That Time Husqvarna Made Automatic Enduro Bikes
23 July 2020 - rideapart
They kept running even if you knocked them down.
If you're training a group of new recruits, and you want to get them up and running as quickly as possible, you look for ways to make that process easier. The Swedish Army contracted with Husqvarna in 1980 to supply it with all-terrain-capable bikes that its new recruits could learn to ride after just a single week of training. Thus, a partnership was formed, and a 12-year legacy of Husqvarna automatic enduro bikes was cemented.
Let's go back a few years to where it all started, though. As far back as 1973, the Swedish Army knew it wanted bikes like these, but as you will see, it took some time for all the pieces to fall into place. Husqvarna first had to duke it out in design wars with Monark and Hagglunds to win a coveted Swedish Army contract.
Husky eventually won out, even though it came in second place overall. Hagglunds was the overall winner, but had to drop out after prototype production problems, according to Motocross Action Mag. The Army's requirements included: not being too loud while running, inclusion of a 100-watt quartz lighting system for ample visibility, ability to stay running while lying on its side, and a gearbox that would be easy to fix with a field toolkit. All that was on top of promise of a bike that could be mastered in under a week, remember. Hey, you're never going to get what you want unless you ask, right? Right.
Lars-Erik Gustafsson was the engineer who apparently borrowed a centrifugal clutch from Husky's chainsaw division to use in Husky's newest motorbike creation. The resulting automatic had four gears, and as you started opening the throttle, the slinger clutch would engage. Dog clutches would then sequentially engage as you revved higher, locating each of the higher gears in turn. Closing the throttle would cause the unit to freewheel until you opened it again, at which point the gearbox's process of finding the correct gear would begin anew. It was simple, rugged, and reliable. Most importantly, it worked well enough to please both the Army and civilians alike for over a decade.
From 1976 to 1988, Husqvarna also made production automatic enduro bikes, with a 1988 430 water-cooled version as its last—and some say best—iteration. Oddly, although the prototypes had all featured three-speed gearboxes, the production ones until the 1988 version were all four-speeds. The very last one was the only production three-speed that Husky made during all that time.