Husqvarna

2020 Husqvarna FC250/350 First Impression

Husqvarna brought us their 2020 FC250 and FC350 to us this week, so in standard Keefer Inc. fashion we wanted to break down the ten most important aspects of both bikes to you. For 2020 minimal changes were made to the FC250/350 and those changes Husqvarna made were to the suspension valving, airbox/side panel (drilled holes), gearing change (FC350 got a 14/51 ratio), and of course BNG’s. We will be riding both of these machines more throughout the weeks so stay glued to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com for settings info. 

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Engine Feel: Does the FC 350 have the torque of a 450? Does the FC250 have the torque of a Yamaha YZ250F? No, they don’t! They are smoother than those other bikes off the bottom end and have a more linear roll on power delivery. Is this a bad thing? No, it isn’t. It just means you’re getting a more controlled engine character with a wide power curve. 350cc’s of power is usually plenty of power for most consumers, but if you’re looking for more torque and want to be lazy, the 450 will be better. The FC250 and FC350 both have a similar engine character where they are sneaky fast. Sneaky because they build rpm’s calculated and smooth then all of a sudden you find yourself over jumping a certain section of jumps. This takes a few laps to dial in, but once you do, you will be able to appreciate how much easier this type of engine character is to ride. Both engines make a lot of rear wheel traction so don’t expect a ton of hit anywhere through the powerband on these models, so the “Tony Alessi Water Truck Lane Test” may not be the best guide on how good these engines really are on the track. Both machines have tons of over-rev, so if you’re into short shifting, these bikes may not be the best for you. They both liked to be revved! The Husqvarna’s are not torque monsters like the Yamaha’s, but if you want to let each gear eat, both machines will allow you to ride that way. You would think without tons of torque feel, the FC250/350 wouldn't have a lot of recovery when in the wrong gear through corners. To my surprise both engines have superb recovery time and will get you back down on the track, in the meat of the power, in no time. 

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Weight Feeling (Chassis): The 2020 Husqvarna FC250 weighs in at 218 pounds and FC350 weighs 219 pounds dry. That is only one pound! The 250/350 feels lighter in corners than they do in the air, which is very odd to me. However the good news is that you are able to cut down from blown out berms or ruts very easily on either bike. The FC250 feels more like 5 -7 pounds lighter than the FC350 on the track, do to it’s more free-feeling engine character. The FC250 has a very free feeling engine (in each gear) and the inertia of the FC250’s engine is much less, so that makes it feel more than a pound lighter on the track. Compared to a FC450, the FC350 feels slightly lighter through corners and on sudden direction changes, but to me there is more of a weight feeling gap between the 250/350.  

Straight Line Stability: As light as both machines feel on the track the FC250/350 stay pretty damn straight (on-throttle). When accelerating out of long sweepers the rear end stays more connected to the ground than previous year models and track straight. The stiffer frame helps this rear wheel contact and is very noticeable under heavy load. There is nothing unexpected that happens when pushing the limits on these machine. If you hit the same bump 20 times, both machines will react the same each of those 20 times. 


Suspension: Both sets of 2020 WP suspension on the FC250/350 are on the soft side. All three test riders (165, 170, and 185 pounds) thought the fork on each model needed more air. On the FC250 we went up to 10.7 (10.6 stock) bars and on the FC350 we went up to 10.8 bars (10.4 stock) and that helped both bikes from diving on de-cel. Both shocks are empty (soft) on the end stroke (g-outs, jump faces) so adding some high sped compression (1/8-1/4 turn) helps hold up the rear end in those areas of the track. After changing the fork and shock, both bikes will ride higher in the stroke and actually have more comfort on de-cel. All riders thought the suspension (after this change) was more balanced and all riders could push harder into bumps with more aggression. We will be getting you specific clicker settings in a future article coming in a couple weeks right here on pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com


Engine Braking (FC350): I noticed that in second gear the FC350 had quite a bit of engine braking, but in third gear the engine braking was significantly less. Usually with other bikes there isn't the much engine braking change from second to third gear, so to combat this I tried to downshift late into corners, so that off-throttle pitching sensation wasn't as apparent. I will be testing some gearing on the FC350 to see if I can help this sensation very soon. The FC250 didn't have nearly as much engine braking as the 350 and had more of a free feeling second gear de-cel (freewheel) coming into corners. 

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Engine Maps: On the FC250, Map 2 was a great all around map for all three testers we used. Map 2 didn't come on stronger than map 1, but gave the Husqvarna more rpm response and mid range recovery time, while pulling harder up top. Map 1 was a little stronger off bottom end, but was too short for our testers taste. The FC350 had slightly less engine braking in map 1, but just didn't have that excitement that map 2 had through the mid range so we chose to ride in map 2 and deal with the engine braking in second gear. In map 2 we could shift to third gear sooner than in map 1, so that was also a positive for the track we tested at. The TC button simply doesn't get enough play with test riders, but the TC button does work well for conditions that are slick, hard pack, and/or slippery. Find the preferred map you like to ride in and use the “TC” button when the track turns for the worse.   

Seat: Do yourself a favor and get a GUTS seat cover and take the violent stock seat off ASAP. If you plan on doing longer motos, save your butt and get a friendlier gripper seat. 

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Rider Triangle: I like the Pro Taper EVO bars the come on the Husqvarna, but when standing they are a little low in height for me. Going to a Pro Taper “SX RACE” bend keeps me from being hunched over when standing around corners. If you do like the low/flat profile of the stock bar, try cutting it down to 803mm for better corner entry as the stock length is a little too long. 



Which Bike Is More Fun To Ride: I get this question a lot so I might as well answer it. I really like riding the FC250 a little more than the FC350. Why? To me it has to do with how the bike handles. To me the FC250 is much more playful in the corners and feels lighter around the track. You have to ride both bikes aggressively and unlike a 450, you just can’t lug either bike around or be lazy, so I prefer a bike that will be lighter feeling around the track. Now don’t get me wrong… The FC350 is fun to ride, but for me I would take a 450 over a 350 because they both feel similar in weight around the track, so why not have more power at my throttle hand. The FC450 is also very linear off the bottom end and not intimating like some other 450 power plants. Now I know that not everyone is like me, so I can see why a FC350 could be less intimidating to a vet or novice type rider, which is why one of my vet testers wants one now! 



Clutch/Brakes: The Brembo brakes that come on the Husqvarna FC250/350 are one of the strongest brake systems available. If you’re coming off of a Nissin equipped machine, getting used to the Brembo system may take some time for you to get your braking points down. The Brembo’s are strong and powerful so not a lot of pressure is needed by your finger at the lever. The Magura clutch is a little more on/off feeling than that of the more linear Brembo hydraulic system on the KTM, but either will not fade on you during a long moto. The Magura clutch has a smaller window of engagement that will take some time for riders that are used to a cable clutch, but once you find that engagement point, that foreign feeling will disappear from your mind within a few times out on the track.  


A Pro’s Perspective: Colton Aeck National #526

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FC250 On The Track:

Engine: The FC 250 has never been a torque monster. This engine does its best work in the mid-top end of the rev range. Riding mainly 450s for the past few years, getting on a 250f took some adjustment, but once I learned to rev it again, I really enjoyed this engine.

The FC 250 comes with 2 map settings that you can change on the fly with a switch on the handlebar. Map 1 is more aggressive from bottom-mid range, but leaves me wanting a bit more on top. Map 2 has less bottom end hit/ throttle response with a more aggressive mid-top end. I chose map 2 because I could leave the bike in a lower gear for the corners, but it would rev to the moon before needing to shift.
Overall this engine is a lot of fun!

Chassis: I'm a big fan of the steel frames on the Huskys and KTMs. The steel frame gives me more comfort and bump absorption and just an overall more connected feeling to the ground. The FC 250 is light and nimble in the air and corners like its on rails. No complaints in the chassis department.

Suspension: The FC 250 received a softer setting for suspension in 2020. As with most stock bikes the suspension was soft for me with initial settings. I ended up adding air to the fork and stiffening high speed compression on the shock. This balanced out the bike front and rear, gave me less of a "pitching" sensation under braking and allowed me to push harder through jump faces and big breaking bumps. Overall the suspension has very good comfort and with a couple adjustments I was able to get a good amount of performance as well.

FC 350 On The Track:

Engine: Wednesday was my first time ever riding a 350, I have to say it was a lot of fun! The engine is super easy to ride. As you might expect, it's a perfect mix between 250 and 450. Off the bottom it has a really strong, yet smooth pull similar to a 450 and it revs high and pulls great on top, a lot like a 250. For me it was like having the best of both worlds,it was a lot of fun!

Chassis: Similar to my comments of the 250, I really enjoy the steel frame. It provides a super comfortable ride and leaves you feeling very planted to the ground. The FC 350 corners well, yet is still stable at high speeds. It's fun and easy to ride.

Suspension: The suspension on the 350 was a lot closer for me in stock form. The fork held up higher in its stroke and gave me more confidence to charge through rough sections. I still ended up increasing air pressure in the fork and also added a couple clicks of compression front and rear. This added a bit more performance and was a setting I was really happy with. It wouldn't take much tuning to make this a setting I could race with.

250 350 Comparison:


So, the big question... Would I choose the 250 or 350?

As a professional racer, the 350 doesn't really have a place. Lining up at a national or supercross and being at a 100cc disadvantage doesn't make much sense. That being said, most of you readers aren't lining up a your local supercross.

For the average guy who just rides for fun and maybe races from time to time, I think the 350 is the perfect bike. You have the fun factor of a 250, with the low end grunt/ easy to ride power of a 450. The place I really enjoyed the 350 was in the corners. If I made a mistake in a turn, the 350 had enough power to pull me out of it and still make the next jump or obstacle. I didn't have that luxury on the 250, a mistake in a turn would be much more costly.

Again, for your average consumer I think the 350 is an awesome, super fun bike. If I wasn't racing professionally, it would be in the running of bikes I would personally buy.

























2020 KTM Offroad TPI Introduction



By: Dominic Cimino

Having the opportunity to travel to a new destination for a new model release is a no brainer. New places, new faces, and new motorcycles are a seamless integration that I’ve always really enjoyed being apart of. This time, I got the chance to head to the Pacific North West for KTM’s 2020 TPI Offroad introduction. This all encompassing read that you are about to dive into will highlight these great new Austrian bikes as well as the whole kit n’ kaboodle that made up these memorable couple days hosted by our good friends under the orange tent.

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For starters - this was a bucket list type of event for me. To be able to fly into Seattle with a fresh gear bag packed and ready to ride is a dream. No loading up bikes, tools, spares, nothing. KTM did it all for us, even to the extent of pre-registering us in our respective classes for round 7 of the WORCS series. It is by far the closest thing to being a factory supported rider that I’ve ever had. Literally - show up and ride (or I should say race). Let me keep going as I describe the smile I’ve been wearing the last few days - KTM also had their factory offroad semi for us to pit out of with our teammate, Taylor Robert. With the rig came a personal chef, whom prepared the team amazing breakfast, lunch, and dinner meals everyday. I mean, COME ON! Is Keefer Inc. worthy of such treatment?? I would say no after seeing my race results, but I’ll get to that later.

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Now onto the meat of this story and the real reason why I attended the Grays Harbor WORCS event. For 2020, KTM expanded their two-stroke TPI model lineup (Transfer Port Injection) to include both the 300 and 250XCs, as well as an all new 150XC-W. This means five total models are available when you also add the 300 and 250XC-Ws that were introduced last year. As you may or may not be aware, the new TPI technology is a game changer in the two-stroke world and the closest thing to relating the modern day four-stroke EFI to our old school pre-mix friends. Now that this injection system is available on these new bikes, say goodbye to carbs and jets forever as they will no longer be offered in these lineups. Love or hate new technology, you have to get used to it if are looking to buy yourself a new steed. All of these 2020 offroad bikes see the newest generation chassis and suspension, as well as updated bodywork, exhaust, and of course power-plants. Since my primary focus at this event was centered around the 300XC, I’ll highlight some additional details now. 

