The 2021 Husqvarna FC450 is here, and even though this can’t be considered a year of major changes, Husqvarna and KTM are beginning to diverge in some meaningful ways. We began to see some hints of that last year. The Husky’s power delivery was a little milder, and the suspension was a little cushier, apparently aimed at a more mature rider. That makes sense. Husqvarna is a legacy brand that might mean something more to vet and senior riders. The price is higher and the image is different, even though the FC450 shares most of its parts with the KTM 450SX-F.
WHAT’S NEW, PUSSYCAT?
For this year, the FC450’s biggest change is in the suspension department. We already witnessed a redesign of the Xact AER 48 air fork with the inclusion of a mid-valve. That came with the 2020 ½ Rockstar Edition. The WP Xact shock features new low-friction linkage seals for better suspension response, and the suspension travel and overall height of the bike have been reduced by 10mm. This change doesn’t apply to the 2021 KTM 450SX-F. To lower the bike, Husqvarna shortened the cartridge and the fork tube up front, then changed the shock head and the linkage in the rear. The idea was to give the bike a lower center of gravity and make it a little easier to ride.
Husqvarna is also taking a different path with its electronics in 2021. Now the bike can have smartphone connectivity for altering the mapping and power delivery. Unlike with the Yamaha system, you have to pay extra for a transmitter, but it’s still an improvement over what Husky offered in the past.
THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME
Engine-wise, the FC450’s SOHC cylinder head is very compact and lightweight, using a short profile with the camshaft located as close to the center of gravity as possible for improved handling and agility. The lightweight valves are actuated via a rocker arm and feature timing specifically designed to deliver precise levels of torque and throttle response. It’s a five-speed with a Pankl transmission. The clutch is a DDS system that uses a single-diaphragm steel pressure plate rather than multiple coiled springs.
The handlebar-mounted map switch selects between two engine maps, operates launch control and activates a traction-control feature. This traction-control analyzes throttle input from the rider and the rate at which the rpm increase. When the rpm increase too quickly, the EMS will register a loss of grip and reduce the amount of power to the rear wheel, ensuring maximum traction.
The Husqvarna has a number of other differences from the KTM mother ship, including a different airbox and a screen in the muffler to make the power smoother. Other differences are due to different sourcing; the clutch hydraulics are Magura rather than Brembo.
The triple clamps remain CNC-machined units. The bar mounts have a single mount, but can be reversed to give the rider a bigger cockpit. The bars are ProTaper. The grips are ODI and fit with a new progressive throttle mechanism that allows for adjustable throttle progression.
The chromoly frame has precise flex points for handling improvements. The subframe remains a two-piece composite design, and the airbox comes with a high-flow side plate that targets stronger power. The tires are Dunlop MX33s. The hubs are machined and fit with D.I.D rims. The brakes are Brembo throughout.
ON THE TRACK
Chassis/handling/ergonomics: The Husqvarna FC450 has a very distinct feel and design, much like its sibling, the KTM 450SX-F. The main reason for this is the steel frame that Husqvarna uses. Every other bike in its class uses a more rigid aluminum frame. In 2019, Husqvarna had redesigned the chassis and had increased rigidity in key areas. Our test riders praised the stable feel of the chassis, which feels well-planted at speed and still offers a bit more comfort than an aluminum frame. It’s very easy to lock into the turn and maintain your line, be it on a berm or hunting on the inside. Bodywork on the FC450 is slim and smooth through the knee and leg area, and there are no awkward bulges to catch you or prevent you from moving around on the bike. The seat-cover material was all new this year, and while it is better than the rough and abrasive material of previous years, it is a bit slipperier than the seat material on other bikes. Overall, the FC450 feels incredibly light and easy to maneuver. At 224 pounds, it’s as feathery as a two-stroke on the scales and 15 pounds lighter than a YZ450F!
Engine/electronics: The Husqvarna features a SOHC engine that is said to put out 63 horsepower. There are two different engine maps and a traction-control mode. The Husqvarna powerplant is smoother and more predictable than that of the KTM, which is designed to appeal to a more open-class appetite. It’s still very aggressive and does not lack on-tap muscle—unless you’re Jason Anderson! Finding power for the average motocross pilot is easy with the on-the-fly adjustable maps.
