Husqvarna is an idea that's been around for a long time. As you're probably aware, it started out making guns (for heaven's sake, the logo is a rifle sight), even supplying the Swedish military during part of its history.
Over time, like many companies do, it got acquired by other companies and shifted focus. After being around for well over a century, you'll find the Husqvarna name on motorcycles, sewing machines, and chainsaws. While they're not all the same company in 2023 (or owned by the same parent company, as is the case with Yamaha), they're all different twisty branches off of the same original Husqvarna tree.
After periods of ownership by Electrolux (yes, the same one that still makes vacuum cleaners and washing machines) and Cagiva, Husqvarna Motorcycles eventually ended up under KTM ownership in 2013. It still remains under that umbrella in 2023.
Notably, some of Husqvarna's employees objected to moving to Italy when Cagiva took over, so they formed Husaberg in response. As KTM notes in its official timeline, its purchase of Husqvarna from Cagiva brought Husqvarna and Husaberg (which KTM already owned) back together again.
This 1984 Husqvarna 500 AE, Though
Before KTM and Cagiva, though, there was Husqvarna's automatic enduro bike project. Originally initiated to help first-time riders who joined the Swedish army to more easily learn to ride, Husqvarna soon started experimenting with using its automatic drivetrain in motocross bikes.
As British dirtbike YouTube channel 999Lazer delves into with a handy historic timeline, the experiment proved to be quite successful in competition, both in Europe and in the AMA. Thanks to its competition success, Husky decided to try offering a customer version in showrooms, which is why this 1984 Husqvarna 500 AE came into being.
It was offered for sale at the most recent Iconic Auctioneers classic motorcycle auction in the UK, where it sold for a cool £4,963 (or about $6,257). While 999Lazer attended the auction and bid on the bike because it's weird and they wanted to try it out, they unfortunately didn't end up winning the day.
The Rise Of Electric Bikes Brings The Circle Back Around
While it's a unique piece of Husqvarna and dirtbike history, it's also interesting to note how the advent of electric bikes (and electric dirt bikes in particular) has brought the notion of automatic motorcycling back into play.
Several years ago, if you were the type of person to visit vintage bike shows, you might see the odd Hondamatic here and there. They were, without fail, presented as relics of the past, of an experiment in motorcycling that hadn't gone over as well as the company hoped, and had thus been left behind.
Although some electrics have opted for gears and clutches, most have forgone the extra complexity. Why? Very simply, because it's not necessary. From the standpoint of simplicity, why add extra stuff that can break if you don't need it?
Having ridden some electrics now (and all without clutches), I can say from experience that it takes a little getting used to. However, the big difference with an electric bike versus an automatic combustion bike is that there's no lag time in power delivery. It's just there on the electric, and you're ready to go.
With that particular electric advantage, has the time come for automatic dirt (and other) bikes? Let us know in the comments.