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The XC bikes are meant for true closed course competition. If you consider the SX platform as pure bred Motocross/Supercross, the XC is a pure bred offroad machine. Outfitted with a larger gas tank, 18” rear wheel, and a six speed transmission (amongst many other traits), out of the box these bikes are pretty much “Ready to Race”. The 2020 300XC TPI sees a newly designed oil tank with a built in mesh filter to protect the oil pump from debris. This tank electronically controls injection into the throttle body, ensuring an average fuel-to-oil ratio of 80:1. This means one full tank of oil (0.7 liters) is capable of lasting you at least five full 2.25 tanks of gas (11.25 gallons total). That is an amazing amount of riding you can squeeze out of these machines. And don’t worry - 80:1 sounds incredibly lean, but that is where technology comes into play. You do not have to worry about harming your motor - the electronics prevent all of that. And no - you cannot bypass the system. Meaning, the question of “can I just run pre-mix and not fill the oil tank?” The answer is no, these modern motors do not work like that. The new exhaust system looks interesting (almost cone-pipe ish) but definitely purposeful. The ridges are from a 3D stamping process for better strength and resistance to rock/debris impacts. At the same time, they reduce noise levels as well. You might also notice the oval shape near the lower frame cradle which is meant for more ground clearance and reduced width. The pipe is matted to a newly designed silencer as well, which has re-worked internals for better flow in order to harness higher performance. 

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Enough about the details, let’s ride the damn thing. Our Editor in Chief insisted that I raced the 450A class against some of the fastest offroad kids on the west coast (I’m retired bro). I was able to get one 30 minute unclassified session in the morning to get a feel for the bike and learn the race course to the best of my ability. Afterwards, I only requested a couple adjustments to suspension for added comfort, where I slowed rebound front/rear as well as decreased compression. The rocks n’ roots in the woods were in abundance and to race for over an hour I wanted plushness. After that it was off to the races as I lined up against 17 others on my row. I had a decent mid-pack start, but soon found myself laying in a buttery mud-slick three turns in (aka dead last). I had my work cut out for me but relied on my brand new 300 to get me back to the pack. The entire race course was incredibly slick, so traction was almost non-existent, except for the MX track. The 300 was an absolute beast in these conditions. I had to remember to keep the bike in third gear almost everywhere inside the tree-lined single track. The lugability and crisp running motor allowed me to stay very light on the throttle but not sacrifice race pace. This bike allows you to stay in a higher gear at very low speeds without stalling. It continues to roll smooth, and if you crack the throttle all the way open, it does not bog or fall on its face. It efficiently works the motor back into the powerband.

For anyone riding or racing Enduro or cross country genres, this bike is a weapon. You don’t have to rev it to go fast at all, and quite frankly, it begs for the complete opposite. There were only a couple fast straights for us to open up all the way, but that is not where this bike shines as the motor pretty much signs-off at high RPM. The chassis was stable and easily maneuverable as the bike felt light and flickable. I experienced little to no vibration and overall rigidity was vastly decreased when comparing two other generation 300XCs that I’ve ridden and raced in the past. I wish I had more time to further dial in suspension for me, but unfortunately my changes after practice didn’t really improve the feel as much as I would have hoped. On the defense, the conditions were tough out there and made me work hard for the hour and ten minutes I was on course. I’m confident that the range of adjustability in these new XACT components would have allowed me to really dial things in if we had the time to do so. 

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At the end of the day, I worked my way up to a less than stellar 14th place result. My initial goal was top 10, but for this washed-up retired offroad dude, it just wasn’t in the cards. Hats off to the front runners as these kids are no joke. Needless to say, the entire experience was one to remember. I had never ridden in the PNW before, but I can’t wait to go back (coming soon in my future). A huge thank you to the entire KTM crew as they hosted one hell of an event for the media as everything ran picture perfect. Not one thing was overlooked and seeing how the race team operates first hand during a race weekend made me truly respect and appreciate the Redbull KTM Factory effort even more than I already do. Team manager Anti runs a tight ship and it shows. For anyone reading this (thank you) and interested in KTMs 2020 TPI lineup, definitely consider one of these bikes. If you haven’t accepted the fact that technology has taken over the motorcycle world yet, I’m not sure what to tell you. For two-banger fans world wide, think about it: never having to mix gas ever again. Your Ratio-Rite can now become a cocktail cup (thank you Randy Richardson). Never having to mess with jetting ever again. We now pray for those screws on the bottom of our float bowls that are probably stripped out by now. And lastly, never having to worry about a two stroke that just doesn’t run crispy, the way we all want it to 100% of the time. Because let’s face it - a super crisp two smoke is sure to put a smile on your face. The KTM TPIs are one hell of a package.







Thank you again for reading! Any questions, get at me!

Dominic@keeferinctesting.com



2020 Husqvarna FC450 Baseline/Start Up Settings

The 2020 Husqvarna FC450 has minimal changes to it from the 2019 FC450 and 2019.5 Rockstar Edition, so we took what we have learned with those bikes and tinkered with the 2020 version in order to get you the best baseline setting we could for a wide range of riders. After numerous hours and tests later we have come up with these suggestions as the best baseline setting so you can just go out and ride. 

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 Suspension: The factory fork and shock settings are much softer on the 2020 FC450 so we did go a little bit stiffer on air pressure and softer on compression settings, but have found improved results in comfort, not just performance. All three test riders (155, 170, 195 pounds) that tried this setting agreed that the bike/chassis was calmer on acceleration and de-cel bumps. This setting will give the Husqvarna better hold up as well as help the front end from feeling stinkbug coming into corners. This setting was also well perceived on the 2019.5 Rockstar Edition as well. Our 195 pound rider preferred a 48N/m shock spring with the recommended shock settings below.

Fork:

Air Pressure: 10.9 bar

Compression: 14-15 out

Rebound: 11 out

Fork Height: 5mm


Shock:

L/S Compression: 11-12 clicks out

H/S Compression: 1-3/4 turns out

Rebound: 12 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm


Shock: (195 pounds and over)

Spring Rate: 48N/m

L/S Compression: 14 clicks out

H/S Compression: 2 turns out

Rebound: 13 clicks out

Sag: 104-105mm

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Rider Triangle: The standard Pro Taper handlebar that comes on the FC450 is low and flat, but fits the Husqvarna’s cockpit very well for most. I did want more height from my bar when I stood up, so I went with a Pro Taper Fuzion SX Race bend and this helped me get over the front of the bike more when standing. The SX Race bar worked well for riders from 5’8 to 6’1. The SX Race bend comes in a crossbar or crossbar-less style and is 800mm width, 87mm height, 54.5 rise, and 54mm sweep. If you’re looking for a better stand up feel from your Husqvarna look for handlebar close to this measurement. If you do like the stock bar try cutting the bar down to 803mm instead of the longer/standard 811mm. This will help you corner.   

ECU Settings: The 2020 FC450 has a much better map 2 ECU setting and doesn't need a re-flash like the 2019 or 2019.5 Husqvarna did. Map 2 is my preferred standard map in most conditions as it comes on a little sooner and pulls slightly harder than map 1. However, if you want to get more power, I recently tested a Vortex ignition mapped by Chad at XPR Motorsports on the 2020 FC450 with great results. If you’re looking for increased bottom to mid range while keeping that smooth/linear engine character Chad over at XPR has a couple maps that you could really benefit from. If you already have a Vortex you can simply send Chad your ECU and he can send you a “Keefer” map that we have tested on the 2020 FC450. A Vortex ignition isn't needed in all bikes but he Husqvarna really benefits from this modification.


Gearing: The 2020 FC450 comes with a 13/49 gearing ratio. This gearing should be just fine for most tracks, but if you want a little more mid range engine recovery and free-er feeling shock on acceleration, a 14/52 gearing ratio works well. The 14/52 gearing will require a new chain length and I usually go with this gearing when riding tracks similar to Glen Helen (aka faster choppy tracks) to settle the rear end under load.   

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Chassis: Aftermarket engine mounts are all the rage right now and some of you may not have the money to spend on a pair of engine mounts for your Husqvarna. I will say that I don’t feel like the Husqvarna’s chassis is stiff, but I have heard from other lighter riders that it can be at times, so I decided to play around with torque specs on the engine mounts and stumbled across this. If you’re experiencing a stiff feeling chassis sensation and want the Husqvarna to settle while leaning (under throttle), there is an inexpensive way to achieve some extra front end traction. You can remove the left side upper engine mount bolt (upper right bolt only, as shown) and torque all other top engine mount bolts to 30Nm. This band aid will give you a more planted sensation when on throttle while leaning the FC450 through sweepers and fast straights. You will have to make sure that all engine mount bolts have blue Loctite to ensure they do not back out. You can also try torquing your swingarm pivot bolt to 95 Nm (instead of 100Nm) to help rear end traction out of corners. The downside to doing these mods is that the chassis will flex a little more, so if you’re riding deep tilled tracks this modification may be too “flexy” for some (especially when chopping throttle).  

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Rear Axle Block Kit: Going to a Works Connection axle block kit or Ride Engineering axle block kit will get rid of the fixed left axle block on the stock Husqvarna’s axle. This will help the rear end to move more freely under throttle and improve the shock’s comfort on acceleration chop. Rear wheel placement isn’t as crucial on the Husqvarna as it is on some other 450’s we have tested so if your rear wheel placement is somewhere in the middle of the axle block marks, that will be sufficient for these recommended suspension settings. 


Airbox/Side Panel Modification: If you’re a 2019 or 2019.5 Husqvarna owner do yourself a favor and get the 2020 left side airbag cover as that will get you snappier throttle response at low rpm’s. 

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2020 Husqvarna FC450 First Impression

It’s no secret that a Husqvarna was one of my favorite machines to ride in 2019. I liked it so much I went and purchased a Rockstar Edition and rode the crap out of it. I recently got my hands on the new 2020 Husqvarna FC450 and jotted down some initial thoughts for you all to go over just in case you wanted to know how it compared to the 2019 version. I will say that there are only a few updates to the 2020 model, but that doesn't mean it can’t feel drastically different on the track. Here are ten important things I feel you all should know about the 2020 Husqvarna FC450. 

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WP XACT Suspension: Don’t let the name fool you. WP just did some re-branding and is now using the XACT name for 2020 WP suspension. This is NOT some new technology that just came out, it’s just a name change. However, with that being said, WP/Husqvarna did change quite a bit to the 2020 suspension settings as they now have their own proprietary setting for the FC450 model (which means they do not share a setting with KTM anymore). Husqvarna went to a softer air pressure setting in the fork to match the valving (going from 10.9 to 10.7 bars in 2020) and also went from a 4.5 rear spring to a 4.2 rear spring. Husqvarna is trying to achieve more comfort for the average rider with these settings in 2020.

 

Gearing: Husqvarna went from a 13/48 to a 13/49 to help third gear recovery. Having a 13/49 helps the transition when shifting from 2nd-3rd gear and lets the rider feel increased rpm response. I approve of this gearing! 

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New Mapping: I love that the Husqvarna’s come with a on-the-fly handlebar map switch that offers two maps to choose from (without having to stop). For 2020 map one is what they call the ‘standard’ map, which is designed to have a controllable longer/linear power that is geared towards the non aggressive type of rider. Map two, on the other hand, is what Husqvarna is calling the ‘aggressive’ map that is supposed to be stronger across the board and although it is, it still is very linear feeling. Map two will not explode you out of a corner, but instead give you some added bottom/mid rpm response as well as have a more free feeling engine character. To me the lack of engine braking on map two makes the softer feeling fork dive less on de-cel. TC is still available and works just as good as 2019 so don't be scared to try it. If you ride hard pack tracks or slippery terrain do yourself a favor put your 2019-2020 Husqvarna FC450 on map two with the “TC” light on and thank me later.  


Piston Design: There is an updated piston skirt design for 2020 that is said to help improve durability. Don’t worry I will be the judge of the said durability improvement so make sure you stay tuned to future Rocky Mountain ATV Keefer Tested Podcasts. 


Dunlop MX3S Tires: Everyone enjoy these tires on the 2020 Husqvarna’s and KTM’s because we will not see them come 2021 on production machines! Dunlop is forcing manufacturers to go to the MX33 come the year 2021. 

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Engine Feel (On Track): The engine on the 2020 Husqvarna FC450 does feel slightly different than the 2019. The overall engine character still has that smooth easy to ride feel, but with slightly less engine braking. Coming into corners you can feel less drag on the engine and less movement in the chassis. When in map two there is also more mid-range rpm response on the 2020 thanks to the mapping changes Husqvarna made. No more lean top end de-cel pop and rich bottom end feel that hampered the 2019 version. If you’re looking for a hard hitting 450 engine character this isn't your type of machine. However, if you’re looking for an easy to ride, connected to the rear wheel feel, deceivingly fast type of power, the Husqvarna could be just what you’re looking for. 


