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ADV News2023 Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition First Ride Review

2023 Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition First Ride Review

Is this the Norden riders have been asking for?

Published on 03.24.2023

Oh the Norden, Husqvarna’s first adventure bike named after the frigid northern reaches of the planet. Since its debut in 2019, the Swedish marque tempted us with visions of exploring Iceland and Scandinavia, cutting trails across barren volcanic landscapes in the shadow of snowy peaks. With a battle-hardened KTM 890 Adventure platform as its base, equipped with range-topping touring amenities and other finery to give it a premium touch, the Norden 901 was positioned by the manufacturer as the quintessential adventure travel machine.


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However, Adventure Riders are a diverse bunch. For many the standard Norden delivered on its promise, yet some expected even more from Pierer Group’s premium-focused brand. Something that can handle the long road with poise, but better equipped to absorb blows on the trail and with improved componentry for raiding the countryside.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

For 2023, Husqvarna has been hard at work re-equipping its viking warrior for battle in the form of the Norden 901 ‘Expedition’ model. Underneath its new skin, this up-spec’d Norden still has the same muscular 889cc parallel twin, putting out 105 horsepower and 74 ft-lbs of torque, mounted in a steel trellis frame shared with its Austrian brethren. It carries 5 gallons of fuel and rides on a 21”/18” tubeless wheel combo shod with Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR adventure tires. And of course it still comes with a full suite of advanced electronic rider aids, cruise control, quick shifter, and integrated fog lights, all controlled through a 5” TFT display and convenient thumb controls. 

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Test

As before, a number of premium finish details help differentiate the Norden 901 from its ready-to-race cousins, like the intricate pin-striped paint designs, bronze-colored side covers and fuel cap, powder-coated brake calipers, and its posh suede seating. Wrap-around handguards, rear rack, above-dash GPS mounting point, side panel storage, and a 12-volt charger are just some of the included touring conveniences that are standard on both Norden models.

So What’s New? 

Left: Standard Norden 901; Right: Norden 901 Expedition

To start, many of the optional accessories from the Norden 901 catalog are now included on the Expedition model as standard equipment like heated hand grips, heated pilot seat and a center stand. There’s also electronic upgrades that come standard like the ‘Connectivity Unit’ that lets you wirelessly connect your phone via Bluetooth to the TFT display for hands-free control of incoming calls and music playlists, along with the ability to navigate with the ‘Ride Husqvarna’ GPS app. Unlike the base model, the Expedition comes stock with the ‘Explorer Pack’ software, which gets you the ‘Explorer’ ride mode with 9-stage adjustable traction control and configurable throttle response settings, including ‘Rally’ throttle response.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

New travel upgrades include a tall touring windscreen that’s been wind tunnel refined to provide optimal protection. The bike is also equipped with a set of rear luggage racks, complete with 36-liter soft panniers. Plus, protection has been upgraded with a beefier 4 mm-thick aluminum skid plate utilizing a wrap-around design that protects the lower fuel tanks, exhaust headers and underbelly.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review
Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

The most notable change by far though is the upgrade from WP Apex suspension to the higher-spec WP Xplor suspension. The Xplor fork and shock are mechanically the same units used on KTM’s 890 Adventure R, although with their own unique damping and spring rate settings tuned more for comfort rather than all-out performance.

Up front, the 48 mm USD fork (previously 43 mm) uses a split damping function on an open cartridge, while a sealed hydro-stop helps slow down compression at the end of the stroke for greater bottoming resistance. Forks are fully-adjustable with compression and rebound hand-dials conveniently located on the top of the fork tubes. Fork preload is now available and is also adjusted (with tools) on the top of the fork tubes.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

Out back, a progressive damping system (PDS) shock, together with a progressive spring, offers a plush ride in the initial stroke and more hold up when the terrain turns rougher. Improved bottoming resistance is provided by a second internal piston, which works together with a closed cup (instead of a needle) to smoothly slow things down towards the end of the stroke. The new shock now gets both high and low-speed compression adjustments, where previously only rebound and preload adjustments were available.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition First Ride

