The 350cc machine concept took a while to catch on with the consumer, but I have been seeing many more 350’s at the track the last couple years. Some of this is do to the fact that Husqvarna and KTM 350’s are so much better than they were just a few short years ago. I recently received my 2018 Husqvarna FC350 test bike and have been putting a lot of time on it the past few weeks and have a good impression of the bike’s character that I will break down below. If you want to learn more or just want to get your information in podcast form, click on the podcast tab and listen to the 2018 Husqvarna FC350 First Impression now.
Engine: The 2018 Husqvarna FC350’s engine character is more like a 250 than a 450. The bottom end comes on strong and has an exciting feel to it, but doesn't have the sheer torque numbers like the FC450 does. The 2018 FC 350 puts out a max horsepower reading of 52.62 @12800 RPM with a max torque reading of 28.54 ft-lbs at 8300 RPM. The 2018 FC450 has a max horsepower reading of 56.35 horsepower at 9500 RPM with a max torque reading of 36.50 ft-lbs. at 7100 RPM. The FC450 has eight more ft-lbs of torque, which is a considerable amount when you ride them back to back. The peak horsepower numbers are closer however and when up to speed (like going down a fast straightaway) the 350 feels very close to the 450 in terms of sheer speed. Where you will lose some time to a 450 is coming out of deep, tilled up corners where you need that “meat” to pull you up on top of the soft stuff. One upside to the Husqvarna FC 350 engine character is that it has a much livelier/exciting RPM response feel over the somewhat smoother feeling of the FC450. If you want to pop over a hole or braking bump the FC 350's excitement can get you over small imperfections on the track easier. The FC 350’s mid range pull is impressive as it can pull even a bigger sized rider around the track in third gear, with the right amount of clutch use. One of my 220 pound novice test riders stated that “the FC 350 was the most fun he had on a bike”. The beauty about the FC350’s engine is that you can leave it in second gear, longer, down a straightaway and not have to worry abut shifting to third gear. It’s ok, because the FC 350 likes to be revved. The rider will have to learn how to ride the mid-sized white bike this way, but once you do, you come to appreciate the Husqvarna’s extra pulling power character. This bike is fast on top end, plain and simple! I am telling you that you will not miss much top end (if any) compared to a 450. Not one time when I rode this bike was I thinking "I need more top end”. I can clear anything on the track with the Husqvarna FC 350 that I can clear with a 450. You just will have to be conscious of not shifting too early. Ride it like a 250F down low, but reap the benefits of a 450 up on top. That should be the Husqvarna FC350’s tag line.
Suspension: Do I wish the Husqvarna FC 350 had a spring fork? Yes, I do, but the 48mm AER fork isn't horrible. Would I rather have a Showa spring fork from a 2018 Honda CRF450R? No, I will gladly take the new 2018 setting that WP has inside the FC 350. I ran 10.6 bars in the fork and that seemed to give the WP fork a nice feel when it’s in the top of the stroke, decent comfort through the middle part of the stroke and an ample amount of bottoming resistance near the end. I recommend staying in between 10.5-10.7 bars if you're in between 160 pounds to 200 pounds. This will give you the most amount of comfort through braking bumps and more front end traction through corners. Don't mess with the fork height as the stock height leaves the FC 350 with the best balance on all different types of tracks. You can slow the rebound down on the fork one or two clicks to slow the action down to help the fork from coming back to quick on slap down landings. I have always got along with most WP rear ends as they usually have a dead feel over braking bumps and I like how the rear of the FC 350 sticks through corners. The shock is best served up at 105mm and a high speed that is anywhere from a quarter turn to half turn in (stiffer) on high speed compression. This setting keeps the rear end from feeling to low on jump faces and landings. You can also experiment with opening (softening) the rebound one or two clicks to get some of that rear wheel traction/compliance back in acceleration bumps. I experimented with low speed compression and found out that I always went back to a stock setting for the most comfort on rough/choppy/tracks. The FC 350 is a well balanced motocross machine that lets you push your limits without it doing anything out of the ordinary on the track.
Chassis: The steel frame on the Husqvarna is a well mannered combination of flex and rigidity balance that is tough to replicate. I prefer the steel frame that comes on the new Rockstar Edition Husqvarna FC450, but I really come to appreciate how much traction the 2018 FC350 has when the track offers little to none. Straight line stability of the Husqvarna FC 350 is good and is a comfortable bike at high speeds. The carbon composite airbox is smaller in diameter on the FC 350 (which hurts power a little) than a KTM’s, but the FC 350 offers a little more plushness when hitting square edge compared to a KTM 350 SX-F. The only downs side to this chassis is that it can flex more than I would like on soft dirt when riding aggressively. When hitting rolling whoops through corners (on throttle) the rear end of the bike can unload and snap back which causes the Husqvarna FC 350 to step out and give the rider an uneasy feeling. The benefit to the new generation Rockstar Edition FC 450 frame is that it is much better in this area. Hopefully Husqvarna will go to the new generation frame in 2019 on the 350 to combat this issue.
Airbox Side Cover: If you want a little more bottom end and throttle response try drilling out your side panel like the photo shows. This will only take a few minutes and can give you a little more pop/bottom end out of corners. Just be aware that you will now have holes in your side panel when it is raining or in muddy conditions, which can wreck havoc on the air filter sooner rather than later.
Muffler: I have tried an FMF slip on system on the FC 350 and KTM 350 SX-F in the past with good results. The slip on will give you slightly more bottom, but where you will notice the difference is through the mid range and top end. Going to a full system will not give you as much bottom end, but you'll get more mid to top end than a slip on style system. You can also put a KTM style muffler/can on and that will get you some extra response. The KTM’s muffler is slightly different and is not as quiet as the Husqvarna muffler.
Ergonomics: The rider triangle (peg, seat, handlebars) is comfortable for my 6’0 frame and I love the fact Husqvarna uses Pro Taper handlebars and not Neken. The Pro Taper bars flex more and to me the bar bend Husqvarna uses is better when cornering. It’s a flatter/lower bend that I am accustomed to.
Engine Maps: If you want the most out of your 2018 FC350 then make sure to use Map 2. Map 2 will get you more snap down low and a harder/longer pulling mid-range. If you’re looking for a more useable power in hard pack or maybe you're not quite in shape yet for that 20 minute moto, use Map 1. It has a smoother deliver with a broad mid-top end pull. It will rev out a little farther than Map 2 and that could be good for a GP style race.
Gearing: I tried going up and down a tooth on the rear sprocket, but always came back to stock gearing. Going up a tooth shortened the puling power and didn't help getting into third gear any sooner. Going down a tooth actually was pretty good at more of faster style GP track that let second, third and fourth gears pull slightly longer. I didn't like it in tighter sections however as I had to down shift to first gear at times to get out of sharp 180 corners. Stick to stock, trust me.
The Husqvarna FC 350 is for anyone that wants a light feeling machine that has a lot of fun factor. If you're a serious racer that rides on deeper style dirt you will most likely want a 450. Every time I ride the FC 350 I always say to myself "why don't I have one of these in my garage". The answer that usually comes to my mind is I still have an ego and want the most horsepower available when I decide to go racing. However, once I get over my "racing" stage of my life, I know I would see myself owning a Husqvarna FC350.
If you have any questions about this test please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.