Husky by name and husky by nature - that's the message from some of New Zealand's young guns as they put the 2013 Husqvarnas through their paces at Kimmy's Motocross Park near Huntly.
Mike Ramsey is committed to raising the brand's profile here. Known as 'Mr Motorcycles' and a competitor in MX, enduro and crosscountry over his long career, Ramsey now lives and breathes Husqvarna.
The Swedish brand began with bicycles, building its first motorbike in 1903. It's best known for world championship-winning MX and enduro bikes. Back in the 1960s and 70s it won 14 motocross and 24 enduro world titles and it's racked up another three world enduro championships since BMW bought the marque in 2009. Since then it's given Husqvarna a shake-up, a message Ramsey is keen to underline.
He's expanding the dealer network, putting in-your-face neon signs on shop fronts and has put his "balls on the line" for a broad lineup, with five MX bikes from the CR50 up, eight enduro, three crosscountry, four road and three adventure bikes here or landing soon.
It was the TC250 fuel-injected motocrosser that up-and-coming enduro rider Liam Draper preferred. The 16-year-old Aucklander found time between NCEA studies to win the Australasia under-17 Junior Trials and the Oceania Junior Trials, the A-grade NZ title against all ages and the Junior title.
Last weekend he won the first round of the Extreme Enduro Series expert class, and he aims to follow his hero Chris Birch - with whom he sometimes rides - from local trials to international stardom.
He focused on that goal early - astride his first motorcycle at the age of four, testing bikes for a locally-owned magazine from the age of nine and competing in trials from 12 and enduro from 13. He remains independent of bike brand sponsorship and spent the day flying the jumps and roosting the berms of the MX track before putting the enduro bikes through their paces.
He's familiar with the CR125 motocrosser, having ridden the Dead Toad crosscountry race with it. "My first senior race - I got eighth and the bike was part of that, with its power range. It's strong at both the top and bottom end, and it was easy to set up, to adjust the suspension."
After some years sampling Huskies he reckons the brand has improved a lot, though there are two things he'd like to see change. "The rear guard snaps easy - that's minor - but the side shrouds stick out too far. When you go into corners they catch on branches too easily and rip off."
Draper's happy to see Ramsey at the helm, someone focused on ensuring riders get the best out of their bikes.
As for Ramsey, he's free with unprintable words for buyers who shop online for a better price overseas, then complain when they can't get their bikes serviced locally. Dealers must commit to buying high-tech equipment that links their workshops to diagnostic computers overseas, allowing the bikes to be tuned over the net to perform at their best in Kiwi conditions. He admits you pay a premium to buy off a dealer's floor, but that premium pays for the service and backup to emulate Draper or Birch.By Jacqui Madelin