By Scot Harden
The Husky Mag 250
My First Husky Support Bike and Realization of Just How Good Motorcycles Can Be
This story is about a groundbreaking motorcycle, the 1974 Husqvarna Mag 250.
1973 ended on a very high note. I had won my first professional off-road race the SNORE 250 in September, my first overall desert win in October, and had done amazingly well at the Barstow to Vegas all while just 17 years old. My goals for 1974 were to continue the trend and, most importantly, to try to get some factory support from Husqvarna. I still had not raced in Baja at this point, and I had other goals as well and knew I would need new equipment if I was to progress. I started off the year winning the Moapa to Vegas Hare and Hound Overall, my first of 4 overalls at this big local event riding my 1973 250CR. BTW, Moapa to Vegas was a really cool event back then. Great desert, and if you lead, you were pretty much breaking virgin trail. I was still riding for Sportsman Cycle, who at the time was the only Husqvarna dealer in Las Vegas. My old pal Casey was lobbying hard for me to get some sort of support from them. My results at B to V had at least caught the attention of the Husqvarna sales team, and their District Sales Manager John Pavich stepped up and got me some support through the Sales Dept. Of course, the big news in 1974 for Husqvarna was the introduction of the Mag 250. In an all-out effort to redeem themselves, the engineers at Husqvarna pulled out all the stops to build the lightest, most powerful two-stroke they could possibly build and actually did a phenomenal job. The Husky Mag 250 was a landmark bike for the brand. Magnesium cases(hence the monicker Mag), a reed inducted motor, lightweight frame, and most radical of all repositioned rear shock mounts moved forward on the swingarm to get even more travel. I think almost an unheard-of six inches at the time. Crazy stuff. In February, I got the news that Husky was going to give me a support bike through Sportsman Cycle (actually just a bike on a deferred payment) and a small parts credit. I was ecstatic even more, so when I heard that legendary Husky factory technician, Claus Nillson was going to build me a special version with a semi-close six-speed gearbox. Essentially he took a wide ratio 1st – 4th gear set and combined it with a close-ratio 5th and 6th. This was the hot set-up. Having a close-ratio 5th and 6th may have seemed counterintuitive for desert racing, but it actually worked better when the bike was geared for top speed. There were no big gaps between 4th, 5th, and 6th, and the bike could pull the taller gearing more effectively. The day was finally set when it would be ready. I could either wait two weeks for them to ship it to Vegas or drive down and pick it up at the San Diego Husky headquarters the next day. Before I even hung up the phone at Sportsman Cycle where the call was made, I was yelling at Mark Mason to get ready to meet me at 3:00am the next morning at my house we were driving down to San Diego so we could arrive when they opened at 8:00am. With gas at $.30/gallon and my baby blue Dodge Maxi-Van raring to go, we beat it the 400 miles to San Diego in record time. We were sitting in the parking lot at Husqvarna's US Headquarters on Mercury St. when folks started arriving. I recognized Nils Are Nilsson, who had an executive management position at the time and Bob "Bitchin"(you who know who I am talking about are privileged) . Pretty soon, Claus showed up and took me across the "ditch" to a little warehouse on the other side of the drainage canal that ran behind the Husky headquarters that they used for overflow m/c storage and rolled out my new Mag 250. It was the most beautiful m/c I had ever seen, metal, plastic, and rubber pornography. I couldn't believe how small it looked. It also had the smell of the Husqvarna factory, which I've written about in other stories.
After a few pleasantries and a quick tour, we loaded it up and headed back to Vegas, arriving before noon(remember this was before the energy crisis and 55mph speed limits: I think we averaged almost 85mph). I needed to ride it a little and get it ready for the upcoming race, which was only two days away. In all honesty, I didn't spend more than 30 minutes breaking it in as I still had to mount up my 3 gal Vesco tank and J-bar handlebars that I ran at the time before loading up and heading to St. George, UT where MRAN was holding its next points event a Grand Prix put on by the Dixie State Riders. The field was headed by Jack Johnson, who was racing a Yamaha for Valley Cycle and Mark Mason, who had also switched to Yamaha(they would later shock the off-road racing world beating the mighty Team Husqvarna and everyone else at the 1975 Mint 400). And of course, there was the legendary Max Switzer and some hotshots from Utah as well. The race started in town on the pavement, but as soon as we hit the dirt, I could tell I was riding something from another planet. Unbelievably fast, great handling, and most amazing of all lightweight, very lightweight. All I remember is that the longer the race went, the faster I went and couldn't believe what a difference it was over my '73 250CR. Jack ended up winning Overall (which he usually did in those days), but I got 2nd and was very pleased with my result. As the year wore on, I won a bunch of races on it and locked up the MRAN series 250cc Class Number 1 plate well before the year-end. Later that year, I raced my first Baja 500 on one, although I never actually got to see the bike because it broke down before my teammate got it to me. I also rode my first Tecate Enduro on one, which was two days back then with an overnight in San Felipe(still to this day one of my greatest experiences in Baja). Last but not least, I attended the Husky Training Center on it and was trained by Mitch Mayes and Mickey Quade(see the attached picture from the school). The program developed by Rolf Tibblin and an extension of the Husky Training Center in Sweden really worked, and I used their physical training regime for years to come. This had a big impact on my stamina and did more to position me for success in the next few years than practically anything else. Thanks, Mitch and Mickey! Last but not least, the visit to Husqvarna's headquarters inspired me to start thinking about a career in motorcycling in some capacity, and just 8 years later, I was working out of the same building as an employee of Husqvarna. It's funny looking back how everything seemed to be connected to a bigger story.