The Norden Expedition’s longer legs offer 9.5 in (240 mm) of suspension travel front and rear — 0.8 in more than the standard Norden 901. The Expedition also sees a wheelbase increase from 1,513 mm to 1,529 mm thanks to the taller suspension. Ground clearance is boosted from 9.9 in (252 mm) to 10.6 in (270 mm), contributing to a 0.8 in (21 mm) increase in seat height. Husqvarna is also reporting an increase of weight (without fuel) from 449.7 pounds (204 kg) to 472.8 pounds (214.5 kg). That 23-pound weight increase is primarily due to the new heavy-duty skid plate, rear racks, soft bags, and center stand.

First Impressions

For this first test of the Expedition model, instead of heading north, we traveled way down south all the way to Cape Town, South Africa. Unlike our first test of the Norden 901 in the slippery wet Azores just over a year ago, this year’s launch would be in more familiar rocky, sandy desert terrain with mini-mountain ranges that jut straight up from the coast. Epic canyon carving with ultra-scenic landscapes as the backdrop would be on the menu as well.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

Getting my first up close look at the bike, the new deep blue paint job with pinstriped topo lines is quite appealing to the eye. The skid plate is thick and covers all the vitals — much more protection than you’d expect from an OEM unit. At 6 foot 2 inches tall, the 0.8-inch seat height gain (34.4/35.2 in low/high position) was barely noticeable and some of the shorter riders in the group relayed they didn’t have any trouble with it either. The bike is fairly easy to get on and off the new center stand with a good heave too. 

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

In the saddle, it’s a familiar feel in the cockpit. The engine is fairly quiet, needing to be revved up to get a good growl out of it. The new windscreen is much taller than the original Norden’s and you now look through it rather than over it. The taller screen, along with a slightly taller seat height, gives it the feeling of a larger machine but it still feels quite manageable once it’s off the stand.

On The Road

We had several long highway sections where the speeds topped well over 80 miles per hour at times. The new touring windscreen worked quite well at both deflecting the wind over my head, whereas the standard Norden’s windscreen would block wind only up to about goggle level. I wore a motocross helmet with goggles for this test and there was no noticeable buffeting at the peak. For long journeys on the highway, I would expect it to cut down on rider fatigue at the end of the day, much better than the old screen.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

As before, the engine is smooth at speeds between 65-90 mph depending on how you like to cruise. The seat itself has not changed other than a new cover, and feels comfy for a stock seat. The reach to the bars is just right, not too high or too low, and the knee bend was uncramped with the seat in the tall position. Managing the cruise control was intuitive and easy to use, despite our frantic pace requiring constant speed adjustments.

While it was around 75-80° F during the day, we did travel along a foggy coastline (where the Cape Penguins hang out) that had the temperatures dip down into the low 60s. This was a perfect opportunity to try out the new heated seat and grips. There are several levels of temp settings for both the grips and seat, and the high setting is toasty hot. My only complaint is that it requires multiple layers of menus to go through on the TFT to turn them on/off or adjust levels, which can be distracting while riding.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

Heading into the mountains, we got a taste of some of South Africa’s premiere twisty roads. Opening up the throttle on the Norden, it makes a nice bark in the upper RPMs. Acceleration is very good with gobs of torque for a 900cc, but it doesn’t make your eyeballs water like a liter-class machine. Passing slow-moving vehicles is made even more effortless when upshifting wide open with the silky-smooth quickshifter.

Diving into and out of s-turns, the Norden feels plenty agile and it can be leaned deep with little effort. However, the center stand did touch down on asphalt when I started getting more aggressive. There’s also a noticeable increase in dive and squat now with the taller suspension when braking or accelerating hard. Despite this, the bike still maintains good composure, thanks to excellent damping, and handles better than a bike this size with 10.6 inches of ground clearance should.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review
The center stand did occasionally scrape when leaning the bike aggressively in a turn.

