Able to handle the rough stuff with a plusher ride for the long haul.
We’ve been blessed with an increasingly broad range of new adventure bikes over the last several years. And they’re coming from Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, and even the home of low-slung cruisers, the United States. Last year, the Swedes entered the ADV bike market for the first time with the introduction of the Husqvarna Norden 901 (okay, technically, Husky is now based in Austria). For 2023, the company offers a more tour-oriented variation of the Norden — the 901 Expedition — and it’s a bike that promises advanced off-road capability and long-distance comfort. As its name suggests, and as we discovered riding the gravel roads and dirt trails west of Cape Town, South Africa, the Expedition is ready to take on the most challenging of mixed-terrain rides.
Husqvarna, which is owned by KTM, didn’t develop the 901 Norden from scratch, but rather based it on the KTM 890 Adventure. Why build a bike that competes with one already being produced by your parent company? Well, it keeps development and manufacturing costs down, which is a big deal. However, another reason is that KTM’s tagline — Ready to Race — might not fit everyone’s description of off-roading. Not all adventure riders want to attack trails with the throttle pinned and elbows up — something KTM’s ADV bikes are particularly adept at.
Some riders, while perfectly willing to tackle terrain that would be hard to navigate on foot, would rather do so at a more relaxed pace, with a more comfortable suspension setup. To improve on the Norden’s already capable off-road ability, the Expedition is based on the higher-spec KTM 890 Adventure R, with upgraded suspension and an increased focus on off-road riding. However, it is also designed with a more tour-friendly, less race-ready approach than the Adventure R.
An Upgraded Norden
It uses the same unaltered tubular chrome-moly-steel frame as the Norden and both KTM Adventures, but like the Adventure R it uses higher-spec WP XPLOR suspension components, as opposed to the Norden’s WP Apex suspension. The fork is a beefier 48-mm separate-function unit (43 mm for the Norden), and the suspension has 20 mm more travel at both ends, now at 240 mm. The suspension is fully adjustable, with high-speed compression damping added to the shock. The Expedition’s damping settings and spring rates are softer than on the Adventure R, however, and are tuned for long-distance comfort rather than for shorter high-speed charges through…