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The label says this Norden is ready for an expedition. Challenge accepted!

The latest update to Husqvarna’s travel weapon makes a bold statement. Emblazoned on the side of it is the word ‘Expedition’, and here in Cape Town, South Africa, that’s exactly what I’m about to do.  

South Africa, with its epic scenery, twisty bitumen roads and off-road terrain that is bliss for enduro-course designers, is the perfect proving ground for an adventure motorcycle. You’re hooting along on loose gravel, you turn a corner and suddenly you are in rutted-out sand with rocks thrown in for good measure. Five minutes later you’re splashing through deep mud from some overnight rain. It feels like a whole other world and the Norden Expedition thrives in it.


The Norden Expedition is an evolution of the already capable Norden 901, with both bikes to feature in Australian Husqvarna dealerships. So how do you turn an already capable adventure travel rig into an even more capable one? Firstly, you spec up the suspension; the Expedition gets upgraded from WP’s Apex to WP’s Xplor hardware which boasts a stiffer 48mm fork and boosts suspension travel to 240mm at each end. The Xplor equipment features hydraulic bottom-out circuits to soften the blows when soaking up big hits off the beaten track – and there were plenty of those. It is the same suspension as found in the KTM 890 Adventure R but with softer internal settings aimed at improving comfort. 

The second thing you do is spec-up the electronics package. The Expedition is fitted with the full suite of electronics including Explorer mode, which is an option on the base model (more on that later). The Expedition gets a heated rider seat and heated grips as standard, as well as full smartphone connectivity and turn-by-turn navigation. But if a standalone GPS is your flavour, there’s a mounting bracket above the dash. All of this is standard fitment and requires no subscription or dealer activation. 

Thirdly, it needs to be styled well. The Norden Expedition gets new bodywork which gives it a more stylish and functional look, while a new windscreen continues the theme and keeps the rider protected from the elements. This isn’t just any slapped-on screen either: it’s had wind tunnel modelling to reduce buffeting while still maintaining gentle airflow around the helmet. The engine doesn’t miss out on extra protection either, with the tough-as aluminium bashplate keeping the vital componentry safe. 


Bringing up the rear is the standard fitment soft luggage. Straight from the Husqvarna travel parts catalogue, the panniers are mounted to steel racks that stay in place when the bags are removed. Completing the list of Expedition extras is the centrestand for easier loading, maintenance and tyre repairs.

Packing my essentials into the 36-litre soft luggage and readying the bike for a compressed overnight expedition is a five-minute affair. I stuffed my gear into the roomy bags, flipped the rear brake lever over to the high position to accommodate my motocross boots, adjusted the mirrors and I was on the road.


Besides the locals and their driving, there isn’t much to get your head around on the Norden. Everything is where it should be: the seating position relaxed, the handlebars are high-ish while seated, the five-inch TFT screen is brilliant, and the windscreen is perfect – even if it lacks any adjustment. 

On the road, the 901 is surefooted with reasonable ground clearance for pushing the limits of the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tyres in the bends. I was pleasantly surprised on the first twisty mountain pass we got to play on. The centrestand is the first thing to touch down in a corner and, when I added some rear preload on the second day, the bike sat higher in the stroke increasing the available lean angle. 


The Expedition tips easily into the bends even with a full fuel load, and actually pulls into the corner more than expected – a few times I found myself on the white line on the inside of the corner. I was able to pick the throttle up early to drive it out and away from the apex and onto the next corner. It certainly turns quite well for an adventure bike. 

Husqvarna says it designed the 901 Expedition for 50 percent road riding and 50 percent off-road riding, so bitumen prowess needed to be a major consideration. The Husqvarna-branded brake calipers are by J.Juan and I really couldn’t fault them; coming back down the mountain pass I could push the front-end into the corners and trail-brake right into the apex with just two fingers on the lever. They are no WorldSBK-spec Brembos when it comes to power and bite but they do the job well, don’t fade when pushed hard and feel super predictable on the road. 


The Expedition does take a leaf out the standard Norden’s book in the way it absorbs bumps and tricky surfaces. The WP Xplor suspension has been lifted from the KTM 890 Adventure R but revalved for added comfort; when the Expedition heads off the bitumen this becomes immediately apparent. The Norden makes corrugated dirt backroads feel like fairy floss – like a cloud, but sweet. In my opinion, maybe a little too comfortable and leading you into a false sense of security because the road conditions feel much better than they really are.