Map 1 is your aggressive power curve, and this is where the bike is making full power suited for a pro-level rider or for riding in conditions with deep loam or sand requiring maximum hit. If you add traction control to Map 1, you feel a slight change in the power curve. The traction control tames the overall hit of the motor just a touch, but in Map 1, it’s not very noticeable. Map 2 is mellower. The power rolls on smoother and just a shade softer. This map worked the best for everyone except our pro riders and let us put in longer motos with more control. We really liked the traction control in Map 2. It lets you ride the bike much more aggressively while remaining in control with less fatigue.
The engine has a slight bit of vibration to it. It is not excessive, but it is something you notice after a long day or while the bike is being revved out aggressively. It started easily, and after a brief warm-up, it ran very consistently during testing. It was crisp, clean and rarely hiccupped or flamed out. The Husqvarna actually features a rounded cone screen sitting right at the end of the muffler’s inner core. It’s not an actual spark arrestor, but is designed to tone down the hit of the big 450. A lot of riders who prefer smoother roll-on power will welcome this feature.
Controls/suspension: The Husqvarna features a high-quality ProTaper handlebar with ODI lock-on grips, as it has in years past. Top marks here. The FC450 uses a Magura hydraulic clutch and Brembo front and rear brakes. The clutch works efficiently, and the pull is manageable and easy to modulate. We abused the clutch and never experienced any fade or change in pressure. The Magura master cylinder feeds into the well-known DDS clutch, which has been used for years. It offers a very predictable feel and is a very durable and reliable unit. The Brembo brakes are impressive, offering super-strong and precise stopping power with zero fade in pressure. The brakes were extremely easy to modulate, especially while entering into corners or on steep sections of the track.
Up front, Husky uses the 48mm WP Xact air fork. Other than KTM and GasGas, no one in the big-bore motocross world uses air anymore (all have switched back to springs). The air spring is provided on the left fork and damping adjustments are on the right side. Setting the air pressure for your size and ability requires nothing more than a pump and gives the rider a good platform for setting up the front end. A big change for this year is that the Husqvarna actually sits a bit lower to the ground overall. Husqvarna installed new 10mm-shorter cartridges and outer tubes to accomplish this. We must say, the center of gravity and balance of the bike feel exceptional. The forks felt very well-rounded overall. They were able to handle rough, high-speed chop without feeling harsh or deflecting while also being able to handle large jumps and landings to flat ground without bottoming. The WP Xact rear shock performed perfectly together with the forks, offering a strong overall balance. The shock offered excellent bottoming resistance and yet provided a very comfortable and plush ride in rough chop. Husqvarna has fit this machine with a fork and shock setup that will suit a wide range of riders with its scope of adjustability.
Riders’ thoughts on the shortened suspension and lower saddle height varied. Shorter testers didn’t notice any decrease in suspension comfort and reported that the cornering traits on the machine were enhanced. Taller, less limber riders had more gripes about transitional moves on the machine, feeling a bit more cramped in the cockpit, but they also praised the stronger cornering habits of the machine.
CUT TO THE CHASE
Each year the Husqvarna brand tries to further distance themselves from its sibling, KTM. Clearly, even subtle changes can have a profound impact on the feel of the bike. With its different components, lower suspension and smoother powerband, this Husqvarna is going to appeal to a wide range of riders. It’s light, it’s tractable and it rails.
- Engine type: SOHC, electric-start,4-valve 4-stroke
- Displacement: 450cc
- Bore & stroke: 95.0mm x 63.4m
- Fuel delivery: Keihin EFI, 44mm
- Fuel tank capacity: 1.8 gal. (7 l)
- Lighting: No
- Spark arrester: No
- EPA legal: No
- Running weight, no fuel: 223 lb.
- Wheelbase: 58.5” (1485mm)
- Ground clearance: 14.6” (370mm)
- Seat height: 37.0” (940mm)
- Front tire: 90/90-21 Dunlop MX33
- Rear tire 120/80-19 Dunlop MX33
- Fork: WP Xact, adj. reb./comp.,11.84” (300mm) travel
- Shock: WP Xact, adj. prld, hi & lo comp., reb.,11.8” (300mm) travel
- Country of origin: Austria
- Suggested retail price $10,299