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Written By: Kenny Day (Keefer Inc. Test Rider)
It’s that time of year where we are getting closer to the reveal of the 2021 models! Most of us are siting at home and wondering what changes will be made as well as how the manufacturers will take a bike that’s really good and somehow make it even better? With the all new 2020.5 Rockstar Edition FC450, Husqvarna uses this model to display some of the new changes that will be introduced to the production version in 2021.
Before we get down to the facts, let me tell you a little about myself. My name is Kenny Day, 32 years of age and I’ve been beaten into this industry like a fossil my entire life. I started off as racer throughout the early years of my life, held a professional license and once that became nothing more that personal dream, I jumped ship from racer to industry guy. Six years as a Team Manager for the Traders Racing Yamaha team and now currently the Alpinestars gear guy for the greats of the sport such as Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac and many others. I’m sure you may be thinking “cool story, but what gives you the credentials to be a test rider”. Well a Loretta Lynn’s championship two years ago in the vet class as well as years of learning and testing with the great Skip Norfolk over the past few years has taught me a ton about the way top professional teams go about setting up motorcycles. Enough about me, let’s get to the machine!
I had several months on the production 2020 FC 450 before getting my hands on the Rockstar edition. The production FC450 had some great qualities that I really enjoyed such as a light nimble feel, the ability to put the bike wherever I wanted and at 4pm on a dry choppy Glen Helen Raceway, I enjoyed how mellow I could make the engine using features like Traction Control. I also had some negatives with the FC450 such as a very loose front end feel due to the AER fork settings as well as a lack of overall pulling power. I felt the engine characteristic of the production FC450 was quite mellow even when in the aggressive map setting. Personally, I have never really enjoyed riding 450’s because I am a small frame weighing in at 155 pounds and yes, I use starting blocks…big ones. I always felt like the 2020 production FC450 had a lot of drag to it and quite frankly I was always wanting more.
Okay let’s jump ahead, Day 1 on the brand new 2020.5 FC450 at Glen Helen. Lap 1 around the perfectly prepped Glen Helen course and I have a smile on my face. The bike has a ton more power, less drag and it has fully transformed how the bike reacts on the track (due to the ECU changes). The new bike feels like a light, snappy rocket ship and I am still on the standard map setting. I feel as if the there is less engine braking with the updated map settings that were introduced to this model. Second on my list of happy feels, Suspension! Husqvarna and WP went with a stiffer suspension setting on both ends of this machine and it was a positive change. WP also introduced new fork settings as well as a new design that does not come on the production 2020 FC450. So how does all this translate to the track? I immediately have more feel with the front end, a better connection between the tire and the track. I also felt I had more holdup in the stroke with the forks, which helps in corners. The rear shock also gives me much better feel of holdup in the stroke, the entire rear of the bike feels higher, but in a positive way because I felt that the production FC450 had a very low “chopper” feeling to it.
Along with updated suspension settings and new mapping settings, the 2020.5 Rockstar Edition FC450 comes with some great features like the slip on FMF 4.1 Exhaust system, CNC machined Triple clamps, DID Rims and lots of trick anodizing to give this machine a “factory” look. Please see a detailed list below of all the features that come with the Rockstar edition.
Is this bike worth the extra money? In My opinion YES. I now have about 30 hours on this bike thanks to Covid-19 and I’ve made some small inexpensive changes that would allow me to show up and go racing with it as is. I have put on the FMF header to match the exhaust which broadened the power and made me feel I had a better connection to the ground on acceleration. I also purchased some FLO footpegs to give a wider platform and grippier feel. After riding several different types of tracks and desert trails I feel setting my fork pressure a little on the stiff side has been a great improvement, I still have the front end bite in the corners as well as the holdup that I like with doing so. I currently run my fork pressure at 160 psi and have been happy with that. Lastly, I like running the sag between 95-100mm, anything over 100 gives me a chopper feel in the rear of the bike and throws off the balance of the machine for me. If you’re feeling low in the rear try this setting.
One thing to point out on the new FC450 is the versatility of the maps. Most riders just use the standard map 1 that comes as you start your new bike, I suggest using the different combinations that are presented. For example, Glen Helen at 9AM freshly tilled calls for map 2 or the aggressive map. At 3PM when the track is choppy and baked out, I suggest map 1 with Traction control. Having the adjustability right at your fingertips is an amazing feature especially when you can change it on the fly on the track.
New Features of the 2020.5 Rockstar Edition FC450:
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team graphics
Updated WP XACT split air fork with a redesign of the internals
including a new mid-valve damping system and new oil bypass in
the outer damping-leg tube to increase comfort and performance
Updated settings on the fully adjustable WP XACT rear shock for
superior suspension performance and feeling
Vented airbox cover included that can be changed without the use
of any tools for a sharper throttle response according to rider
preference or track conditions
PANKL conrod with a bushing in the small end reduces friction for a
faster revving engine
Billet aluminum REKLUSE clutch cover increases durability while
enhancing the factory look
CNC-machined triple clamps with adjustable offset [20 – 22 mm] and
perfect fork clamping
Ultralight FMF Racing Factory 4.1 silencer with titanium body and
carbon end cap
Anodized D.I.D DirtStar rims with machined, anodized hubs and
three-cross pattern in the front for optimal handling
Hydro-formed frame with black premium powder coating
Magura hydraulic clutch for perfect modulation in all conditions
Floating front waved disc with disc guard
Lightweight and robust carbon fiber and polyamide composite
Carbon fiber reinforced engine protector and mechanical holeshot
device as standard
Handlebar-mounted map select switch also activates launch and
I hope my insight and experience with the 2020.5 Rockstar Edition FC450 has helped your purchasing decision in some fashion. If you ever have any questions feel free to email me at Racing23@alpinestars.com