As far as the electronics for the street, you’ve got three different ride modes to choose from — Street, Rain and Explorer. For performance riding, Explorer mode lets you configure settings in many different ways (Traction Control, Braking, Power Maps) including selecting the ‘Rally’ power map. Rally unleashes the full power of the engine with a crisp throttle response that really changes the personality of the machine. With traction control set to level 1 (lowest), you can effortlessly loft the front wheel with power alone in second gear. When using the Street mode, it subdues the throttle response a bit to make things less jerky but maintains full power while cranking up the traction control. Likewise with Rain mode, which drops power and further smooths throttle response while increasing TC in an effort to maximize traction on slippery roads.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

The Norden uses a MotoGP-derived brake system by Spanish company J.Juan. The twin radially-mounted 4-piston caliper brakes on 320mm discs up front are powerful stoppers, yet they have plenty of feel for mid-turn speed adjustments. The street ABS system is lean-angle sensing as well to ensure that ABS intervention takes into account a smaller surface area when the tire is leaned on its side. The Norden’s brakes, both front and rear, proved excellent for performance street riding.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

Calculating fuel range for longer trips, I averaged 44 mpg over the 2-day 350-mile test in mixed terrain using a heavy throttle hand. That would give the Norden a 220-mile range, which is not bad. Expect that number to come down a bit though if you are cruising at a steady 85 mph on the highway. 

In The Dirt

Despite the fun we were having on the street, we were itching to get the new Expedition model dirty. Our first taste of South African soil was a simple graded road that was heavily washboarded. You could clearly see the big grooves in the road left by the grading machine but they transmitted almost no vibrations to the bike. Same goes for braking bumps and potholes, which the Xplor suspension absorbed like they were a mirage. The initial stroke of the suspension is like magic in how it soaks up all the smaller stuff. So much so that I found myself continuing to sit down longer than usual when the dirt road changed from smooth to choppy.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

When standing up, the foot pegs and bar position are well placed for the attack position. As a taller rider, I might raise the bars about ½ inch to improve comfort but it’s almost spot on. You can also easily get your weight over the bars and the fuel tank doesn’t impede your body position. The serrated footpegs offer good grip and support, making the Norden a nice platform to stand up on for long durations when traveling off-road.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

Sitting down off-road is a different story. The girth of the tank near the knees is noticeable and the seating position puts you further back so it’s harder to get over the handlebars. It’s not bad sitting down, but you can’t really shift your weight up on the tank like an enduro bike. There’s also the stepped seat that hinders sliding back in the saddle — all standard fare though for an adventure bike with a travel/comfort focus.

The tall windscreen did get in my way on a few occasions though when wrestling the bike through rough terrain. It also impeded visibility some once it got covered in trail dust. On the other hand the tall windscreen offered advantages when standing up cruising down dirt roads at 40-50 mph, as it blocked the wind off your torso significantly.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

As far as weight, the 23 pounds of additional mass the Expedition is carrying compared to the standard model wasn’t really noticeable while riding off-road. If you are riding your Norden in an ADV setting you will typically add luggage to the bike anyway, which is a large portion of the weight. With the center stand and skid plate both being down low on the bike, that makes the extra pounds from those upgrades barely perceptible.

Riding through rocky trails and technical hill climbs, you can let the suspension eat up the ruts and bumps while you concentrate on staying on top of the bike and letting it float around underneath you. Thanks to the lower center of gravity and quickshifter-enabled clutchless shifts, the bike keeps its momentum, maintains forward progress, and never feels unwieldy. In fact, after building confidence with seat time, it was surprisingly easy to control this large machine through challenging terrain. 

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Test
Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

On one section of our test, we encountered a particularly challenging, rocky, loose hill climb that isn’t the type of trail normally on the menu for an adventure bike press launch. This was definitely a situation where it’s best to put the bike in off-road mode and let the soft throttle response and mild traction control apply just enough power to the ground to maintain traction. The Expedition went where I pointed it, jumped ruts, kicked rocks, bounced off boulders and always rumbled confidently forward without spinning out or hesitating. With our large group of test riders of varying levels of off-road skill, we all reached the top to a chorus of yelps and high fives.