Suspension Feel (On Track): Husqvarna/WP will tell you that they set up their 2020 suspension settings for the average consumer that wants comfort out of their motocross machine. They succeeded in getting less mid stroke harshness (de-cel) out of the AER fork, but to me the setting was too soft. I also understand that I am not the target consumer Husqvarna is trying to market this bike to so I took this into consideration. The action of the fork is smoother feeling than last year’s fork setting, moves more in the stroke, but gives the rider a considerable amount of front end traction (for an air fork) on braking bumps. This fork will feel low if you’re a heavier or aggressive type of rider, so going up to 10.8-10.9 bars would be in your best interest. Slowing the rebound down a couple clicks on the fork will also slow the action down a little and keep it from diving too much on jump faces and g-outs. Also don't forget to bleed your AER fork before every ride. Yes, it has bleed holes.

The WP rear shock still likes a sag of 105mm, but the overall feel of the shock is slightly empty feeling (soft) at the end of the stroke. If slamming into steeper jump faces or g-outs you will bottom out and see rubber marks under the rear fender fairly quickly. If you’re experiencing a lot of this, stiffening your high speed compression a quarter turn and turning in your low speed compression a couple clicks will help the shock’s end stroke feel. What the 2020 rear shock does do better than the 2019 is offer more rear wheel traction on acceleration bumps. The rear wheel drives through square edge chop better and doesn't give the rider a harsh/spike feel like the 2019 shock did.    

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Subframe/Motor Mount Bolts: Keep an eye on your two rear subframe bolts and engine mount bolts. On our test bike they worked their way out a little so make sure to keep some blue loctite on them and check them every so often.


Handlebar: The Pro Taper EVO bar is straight and flat, but long at 811mm. Do yourself favor and cut the bar down to 803mm and watch your cornering improve. 

What Do I Really Think: The 2020 Husqvarna FC450 is one of the easiest bikes to ride and can be enjoyed by a wide range of riders. I like this attribute! It’s user friendly 450cc nature is not too aggressive for the less experienced type of rider, yet still can get a very experienced rider around the track in a hurry, without a lot of effort. The WP suspension is softer than last year, but also gives the rider slightly more comfort on small bump absorption. The overall feeling of the bike is light around the track and allows the rider to open up his line choices. I will be testing the 2020 Husqvarna FC450 more in the coming weeks and will be getting you some optional settings to try so make sure you stay tuned to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com in the coming weeks.   



















  




 

Top 5 Mods For The 2018.5-2019.5 Husqvarna FC450/Rockstar Editon

Not everyone wants to “add” parts to their new dirt bikes, which is fine, but for those that must tinker, we put together a “Top 5” must haves that we would recommend. We will be doing these “Top 5” articles with all of the new 450F/250F machines and will be splitting the information up between pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com. These mods are recommended, by us, through countless hours of testing. If you don’t find a specific aftermarket company that you prefer in this article, don't fret, email me at kris@keeferinctesting.com and we can talk it out like adults should. Again, we will not push something on you unless we know it works. These mods that are in this article will work for the 2018.5/2019/2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 and Rockstar Edition models. 

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1. ECU Re-Map: The 2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition still feels a little rich on bottom end and lean on top end. The 2019.5 ECU settings are slightly better than my 2018.5 that I purchased, but it’s still not close to where it needs to be. Getting a simple re-flash of your ECU from Jamie at Twisted Development will help the sluggish feel off the bottom and get you more bottom-mid range RPM response. It will make the “light on paper” FC450/Rockstar Edition actually feel light on the track. If you can’t splurge for the Vortex ignition then go with a re-flash of your stock ECU. This is my first “MUST HAVE” on this machine. It will change the character of the Husqvarna for the better.    

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2. Black Throttle Cam: A close second to getting this sucker better through corners is installing the black throttle cam so there isn't a huge lag in response mid-corner. With the standard throttle cam the bike comes on soft and then has a big hit that can upset your rolling corner speed. THIS DRIVES ME NUTS! Installing the black cam will help the transition at 0-15% throttle opening through corners. Some dealers will install this cam before purchase, but it’s good for you to check by simply unbolting your throttle housing and checking your throttle tube for the black throttle cam.  

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3. 14/52 Gearing: Want to make your shock feel better and help your third gear pulling power? Try going to a 14/52 gearing and you’ll notice a slightly better third gear pull as it could possibly make leaving your RE in third gear through corners much easier. Going up to a 14/52 gearing ratio also helps relax the shock under load, which makes connectivity to the rear wheel more positive. I have tried 13/49 gearing and although it has better recovery than the stock 13/48 and 14/52 gearing, the 13/49 set up didn't add to the shock’s/rear end comfort like the 14/52 ratio did. Try it!  

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4. Handlebars/Bar Bend: I have tinkered way too much with this over the past couple years, but I feel like I have finally honed in on a good handlebar bend. I have stuck with Pro Taper’s SX Race bend for my style of riding and my height. The SX Race bend is slightly taller than the stock Husqvarna bend (+7mm), but is not so tall where it affects my corners. The SX Race bend also comes standard with a length of 800mm, which is the exactly the right amount of length most of us are looking for. The stock Husqvarna bend is long (811mm) and gives me a hard to lean feel through corners. I also went with a Fuzion (crossbar style) bar, but that is simply just preference as I could easily go back to a Pro Taper EVO style as well. 

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5. Airbox Mod: You want a little more excitement out of your Husqvarna’s low end? Drill some 1/2 inch holes in the left side airbox cover (as shown) and you’ll get some increased throttle response throughout the RPM range. Rumor has it that all FC Husqvarna’s will be coming with pre-drilled air vents come 2020. The Husqvarna airbox is smaller than the KTM so there his more benefit on the track doing this to the Husqvarna versus the KTM. 

Extras: Kris what about suspension? The AER fork is decent and I can ride with it, but yes of course I would recommend a set of WP Cone Valve forks if you want maximum comfort and front end traction. Do you need a Trax shock? The answer is, “no”. The stock shock is quite good and has tons of comfort. Yes, you can run CV forks with a stock shock. I’ve done it and it works just fine. The AER fork performance is good, but still will change on you throughout a long day of riding.

Keep an eye on motor mounts, spokes, and sprocket bolts as they come loose because of the Husqvarna’s vibration. Yes, the steel frame bikes vibrate a little more than the aluminum frame bikes, so that means you need to check bolts more often.

2019 Husqvarna FC350 First Test


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.

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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 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.

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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. 

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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.















2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition First Impression

The latest Husqvarna has hit our grubby little test hands and we are here to let you in on what we thought of it. The 2019.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition has some small changes from the previous version, but we wanted to see if those changes made a difference on the track. Not to be outdone by the orange side, Husqvarna has a few different bits and pieces to their bikes to separate themselves from the brigade. Below are ten things that you all should know about the latest “Edissssssssshhhh” offering from Husqvarna.    

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What are the changes to the 2019.5 Husqvarna Rockstar Edition?   

                        

Rockstar team factory racing graphics
New CP box-in-box piston & new PANKL connecting rod 

New topology optimized rocker arms

New factory machined anodized triple clamps 

Factory start for front fork
Black frame
Composite skid plate

New FMF 4.1 Slip-On muffler
New Factory D.I.D DirtStar wheels

Factory GUTS Racing seat cover
Semi- Floating front disc
Front brake disc guard
Black rear sprocket 

Pro Taper EVO handlebars

ODI soft lock on grips

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 Engine: On paper there are only three pieces to the RE’s engine that have changed… The CP box in box piston, the Pankl connecting rod with brass bushing, and topology optimized rocker arms. Now with those three things in mind I wasn't expecting much change from the 2019 KTM FE, but to me the free-feeling of the engine is slightly more noticeable in 2nd and 3rd gears than the orange bike. When revving the Rockstar Edition out in second gear there is much less engine de-cel drag than the 2019 version. The RE also feels like it pulls farther in second gear than the 19, but the overall bottom end delivery has slightly more RPM response due to the FMF slip on muffler. I tried the stock Husqvarna 2019 muffler at this test and it provided a smother roll on power delivery than the FMF, which made rolling corners easier, but the FMF system had more punch out of the corner.


ECU Settings: ECU settings are the most important piece to your modern day four stroke engine. An ECU setting that is spot on can help the bike’s chassis and an ECU that is not mapped correctly can hurt handling on the track as well. The Husqvarna’s ECU setting is not as good as the KTM FE in stock form, plain and simple. Yes, it’s the same ECU as the KTM, but feels different on the track! Why? I DON’T KNOW!!!!! I only know what I feel on the track and I am telling you it’s not the same low end delivery. It’s slightly rich off the bottom (0-10% throttle opening) and has a slightly disconnected feel to the rear wheel, which hurts the handling of this bike mid corner. It’s tough to roll the corner smoothly with that jerky on/off feel from the mapping (on very low RPM only). To help remedy some of this I experienced with back pressure on the muffler. With the stock mapping, the FMF slip on needs some back pressure, so installing the insert into the muffler can help that 0-10% throttle opening. Once I got some added back pressure, the Rockstar Edition smoothed out on low RPM and gave me some connection back to the rear wheel through/out of corners. Map 1 (linear pulling power with less throttle response down low, but more top end pull) and Map 2 (more pulling power/RPM response down low and slightly less pull up top) also has a distinct difference on the track and are more noticeable than the 2019 mapping choices. This is all good news for future RE buyers.  


Chassis: If you're a Husqvarna owner you know that it takes more time to break in the 2019 steel frame compared to a Japanese aluminum framed motorcycle. I have only a few hours on this chassis and it still has that firm feel to it much like the KTM FE did. It takes a good 7-8 hours on this frame to feel broken in or “relaxed” on the track. The RE turns as good as the 2019 version (once mapping has been remedied) and all the same excellent “change of direction” qualities are apparent on the RE as well. Straight line stability is not the best of the 450 bunch, but not the worst neither.   

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Suspension: WP has changed their branding strategy so don’t freak out about the XACT name just yet (we can explain that one in another article). I do like the silver color change that WP has done for the RE/FE line of suspension and that color change will also be on the 2020 production models. The WP AER fork has an updated piston that allows for a tighter tolerance along with valving updates. The standard air pressure fork setting has also now gone up from 10.5 bars to 10.9 bars on the RE. The rear shock likes a sag of around 105mm, but the overall feel of the RE’s WP suspension is slightly firmer with more hold up than the 2019 model. Would I rather have a spring fork? Of course, but the updated AER fork does have some qualities that I like. I like that the front end feels light (de-cel/off-throttle) while keeping front end traction high enough so I don’t have to change my riding style up. I am a front end steering rider and the AER fork will give you what you need on initial lean. The mid stroke of the RE’s WP fork has a free-er feel and the action seems smoother than 2019, which makes for a plusher ride. The shock doesn’t feel that much different to me than the 2019, but then again, I never had a problem with the 2019 shock.    


Gearing: It comes with a 13/48, but with the FMF slip on muffler, it doesn't need that extra tooth like the KTM does. The FMF has more bottom end pull than the Akrapovic so stock gearing is just fine. 

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Lightweight Feel: You would think with an engine character that is so smooth down low and linear feeling, that the Rockstar machine would feel heavy on the track, but it feels quite the opposite. It’s light, flickable, and if you want to make a sudden line change, it can do that exceptional as well. Leaning into corners and keeping it leaned all the way through the corner is the Husqvarna RE’s strong suit. I can also stand up through corners much easier on this machine (compared to other colored machines) due to the lightweight nature and slim feel.

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Pro Taper Handlebars: Say what you want, but handlebars are a huge piece to a bike’s puzzle. Compared to the KTM/Neken combo, the Husqvarna/Pro Taper combo is much friendlier to the hands/wrists out on the track. There is less vibration and more dampening character through the EVO bars, which I prefer on rough tracks. 

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FMF Slip On: The FMF slip on has better RPM response and more excitement than the Akrapovic. The FMF is louder than the Akrapovic, but the FMF also needs that insert put in with the stock mapping. If you have an FMF system already on a current Husqvarna/KTM model than that insert (that’s probably still in your box or garage) will work inside this new system on the RE.   

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GUTS Racing Seat: Just like the KTM seat, this GUTS seat is very grippy, but also will eat your butt cheeks up on a long day of motos. The foam itself is not the problem, it’s just that the pleats on the seat are very aggressive. Just be ready to spackle the cheeks up with some Bag Balm if you're riding sand or plan on doing a long day of riding.

