HUSKY FC450: AS GOOD AS THEY SAY?

HuskyFC450-15_34web

This is year two of the reinvention of Husqvarna. We will not dwell on this. Yes, the machine has a direct bloodline to KTM via a shared platform on the manufacturing side of the business. That means that parts like frames, engines, and wheels save the parent company money because of the economy of scale. But, let’s not digress. This test is all about the 2015 Husqvarna FC450, one year older in its new form and fit with newer suspension, engine changes and a personality that is new to Husky and unique to the marque.
450HuskyCollagewebTHE BASICS
The Husqvarna FC450 is the company’s entry into the 450 motocross world. The engine is a single overhead cam, four Ti-valved and fuel injected via the Keihin “bottom injector” throttle body. Horsepower peaks at a whopping 60, 11,500 rpm into the pull. Transmission-wise, it’s a five-speeder; the clutch is a DDS system (Damped Diaphragm Steel) for enhanced reliability with a rivet-less design that uses very thin steel clutch plates. A diaphragm spring is used (not the normal coiled springs), and the entire system flows into a Brembo hydraulic clutch-actuation system. Mounted up to the right-hand brake perch is a switch that allows you to alter the ignition maps—one being the fatigue map (or traction) and the other stock or performance. The exhaust system is straightforward—a stainless header that flows into an aluminum can that benefits from the Europeans’ push for a softer decibel rating. Internally, the can has deflectors and chambers that help offset the sound. And yes, it’s a button start with the battery tucked into the airbox, and there is no kick-start lever.
Chassis-wise, the machine uses a chromoly frame that the company boasts gives far better feedback, feel and flex compared to an aluminum frame, which tends to offer less flex and feels stiff and harsh. The swingarm uses “single component construction,” meaning there’s less welding for a more specific feel, and the rear linkage has been revised and touts a higher starting rate, which translates into a less progressive curve for better control.
hus450cokwebHusqvarna uses a polyamide rear subframe—a three-piece composite made of high-strength polyamide that is stiff yet flexes more than aluminum for better handling feel. Complementing the unique subframe is Husky’s saddle, which bolts up conventionally via two side bolts. The rear plastic molds into the subframe and is very sano, once you figure out the proper way to both remove and reinstall the number plates.
Like the majority of the orange mother ship’s children, the Husky is fit with WP suspension components, CNC-machined triple clamps, a Neken bulge handlebar, machined hubs, Brembo brakes (260mm front, 220mm rear), Dunlop MX 52 rubber and black DID rims. Unique to the brand are handguards and rear plastic that offers handholds to lift the machine.
The fork is the WP 4CS design with a separate compression and rebound adjustment. Husqvarna has fit a new, smaller, 22mm front axle (last year was a 25mm) for better feel (more flex), though the axle clamps are 2mm shorter, which increases the front trail. On top, there’s a red adjuster on the right leg that alters rebound damping and a white adjuster on the left leg for compression damping. Hooked up to the new, longer linkage is a WP rear damper that has new valving and a 4mm increase in stroke. The slightly longer stroke complements the new link geometry without changing the rear-wheel travel.
HuskyFC450-15_13webTRACK BANTER
Layout and feel: The ergonomics can be altered with the adjustability at the top triple tree, and the Brembo levers have adjusters to easily set the lever gap to the bars. Bigger-footed riders felt that the shifter was low and could be 5mm longer. Taller riders benefited from a pair of Raptor pegs we tested that were 5mm lower and back, thus making more room in the cockpit. Normal-sized pilots had no issues with the bars or their positioning. Taller fellows pushed them into the forward position and spaced them up with Enduro Engineering spacers. Good marks go to the Husky saddle. The cover and foam consistency are dead-on, and the height is good for riders shorter than 5-foot-10.
Starting, power and brakes: Immediate gratification here—stab and go. We are huge believers in the button, so anything with a kick-starter falls short here. For those who have trust issues from being strapped with only a battery and button, the Austrians have the lightest and best electric start in the dirt world, and it’s brutally durable. It’s hard for us to go back.
HuskyFC450-15_29webSmooth juice was our first sensation once we hit the circuit. The power seemed to yawn, belch, explode and then sign off. Honestly, we were not overly impressed—until we realized that we had it on the “fatigue” map setting. We stopped, switched it to the number-one position and the power seethed. It’s strong down low. The middle has a smooth intensity, and the top yanks like a missile. Overall, the spread is usable, competitive, long and, under the guidance of a sharp navigator, will short-shift, make traction and relax the suspension for a more controlled ride. Oddly enough, it seemed a little softer than the KTM 450SX-F. Knowing that the airbox is a shade smaller, we popped off the airbox cover for a lap. Yikes! This sparked all facets of the powerband, sharpening the immediate hit, boosting the mid, and giving enthusiasm to the peak power. Down the road, we’ll work on letting in more oxygen. This brings to mind the question, “Do we need more power?” Not for two-thirds of our staff, but it’s nice when it pulls longer between shift points and seems freer, almost lighter, during acceleration. The gearbox has good spacing. The shifting gets a B, and the clutch pull is smooth, though maybe a touch firm in spite of the consistency behind the Brembo hydraulics.
The brakes, booed by “Big Four” aficionados for years, have reset the standard in the motocross world. All of the Japanese brands have fallen behind, and this year have upped their rotor size and strength in an effort to keep up with the Brembos. Enough said.
HuskyFC450-15_18webSuspension and on-the-fly adjustments: The WP 4CS fork is…middle of the road. Here’s what we like about it: ease of adjustability. Here’s what irritates us: we can’t feel any of the adjustability at normal MX speeds. Why? The damping adjustments are all to the high-speed zones of the damping force, which means that dialing in more feel (plushness) can only be done by modifying the mid-valve internally. The fork feels hacky during initial travel, transmitting too much back into your hands. You can alter this by either adding compression (to keep it up in the stroke), or relaxing it (to let it drop into the stage of valving). With a high-speed compression adjustment, your only improvement will come when the fork is working in and out at speed. Whoops, fast jump faces and dropping in holes at speed calls for high-speed compression adjustments. It’s fixable. Some riders are going to a higher oil level to keep it up in the stroke, and others go for a re-valve. We’ve tested Factory Connection’s settings, and they’re magic! In stock form, we range from 12 to 15 out on the compression adjuster and keep the rebound at stock (15 clicks out).
We like the new, longer-link, longer-shock-shaft personality, feeling that it takes hits with more gusto, stays straight and absorbs rather than reacts to quick punches. It’s sprung right in the hunt for a 175–180-pounder (5.7 kg/mm), and adding or subtracting high-speed compression really helps dial in the rear’s ability to stay up on successive high-speed hits and still take the swallower. Overall, the rear-end performance is an improvement.
HuskyFC450-15_29webKNICKKNACKS
The grips looked nice but weren’t real nice to our hands. Last year’s bikes came with handguards; this year’s bikes don’t. We’re sad.
Nice, smooth ergos through the seat and tank. We love the rear number plates, but beware, their fitment is unique, and you can easily break them if you try to muscle them into place. The gas cap is a screw-on unit—simple and effective. What a plan!
There are handholds molded into the rear section of the machine. Do not lift the bike by the fender; you’ll rip it off. The air filter is accessible through the left-side panel, and, once again, it requires a keen feel to seat the filter into the airbox properly. Do it wrong and you’ll suck dirt and powder the motor.
Like the KTM siblings, the Husky is dotted with Torx bolts and 13mm sizing on shock mounts and sprocket bolts. Fortunately, Husqvarna supplies a toolkit with a very strong Torx drive and a T-handle, so keep it in your toolbox. Keep an eye on your sprocket bolts; they will loosen. And remember, do not over-tighten the chain. Three fingers at the end of the chain pad is the rule. Too tight and you’ll tear up the rear hub.
Once again, the shock preload ring is nylon. It deforms easily and becomes almost unusable quickly. There are several companies selling steel units, though the WP damper has to have the clevis removed in order to change the adjuster. Bummer.
The Husky is not a flea-flicker. It stresses the incredibly accurate Dirt Bike scale to just under the 244-pound mark, and it may take the honor as the heaviest 450 motocrosser of the year.

