WE RIDE ZACH OSBORNE’S WORLD TWO-STROKE HUSQVARNA TC300

The vintage red/yellow/chrome/black styling on Zach Osborne’s factory Husqvarna TC300 was eye-catching at the World Two-Stroke Championships.

Competing at the highest level of any sport is difficult, but we are naturally inclined to believe that our sport is the toughest, roughest and most challenging of all. Zach Osborne overcame many obstacles to become a two-time 250 East Supercross Champion (2017–2018), 250 AMA National Champion (2017), and AMA 450 National Champion (2020). That this rider, who now has four AMA number-one plates, was at one time dropped by KTM and forced to look for opportunities elsewhere (eventually landing in Europe racing the MXGP series) is hard to believe; however, Zach has come a long way since he left to spend five years (2008-2012) racing in Europe, and now he’s officially retired from full-time Pro racing. 

Unfortunately, Zach didn’t get a real chance to defend his 2020 AMA 450 National title in 2021 because he came into the season with a lingering back injury that caused him to retire from racing prematurely. Now, Husqvarna has hired Zach to be its brand ambassador—not for the Factory Rockstar team, which was originally planned, but for Husqvarna itself. Zach’s duties allow him to race multiple times throughout the year at events like the Wiseco World Two-Stroke Championships, Dubya World Vet Championships, J-Day Off-Road races, Day in the Dirt, GNCC and other local races where his attendance makes a high-profile impact.

This brings us to the 2022 Husqvarna TC250 two-stroke that MXA never got to test or race. Husqvarna claimed it didn’t have a 2022 model for the wrecking crew but hoped that the 2022 KTM 250SX and 2022 GasGas MC 250 two-strokes would hold us over while they kept the last TC250 in their stockpile for their own purposes. Thankfully, we still ended up getting to spin laps on the Husqvarna TC250. Only once we got it, it was a stiffer, smaller and faster version of the Husky it once was.

Leading up to the 2022 Wiseco World Two-Stroke Championships, Zach had spent a lot of time riding a Husqvarna 300 two-stroke, but now he was riding an enduro model Husqvarna TC 300 TPI two-stroke. The TPI (Transfer Port Injection) two-stroke is not a motocross-ready smoker. Zach was in for a whole new world when he got on the motocoss-ready 2022 Husqvarna TC250 that had been transformed into a factory TC300 big-bore.

Osborne’s factory 300cc big-bore engine was incredibly smooth and fast. THE GEAR: Jersey: FXR Racing Revo, Pants: FXR Racing Revo, Helmet: Arai VX Pro4, Goggles: FMF Vision Powerbomb, Boots: Alpinestar Tech 10.

Q: WHAT’S UP WITH THE AESTHETICS? 

A: With its first motorcycles being produced in 1903, Husqvarna is one of the oldest brands to manufacturer new bikes with uninterrupted production. The silver frame and wheels, black engine, yellow Decal Works backgrounds and red and chrome shrouds pay homage to the vintage Husqvarnas of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. Since red isn’t normally used on modern Husqvarnas (and aftermarket red shrouds aren’t available for this bike), Troy Lee was commissioned to paint the white plastic cherry red, and Kiska designed some red graphics with a fancy chrome sticker to give the bike the vintage Husky touch.

The entire engine and carburetor were Cerakoted black to match the vintage look as well. This meant that the cases had to be split, and every part was stripped off to have it Cerakoted properly. The FMF pipe and silencer, kick starter, rear brake pedal and stock engine mounts were also Cerakoted.

The entire engine was taken apart and Cerakoted black so that it would match the vintage Husqvarna styling from years ago.

Q: WHICH PARTS MADE ZACH OSBORNE’S BIKE FACTORY?

A: The list of factory parts on Zach’s TC300 isn’t as long as it would be on his factory Rockstar Husky FC450 race bike from 2021, but it’s still a solid list

(1) Handlebars. ProTaper makes a Micro handlebar kit with smaller grips and a throttle tube specifically to fit the smaller hands of mini-bike riders. They are swaged down at the bar ends to make room for smaller grips and a smaller throttle tube. Because Zach Osborne has small hands, ProTaper made him custom 1-1/8-inch bars with a similar taper at the ends. Zach’s grips are slightly larger in diameter than the micro grips that minicycle riders can buy, but they aren’t available to the public. Husqvarna already had custom throttle tubes from Zach’s FC450, but this one had to be modified by Dudley in the KTM engine department to fit on the two-stroke. The bars were also cut down to be skinnier than stock.