How well does this new model take the big hits though? One of the biggest weaknesses of the standard Norden was its big bump absorption. Sharp-edged step ups, tall drop-offs, flat-landing jumps and big whoops mixed with a larger rider would previously result in a harsh bottoming with audible thunk from the fork and/or rear shock. With nearly an extra inch of travel, plus higher-spec suspension components, Husqvarna was clearly looking to resolve this issue for more aggressive off-road riders. 

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

During my first encounter with a few big hits, we got into a couple of small jumps and big drop offs where I did bottom out the rear suspension. You could feel the shock reach the end of its stroke, rapidly slowing down the momentum at the last second before hitting the bump stop. It’s a much more pleasant bottoming experience than before with no audible sound. On the other hand, I never encountered any terrain that caused the front fork to bottom. And after adjusting the rear preload from the standard setting (~ 160-180 pound rider) to a more appropriate setting for my weight (215 pounds), I did not bottom out the shock again, despite valiant attempts. However, I did start to notice the center stand bottoming out on rocks when really pushing it hard.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

Adjusting the preload made a big difference in the handling of the bike too. This allowed it to use the full range of the rear suspension travel, making it feel much more lively and athletic on technical sections. Shifting the weight forward a bit also helped to improve front end confidence. When pushing the pace on aggressive terrain, I really enjoyed riding with the Rally throttle response and traction control on level 1 for when you want to let loose and go berserk on the trail. Riding with TC off is definitely a handful but usable for an experienced off-road rider if you need to plow through a deep sand pit, mud bog or up a loose, steep hill climb. Putting TC in 1-3 gives you a decent amount of controlled wheelspin to get you through pretty much anything else and Explorer mode will retain your TC setting (except TC off) once you cycle the ignition.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition First Ride

Keeping you from embarking on an early trip to Valhalla, are a great set of stoppers. The twin 4-piston radial mount calipers up front and rear two-piston floating calipers offer excellent power and feel in the dirt, without any grabbiness. With Offroad ABS braking configured, the front wheel is tuned for sensitivity in loose terrain with lean angle sensing disabled, while the rear ABS is shut off completely. During this test, I had a couple of quick ABS scares, but nothing serious enough to have me wishing the front ABS could be shut off completely. Nevertheless it would be nice to have the option, especially for extremely steep loose descents.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

One glitch or ‘feature’ (it wasn’t clear if this was by design) we did experience configuring the Explorer mode, was with the ABS. When choosing the Offroad ABS setting, it should retain that configuration permanently unless changed by the rider. However, when switching to either Street or Rain mode, it would automatically reset the user-configurable Explorer mode’s ABS setting to Street ABS. This became something you had to keep an eye out for when transitioning from street to dirt riding. The preferable behavior would be for the user configured Explorer mode settings to be maintained, no matter what rider mode switch occurs.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

One limiting factor when going full send, was the Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR tires, which are more street biased. We were also riding these bikes with 32 pounds of air pressure to avoid flats in the rocks and provide a performance middle ground between street and dirt. Considering the street tire pressures, it makes the plush action of the suspension even more impressive.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

Overall, the bike’s off-road handling is agile and precise with a locked-in feel on the trail. This isn’t a bike that likes to be slid around hooligan style. It’s a stable platform that wants to cut a clean fast line, so you really have to be on it to break it loose. A few riders in the group complained of head shake in choppy terrain but I never experienced this myself, and in most cases this was resolved with adjustments to the suspension settings.

Durability and Maintenance

With a number of challenging trail sections encountered during our South African test, there were more than a few tip overs and light falls. I didn’t see any cracked hand guards, broken mirrors or even scratched up side panels during the trip, despite running the bike sans crashbars. The new skid plate happily bounced off of rocks too, even when landing on them from full airborne. 

