downhill track alongside the river that's often caught my eye.
Terra territory at last and we were off, the TR as stable on the loose stuff as the tar, and encouraging a stand-up possie to explore a few dirt banks and rougher sections leading to chewed-up boat ramps and river access that'd rarely see anything without four-wheel-drive.
It was as dry along the Waikato riverbanks to help these tyres out; anyone seriously heading into the rough would fit more dirtable rubber. I was seeking the road less travelled, following a mix of undulating backroads stippled with lumps and slumps, unexpected stretches of gravel and the odd dead end where the Terra proved a cinch to muscle round - unlike most of today's nominally dual-purpose breed, designed for Europe and America's overly regulated environment and softer-focus tastes.
Given the right tyres the Terra should head some way into the rough - assisted by the sump guard fitted to the test bike as part of a deal to celebrate the brand's 110th anniversary, lifted from an options list that includes the panniers you'll need if you want to go far.
All that makes this an ideal Kiwi companion - able to cruise the highway, blitz the byway or tackle the dirt, then carve up weekday traffic while exuding the rakish air of the hard-core adventurer.