By Chirs Cocalis, Pivot Cycles
The inspiration behind this Husky FX350 project started just over a year ago at a Motocross Action/Dirt Bike magazine Ride Day at Glen Helen. I had the opportunity to ride a brand-new 2017 Husqvarna FC350 belonging to Andy Jefferson, media relations manager for Husqvarna, as well as former Pro Circuit/Husqvarna factory rider. Andy’s FC350 was far from stock, with both the engine and suspension work closely mirroring that of the Factory Husqvarna motocross team’s. The motor was magic on Glen Helen’s steep uphills and through Glen Helen’s famed Talladega first turn. As impressive as the motor was, however, the suspension was the real standout. It had a plushness that I had never experienced on any motocross track, with bottoming control that would normally come only with a much stiffer overall setup.
I thanked Andy for the “free” demo, and he gave me his business card. We talked about mountain bikes for a bit, and then I had to return to my life living with a nicely prepped 2012 KTM XC350. I know that’s not much of a sacrifice; however, riding my old trusty steed would never quite be the same. I set out to build a bike like Andy’s, or at least something as close to it as possible. The only problem with having a bike exactly like Andy’s is that I ride a motocross track about once a year and am primarily an off-road guy who prefers Moab to Glen Helen and a pile of rocks over anything resembling a set of doubles. I had to modify my vision into building the ultimate off-road weapon fit for anything from a WORCS race to the ISDE.
I started with the 2018 Husqvarna FX350 (got it through Mesa Arizona Powersports) as the base for my project. It shares everything with the motocross-specific FC, but has an 18-inch rear wheel, slightly larger tank, kickstand and a six-speed transmission.
The biggest part of the project was achieving suspension nirvana. For this and much of the build, I enlisted the services of Stillwell Suspension in Scottsdale, Arizona. Stillwell has a strong following in the off-road world, and many top EnduroCross pros rely on Alan Stillwell’s expertise to make sure their bikes track straight through boulder fields and keep traction on wet, slippery logs while still being able to flatland from log jumps without bottoming. Stillwell disassembled the fork and had the upper tubes Kashima-coated and the lower stanchions DLC-coated. He followed it up with a custom re-valve using A-kit works internals. The rear shock received a similar treatment with Stillwell’s A-kit works internals, bladder system conversion, stiffer spring and an XTRIG preload adjuster to make setting sag a whole lot easier. I wanted a setup that could handle everything from tight, technical EnduroCross terrain to higher-speed GP-style events, as well as high-speed sand washes and G-outs found in the desert. The results were quite tasty, as the modded WP air forks stayed incredibly plush and smooth off the top with superb small-bump compliance. At the same time, the suspension stayed up in its stroke, providing the ability to attack big off-road whoops with aggression. Out back, the shock helped the rear end stay straight and in control in high-speed whoops and retained plushness in rock gardens.
The second goal with the project was to try to make the bike street-legal without taking away from the FX350’s closed-course racing capabilities. As regulations tighten and trails are often separated by roads, it’s really nice to be able to link the best trails together and remain legal. Fortunately, in Arizona, it’s possible to make that happen without going to extremes. I started with the entire rear fender/taillight assembly from Husqvarna’s street-legal FE models. This gave me the basis for having working taillights and brake lights. For the headlight, I decided to go with a Baja Designs XL Pro insert in a stock FE headlight shroud. The overall look is super clean, and the Baja Designs light puts out nearly 5000 lumens in a lightweight package; however, it does require a rewind to the stock FX stator to handle the increased power requirements. The XL Pro light not only helps satisfy the street-legal requirements but puts out the real power needed to light up the trail should I get caught out after dark.