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

While the overall build quality of the machine appeared high, we did see some issues with the new luggage system. All of the soft bags were starting to come apart at the seams in one area where it attaches to the backing plate. While they didn’t come apart completely, they did look noticeably tattered and would likely not stay together over time. We were told these were pre-production units on the bike, so hopefully this issue will be addressed before reaching the public. Also, the rear rack reinforcement crossbar came loose on one of the bikes but this seemed to be a one off issue. So there may be a few niggling details Husky needs to figure out with their luggage supplier.

For those curious about where the Expedition will be manufactured, the new model will be made at the Husqvarna plant in Austria (same as the base Norden). And as far as maintenance after the first service, oil changes are every 9,300 miles and valve checks are every 18,600 miles. Plus, there is a 24-month warranty should any issues arise.

The Bottom Line

For many off-road-minded adventure riders, the original Husqvarna Norden 901 wasn’t quite the ax-wielding Varangian Warrior they’d hoped for. While it was fairly capable in the dirt, its softer suspension with limited big-bump resistance left aggressive riders searching for more. With the addition of the WP Xplor suspension and improved armor, the new Expedition model now has the ability to absorb significant trail punishment. Yet it hasn’t lost any of its suppleness that makes it less taxing on multi-day adventures.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

It’s not quite as capable as the KTM 890 Adventure R, which has a more race-tuned Xplor suspension and a more compact design that weighs 35 pounds less. But the performance difference is likely only measurable by a highly-skilled rider in difficult terrain. For most of us, the Expedition is going to be more than capable for the toughest trails we might encounter in an adventure riding scenario and easier to live with day-to-day while traveling. If you love binging on rough, rocky, whooped out trails and get a thrill out of passing dirt bikes on your big adventure bike loaded with gear, go for the 890R. If you tend to delve into technical off-road terrain only on occasion and prefer to have a lower seat height, go for the standard Norden 901. Somewhere in the middle? The Expedition fits the bill.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

While a lot of riders will love the taller windscreen, personally, if I were putting this bike in my garage, I’d replace it with the Norden’s standard screen. I found it to be too tall for the serious off-road terrain the bike is now capable of exploring. An adjustable windscreen that could be easily dropped down when things get spicey on the trail and raised back up for the long highway sections, would have been a better choice.

A few years ago, I had the mindset that all adventure bikes should come standard with a center stand. Now that I’ve become accustomed to carrying a portable trail stand in my tool kit, I’m more inclined to ride without one. Especially, in the case of the Norden whose center stand I noticed came in contact with the ground both on the street and in the dirt during spirited riding. Many riders won’t experience this though (I’m a big guy) and will appreciate the convenience the center stand provides for performing maintenance and loading luggage, but personally I’d remove it to recover some ground clearance, then throw it up on eBay to recover a few bucks from the bike’s purchase price.

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

We encountered a few foibles with the electronics settings and new soft luggage system, plus the lack of adjustment on the windscreen was a bit of a miss, but overall there is a lot more to love about this latest Norden model. The suspension upgrade really raises the off-road performance to a level that will please off-road aficionados, while still maintaining a manageable seat height and a forgiving feel that intermediate-level riders can enjoy. At the same time, the bike received improved off-road protection and additional touring amenities to make it an even better long-range travel machine. 

The new Expedition is also quite a nice value when considering all the optional equipment included for the $1,300 price increase over the standard Norden 901. Just the suspension alone makes it worth the upgrade, while the skid plate, luggage system, touring screen, center stand, new eye-pleasing graphics, and electronic aids are just more icing on the cake

Husqvarna Norden 901 Expedition Review

With enthusiasm for the Adventure segment still burning strong, we are living in a golden era of ‘more choice’ for the consumer. With any luck, this strong demand will continue enticing manufacturers to roll out more new exciting models, perfectly matched for our journeys on the road less traveled.

The 2023 Norden 901 Expedition has an MSRP of $15,799 and will soon be available at your local Husqvarna dealer starting at the end of March.