hus15airwebWITH THAT SAID…
First off, the Husky looks great. We know the motor rocks. The chassis is smart, relaxed and well-tailored for a broad range of racers. The WP fork is okay but totally dial-able by a smart suspension doctor, and little else has to be done to make it a very positive force in the Open-class motocross arena. Thanks to the smooth and abundant power, the electric start, and a chassis package that targets flexibility, the Husky FC450 corners, jumps and accepts a broad range of dirt bike obstacles. This ups its versatile side, which in the end kicks it up the does-it-right scale on the Dirt Bike moto meter. o
HIGHS
• The button
• The power (broad, strong and usable)
• Great ergonomics
• Versatile
• Fairly quiet
• Easy fork adjustability
• On-the-fly mapping adjustments
• Dunlop MX52s
• Brembo—brakes and clutch!
HuskyFC450-15_25webLOWS
• Needs to go on a diet
• Rear fender can be torn off easily
• Fork performance is average
HUSQVARNA FC450
Engine type Four-valve, OHC 4-stroke
Displacement 449cc
Bore & stroke 95.0mm x 63.4
Fuel delivery 44mm Keihin EFI
Fuel tank capacity 1.9 gal. (7.5l)
Lighting coil No
Spark arrester No
EPA legal No
Running weight, no fuel 236 lb. (claimed)/
244 lb. (actual)
Wheelbase 58.9″ (1495mm)
Ground clearance 14.8″ (375mm)
Seat height 39.0″ (992mm)
Tire size & type:
Front 80/100-21 Dunlop MX52
Rear 110/100-19 Dunlop MX52
Suspension:
Front WP 4CS, adj reb./comp., 11.8″
(300mm)
Rear WP aluminum piggyback, adj. prld
hi & lo comp., reb., 12.5” (317mm)
Country of origin Austria
Suggested retail price $9149
Manufacturer www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com

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