Some bikes need to be promoted, exposed and assisted in every way to encourage sales. Not the Husqvarna FC350. There are no factory riders for the FC350; no race teams, no big rigs and no works bikes. The FC350 is the most neglected model in Husqvarna’s motocross line, at least from the pro racing point of view. It’s certainly not neglected in the engineering department. The FC350 got a hard redesign for 2023. It was part of the top-to-bottom reboot of all the competition bikes in the combined Husqvarna and KTM lines this year. As most riders know by now, around 20 bikes in the Pierer Mobility corporate group were redesigned, making this the biggest year of change in the company’s history.
A DIFFERENT APPROACH
Mechanically, the 2023 FC350 has much in common with the FC450. It has the exact same frame and bodywork, which are new this year. The frame is still steel with a central backbone, but it’s more robust. The rear suspension is redesigned with a new shock, a new swingarm and new linkage. Even the top shock mount is connected to the frame in a different fashion, which is said to dramatically alter the way the bike handles. In front, the fork is still a WP Xact air fork, although the valving and bottoming systems have been altered. One of the defining features that separates the Husky from the KTM 350SX-F is a shorter seat height. The official specification for the FC350’s seat height is 339mm, which is 19mm less than the KTM 350SX-F seat height. This was done entirely through changes in suspension (i.e. fork, shock, linkage), although the official numbers offered there don’t quite match up—the fork is said to have 5mm less travel, and the rear suspension travel is 7mm less. We will say that Husqvarna’s seat-height number seems accurate according to our admittedly crude methods.
All the handlebar switches are new this year. The starter and the kill button are on the right. The multi-switch that offers two maps, traction control and the new Quickshift feature is on the left. You can also access launch assist on that side.
There are a number of signature Husqvarna parts that aren’t offered on the KTM. The handlebar is ProTaper, the rims are D.I.D. Dirt Star, and the subframe is a composite mix of polyamide and aluminum. All the work for 2023 resulted in a weight increase. On our scale, the FC350 is 228.7 pounds without fuel, which is essentially the same as the 450.
We’ve always been big fans of the 350, although we have editors and test riders who didn’t want to give up their 450s. Now, it’s a different story. Of all the new stuff in the 2023 Husqvarna line, the 350 motor has the most clear and distinct improvement. It makes such good midrange that you no longer have to scream it like a 250. You can actually torque it around the track like a 450. The revs are still there if you need them, but you don’t have to go up there if you don’t want to. You get less arm pump, less mental fatigue and less intimidation factor. It can also pull a holeshot if it has to. Clearly, this depends on the track and the rider, but if you’re a good starter on a 450, you’ll be a good starter on a 350. The new Quickshift function helps a little with full-throttle upshifts on the start chute, but most riders don’t trust it enough to use it afterward. We learned to turn it off on the fly. Of the two maps available on the handlebar, the standard one (gray light) is good in most situations. In the more aggressive (green) map, the bike peaks out a little later but isn’t necessarily any faster. There’s also the option of installing a vented airbox cover. Last year this was an essential move with all Husqvarnas. Now, the improvement is less distinct. The standard airbox apparently breathes much better this year.
The fact that the 350 weighs the same as a 450 is a little mind-blowing. We would never believe that if we didn’t weigh them both for ourselves. We have often pointed out that a big motor with lots of rotational mass creates gyroscopic effect that alters the way a bike handles. This is never more clear than when you compare a 350 to a 450. The 350 is much easier to toss around. Beyond that, it even seems to land from jumps less harshly and brake in shorter distances. Can we explain that? Not really. Whether it’s real or imaginary, it still affects the way you ride.
If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that the new Husky frame has been a target for criticism. It’s clearly more rigid, and that makes the suspension feel like it’s not doing its job. Since the exact same frame is used for all three Husky FC models, it gives us yet another demonstration of how power delivery affects so many different aspects of the way a bike works, including suspension. When you open the throttle on a big bike, you hit everything harder. The 350 actually feels like it has cushier suspension than the 450 simply because it hits sharp edges with slightly less impact. We will still say that most riders think the older frame made for a cushier ride, but it’s not as noticeable on the 350 as it is on the 450. On a hard-packed track, most riders decreased compression damping at both ends. The shock comes set at 15 clicks out (for low speed), and most riders like it best at 18. High speed is 1.5 turns out for most riders. The recommended sag of 105mm is also best. In front, you can get lost between air pressure and compression damping, so we generally recommended setting the air pressure at the standard setting (10.6 bar) and concentrating on clickers. For the record, virtually no test riders are sensitive enough to notice the decrease in suspension travel compared to the KTM or GasGas models. Everyone notices the decreased seat height. The Husky is lower, and that even pleases tall riders. It’s particularly useful on the starting line. There might be a slight disadvantage in ruts, where you are more likely to catch a footpeg, so it’s best to keep that in mind in wet track conditions. Another comment from most test riders is that the new bike squats less on acceleration. This is because the countershaft sprocket is located lower in relationship to the swingarm pivot this year. Some riders feel that’s a great improvement, but most don’t notice.
If you’re a devoted 450 guy, it’s a tough sell to talk you into a bike that has less horsepower and weighs the same. It basically contradicts all logic. That point is driven home by the fact that there isn’t a single 350 lined up for the start of a Pro National.
Our advice is to get over yourself. Most of the riders in the real world can go just as fast on the 350 and do it with less suffering. About 5 percent of the active racers in the amateur world can use the full power of a 450. Of course, this isn’t a secret. Without any real promotion or racing budget, the 350 continues to outsell the 450. That’s been the case for a long time. The only thing that’s changed is that today’s FC350 is even better.