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Factory Trips Clamps: The Husqvarna aluminum factory CNC-machined triple clamps feature optimally tuned steering stem stiffness, in order to try and achieve perfect alignment and precise fork clamping for a highly responsive and smooth fork action. They can be adjusted to an offset of 20 or 22mm that gives you the option to change your Husqvarna RE for different track conditions. I noticed zero added rigidity riding with RE’s clamp (compared to the stock 2019 clamp). I also didn’t notice any improvements on the track (with the the RE clamp), but the blue does look eye popping!    

So which new “Edition” machine should you get? The white one or the orange one? These bikes are like 1A and 1B and both have minute differences on the track. I prefer the Husqvarna’s components (with the FMF slip on, GUTS seat, and Pro Taper handlebars), but I also like the KTM’s low RPM feel a little more than the Rockstar bike. Find out what is more important to you and go that route. However, just know when it was time to spend my own money on a dirt bike, I did choose the Husqvarna Rockstar Edition.  


If you want to learn more about this 2019 Husqvarna 450 Rockstar Edition, listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, or here on keeferinctesting.com right now. We try hard to give you a couple different avenues to digest your dirt bike information.   










Best Of 2018



Where did the year go? Wow! Time flies when you're riding, testing, typing, and talking about dirt bikes! With 2018 coming to a close I look back on the bikes/products (yes, some are 2019 bikes that I tested in 2018) that arrived or gained popularity this year and I picked a few that I think deserve some recognition. I went through a lot of bikes, parts, and gear this year so it was tough to narrow it down to just a few, but in the end these are the ones that stood out to me. I am a very picky guy, (just ask my wife) so pleasing me is somewhat difficult, but these products/bikes below indeed did something in order for me to write about them once again. As 2018 draws to a close, I salute these companies, manufacturers, and products for making the sport faster, safer, and more comfortable for all of us enthusiasts out there. Here they are in no particular order….

Vortex ECU For KTM 450 SX-F/Husqvarna FC450/Yamaha YZ450F: 

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If there is one thing you can do to improve your modern day four-stroke power delivery, it would be to map your current ECU. Yamaha has an awesome PowerTuner app to play around with, so you can get your power delivery the way you like it (within a safe parameter) on the track. On the flip side to the Yamaha, the KTM/Husqvarna comes with a handlebar mounted map switch that allows you to choose between three settings (standard, aggressive, and traction control) so you can go pick and choose on how aggressive you want your orange/white bike to be while riding. However, if you really want to get more usable power, that is controlled, and broader, the Vortex ECU mapped by Twisted Development is my number one go to modification. On the 2019 KTM/Husqvarna 450’s the ECU comes rich down low and somewhat lethargic, which makes the bike heavy feeing. With the Vortex ECU mapped by Jamie at Twisted Development the stock KTM/Husqvarna lethargic power delivery down low becomes a snappy, easier to ride machine that pulls stronger out of corners and longer down the straights. By simply taking your seat off and plugging this Vortex ECU in, these two bikes quickly become two of my favorite machines to ride. You also have 10 pre-programmed maps on the trim dial so you can choose how aggressive you want your power delivered. Run the Vortex on pump fuel or race gas, it doesn't matter because there’s a map for both. The improvement you will feel on the track is huge and noticeable right away! www.td-racing.com 



2019 Yamaha YZ450F: 

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Small changes to the 2019 Yamaha YZ450F made it our 450 MX Shootout winner and my favorite bike of the year! No it’s not the lightest bike on the market, but it’s engine delivery is unmatched, has the best production suspension in the game, has a better cornering ability for 2019, and is the most reliable bike on the track. Every time I think I may have found something better, I hop back on the ol’ 2019 YZ450F and fall in love all over again. It’s one of the only bikes I can ride in stock form and go very fast on right away. Kudos to all the Yamaha Japanese engineers and North America test riders for making an incredible machine! www.yamaha-motor.com 


6D ATR-2 Helmet:  

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6D Helmets launched their ATR-2 in 2018 and improved on an already great ATR-1 helmet. It has a shorter chin bar/nose area, shorter visor, and is lighter that the ATR-1, but keeps all the safety features of the ATR-1. It’s hard to write about something, that in some cases, can’t be fully tested until shit goes wrong. In the world of helmet safety, we as buyers have to be very trustworthy customers. I mean…We have no choice, but to trust in a certain helmet company’s technology right? We have to trust in what the helmet company is telling us (about their latest safety technology offerings) is in fact the truth and works in real world conditions, just like the test results say back at the testing facility. The only way to truly know if the helmet “works” or not is to crash and that is something that riders usually aren't looking to do. However, when it does come time to test the safety aspect of the helmet, it better damn well work and be what we paid for. I have worn and trusted in the 6D technology for quite sometime now and even spent my own money on a few helmets for my kid and I. My son and I both have crashed in an ATR-2 and came away dazed, but not confused. I feel whole heartedly that this is due to the 6D Technology, plain and simple. www.6dhelmets.com 

Ride Engineering One Piece Handlebar Mount:   

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The Ride Engineering One Piece Oversize Bar Mount has a one-piece top that is designed to resist bending much better than the stock bar mount. Precision machined from aircraft quality aluminum, there is also a 6mm difference between the forward and back mounting positions. Ride Engineering also machines their own stainless steel posts that prevent over tightening, unlike some other competing brands that DO NOT use quality posts. I have stuck these Ride Engineering bar mounts on the KTM 450 SX-F and the Honda CRF450R with great results after crashing. I never had to find something to bang my front wheel off of to try and straighten my bars/mounts after a crash. These powerful suckers do not cause added rigidity to your ride and only cost $104.95, but you can save 20% by using the code Keefer-20 over at ride-engineering.com 

Guts Racing Firm Seat Foam And Gripper Wing Seat Cover: 

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The real only downside to the Yamaha YZ450F is the seat density and cover. The foam is not firm enough near the middle portion of the seat the rider sometimes can hit the fuel tank when pushing hard into corners. So when you think of the words “hard” or “firm” you may think of uncomfortable right? Well in this case you would be wrong. The “firm” GUTS foam is just what the doctor ordered, especially when I am slamming into corners. With the GUTS firm foam the density is harder in the middle of the foam/seat, but also on the sides of the foam where you need it (especially when riding aggressively). Your butt is not always placed directly in the middle of the seat when you're riding, so why just make the middle part of the foam firm? GUTS thought of this because all of us riders need to have a firm feel on each side of the foam as well. The GUTS Racing foam provides the correct amount of density, so I am not pushing my tushy through the foam and into the plastic of the fuel cell. On top of the foam gripping the bike is important to me so Andy from GUTS makes these special “wing” gripper seat covers so my long legs have something to lock on to when standing up through rollers or choppy terrain. Having the “wing” seat also improves the cushioning of the side of the seat even more with the added padding sewn into the cover. It’s a brilliant idea and works awesome! www.gutsracing.com


Works Connection Elite Axle Blocks For KTM And Husqvarna: 

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Consisting of a pair of CNC’d Elite axle blocks, a titanium drive-side receiver, and a square removal tool nut, the Elite Axle Block Kit converts your stock KTM/Husqvarna rear axle from a fixed design into a floating type. KTM and Husqvarna Factory teams use this same floating type design on their race team bikes to improve traction as well as straight line stability, and it actually works! Another key component is the integrated receiver post on each axle block that allows the use of a caliper to precisely measure and match the left and right axle block’s position. This assures exact alignment of the chain and sprocket, which is critical to prolonging chain and sprocket life. I have been secretly running these on my KTM and Husqvarna test bikes for almost a year now and it may not seem like it’s much once installing them, but you will notice more rear wheel traction and a less harsh feeling under acceleration chop. www.worksconnection.com 

2018 Yamaha YZ65: 

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Anytime a manufacturer develops a new dirt bike for kids I am all in. Yamaha introduced a new model to their lineup with the YZ65 in 2018 and it was well perceived not only by my little test guy, but by many other littler riders and parents alike. The YZ65 has a potent engine, great suspension, and adjustability that lets little riders a chance to grow with their machines. We even let our test rider Dustyn Davis ride it with his friends at the 24 Hours Of Glen Helen and the   YZ65 lasted the entire time in the muddy conditions. We have almost 80 hours racked up on this test unit along with a WORCS championship that Dustyn won along the way. 

2018 Top Gear Choices: 

You guys knew this was coming right? I am such a gear fanatic that I couldn't just pick one set that was my favorite, so I am giving you my top three sets of gear that I tested/wore throughout 2018, in no particular order: 

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  1. Fly Lite Hydrogen: Lightweight, flexible, and most of all very comfortable the Fly Lite Hydrogen gear is a joy to wear on long days of testing. It’s ventilated enough to breathe through the hot summer days in the desert, but also is durable enough to last through the abuse I can throw at gear. Not to mention the solid colorways that FLY came back to for 2019 has me all giddy like a school girl on prom night. 

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2. Fox FlexAir: When you put a set of Fox FlexAir gear on you really notice how lightweight and minimalistic this stuff really is. The gear is snug and so streamlined when I am riding that I notice that I can move around on the bike a lot better. This is a real thing folks! Just like cyclists streamlined, form fitting gear helps your body become more agile while riding and Fox does it right with the FlexAir gear! 

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3.  O’Neal Hardwear: Say what you want about O’Neal, but they have come a long way with the styling of their gear. I wanted to put O’Neal in this mix because the Hardwear fit is much better in 2018 than it has been it quite sometime and there is no other gear out in the market that is as tough as the Hardwear pant and jersey in my opinon. Yes, the gear is a little heavier than the two above it, but the stuff is tough and has a clean look for 2019!  

LitPro:

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If you like analyzing your riding like me then the LitPro is a pretty incredible tool to have. Look, I will be target up with you. I wasn't on board with the LitPro a while back because it was too damn hard to use and confusing to me. However LitPro has made some updates to their app and made easier for us idiots to use the device. I have been riding with the updated software for a few months now and by no means am I a pro at it, but at least I can see each session I do and analyze my lap times, my line choice, what’s faster, and which bike I may be faster on at any given time. I love that I can get with my buddy Travis Preston and really show him how fast my corner speed is compared to him! To me that is worth the $499.00 price tag! You can even track your heart rate during each moto, just in case you really want to go all “Baker Factory” out there!   www.litprolive.com 


2018.5 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition: 

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Did you really think you were going to get through this without me mentioning the Rockstar Edisssssh? No, the 2018.5 Husqvarna Rockstar Edition didn't win our shootout, but that doesn't mean I didn't get happy every time I rode one of these suckers. I would talk about how much fun it was to ride (to my wife) so many times that she finally got sick of it and went and bought me one. The Rockstar Edition has better ECU mapping than the 2019 FC450, it feels the lightest of all 450’s on the track, is super connected from my throttle hand to the rear wheel, and my lap times (from my LitPro) always said I was fastest on it! Simply put, the 2018.5 FC450 Rockstar Edition is just a fun bike to ride and gets even better with just a couple modifications like an FMF Muffler, removal of the backfire screen, and some good race fuel. To me the Yamaha and Husqvarna are my two most favorite bikes to ride of the 2018/2019 model year!   

































































































2019 85cc MX Shootout 

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Nothing brings me more joy than watching my son share the same passion that I do for dirt bikes. However making the decision (as a parent) to purchase the correct machine can be somewhat confusing, difficult, and expensive. That is where Keefer Inc. Testing comes in! We decided to do a 2019 85cc shootout for you moto loving parents out there, but also give you some insight on which bike might be best for you and your little one. This was a big undertaking for myself as it’s tough to get kids to open up on how each bike feels, but we can officially say that the 2019 85 MX Shootout has officially taken the checkered flag after three days of testing, over 50 pages of testing notes, eight test riders, and after countless engine hours have racked up on thee little bikes. The tracks we chose to test at were good for a wide range of abilities and wasn't so gnarly that your typical 85cc novice couldn't have some fun. We feel the tracks we tested on were the best tracks (combined with the prep that was performed) that brought out each machines strengths and weaknesses. In doing this we know the information gathered was the most accurate we could offer from our 11-14 year old testers. Below are the final rankings and a brief evaluation summary that were tallied up by using an olympic style scoring. If you want to hear more about each bike, get a much broader breakdown of each machine, and hear from one of the testers, click on the podcast tab to listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast Presented By Fly Racing And Race Tech this week!

