Written By: Matt Sirevaag/210 pounds/Novice/Electrician
Since the smaller bore 350cc machine came along it seems there has been a heated debate in whom this bike is aimed at. I only owned and ever ridden 450cc bikes because that is what I thought I needed. I love my big bore bikes and never had the thought of a bike less than 450cc cross my mind. I am 5’9”, 210 pounds, but in my mind a 450 is where it’s at, or at least I thought… Keefer and I thought it would be fun and educational to stick me on the 2019 Husqvarna FC350 that Husqvarna so graciously let us evaluate. Just to let the readers out there know this bike does have some Husqvarna factory accessories, so it’s not completely stock. This bike has triple clamps, a hydraulic slave cylinder cover, Pro Taper gearing (14/50), and FMF exhaust. Let’s not beat around the bush, one of the most asked questions we get here at Keefer Testing is mostly engine related. How is the engine on the FC350? Does it have enough power of my size? How does this bike compare to a 450? Is this bike right for me? I can’t tell you if this bike is right for you, but I can give you my honest opinion and hopefully steer you in a good direction, for your next purchase.
Engine: Can one hundred CC’s less be that good? The way I see it yes it can, to be honest the majority of consumers buying 450’s don’t need nor can use all that power, including my-self. Yes, having gobs of torque at your finger tips puts a smile on your face, but do us novice riders really need it? As soon as I jumped on the FC350 I was surprised at how smooth the bottom end was. It had more torque feeling than a 250cc four-stroke, yet not as over powering as a 450cc bike. The smooth bottom end made rolling on the throttle through mid-corner a blessing in disguise for me. I was not as timid to give her a little more throttle in order to help improve my corner speed, which needs some help. Now don’t let this smooth bottom end fool you however, when the corners get deep/rutty, it still has plenty of torque to pull my 210 pounds through the deeper loamy sections of the track. Another notch in the old cap for a smooth bottom end power delivery is when you get on the throttle it doesn’t upset the chassis (when coming into the middle to end part of the corner). Once you exit the corner this is where the FC350’s engine really shows a rider what it’s capable of. What it might lack in 450cc torque down low, it makes up for it with a strong mid to top end pulling power.
The FC350 has a very similar mid to top end pull with an over-rev as good as the 2019 CRF450R (that I own) and that is a good thing. I have a saying that I use to my buddies: “yes, I ride a 450, but I only use 300cc’s of that 450cc power plant”. I never thought it was the truth until I had the chance to test the Husqvarna FC350. Not only were my lap times faster on the FC350, but I also noticed the more I rode the Husqvarna the more confidence I had in my riding (because I was not timid of the big power of the Honda). I can only count on one hand how many times I felt I needed more power out of this white machine. This is where the full FMF 4.1 exhaust came in; the FMF exhaust really did some manipulation to the engine character of the FC350. As soon as I hit the track this exhaust really gave the FC350 a little more pep. This feeling was mostly noticed through mid-corner where the little bit of extra torque (the FMF had) made the bike feel lighter and more agile in corners. When you found yourself in the wrong gear the FMF muffler also improved engine recovery time and made it easier for me to correct my bad shifting habits.
After riding both exhausts back to back (FMF/Stock) I noticed the stock exhaust almost made the bike feel a little lazy down low. The FMF 4.1 made the bike more exciting down low then continued to feed its way to an even meatier mid range pull. Between the two exhausts I felt as if the top end was pretty close to one another. I know that if I go purchase my own FC350, this FMF exhaust will be at the top of my list. It took an already good engine and gave it some added excitement with a 450’esq feel.
Chassis: You take a good non over powering engine and stick that with what I feel is a good chassis and now we are talking. As you ride the FC350 you can tell you don’t have that 450 weight to throw around. As you charge into corners this chassis, though light, has a very planted feel on the front wheel, which lead to me having more confidence coming into corners. The light feeling also makes this bike a blast to throw around in the air, which helps me feel like I can whip (editors note: ummmmm. No….) The FC350 likes to be leaned over and can stay leaned over until you want to exit out of a corner. This lead over sensation is something I always struggle with on bigger bikes, like my Honda CRF450R. A 450cc machine has a heavy feel with that extra torque, along with the gyro effect, due to more rotating mass, but the 350 doesn't have this feeling. Having less rotating mass makes the FC350 feel much lighter on the track compared to a FC450, which on paper is only a couple pounds heavier. Something that has been an on going trait of a Husqvarna is rear wheel traction and the FC350 is no exception. You only have 350cc to pull you around, but rear wheel traction is as good, if not better, than that of the FC450. Typically with bikes that corner well (with a light feeling) they sometimes aren't that stable at speed (straight-line). I was surprised to find the FC350 fairly stable when hard on the throttle while on long straights. The FC350 may not have the straight line stability as a Yamaha YZ450F, but it does have better straight line stability than the Honda CRF450R, I currently ride. Even with the steel frame this chassis does have somewhat of a comfortable feel on rough sections of the track. This was most noticeable on braking bumps coming into corners. The Husqvarna retained that planted feel with not much movement in the bike (front to back). You do get a firm feel through the chassis, but not as much as the 2018 model that I spent some time on previously. Part of this might be the new Husqvarna factory accessories triple clamp that not only comes on the 19.5 FC450 Rockstar Edition, it’s also available through your local Husqvarna dealer. These clamps were designed to help decrease binding as well as have a better flex characteristic on the track. This could be part of why I felt the new FC350 had more comfort on small chop than last year’s model.