Norden 901 Expedition Specs

Engine type:2 cylinder, 4 stroke, DOHC parallel twin
Displacement:889 cc
Bore/stroke:90.7/68.8 mm
Compression ratio:13.5:1
Starter/battery:Electric starter/12V 10Ah
Transmission:6 gears
Fuel system:DKK Dellorto (Throttle body 46 mm)
Control:4 valves per cylinder / DOHC
Lubrication:Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps
Engine oil:Motorex, Power Synth SAE 10W-50
Primary drive:39:75
Final drive:16:45
Cooling:Liquid cooled with water/oil heat exchanger
Clutch:Cable operated PASC Slipper clutch
Engine management/ignition:Bosch EMS with RBW
Traction control:MTC (lean angle sensitive, 3-Mode, disengageable, Explorer mode standard)
Frame:Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel frame using the engine as stressed element, powder coated
Subframe:Chromium-Molybdenum-Steel trellis, powder coated
Handlebar:Aluminum, tapered, Ø 28/22 mm
Front suspension:WP XPLOR-USD Ø 48 mm
Adjustability:Compression, Rebound, Preload
Rear suspension:WP XPLOR-Monoshock
Adjustability:Compression (high/low speed), Rebound, Preload
Suspension travel front/rear:9.45 in / 9.45 in (240 mm / 240 mm)
Front brake:2 x 4-piston caliper, radially mounted, brake disc Ø 320 mm
Rear brake:2 piston floating caliper, brake disc Ø 260 mm
ABS:Bosch 9.1 MP (incl. Cornering-ABS and Offroad mode, disengageable)
Wheels front/rear:Tubeless Aluminum spoked wheels 2.50 x 21”; 4.50 x 18”
Tires front/rear:Pirelli Scorpion Rally STR 90/90 R 21; 150/70 R 18
Chain:X-Ring 520
Silencer:Stainless steel primary and secondary silencer
Steering head angle:25.8°
Triple clamp offset:30 mm
Trail:106.9 mm
Wheelbase:1,529 mm ± 15 mm / 60.1 in ± 0.6 in
Ground clearance:270 mm / 10.6 in
Seat height:875 / 895 mm; 34.4 / 35.2 in
Tank capacity (approx.):19.0 liters / 5.0 gallons
Dry Weight:211.5 kg / 466.2 lb
Weight (without fuel, approx):214.5 kg / 472.8 lb
ABS Modes:Street (cornering sensitive) / Offroad
Ride Modes:Street, Rain, Offroad, Explorer standard
Engine Management Systems:MTC, MSR, Easy Shift
Cruise Control:Original Equipment
Heated grips & seats:Rider seat and grips are heated
Connectivity:Connectivity Unit, Turn-by-Turn+ Navigation, Call-In, Call-Out, Music Selection
Technical Accessories available:TPMS

Photos by Sebas Romero and Marco Campelli

Author: Rob Dabney

Rob Dabney started a lifelong obsession with motorcycles at the age of 15 when he purchased his first bike – a 1982 Honda MB5. Through his 20’s and 30’s he competed in off-road desert races, including the Baja 250, 500 and 1000. Eventually, his proclivity for exploration led him to dual sport and adventure riding. Rob’s never-ending quest to discover what’s around the next bend has taken him on Adventures in Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia, and throughout the American West. As a moto journalist, he enjoys inspiring others to seek adventure across horizons both near and far.

Author: Rob Dabney
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Dirty D
Dirty D
March 24, 2023 4:39 pm

If given the choice, why would anyone buy the standard Norden?

ADV Pulse
ADV Pulse
March 26, 2023 3:33 pm
Reply to  Dirty D

As mentioned in the Bottom Line section, if you are not doing a lot of aggressive off-road riding and you’d like to have a lower seat height, the standard 901 is the better option. The handling on the street is a little more sporty on the standard 901 as well due to the shorter suspension. The additional $1300 might also be a significant factor for some riders already at the top of their budget.

Patriot159
Patriot159
March 24, 2023 10:17 pm

A Norden R. Nice. For the extra $$ the XPLOR suspension alone is worth it. The heated seat and grips as standard is a bonus. Not sold on the bags though. Seems all of them were failing at a certain seam in the whole test fleet. Hopefully the bag mfg. will rectify that weakness by the time they are in the show room.

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