Check back soon for a “Best Settings” article for each machine and a full photo gallery. We also will be doing some “Living With” articles with a few of these throughout the 2019 year, in order to give you parents some feedback on what is breaking and what you can do to make these bikes even better. Just don’t go all mini parent on your kids! Let them enjoy riding their dirt bikes and having fun with their family and friends. #KeepKidsOnDirtBikes

The 2019 Suzuki RM85 wasn’t available when we had photo day, so look for more action shots of the RM85 when we post up the “Best Settings” article.

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First Place: Tie KTM 85SX/Husqvarna TC85

MSRP: KTM 85SX $5,899.00

MSRP: Husqvarna TC85 $5,999.00


Unlike its bigger brothers, the KTM and Husqvarna are identical on paper and most of our test riders couldn't feel the difference between the two on the track, hence why we chose to have a tie for first place. Both engine packages are powerful enough to make even our pro test riders smile. Every test rider underestimated the power of the small but mighty engine, however it wasn't so gnarly that it scared our novice kids. Make no doubt about it though, these are racing that want to go fast. The KTM and Husqvarna have a smoother delivery down low (similar to their bigger four-stroke counterparts), but once both hit the midrange, they explode with a pulling power that gets you down the track in a hurry. Simply put the engines in both of these machines out perform all of the others in class and put smiles on every one of our young testers faces. Heck, I even rode them and it put a smile on my face! I wish I had these engines when I was on minis! The beauty of these motors is if you wanted to tame the power or move it around, you could very easily do so with the power valve adjuster. You can turn the power-valve adjuster on the right side of the engine 1/4 of a turn clockwise, have your little one ride the bike, come back to the pits and turn it 1/4 of a turn counterclockwise (from stock), and have them tell you which one he or she prefers. Doing this makes a big difference in the power delivery, so it’s worth the time and effort to give it a try to make the rider feel comfortable. Plus it’s a good evaluation to test their “test rider skills”. The top end and over-rev is what really sets these engines apart from the Yamaha. The Yamaha is better down low, but once opened up, the KTM and Husqvarna simply out pull it down the straights. You can just hear how much further the KTM and Husqvarna rev out when watching/hearing the kids ride each machine.

The hydraulic clutch was well perceived by each tester and the overall abuse that the KTM and Husqvarna clutches can take is better than the other colored machines. Usually air forks are a nightmare on big bikes, but in the world of small bikes, I don't think it’s as critical. Not one test rider complained about the 43mm WP AER fork and in fact it was easy to dial in for our wide range of testers. We normally stuck with the recommended 5 bar of fork pressure, but dialed it down to 4-4.5 bars for the lighter kids with great success. The KTM and Husqvarna do sit a little taller than the other bikes in the shootout so that is something parents will have to know going in before purchasing. Some of our smaller testers could quite touch the ground when seated, so be forewarned that you may have to lower the seat height for smaller riders. The handlebar bend is tall, wide, has some rise to it, but gives room for riders to grow into. The bar pad that KTM/Husqvarna use are horrible and should be replaced immediately with a foam style pad. The downside to these two machines? Price! They are over a grand more than any other bike in this shootout, so be sure you’re ready to pay for that “Race Ready” motto.

Positives:

Incredible mid-top end engine delivery

Balanced Suspension 

Hydraulic Clutch 

 

Negatives: 

Lack of bottom end power (compared to Yamaha)

Hard feeling bar pad

Could be tall for smaller riders

Who Are These Bikes For? Riders that want to go racing and ride very aggressively.  


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Third Place: Yamaha YZ85

MSRP: $4,599.00

Yamaha came in with a new YZ85 for 2019 and it was well perceived by most testers in our shootout. The engine on the 2019 Yamaha YZ 85 is very strong coming out of corners, but doesn't pull quite as far as the KTM and Husqvarna on top end/over-rev. The Yamaha has more of an exciting hit down low than the orange and white bikes, but just doesn’t have the recovery through the mid range like the front runners do. When some testers made a mistake coming out of corners they had to cover the clutch way more than they did with the KTM and Husqvarna. If the clutch was abused (like some novice kids can do) the YZ85 started to slip and drag during the course of the day. You could hear it starting to slip, so we were forced to change out the clutch plates after our second day of testing. The tighter the track we tested at the more the testers liked the power and RPM response of the Yamaha. It is a very exciting power delivery. The good news is that the jetting is clean and crisp with the Yamaha and comes ready to go right from the crate.

The 2019 Yamaha YZ 85’s suspension has a plush feel to it and to most testers had more comfort (in fork) on braking bumps than the Husqvarna and KTM. However our heavier testers couldn't quite get it to hold up enough for their aggressive style and had to really pay attention to downsiding jumps perfectly. Straight line stability was also praised as testers thought they could hit bumps faster at speed and the Yamaha remained stuck to the ground/planted. Compared to the KTM and Husqvarna though the Yamaha corners a little slower. Entering corners some testers thought it felt tough to lean the YZ85, which forced them to use outside lines more instead of getting into a tight rut. The handlebar bend was well liked by every test rider and the way the Yamaha fit all of our testers was amazing. Simply moving the bar mounts forward or back help create a smaller or larger rider triangle for each test rider. The ground clearance seemed to be just right for the wide range of riders as each felt comfortable right away. If you’re looking for a competitive bike that isn’t a KTM or Husqvarna, look no further than the YZ85. The blue bike should be your top pick simply because it’s a great bike that costs less than the top two machines. With a pipe and silencer the YZ85 could be as fast as the orange and white on top end.

Positives: 

Great bottom end power delivery

Ergonomically fits a wide range of riders

Stable at speed 

Negatives: 

Clutch life

Slightly slower cornering compared to Husqvarna and KTM

Black frame paint chips way too quick 


Who Is This Bike For? Riders who like a lot of RPM response and like to be aggressive on fast tracks. 



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Fourth Place: Kawasaki KX85

MSRP: $4,349.00

Fourth place goes to the Kawasaki KX85. The green machine honestly doesn’t do anything bad, but from what we heard from each test rider, doesn’t have any real stand out “this is the best” qualities (compared to the other machines) either. The engine delivery is calculated and easy to ride, which did make our younger/novice test riders more confident in charging around the track. There is no real explosive hit out of corners, but instead the rider has tons of traction at the rear wheel that is exceptional under slippery conditions. The Kawasaki gets pulled through the mid range and top end at faster/deeper tracks and our more experienced riders were just looking for more power throughout the power curve. The jetting comes a little rich so raising the clip up one or two really helped the rich/lethargic feeling on low end. The suspension is plush yet very soft for any test rider over 100 pounds, so if you are on the bigger side, a set of heavier springs and a re-valve might be in order. The lighter/smaller kids that tested the KX85 loved the bump absorption and raved about how stable the bike was for them on rough tracks. The KX85 corners well and to most testers had the best overall cornering stability that allowed kids to push past their limits through fast sweeping corners. The Kawasaki feels longer and lower to the ground, which makes it planted once under a lean angle. The KX85 is tailor made for smaller riders as the bars are swept back/low and the rider triangle is very small. Kawasaki needs to update their bar spec and quality of handlebar as it is dated compared to the others (besides Suzuki) in the shootout. We do know with a little work the KX85 is a weapon of choice for a lot of young amateur racers, but in stock form needs some updates to make it better than the top three. 

Positives: 

Stable at speed

Plush suspension for smaller riders

Rider triangle great for kids coming off of 65’s

Negatives:

Vanilla power delivery

Small cockpit for bigger kids

Soft suspension for aggressive riders over 100 pounds


Who Is This Bike For? Riders that race motocross and grand prix’s that prefer stability.


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Fifth Place: Suzuki RM85

MSRP: $4,199.00

The Suzuki ranked fifth, but although the looks of the RM85 look dated, the engine is actually quite good. I would say this is the most underrated/peppy engine in the shootout. The test riders felt the RM85 had better bottom end/RPM response than that of the KX85, but couldn't quite match the top end pulling power that the other bikes ahead of it had. Top end was short and the jetting was also a little rich for sea level riding conditions. We raised the clip up one (leaner) and this helped RPM response a little through the mid and top end range. Once jetting was leaned out most testers thought the Suzuki RM85 had a lightweight feel coming in and out of corners because of the snappy throttle response down low. Lightweight testers didn't mind the mellow mid-top end pulling power feeling, but riders that were over 100 pounds and more aggressive, simply needed more engine. The suspension is soft stock and compliments lighter riders well, but if you're an aggressive or heavier 85cc rider, you will want to get some heavier springs ASAP. The ride attitude of the RM85 on the track was tougher to figure out (with aggressive riders) because most of them complained about the front end feeling low on de-cel. With some of that front end dive though came increased front end traction through corners. Just like most Suzuki’s, the RM85 turns as well as the front runners in the class and likes tight inside lines the most. If the corners are sweeping and long the Suzuki can get a little unstable/twitchy for lighter riders. Straight line stability was well perceived with larger testers and was a little harder to handle with lighter riders. A couple testers complained about vibration coming through the handlebars and the grips hurting their hands. Suzuki desperately needs to update this area of the RM85 as we think these are the same bars that were on Buddy Antunez’s Suzuki when he was an RM80 rider back in the day. Although on paper the Suzuki is heavier it feels light on the track! Even thought the Suzuki RM85 is fifth we think this is a great bike for any local or novice/intermediate racer. My son Aden says this was one of the most fun bikes he has ridden at Milestone to date! Trust me, that says something as he is pickier than his old man.  

Positives: 

Good bottom end snap

Gives riders confidence in tight corners

Lightweight feel 


Negatives: 

Mid-Top end power

Soft suspension 

Dated handlebars and grips (cockpit)


Who Is This Bike For? A lighter novice rider that needs to gain confidence through ruts/corners.  


Best Overall Categories: 

Best Bottom End: Yamaha

Best Mid Range: KTM/Husqvarna

Best Top End: KTM/Husqvarna

Best Over Rev: Husqvarna 

Best Fork: Yamaha

Best Shock: Yamaha

Best Cornering: KTM/Husqvarna 

Best Straight-Line Stability: Kawasaki

Best Lightweight Feel: Suzuki 

Best Brakes: KTM/Husqvarna

Best Ergonomics: Yamaha

Best Shifting: KTM/Husqvarna









































































2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto

“Hi, my name is Dominic and I’ve never ridden Supermoto.” That is pretty much how I started my morning, not knowing what to expect when the Husqvarna boys invited us to ride their new 2019 FS 450 Supermoto. As a first timer, I immediately felt like a fish out of water - a “what the hell did I get myself into”, type thing. But, I quickly realized that you can either:

A - Ride super squirrely and be scared the whole day. 

Or, B - Grip it. And Rip It. 

So I tried my best at going the “B” route, and holy shit, it was an absolute blast! There is a definite art to riding very aggressively in a road racing environment, and the street editors that joined us (Waheed and Scaysbrook to name a couple) put it to us ”moto” guys in a hurry. I’m actually really happy that they were there, because it allowed me to watch and learn pretty quickly (on-demand training). After watching them burn a couple laps and learning what I could, off I went - attempting 20 minute Supermoto motos’ with a smile that could barely hide under my helmet. 



The Supermoto experience is so foreign that it is hard to explain in words. Some of our MX techniques apply, but a lot of them don’t. Cornering is much different, braking is done in it’s own way, and overall rider control (body vs bike) demands a unique style. I tried my best at adapting in my own way, just trying new things each lap to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And once I found a decent groove, I was able to dive into the motorcycle itself and study it a bit for anyone looking to learn about the actual bike, and not my beginner situation.

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The bike itself looks sexy right out of the box. It is graced with race-ready Alpina spoke wheels matched to Bridgestone R420 slick tires, and revised bodywork that looks down at a massive Brembo front brake system. I was told that it is the same system used on the current production Ducati Panigale. The other 90+% of the FS 450 practically replicates the motocross model. The suspension is obviously tuned differently, it has different offset triple clamps, and most importantly, a full blown slipper clutch. Lastly, Husqvarna put some useful wrap-around hand guards on the bars and an updated (more comfortable) seat. I truly feel that this bike is race-ready. We all know that the orange & white brigade boast that motto, but the FS 450 really showcases it well. 

