The first of the 2020 motocross bikes is here. We have the new Husqvarna FC450 and already have some time on it. This isn’t a big redesign, but we already knew that because Husky tips its hand each fall by releasing the Rockstar Edition, which is a preview of the year to come. The frame and engine look pretty much the same as the 2019 model. There are some important changes, though, and one of them is a change in philosophy. Husqvarna is continuing to develop a personality separate from KTM. For the first time, the Husky’s suspension was developed independently. It still uses a WP air fork (now called the Xact) and a WP shock, but the valving and even the rear spring rate are different from those that will be used on the 2020 KTM 450SX-F.
Husqvarna is more of a prestige brand, so the people in charge have decided that the buyers are older than KTM customers. The new suspension settings for the FC450 are therefore a little cushier. The rear spring rate is 4.2 nm/kg (as opposed to 4.5 on last year’s model and on the KTM), and the recommended pressure in the fork is 10.7 bar (or 155 psi) whereas it’s 10.9 on the KTM. The valving is different at both ends.
On of the most common criticisms last year was that the bike was a little sleepy off the bottom. We liked that, but some riders wanted more snap. Husky addressed that by offering a vented left numberplate with every bike sold. This allows more air into the motor and provides a considerable increase in throttle response. There’s also a different throttle cam in the parts package. A gray cam is in the bike, and a larger black cam, which makes the throttle open more quickly, is included.
Husky also made a more significant spread between the two maps. You can switch from map one to map two on the fly, just like last year, but now you can actually tell a difference. Map two is supposed to be more aggressive. In the past, that meant it hit a little later, but map one had more snap. Now, it seems like map two has more power throughout the range.
So far, we like a combination of the different options. Map 2 was the unanimous favorite, and all the riders liked the vented numberplate. Those made the bike feel more lively and responsive without making it hard to control. On the other hand, the gray (smaller) throttle cam did make the bike more controllable. We still love the bike overall. It’s fast, light, stable and all the changes are for the better. We are still testing and will have more info in the September, 2019 print edition of Dirt Bike. For a Dirt Bike video featuring the 2020 Husqvarna FC450, click here.
The reaction to this week’s announcement of the 2020 KX250 was interesting. People saw that it didn’t have electric start and dismissed it as bold new graphics and nothing else. That’s completely wrong. The motor is almost all new, with a shorter stroke and a redesigned valve train. The fact that Kawasaki didn’t add electric start is not significant. It will be much much lighter than the other Japanese 250s. The new motor uses a finger follower valve design that Honda, KTM and Husavarna have used with great results. I’ve seen a preliminary dyno chart that shows that it lost a little low end, but gained a great deal on top, compared to last year’s KX250. Just for fun, I superimposed it on last year’s 250 shootout dyno curves.
Dyno nerds, I know this is never a very scientific way of comparing bikes–to be accurate, you have to measure all the bikes on the same dyno on the same day. But the new dyno chart I used also had a 2019 KX for comparison, which matched perfectly with the shootout chart. The new Kawasaki is the textured curve way up on top. As you can see, it might be something special. We will find out in three weeks, when we get a test bike.
BIKES FOR TESTING
One of the bikes we have in the shop for the September issue is a Beta 125 dual-sport bike. At first we wondered why Beta bothered with the expense of importing this bike. It isn’t cheap to get a bike past the EPA. After riding it, we understand. This bike comes in at under $5000 ($4999, to be exact), which is about $300 more than a Suzuki DR200S. It’s much more motorcycle than a DR, which still has an air-cooled motor and a drum rear brake. It offers similar horsepower to the Suzuki, but the chassis, components and suspension are much more advanced. It’s a great camping bike and perfect for students. But it is pretty slow. Don’t entertain the thought of riding it along with your buddies on 300cc two-strokes. It’s not that type of bike.
Last month I got a hold of a KTM 790 Adventure R. This is now officially my favorite adventure bike. It makes as much power as an Africa twin and it has be best traction control yet. I rode the 2019 Virginia City GP on a BMW 1250 Adventure and had a great time, but sort of got my butt kicked by a bunch of guys on KTM 990s. I can’t wait for a rematch.
The GasGas ECRanger is a cool bike in the same mold as a Beta Xtrainer. It’s based on the EC300, but is tuned for more low-end power and less hit. It’s a trail bike, not a racer, and it comes in at a lower price. GasGas did this by using less expensive components. The for is a KYB open cartridge unit, the brakes are Braktec and the tires are V-Rubber.
I rode the bike on sections of the Last Dog Standing Extreme Enduro–I was a crash test dummy for the club that organized it. The GasGas is perfect for that type of stuff. The suspension is excellent for tough terrain in first and second gear, and the power delivery is smooth. It doesn’t have much top end power. It isn’t supposed to. The company is aiming for less experienced riders with this model. We need a little more time to sort it out. The jetting is a little rich for summer riding, but by the time the full test appears in the September print edition of Dirt Bike, we should have more data.
There’s a new venue for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross series this weekend. It will be at WW Ranch Motocross Park near Jacksonville. It’s been 22 years since there’s been a National in Florida. it’s about time, considering that many of the top riders now live and train there. We will have live results here at www.dirtbikemagazine.com, starting with qualifying times in the morning, so check in.
That’s all for now