(2) Levers. Zach uses stock levers that have been ground down to be slightly thinner, making them a little easier to grip for a rider with small hands. They also made the brakes feel even more precise.

(3) Front brake. To the untrained eye, it’s tough to see the difference, but Zach is actually running an older-style front brake master cylinder on his TC300. This is the same front brake that can be seen on other Austrian factory bikes. This master cylinder was sourced from the 2013 and earlier KTM 450SXF. It has a 10mm piston instead of the new-style 9mm one. The bigger piston in the master cylinder displaces more hydraulic fluid to create more controllable braking power.

(4) Scoop tire. Zach Osborne is known in the Pro pits for running a sand/mud scoop tire more often than anyone else. For the Wiseco World Two-Stroke race, Zach got his hands on the brand-new Dunlop MX14 scoop tire over two months before Dunlop even announced it had a new tire in the works.

(5) Engine. The 2022 Husqvarna TC250 was converted into a 300 big-bore with the KTM PowerParts 300cc cylinder kit that you can buy through KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas dealers. Then, it was taken to the secretive Factory Services engine department at KTM where they long-rodded it (as you can tell from the 2mm spacer under the cylinder). Factory Service’s engine builder Billy Henderson went all-out on Osborne’s powerplant but wouldn’t explain exactly what he did, which extended to whether they bored out the venturi of the Mikuni carburetor.

(6) Seat. Guts Racing provided an extremely cut-down version of its phantom lightweight seat foam and installed its pleated gripper seat cover and bump to keep Zach on the bike.

Q: WHICH PARTS CAN AN AVERAGE RACER BUY?

A: Besides the factory parts and custom parts, there’s a hefty list of PowerParts items on Zach’s bike that you can buy through your local dealer.

(1) Suspension. Zach used the ever-popular WP XACT Pro Component Cone Valve forks and Trax shock with the standard height (not lowered like the stock 2022 Husqvarna’s) and a KTM stock linkage. The suspension was also built for Zach in-house at WP.

(2) Brakes. Zach did use the factory Brembo brakes, but these are the older style ones used previously by the factory teams. Now, these are available to buy through dealers.

(3) Triple clamps. He used black WP PowerParts split triple clamps at the stock offset.

(4) Footpegs. The foot pegs look stock, but they’re titanium. Husky also sells these to the public.

(5) Wheels. Dubya USA assembled the wheels with silver Excel Takasago rims, black Haan hubs, Dubya spokes and Dubya sprocket bolts.

(6) Fuel line. They used a thicker fuel hose off a four-stroke to offer increased durability, but it didn’t have any performance benefits.

(7) Carbon brake guards. The carbon fiber rear brake caliper and rotor guards can also be found in the PowerParts catalog.

(8) Clutch. The internals of the Husky clutch are stock, but they added a Rekluse clutch cover.

(9) Holeshot device. Zach ran a PowerParts holeshot device set super low.

Zach ran Dubya USA-built wheels with a Dunlop MX14 scoop tire on the rear.

Q: HOW FAST WAS OSBORNE’S TC300?

A: Super fast! Actually‚ too fast! The MXA test riders have ridden a variety of 300 two-strokes, including project KTM 300s we’ve built ourselves, project 300s that other builders had us test, and Cooper Webb’s factory KTM 300SX two-stroke that he raced at the Red Bull Straight Rhythm in 2019. With this wealth of 300 two-stroke knowledge, we knew exactly what we had gotten ourselves into on Osborne’s bike shortly into the first lap.

Starting with the bottom end, it takes some fiddling with the jetting and power valve to create an optimal connection between the throttle and the rear wheel on the 250 and 300 two-strokes from KTM, Husky and GasGas. These bikes are usually lazier off the crack of the throttle with a harder hit shortly after, making it more difficult to ride smoothly through corners; however, Osborne’s TC300 (like Webb’s 300SX) had a smooth and reliable connection between the throttle and rear wheel, which made it easier to get on the gas early without having to hammer it.