Suspension: Being a larger rider (without the height), I do a pretty good job at testing the weight range of stock suspension. The 2019 FC350 is using Husqvarna’s latest version of WP’s AER fork and WP rear shock. In stock trim (with 105mm of sag) I was not to sure how I would feel about the suspension spec that the Husqvarna R&D team may have come up with. Once on the track I could immediately feel the WP AER front fork dive quite a bit on corner entry and off gas situations. This was caused mostly by my weight and the stock 10.5 bar recommendation of the AER fork. I slowly went up .1 bar increments at a time until I found my happy place, which was 10.8 bars. This allowed the fork to hold up on de-cel, helped bottoming resistance, and have a decent amount of comfort on light bump absorption.
With the stock clicker settings and at 10.8 bars the fork was fairly compliant through the beginning part of the stroke. Although when hard on the front brake (on downhills) the fork would sit a little too far down in the stroke causing a stiff or harsh feeling through braking bumps. At the end of the day I found a good overall fork setting at 10.8 bars, 10 out on compression, and 9 out on the rebound. This gave me the best balance of hold up and comfort and allowed me to push my hardest without giving me an uncomfortable feel. Slowing down the rebound on the fork definitely gave the front fork a more predictable feel lap after lap.
The only real issue I had with the WP shock was on the exit of corners. I felt the rear of the bike would squat too low causing the front wheel to get light and lose front end traction. Most of this is caused by being undersprung for my weight as the FC350 is set up for riders between 160-185 pounds. I could have gone and purchased a heavier spring for my weight, but most of us who purchase new bikes just want to ride. So in order to get the best setting I could out of the stock spring rate I started a quarter turn in (stiffer) at a time on the high-speed compression. The reason I made this change was to get the rear end of the bike to sit a little higher in the stroke and hold up on corner exit, which put more weight on the front end. Stiffening the high speed compression also helped the shock not blow through on the faces of jumps. When I managed to finally get done tinkering with the high speed compression I ended up being one turn out.
I would have to say that this FC350 is very forgiving in the set up department. The window of adjustment is fairly large to make a wide range of riders and their abilities happy unlike the CRF450R. When I was experimenting and found myself way off on sag/clickers/spring rate the Husqvarna still cornered and handled very well. All I did was play with clickers to get a little more comfort over performance out of the suspension. The best shock setting that I came up with was a 105mm of sag, one turn out high speed compression, nine out on low speed compression, and eight out on rebound. I was very pleased at how balanced the bike was once I found these settings. I have to say WP in my eyes has done very well and come a long way (with their suspension settings) since the last time I got a chance to spin some laps on a set. Out of the box the AER fork is pretty good and gives the consumer a large range of adjustment, without having to rip off your forks, to send them to get re-sprung. That saves you a little money and saves you the anxiety of not having your bike to ride.
Extras: The Brembo brakes work great and work better than my touchy Nissin Honda units. The Brembo’s are progressive, which also makes my cornering a lot smoother. I can ride my finger on the lever (through corners) without the stress of locking up the front brake when arm pump is present. Coming from my Honda, having a hydraulic clutch on the Husqvarna is like a god send. The Honda clutch lever pull is tough and can give me a tight left arm when pushing, but with the Magura hydraulic clutch, the feel is much smoother and the action is always the same throughout my motos.
So what did I really think of the 2019 FC350? Before this test I was a so called 450 only guy. Would I now take my own hard earned money and purchase a Husqvarna FC350? The answer is not that complicated… Hell YES, I would! I am blown away on how much I like this machine. If I never had the chance of testing this bike I would have never thought of purchasing anything less than 450cc motocross bike. Don’t get me wrong a 450 will still put a smile on your face, but do most of us need al of that power? I don’t, that’s for damn sure! If lap times don’t lie, my lap times were always two to three seconds a lap faster on every track I tested on. Not only were my laps faster, I was able to do more laps without getting fatigued as fast. I can honestly say that next year when I go to slap down my money on a new dirt scooter a 350cc bike is at the top of my list.