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On the track, the 63 horsepower motor is at your disposal whenever you are ready. The bike does not hesitate in getting you to the next corner quickly and efficiently. Nor does it take much for that front wheel to lift off the ground, which made the FS 450 really exciting to ride. The slipper clutch system is also a major talking point.  This clutch allowed us to drag the bike into corners, (attempting to back it in) without getting any rear-wheel chatter. I was shocked to realize just how much rear brake I could use without it heavily effecting rpms/power. I now realize why having one of these systems is a must if you are a serious Supermoto rider. As always, the Brembo brakes did not disappoint as they provided ample stopping power in any scenario. I assumed the front brake was going to be incredibly aggressive, due to the size of the rotor and caliper, but I was wrong. It is very modular (or progressive) and allows you to maintain control when traveling at varying speeds. As for the suspension… here is where I cannot help anyone, because I do not have the slightest idea of where to start tuning a Supermoto set up. I will say that down the fast straights, the front end would get some head-shake. If/when I get to ride this bike again, that would be a focus for me to settle that down right away. 

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To wrap things up on the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Supermoto intro, all I can say is I would love to do this again! Having no expectations coming into this test day, it was so refreshing to be dealt with smiles all around, super close take-out scenarios on the track, and most notably, really fun battles with a few other guys I could actually hang with. If any of you reading this are interested in at least trying Supermoto, I would definitely recommend it. I rode all day in full motocross gear, but I think leathers would make me feel way safer. As for the million dollar question - would I buy this bike? Currently, I would say no - based solely on the fact that motocross is encompassing my life at the moment. On the other hand, if I was serious about riding Supermoto, there would absolutely be no question in my mind that this would be the bike to have. It has everything you need to not only indulge in the experience, but race competitively if push came to shove. If anyone reading this has more specific questions regarding this motorcycle (detailed specifications) please email kris@KeeferIncTesting.com and I will facilitate getting any questions you need answered. As always, I appreciate you taking the time to read this! Stay tuned for more fun things coming your way here at Keefer Inc. Testing

-Dominic Cimino

2019 450 MX Shootout

The 2019 450 MX Shootout has officially taken the checkered flag. After three days of testing, over 100 pages of testing notes, 16 test riders, countless engine hours racked up, and over seven hours of testing information sent to your ears (via podcast) we finally have a winner. The results changed dramatically from last year’s shootout and for 2019 the top five were all miserably close for each test rider. The tracks we chose to test at were also chosen by four out of the six manufacturers to evaluate their production machines before we got our hands on them. These tracks provided deep, loamy soil conditions in the morning that turned hard pack and slick towards the end of the afternoon. We feel these were the best tracks (combined with the prep that was performed) brought out each machines strengths and weaknesses. In doing this we feel the information gathered was the most accurate we could offer (from the west coast) from an evaluation standpoint. Below are the final rankings and a brief evaluation summary that were tallied up by using an olympic style scoring. If you want to hear more about each bike and get a much broader breakdown of each machine, click on the podcast tab to listen to the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Keefer Tested Podcast Presented By Fly Racing And Race Tech right now!

First Place: Yamaha YZ450F

The Yamaha YZ450F won because it provided the riders with the most comfortable suspension, an easy to ride engine character, and a new found planted cornering ability. The small changes that Yamaha made did make a big difference out on the track. It’s also one of only a couple bikes that can use third gear through corners an get you out in a hurry. “Recovery Time” on this engine is impeccable and forgives riders when they make mistakes when shifting too early. Testers agreed that the YZ450F is much more confidence inspiring than that of the 2018 version through corners (cornering stability). It split wins/days with the Kawasaki, but the Yamaha had nine “individual test rider opinion wins” throughout the shootout that tipped the scales in its favor. Small changes on paper equals big changes out on the track for 2019. Congratulations Yamaha!

The Yamaha YZ450F won because it provided the riders with the most comfortable suspension, an easy to ride engine character, and a new found planted cornering ability. The small changes that Yamaha made did make a big difference out on the track. It’s also one of only a couple bikes that can use third gear through corners an get you out in a hurry. “Recovery Time” on this engine is impeccable and forgives riders when they make mistakes when shifting too early. Testers agreed that the YZ450F is much more confidence inspiring than that of the 2018 version through corners (cornering stability). It split wins/days with the Kawasaki, but the Yamaha had nine “individual test rider opinion wins” throughout the shootout that tipped the scales in its favor. Small changes on paper equals big changes out on the track for 2019. Congratulations Yamaha!

Second Place: Kawasaki KX450


The most improved machine in the 2019 450 MX Shootout belongs to Team Green. The KX450 won the first day of the shootout and was a favorite of most testers throughout the week. The chassis is well behaved and can be pushed hard by the rider without it doing anything out of the ordinary. The lightweight feeling of the KX450 is noticed immediately around the track and the free-feeling engine character makes it a very fun/playful bike to ride. With four “individual test rider opinion wins” it was the only other bike in the shootout to keep the Yamaha honest. Kudos to Kawasaki for making a great first year/generation KX450. That is not easy to do!

The most improved machine in the 2019 450 MX Shootout belongs to Team Green. The KX450 won the first day of the shootout and was a favorite of most testers throughout the week. The chassis is well behaved and can be pushed hard by the rider without it doing anything out of the ordinary. The lightweight feeling of the KX450 is noticed immediately around the track and the free-feeling engine character makes it a very fun/playful bike to ride. With four “individual test rider opinion wins” it was the only other bike in the shootout to keep the Yamaha honest. Kudos to Kawasaki for making a great first year/generation KX450. That is not easy to do!

Third Place: Husqvarna FC450

The Husqvarna FC450 is one of the most connected throttle to rear wheel bikes in this year’s shootout. There is so much traction that it is deceiving to some testers to figure out how much throttle to give, to clear obstacles immediately out of corners. It doesn’t feel or sound like the Husqvarna is really hauling ass down the track, but you end up over jumping certain jumps at times because the FC450 is hooking up so well. All of the riders preferred the black throttle cam on the Husqvarna/KTM for more a snappier/quicker RPM response. The WP suspension isn’t holding this bike back as much as it did in year’s past and leaning it over in corners is made easy with its lightweight feel. The Husqvarna fell down the ranking because riders did want a little more throttle response in deeper conditions (even with the black throttle cam installed). The FC450 was one of only three machines to score more than one “individual test rider win”.

The Husqvarna FC450 is one of the most connected throttle to rear wheel bikes in this year’s shootout. There is so much traction that it is deceiving to some testers to figure out how much throttle to give, to clear obstacles immediately out of corners. It doesn’t feel or sound like the Husqvarna is really hauling ass down the track, but you end up over jumping certain jumps at times because the FC450 is hooking up so well. All of the riders preferred the black throttle cam on the Husqvarna/KTM for more a snappier/quicker RPM response. The WP suspension isn’t holding this bike back as much as it did in year’s past and leaning it over in corners is made easy with its lightweight feel. The Husqvarna fell down the ranking because riders did want a little more throttle response in deeper conditions (even with the black throttle cam installed). The FC450 was one of only three machines to score more than one “individual test rider win”.

Fourth Place: KTM 450SX-F

The KTM 450SX-F has more bottom end and RPM response than the Husqvarna, but lacked some compliance/comfort when the track got choppy and rough. The KTM still feels lightweight through corners and gives riders, that lack cornering technique, more confidence through ruts. The Neken handlebar is a little more rigid than that of the Pro Taper bar that is on the Husqvarna and that doesn’t help on slap down landings. The engine character is smooth and linear thus helping/forcing riders carry more speed through corners. The WP/AER front fork lacks some small bump absorption, but once you break through that initial part of the travel, it is quite nice. The KTM 450 SX-F is one of my favorite bikes to ride with some minimal modifications done to it. The is how close all of these bikes really are! A little massaging here and there can make a fourth place bike a first place machine.

The KTM 450SX-F has more bottom end and RPM response than the Husqvarna, but lacked some compliance/comfort when the track got choppy and rough. The KTM still feels lightweight through corners and gives riders, that lack cornering technique, more confidence through ruts. The Neken handlebar is a little more rigid than that of the Pro Taper bar that is on the Husqvarna and that doesn’t help on slap down landings. The engine character is smooth and linear thus helping/forcing riders carry more speed through corners. The WP/AER front fork lacks some small bump absorption, but once you break through that initial part of the travel, it is quite nice. The KTM 450 SX-F is one of my favorite bikes to ride with some minimal modifications done to it. The is how close all of these bikes really are! A little massaging here and there can make a fourth place bike a first place machine.

Fifth place: Honda CRF450R

Ride Red. No Wing No Prayer. The Honda CRF450R has the fastest feeling engine character in the shootout. If you’re looking to get from point A to point B in a hurry, the Honda’s engine will oblige. As fast as the CRF450R is, it still feels connected to the rear wheel without much loss of traction, but the rigidity balance is what hurt it the most. When the track gets hard packed and rougher, the Honda suffers from lack of stability. The front end gets a little twitchy and can be difficult to ride fast when track conditions get worse. The suspension has a lot of comfort, but that comfort needs to come from the frame more, in order to be a shootout winner. Riders did like the on-the-fly handlebar mounted map switch and its three modes. Each mode has a completely unique feel to it unlike other machines where switching maps didn’t make a “huge” difference.

Ride Red. No Wing No Prayer. The Honda CRF450R has the fastest feeling engine character in the shootout. If you’re looking to get from point A to point B in a hurry, the Honda’s engine will oblige. As fast as the CRF450R is, it still feels connected to the rear wheel without much loss of traction, but the rigidity balance is what hurt it the most. When the track gets hard packed and rougher, the Honda suffers from lack of stability. The front end gets a little twitchy and can be difficult to ride fast when track conditions get worse. The suspension has a lot of comfort, but that comfort needs to come from the frame more, in order to be a shootout winner. Riders did like the on-the-fly handlebar mounted map switch and its three modes. Each mode has a completely unique feel to it unlike other machines where switching maps didn’t make a “huge” difference.

Sixth place: Suzuki RM-Z450

The Suzuki RM-Z450 is the best looking bike out of the bunch. However, looks alone couldn’t get the Suzuki up the charts in 2019, but the zook has improved slightly since last year. The BFRC shock still unloads (kicks) off throttle, which causes the rider to have a lot of pitching coming into corners. Most riders didn’t mind the engine’s delivery, but just wanted more from the powerplant (especially on deep tilled tracks). The white coupler was almost unanimously used by all riders which helps “wake up” the bottom to mid range, but the Suzuki still signs off too quickly up top. The cornering of the RM-Z450 is still great, but other machines are as good, if not better than the Suzuki for 2019. This bike would be great for a rider who wants to spend less money and still have a good bike to go race/ride on the weekends. Small modifications can really help the Suzuki become a better machine. In fact, we will be doing a project 2019 RM-Z450 this year, so stay tuned!

The Suzuki RM-Z450 is the best looking bike out of the bunch. However, looks alone couldn’t get the Suzuki up the charts in 2019, but the zook has improved slightly since last year. The BFRC shock still unloads (kicks) off throttle, which causes the rider to have a lot of pitching coming into corners. Most riders didn’t mind the engine’s delivery, but just wanted more from the powerplant (especially on deep tilled tracks). The white coupler was almost unanimously used by all riders which helps “wake up” the bottom to mid range, but the Suzuki still signs off too quickly up top. The cornering of the RM-Z450 is still great, but other machines are as good, if not better than the Suzuki for 2019. This bike would be great for a rider who wants to spend less money and still have a good bike to go race/ride on the weekends. Small modifications can really help the Suzuki become a better machine. In fact, we will be doing a project 2019 RM-Z450 this year, so stay tuned!


If you have any questions about the shootout please feel free to email me at kris @keeferinctesting.com. As usual we have an open door policy over here and love to bullshit about dirt bikes. If you see me at the track, come over and say hey!






2019 Husqvarna FC/TC First Impression Notes

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I had the pleasure of getting invited to ride five new 2019 Husqvarna motorcycles (TC125, TC250, FC250, FC350, FC450) at the “Baker Factory” in Florida last week. Husqvarna held their 2019 world motocross introduction at Aldon’s lovely facility and let me tell you it is immaculate. The weather was hot and humid, but the track provided a great testing ground to give you some first impressions. Here are some things that I thought you would like to know about the 2019 Husqvarna line up, straight from the east coast.