The next part of the project was making the bike truly off-road-capable in all conditions while adding a little bit of bling and some extra power to the mix. In the protection department, I went with an SX Slide Plate. The SXS unit features an integrated linkage guard and is made from a very slick UHMW plastic material. It’s reasonably lightweight, durable and quiet. It offers nice protection around the water pump but does stick out a little further than I would like in this area. It also features a step in the side of the plate that can be a toe-catcher when using the rear brake. A little bit of grinding cleaned this area up, making the transition smoother and eliminating any catch points. Up front, I went with a Husqvarna disc guard and out back a full complement of TM Designworks products, including their tough chainguide, brake caliper and rotor guards. For the radiators, I chose Enduro Engineering guards, as they have a rigid outer frame that fully braces the radiator while still utilizing the stock radiator louvers. To complement the EE guards, I went with a Trail Tech fan, Boyesen Super Cooler water-pump impeller kit and a blue Husqvarna radiator hose kit. The EE radiator guards took some modification to fit with the Trail Tech fan, but the installation turned out clean and integrated, and the bike now runs cooler and has no issues with overheating.
In the cockpit area I went with a Scotts sub-mount steering damper with BRP’s four-post rubber-mounted top clamp. I consider the Scotts steering damper to be a must-have performance and safety component. The new Huskys (and KTMs) have incredible handling and sharp turning capabilities, but are a bit less stable than previous models. The BRP four-post rubber-mounted bar clamps also offer a much more stable bar mount than the stock clamps and more vibration damping. The top bar clamp features extended mounts so that the Cycra Pro Bend handguards can attach directly to the clamp and not decrease the overall damping and flex of the ProTaper handlebar.
Another key piece of the project was making sure that the bike could handle all the sharp rocks without pinch flats. I went with the new Tube Saddle system with heavy-duty tubes. The Tube Saddle is an ultra-lightweight foam insert that sits between the tube and the rim. You can run at least 4–5 psi lower without the danger of flatting because the tube is supported by the Tube Saddle and cannot bottom against the rim. You get the livelier feel of a normal tube, increased traction from the lower pressure and better sidewall support so that you can corner more aggressively. Overall, the Tube Saddle offers fantastic bang for the buck, regardless of what bike you’re on.
A project of this magnitude would not be complete without addressing power on some level. With the FX350, stock power is really good, but adding a little more punch with good control is never a bad thing. Plus, with all the added protection, the lightweight 221-pound stock FX350 was starting to gain some unwanted heft. To counteract that, I went with FMF’s full titanium Factory 4.1 exhaust system with spark arrestor. The system is smooth, powerful and still relatively quiet. It also has the added benefit of saving a bunch of weight on the bike, helping to get the bike back to near its original fighting stature. With weight reduction (and a lust for cool titanium parts) in mind, I decided to spend the last bit of my budget on a set of titanium Pro Pegs from Works Connection. They do have the added benefit of incredible grip, and they shave a few more grams off the build in the process.
THE FINAL TOUCHES
Pretty much everything on this bike was done to achieve a specific goal; however, having all the performance in the world just doesn’t feel the same if the bike doesn’t look good. The guys at DeCal Works are big fans of our Pivot Bikes and wanted to design something that looked as good as our Pivot 429 Trail model. I think they achieved the goal, and the bike looks as good as it rides.
In the end, I couldn’t ask for more. I now have a street-legal, pro-level off-road bike with works suspension. It would be at home on the starting line of the ISDE or riding up Main Street on the way to the trailhead in Moab. On the trail, the performance is amazing. I didn’t go overboard with any motor modifications or do anything that would impact the already positive traits of the stock FX350. Suspension performance was taken to 11, and the rest of the bike received the protection and updates needed to allow the bike to perform in extreme conditions. It can’t get any better than this!
About me: I’m a 5-foot-11, 190-pound, expert-level mountain biker and bike designer who bounces between B- and C-level off-road rider capabilities, depending on fitness and state of injury.
About my company: Pivot Cycles is a leading company in the mountain bike world. We are known for our cutting-edge, carbon fiber, full-suspension mountain bike designs with a strong focus on suspension and chassis performance.