It takes a bit to get used to initially. I eventually added a little bit of damping resistance to the front-end via the tool-free clickers atop the fork to increase the feedback from the bike. I reckon the STR tyres reduce the bike’s true capability off-road. The Norden is better than its tyres allow it to be, but to achieve 50-50 on- and off-road capability everything is a compromise. 


We pushed the limits of bike and tyre in some very sub-par trails that were washed away, sandy and littered with bowling-ball sized rocks to dodge. Around every corner in South Africa is a new challenge and, just when you think you’ve made it through the worst, the track deteriorates further or a dog starts chasing you and there’s no option but to wind it on to escape – wild dogs are no match for the 899cc powerplant by the way… The 901 Expedition simply keeps coming back for more each time. 

The larger 48mm fork does its best work in rocky conditions, resisting deflection through the handlebars and keeping you feeling in control. The steering damper no doubt helps a bit here, too. When the trails get sandy, the 901 does show its size a bit, especially if you are treading carefully. But when up on the ’pegs and in third gear however, sand is no issue. The extra suspension travel and ground clearance does bring with it some other issues, especially if, like me, you wind on about four turns of rear preload to compensate for having an incorrect food-to-exercise ratio. The Expedition’s seat is a little taller than the regular Norden, too, at 875mm in the lower setting. Thankfully it is narrower at the front to help dab a foot down when required. The 901s are built for travelling in comfort and that is what you get. 


The electronics package is the full deal. I spent most of my time in Explorer mode because, well, we were exploring. Within Explorer mode you can select your own throttle response; Rally being the most precise and aggressive. I love being able to click up and down the nine-level traction control with my left thumb while on the fly. I find the sweet spot is around three, as it lets you hang the rear-end out in the dirt without getting too crazy and the rest of the time it’s not intrusive. Road mode does the job on the bitumen, the TC and ABS is super sensitive if there is some grit on the road surface. In the off-road setting you get a bit more freedom with wheelspin but it won’t let you hang the rear out much. It will, however, let you do wheelies. There’s a Rain mode, too, which reduces power output and gives you even more sensitive traction control. Within each of the modes, you also have a choice of road or off-road ABS. Off-road ABS turns it off to the rear wheel for doing skids and slows down the response on the front, as well as disabling the lean-angle sensor. I also like that you can change modes and settings while on the move, but you just need to close the throttle when prompted to accept the changes you have made. You can even turn off the quickshifter if you so desire.

While there’s plenty of new things on the Norden Expedition, there’s plenty of things that haven’t changed, too. Both models share the same frame and engine package. The 889cc parallel-twin engine is a stressed member of the frame, produces 77kW (103kW) and 100Nm and weighs just 53.4kg without oil. It’s a compact unit perfectly suited to adventure riding. Also carried over is the low-hanging 19-ish litre fuel tank. The tank straddles the engine, keeping the bulk of the fuel down low below the rider’s knees. There’s no doubt this makes the bike feel much lighter to handle and assists in the Norden’s excellent behaviour on and off the road.


On the two-day trip my average fuel consumption was 4.9L/100km according to the onboard computer. I spent about 70 percent of the time on dirt tracks, so I feel 400km out of a tank should be achievable on bitumen or gravel roads. 

Husqvarna’s new Expedition model will be priced at $27,840 (ride away), compared to the standard Norden’s $25,050 (ride away) price tag, and it’s due in Australia in May this year. Looking at the included extras in the Expedition, it’s going to be hard for most potential buyers to overlook its value, especially if they’re partial to roads less travelled.


The adjustable suspension, luggage and included electronics make the extra $2800 an absolute bargain – the Expedition is ready for adventure right off the showroom floor. 

Has Husqvarna hit the mark with the Expedition model? You bet it has. It has been crafted to fit the void that the standard Norden couldn’t quite fill. Adventure travellers around the world want to push the boundaries further and further off the beaten track and the 901 Expedition is up to the task.  


Test David Watt  + Photography Marco Campelli & Sebas Romero