 

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All Of The New 2019 TC And FC Models Have: 

 

Redesigned bodywork and graphics

Blue coated frame featuring increased rigidity

New 2-piece subframe design (250 g lighter)

Updated setting on the WP AER 48 forks

WP DCC shock featuring new piston & updated setting

Reworked SOHC cylinder head on the FC 450 (500 g lighter)

New cylinder head casting on FC 350 (200 g lighter)

Optimized timing on FC 250 exhaust camshaft

Machined finish on TC 125 & TC 250 upper exhaust port

Reinforced kick start intermediate gear on TC 125

New mufflers on 2-strokes, redesigned header pipe on TC 250

Chain adjustment length increased by 5 mm

New, stiffer upper triple clamp

Traction & launch control with updated settings [4-strokes]

New throttle cable routing for easier maintenance

Flow-designed resonance chambers & more compact silencers on 4-strokes

New generation Li-ion 2.0 Ah battery

Updated cooling system with new centre tube

New DS (diaphragm steel) clutch on TC 125, FC 250 & FC 350

ProTaper handlebar with new bend

Laser engraved D.I.D. wheels with new spoke nipples

New gearboxes produced by Pankl

 

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TC 125/250 Two-Strokes: It’s not everyday that I swing my leg over a 125 and 250 two-strokes. The TC125’s engine is much improved since the last time I took it for a test spin. What I noticed about the TC125’s engine is that the jetting is very crisp and spot on. The TC125 barks and has great throttle response throughout the RPM range. However, the TC250 feels rich down low and doesn't have that “crisp” feel out of corners like the little TC125 did. Both two-stroke machines have very light feeling chassis’s and can corner extremely well. The Baker Factory’s dirt was heavy as it had just rained the night before so the ruts were deep and long, but that didn’t phase these light weight TC’s. They both can lay over nicely in corners and have plenty of front wheel traction so you are able to cut down on those insides with ease. Vibration is not as apparent on the Husqvarna two-strokes like it is on the KTM’s. The KTM’s DO NOT have that much vibration, but it is apparent immediately that the Husqvarna’s just have less of it. Husqvarna uses a Pro Taper bar instead of a Neken, which to me helps the damping quality of the machines. The suspension on both machines felt soft to me. I am sure that if I was back in California, where the dirt is hard and choppy it would be better, but with the deep conditions of the Baker Factory the forks on both machines felt soft on de-cel bumps. Remember the dirt is extremely grabby on the east coast and adding a little air pressure to the AER fork and stiffening up the low speed compression on the shock will help you out. In this case going up 2 psi on the AER fork helped balance the pitching sensation out for me. I only had minimal time on each machine so a thorough test will just have to wait until I get my hands on my test bikes. At the end of the day if you asked me which bike is more fun to ride, I would have to tell you the 125 was more of a fun machine to rip around Aldon’s. Hitting ruts wide open and not letting off was something that put a pretty big smile on my face. 

 

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Husqvarna FC250: Husqvarna did a ton of work to the FC250 and it really showed especially in the engine department. I have always complained about lack of bottom end on the FC250, but now there is some added torque available for us lazy riders in 2019. I am not saying that the FC250 has YZ250F type bottom end, but at least now there is some excitement out of corners. The FC250’s engine still builds RPM’s calculated, but has a little better recovery time when I screw up on the track. A little stab of the clutch and the engine is very lively and pulls hard. You still have that great Husqvarna FC250 mid-top end pull and you are able to leave the white machine in second and third gear longer than the previous year model as well. The 2019 chassis is refined and although I didn't feel as big of difference on the 19 FC250 (from the 2018) as I did the FC350 or FC450, it still gives me the confidence to charge bumps and rollers without giving me a wallow or heavy feel. Cornering is superb on the FC250 and feels light through corners and in the air. I think some of that light weight feel has something to do with a little more excitement from the engine, which always makes a bike feel lighter. Another aspect to the FC250 that I like a lot more this year is that it has less engine braking. Less engine braking means less pitching and a lighter more free-revving engine feel. This is huge when the dirt is soft like it is on the eat coast! The suspension on the FC250 feels balanced and soaks up smaller bumps better, but I still feel there needs to be more comfort in the fork on slap down landings. On slap down landings the WP AER fork feels harsh and doesn't have the comfort a spring fork has.        

 

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Husqvarna FC350: Just last week I tested the KTM 350 SX-F and I can say the Husqvarna FC350 has mostly the same characters as the 350 SX-F. I say “mostly” because the FC350 doesn't vibrate near as much as the KTM and the FC350 doesn't have as much excitement down on low RPM like the KTM 350SX-F. The Baker Factory track that we tested on was tight and had long ruts, so the FC350 felt a considerably lighter than the FC450 did, even though there is only a few pounds difference between the two. The 2019 FC350 has more mid-range pulling power than the 2018, which is noticeable as soon as you roll the throttle on. It still doesn't have the torque of a 450, but then again if you wanted to purchase a bike with loads of torque you wouldn't be interested in the FC350 now would you? You have heard me talk about “engine recovery time” in other reviews and the FC350 has improved in that area as well. Just a small amount of clutch gets the FC350’s power back into what I like to call “the meat”. The meat is where the FC350 just sings and pulls you to the next corner or obstacle in a hurry. As light as this chassis feels on the 2019 FC350, it stays pretty damn straight (on-throttle). When accelerating out of long sweepers, the rear end stays more connected to the ground than last year’s model. The stiffer frame helps this contact feeling and is very noticeable under heavy load (which I actually got to test here at the Baker Factory being that the dirt is so good). I ran every FC and TC machine at around 105mm of sag and this seemed to be the happy spot where most of the machines felt balanced. The FC350’s suspension felt much like the 450’s in which both ends of the bike move together, give you a lot of traction and can handle hitting sizable braking bumps at speed. I made a huge mistake one lap, missed my braking point (into a corner), hit a big braking bump too fast and the FC350 just kicked a little and didn't give me a big huck a buck like it would have in year’s past. 

 

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Husqvarna FC450: I am not going to sit here and lie to you. I think I put more time on the FC450 than any other bike here at the Baker Factory. Why, you ask? It’s actually quite simple. It is fast, yet easy as hell to ride! But 450cc’s is way too much for me Keefer? Unless you’re 125 pounds and a beginner, I am going to have to say “it isn't too much for you”. The way the 2019 FC450 delivers its power is quite magical. If you're worried about too much hit down low, don't be, because the bottom end delivery is so smooth and easy to manage. Actually, I would want some more bottom end hit so I could pop out of these deep east coast ruts a little better at times. Back at home in California where the dirt is hard, this smooth delivery is what I am looking for, but back here where the dirt is heavy and wet you need some bottom end snap to get you on down the track ASAP. Even though the TC125 put a smile on my face, the FC450 put a bigger smile on my face due to its long pulling power and fun nature. The chassis is stable and predictable at speed, but still gives you a lightweight cornering feel. The suspension balance is good, but I am so spoiled with my WP Cone Valve/Trax shock set up (on my FC450 Rockstar Edition) that going back to the AER fork makes the Husqvarna feel slightly harsh on the very top of its stroke. When accelerating out of corners (when the fork is light and in the top of its stroke) the AER fork can deflect a little. This just gives a slight uneasy feel, but once off the gas the fork remains planted with a good amount of front wheel traction. The FC450’s ignition setting did have some slight de-cel popping, but maybe this was due to the high temps and high humidity in Florida. I usually don't experience this on the west coast.  

 

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Blue Frame/Handguards: I am going to say this as nice as I can…Husqvarna please get your color scheme together. Blue frame, yellow fork guards, white plastic, black frame guards? Just when I really start to like the looks of the 2018.5 Rockstar Edition, you go and do this to me! Really?! The blue frame is dull and just looks tired too quickly for me. I would rather have a black or white frame to go with some yellow accents. Handguards? NO! I can understand why you are putting them on the FX line up, but we are moto guys! If I need handguards I will go purchase some at a later time. Handguards make the bike look fat and heavy and it’s not flattering to me. I am not a huge fan of the way the 2019 Husqvarna’s look, but I am going to give you guys a pass in 2019 because they work so well. 

 

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Baker’s Factory: To be able to come here and ride was something that only few will ever do. Aldon has built himself an immaculate area for riders to hone their craft. Between the work shops that you can eat off the floor, the perfectly mowed grass, the gym that smells like cotton candy and pink lemonade, the perfectly prepped tracks, this place is a dirt bike fanatic’s dream. The track that we got to test on was a mix of sandy clay and had huge ruts within an hour of riding on it. Testing a motorcycle here is optimal because you have the deep/heavy dirt for engine testing, dirt that provides big braking bumps and square edge for chassis/suspension testing. All of this gives you a well rounded testing facility to make any motorcycle better. After my day was done I walked back onto the track to really soak it all in. I looked at the lines that were formed and couldn't believe how rough it got in a short amount of time. Not only did it get rough, but it kept high levels of traction throughout the day. Something in which California can’t offer riders. 

 

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Zach Osborne: Want to know how cool Zach-O is? He came out to both days of Husqvarna’s introduction and just hung out with the media guys. Not only did he do interviews, take photos and BS with everyone, he walked around the “other” track to help out the Rockstar Husqvarna team riders with their motos. Zach is just a down to earth guy that loves the sport as much as you or I. 

 

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Heat/Humidity: I know I am a west coast guy and you east coast dudes are used to this stuff, but holy crap it’s gnarly out here in Florida. I should of came out here to train for Loretta’s and I would of been so much better off. Being able to train in this stuff and ride national level type tracks is a such a huge advantage. On the day we were there testing Aldon had Marvin Musquin, Jordan Bailey, Mitchell Harrison and Michael Mosiman doing sprints and motos. To put in the work here at this facility will not only help you physically, but mentally as well. 

 

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East Coast/West Coast, Two Types Of Settings: I have listened to some of my testing media colleagues talk about taking these bikes back home to California to test them on our home turf. This statement doesn't make sense to me at all and it drives me nuts as a test rider! Not every guy who purchases a Husqvarna lives in California right? Just because we are more comfortable on California dirt doesn't mean “we” can’t give you (the reader) testing feedback on “your” kind of dirt. This is why I want to do an east and west coast 450 shootout this year. My California setting doesn't work on Florida dirt/tracks and I know this. I also know there are thousands of people who want testing information on the east coast, not just the west coast. As test riders we are supposed to adapt to our test environment and try to give you the most honest feedback/setting that we can on the dirt we are provided, at the time of the test. We can’t just disregard where we are testing and expect to go back home and give you some “real world testing info”. Come on! We are at the Baker Factory, so that is why I am giving you some first impression testing feedback on these Husqvarna’s from this type of dirt. 

2018 Husqvarna FC350 First Test  

 

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. 

 

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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. 

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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.  

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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. 

 

Extras: 

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. 

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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. 

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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 kris@keeferinctesting.com. 

Comparing The 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition To The 2018 FC450 Standard Edition

What exactly does the 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition do differently on the track compared to the standard 2018 FC450? Is it worth the extra money? Isn’t that always the question? Is the juice worth the squeeze? After putting over 13 hours on the bike in just over two weeks I wanted to break down what the differences are on the track. If you want to learn more about the 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition and the changes that it received click on this link to learn all about it: https://www.keeferinctesting.com/motocross-testing/2017/12/6/2018-husqvarna-fc450-rockstar-edition. 

Engine: The standard 2018 Husqvarna FC450 comes on smooth and builds RPM’s calculated which leads the rider to have maximum rear wheel traction. The Rockstar Edition is not different in that aspect, however with the engine changes Husky made to the “RE” it does have slightly more pulling power down low. The RPM response isn’t better on the RE, but getting out of the corner the 2018.5 machine pulls 2nd and 3rd gear just a tad harder. I still would like to have more RPM response like the Honda and Yamaha have, but what I do get out of this Rockstar Edition engine is a ton of connectivity from my throttle hand to the rear wheel. I can get on the gas so much sooner on this Husqvarna than I can on any Japanese model. My lap times are deceivingly fast because I simply don’t feel like I am charging that hard. When I do lap time comparisons on the Rockstar Edition in comparison to the 2018 FC450 and YZ450F, I am consistently 0.4-0.8 seconds faster a lap on the Rockstar Edition over the course of 15 minutes. What is even more confusing is that I don’t feel faster, but with how much rear wheel traction I have I can see why I am faster around the track on the RE. The Husqvarna engine also lets you pull second gear farther than any other 450cc model available (minus the KTM 450 SX-F). I did change the stock 13/48 gearing to a 14/52. On paper both of these ratios are the same, but the 14/52 gearing helped liven up third gear in corner for me. I could utilize third gear more with better RPM response than the stock gearing. Since I was on the prowl for more throttle response, I tried the smaller black throttle cam. The smaller throttle cam gave me more excitement down on low RPM’s, but it was harder to control through corners and I felt I lost some of that connectivity to the rear wheel some. It is a great option however for you rider that hit sand tracks and softer tilled dirt. The RE’s engine is slightly better than the standard 2018 FC450, but nothing that is life changing.

