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Husqvarna SMS4 125: Teenage kicks - Husky style

By Trevor Franklin -

First rides & tests

 12 September 2011 14:12

While we await the arrival of the Nuda 900, Husqvarna's new F800-powered supermoto, two other equally important models from the now BMW-owned but Italian-based company have gone on sale.

The SMS4 125 and TE125 are 124.45cc, four-stroke, learner-legal machines styled to mimic the company's off-road competition bikes. Both bikes are a big departure from the unrestricted 125cc two-strokes Husqvarna are producing (restriction kits are available), but there is a bigger demand for electric start, four-stroke learner legal models.

The TE125 is a spit for the Husky's big-boys' TE125-449 enduro. Meanwhile, the SMS4 mirrors Husky's championship-winning supermoto range and is equally exquisite in its detail.

That said, first dealings with the SMS4 weren't good. Moving the bike from the MCN lock-up meant lifting it slightly upright only to hear the sidestand automatically retract with a clatter. As with most European off-road bikes, the stand goes back almost vertically and is a pain to get back down. Self-retracting sidestands have always been bad news - ask any owner of an early Ducati 916 how many fairing panels they paid to be repaired...

Then there was the petrol station fiasco. Unscrew the filler cap, squeeze the trigger and... get soaked with fuel. The tank splits either side of the frame spar and the nozzle hits this to effectively block the flow. Just remember to aim the nozzle backwards and down.

So yes, I hated the SMS4 within one mile. But two miles further on I was in love with it. The four-valve four-stroke engine is a strong unit. Coupled with near-perfect gearing, the Husky hits 63mph and doesn't deviate from it unless hills comparable to Snowdon get in the way. Play the slipstream game and 70mph appears.

Sharp-eyed teens will recognise the SMS engine's silhouette being similar to the liquid-cooled lumps powering the sports Yamaha YZF-R125 and Rieju RS3. There's a good reason for this; all three units are built by Minarelli of Italy, a Yamaha Group member. There's no fuel injection with the SMS, just a 28mm Dell'Orto carburettor. Fuelling is just as crisp but slightly thirstier with the throttle pulled back to the stop.

Seating is typical supermoto: a thin, long saddle, which is fine for short commutes to work. Thinking of an adventure to the seaside? Pray another rider has a weak bladder to ensure frequent stops. Emergency stops would be better because the front Brembo brake system is demon at stopping the bike in a near instant. The SMS4 is, therefore, an ideal way to learn how to do rolling stoppies. The SMS's suspension is also excellent for a learner-legal bike - it certainly doesn't give the impression of being cheap.

The dash is very basic with the main readout on the speedo in KPH, and MPH a lowly smaller type face. There's no tachometer but peak power tail off is so obvious even a novice will soon learn there's nothing more to come unless another gear is hooked. The warning lamps sit at the very top and are a bugger to see clearly if under 5ft 8in.

Being off-road based, the SMS looks built to be a hardy creature with everything tucked away and foolproof - with a large Dzus fastener holding the seat it couldn't be easier to get underneath... and find nothing but a battery.

The SMS4 125 isn't the cheapest learner legal at £3219 - but it isn't the most expensive, either, being a full £800 less than Yamaha's WR125X, for example. But it is one of the most desirable with its look, reliable motor and ability to be fun while teaching necessary bike riding skills.