Another aspect that made the bike even quicker on corner exit was the new Dunlop MX14 scoop tire. The scoop tire has tall, spoon-like rows of knobs molded from a very stiff rubber compound. In the soft stuff, the MX14 scoop tire works wonders. Still, if it were us, we wouldn’t choose a scoop tire to race with at Glen Helen (unless it was muddy or ripped extra deep for a National). There are too many soft-to-hard transitions that throw the sand tire off its game.

Connecting the power from idle into the bottom end and midrange was a breeze. This engine didn’t have any unusual peaks or power surges. It got into the meat of the power smoothly and pulled through the top end with sensations that made you think it would never sign off. We were caught off guard a few times at the end of the straightaways because we had so much speed. This bike gets up and goes, and without four-stroke engine braking, it can be tricky to haul down from speed.

Q: HOW WAS THE COCKPIT?

A: We’ve certainly ridden bikes with worse cockpits before (most recently Alex Martin’s ClubMX YZ450F), but Zach’s bike was definitely weird. The first thing you notice is the lowered Guts Racing seat foam. Sometimes lowered seat foam isn’t bad, even for taller riders. It brings your body down closer to the bike’s center of gravity, which can improve cornering response. But Zach’s foam reminded us of worn-out Yamaha seat foam. Yamaha’s foam is thin, and if it’s too soft, you can feel the frame rails while sitting down. Zach’s foam was similar because he had Guts shave so much of it off. On the track, it felt like there was zero foam at the front of the seat.

We adapted easily to the smaller diameter of the customized ProTaper grips, and our test riders with smaller hands were rejoicing (until we explained that these aren’t available for the average Joe). The cut-down handlebars were more difficult to get used to for our bigger test riders. As for the custom smaller front brake and clutch levers, they were a hit! They are comfortable to squeeze with bigger hands and easier to get a hold of for test riders with shorter fingers.

The Brembo front brake master cylinder doesn’t look different at first glance, but it’s off a 2013 KTM 450SXF.

Q: HOW DID THE BIKE HANDLE?

A: As is the case with most factory bikes, Zach Osborne’s TC300 two-stroke was stiff. When you pushed on the suspension in the pits, it felt like it was going to be soft, and on the opening laps while warming up, the suspension didn’t feel all that harsh. Then, once you started to ride it harder, it got worse. Weird, right? Well, it did get better again, but only for our AMA Pro test riders and only for a few laps when they were going wide open. The suspension starts out plush on top, which makes you think it’ll be pleasant on the track, but it ramps up quickly to provide a strong hold up. If you ride it at an average pace, it’s way too stiff and will beat you up. But, if you’re a Pro who can hang it out there, then you’ll love Zach’s suspension‚ at least until you get tired.

The stock Brembo brakes on standard Husqvarnas are plenty strong, even for this bike, but the factory Brembos offer even more pucker power thanks to more rigid calipers. With the two-stroke already being lightweight, having a super-fast engine and having very little engine braking, strong brakes feel even stronger because they’re used so much.

In the end, the MXA test riders concluded that Zach Osborne’s Husqvarna TC300 was too fast for mortal men. It takes serious stamina and skill to hold onto a big-bore 300cc two-stroke when going wide open for a 20-minute moto on the brutally rough Glen Helen track. Unfortunately for Zach, he wasn’t in tip-top race shape when it came time to line up for the 2022 Wiseco World Two-Stroke Championship. He grabbed a second-place start in the first moto and pulled a massive holeshot in moto two but dropped back to ninth place by the end of each moto. Obviously, Zach isn’t in full-time training anymore, and he’s still dealing with the same lingering back injury that caused him to retire prematurely last year.

Although this bike wouldn’t be our first choice for racing (mostly because our test riders don’t have National Championship speed or endurance), it was still a pleasure to style for the day on Zach’s factory Husqvarna two-stroke. Not everybody gets to wring out a potent 300cc engine while hanging on to Zach’s custom ProTaper handlebars and grips. We hope to see Osborne back on the gate next year for this race. He’ll be better prepared for redemption.

 

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