Chassis: This is where I think most of the improvements between the two Husky’s are felt on the track. The problem with the standard FC450’s chassis is that although super compliant and comfortable on intermediate to hard terrain, once you get on a softer, tackier type track and start to really push, you can feel the frame flex under loads. On east coast dirt the Husqvarna and KTM frames are not as magical as they are on the west coast hard pack dirt. The standard frame is great on square edge, choppy terrain, but if you have a long sweeper with some rolling whoops you can feel the frame flex and then release which gives you a swapping sensation out of the rear end (I can feel this on the west coast as well). It unsettles the rear end and forces the rider to let off the throttle. The new RE feels more planted from the swingarm pivot bolt back and has a more solid feel. Rigid? No. Solid? Yes. Some magazines are mistaken the solid feel for a harsh feel in the fork, but that couldn’t be more further from the truth. The new Rockstar Edition chassis carves corners with ease and feels super light on the track. It actually feels lighter than the standard edition when needing to make a sudden line change. Straight line stability is improved even with the solid feel and I can hang it out out a little more with the newfound solid feel. Since Husqvarna gave us 10mm more rear wheel chain adjustment space, I tried this and found it to be better for rear wheel traction, but also lended me a broken rear fender. If you bottom out the rear shock a lot (which is not that hard to do with the Rockstar Edition) be careful about putting the rear wheel too far back because when you bottom out, it could break the rear fender where it mounts up underneath the seat like it did on me.

Suspension: Now I have a theory about this Rockstar Edition suspension. I call it a “theory” because I didn’t speak directly to any of Husky’s R&D testers yet about this. As a production tester I kind of know how things are developed and feel Husqvarna went a little softer on their suspension settings because their RE frame was a little stiffer now. It makes sense to me and you can feel the soft suspension immediately once out on the track. The RE WP AER fork has a standard air pressure setting of 10.5 bars (from 10.8 on the standard edition), but I go up to 10.6-10.7 bars on jumpier style tracks. The fork bottoms out on flat landings and up steeper jump faces. On de-cel bumps (off throttle) the RE fork is better than the standard FC450 however. On throttle though the Rockstar Edition fork feels like it has less traction than the standard FC450 fork. When accelerating over some braking bumps or hitting the tops of acceleration chop the front end feels less planted to the ground than the standard version. If you are coming into a corner and chop the throttle the fork has a pretty comfortable mid-stroke feel, but once back on throttle the fork feels slightly harsh and has some deflection. Out back the shock is soft on high speed compression plain and simple. The shock has a good damping character at the beginning and middle part of its stroke, but near the end it just falls away and feels empty. I would like to see WP/Husqvarna fill that part in with some more high speed compression damping force. I tried going stiffer on the high speed, but it hurt the rear end comfort on acceleration chop for me too much for me to justify the change. I did go in four clicks on the low speed compression and slowed the shock down three clicks to try and get it to hold up just a bit more for me. Overall, the FC450 Rockstar Edition has a softer feel to it, but both ends of the machine feels balanced. I will be looking for more hold up and increased comfort in the common weeks so stay tuned for a Keefer Tested podcast on some updated specs.

Ergonomics: The standard 2018 FC450 was tough to lift my leg up high into corners because the mid shroud area always snagged my pant/knee braces. The KTM was even worse yet, but the new RE FC450 is much slimmer feeling and the rider sits more on top than in. I also can grip with my legs better and I don’t feel like the rear end of the bike is as fat as it once was. Some magazines were bitching about the lower bar bend, but I actually like it. I tried a slightly higher bend and I hated it so I went back to stock. For all you Husqvarna/KTM owners out there do yourself a favor and stick with a low/flat bar bend. Both of these bikes are a little front end high anyway and you don’t want to compound this with a higher bar. The gripper/pleated seat works well, but make sure to have some Bag Balm on hand to rub on your ass! This seat tears my butt up! I am working with a chaffed ass here people! I love riding this bike so much, but I pay the price when I get home that evening.

In closing the 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition is a better machine than the standard 2018 FC450. If I was going to by a Husky (which I just might do) I would be willing to pay the extra grand or so for this model for the simple fact of the chassis and the small engine improvements that come with it. Stay tuned to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com for more on-track testing info from this white stallion.

2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition

Husqvarna brought out the red carpet for their all new 2018 FC450 Rockstar Edition in downtown Los Angeles at the OUE Skyspace. Jeff Emig hosted the event to unveil the new machine as well as all of the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna riders. Jason Anderson and Dean Wilson have been riding the new Rockstar Edition for just over a month now and both have said that it does feel a lot different from their previous machines they were on. Once both riders got acclimated they noted that the chassis was the most noticeable difference, as front wheel traction was much better through flat corners than the previous models they both raced. There is not an MSRP set yet for the bike at this time so look for that soon. We will be able to hop on one to test in a couple weeks so stay tuned for a full podcast about how the Husqvarna works out on the track. In the meantime here are some photos of the Rockstar Edition FC450 as well as some specs for you all to gander. 

FC 450 ROCKSTAR EDITION – UPGRADE HIGHLIGHTS

  • Frame offering increased longitudinal rigidity
  • Carbon fiber reinforced skid pate
  • New 2-piece subframe design (0.5 lb lighter)
  • Chain adjustment length increased by 5 mm
  • Mechanical holeshot device offered as standard
  • Stiffer upper triple clamp 
  • Triple clamp protector integrated into the front number plate
  • WP DCC rear shock featuring new piston and updated setting 
  • 260 mm floating front disc with standard front disc protector
  • ProTaper handlebar with new bend
  • New flow-designed resonance chamber
  • Shorter and more compact silencer
  • New generation Li-Ion 2.0 Ah battery
  • Updated cooling system featuring new center tube
  • External fuel line moved inward for added protection
  • More compact SOHC cylinder head (15 mm lower & 1 lb lighter)
  • Gearbox produced by Pankl Racing Systems
  • Billet Rekluse clutch cover
  • Redesigned bodywork

 

The 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition 

The 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition 

               The new Husqvarna comes with a Rekluse Factory Racing clutch cover.

               The new Husqvarna comes with a Rekluse Factory Racing clutch cover.

No FMF or Akrapovic here. Husqvarna wanted to stick with their own branded production muffler with the new machine. 

No FMF or Akrapovic here. Husqvarna wanted to stick with their own branded production muffler with the new machine. 

                                An updated floating 260mm waved disk is now used. 

                                An updated floating 260mm waved disk is now used. 

                A new lower bend Pro Taper handlebar and a top mount that is stiffer. 

                A new lower bend Pro Taper handlebar and a top mount that is stiffer. 

                                            Standard mechanical holeshot device. 

                                            Standard mechanical holeshot device. 

                                             New racing inspired ribbed seat cover.  

                                             New racing inspired ribbed seat cover.  

                                                Carbon fiber reinforced skidplate.

                                                Carbon fiber reinforced skidplate.

Updated WP AER fork settings and these cool new lower triple clamp protectors built into the front number plate. 

Updated WP AER fork settings and these cool new lower triple clamp protectors built into the front number plate. 

FC 450 ROCKSTAR EDITION

ENGINE

Engine type

Single cylinder, 4-stroke

Displacement

449.9 ccm

Bore/stroke

95/63.4 mm

Compression ratio

12.75:1

Starter/battery

Electric starter / Lithium Ion 12V 2.0Ah

Transmission

5 gears

Fuel system

Keihin EFI, throttle body 44 mm

Control

4 V / SOHC with rocker levers

Lubrication

Pressure lubrication with 2 oil pumps

Gear ratios

16:32 18:30 20:28 22:26 24:24 -

Primary ratio

31:76

Final drive

13:48

Cooling

Liquid cooling

Clutch

Wet multi-disc DDS-clutch, Magura hydraulics

Ignition / Engine Management

Keihin EMS

CHASSIS

Frame

Central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4 steel

Subframe

Carbon fiber reinforced polyamide

Handlebar

Pro Taper, Aluminum Ø 28/22 mm

Front suspension

WP USD, AER 48

Rear suspension

WP Monoshock with linkage

Suspension travel front/rear

310/300 mm

Front/rear brakes

Disc brake Ø 260/220 mm

Front/rear rims

1.60 x 21"; 2.15 x 19" DID

Front/rear tires

80/100-21"; 120/90-19"

Chain

5/8 x 1/4"

Silencer

Aluminum

Steering head angle

26.1°

Triple clamp offset

22 mm

Wheel base

1,485 ± 10 mm / 58.5 ± 0.4 in

Ground clearance

370 mm / 14.6 in

Seat height

960 mm / 37.8 in

Tank capacity, approx.

7 l / 1.85 gal

Weight, without fuel, approx.

2018 Husqvarna TE250i First impression

Story Written By Michael Allen

 

We didn't just get a stock 2018 Husqvarna TE250i, we got a fully decked out FMF/Husqvarna looking race machine.  

We didn't just get a stock 2018 Husqvarna TE250i, we got a fully decked out FMF/Husqvarna looking race machine.  

For years we have been hearing rumors about the elusive fuel injected two-stroke. Everything from reading about Honda’s patent on a fuel injected two-stroke to seeing spy photos of KTM test rider Lars Enockl riding one at an extreme enduro. We have to admit that when we heard from a reliable source it would be imported to the US we were excited and nervous at the same time. It’s not that we didn’t think it would work, but we were concerned about reliability. Why? Husqvarna/KTM was taking arguably the most simple engine design (not to mention an engine that has a powerful, easy to ride delivery) and possibly complicating the process of how it breathes. However, we knew that if Husqvarna felt it was ready to be introduced to the media, it must of passed and performed to their standards.  

You couldn't wipe the smile off of our test rider Michael Allen's face after riding the TE250i.

You couldn't wipe the smile off of our test rider Michael Allen's face after riding the TE250i.

Now we all know that Husqvarna is similar to the KTM, so it’s not a coincidence that they just so happened to introduce a fuel injected two-stroke in the same year as the orange giant. Nevertheless, Husky is importing a handful of TE250i bikes although they’re not importing any of 300cc models. When Kris called me to ask if I’d like to test the new 250i, my inner two-stroke off-road lover about jumped through the phone at the opportunity. I even started packing my gear bag before I was even off the phone and headed to the high desert. 

The 2018 Husqvarna TE250i that we got our hands on had some extra Husqvarna branded accessories added onto it. The beautiful looking TE250i had blue crash proof levers, a pipe guard (where the exhaust meets the cylinder), a rotor guard, FMF pipe and Powercore 2 silencer, brake pedal tip, swing arm guard, anodized blue Husqvarna triple clamps, Guts Racing non-slip seat cover, bib mousse tubes and even a Colton Haaker pre-printed backgrounds. While shooting some glamour shots of the bike itself I noticed the 250i looks very similar to last year’s model, but upon closer inspection the engine is obviously much different, not to mention the carburetor seems to be missing and there is an expensive piece of aluminum in its place (a 39mm Dell'Orto throttle body). The Kill switch is now a toggle on/off and there is also a map switch on the right side of the handlebar with two map settings, standard and soft. 

An FMF pipe and Powercore 2 silencer was bolted on to add some more "braaaaaaap" to our evaluation. 

An FMF pipe and Powercore 2 silencer was bolted on to add some more "braaaaaaap" to our evaluation. 

Admittedly it was a bit odd to pour straight gas into a two-stroke bike’s gas tank, but with the pre-mix oil tank being in the frame, the days of mixing your own gas are long gone. We rode the bike several hours without having to add any oil, but we did here from Husqvarna R&D stating: When the oil indicator light does goes on, you still have a couple tanks of fuel to ride with before there is zero oil circulating through the oil pump system. When starting the 250i, there is a “choke” on the 39mm  throttle body that gets pulled out and turned 90 degrees to stay on, but once the bike is slightly warmed up it can be turned 90 more degrees and will disengage. Our bike seemed to have a very low idle, so I adjusted the idle screw which is right above the choke to where it sounded about right. When I took off I noticed the clutch, like all hydraulic clutches, was buttery smooth as surprisingly so was the power delivery. Right away I noticed it didn’t seem to have the typical cold blubbery two-stroke feeling, it was smooth and crisp the whole time it was getting warmed up. 

Premix fuel is not required as the oil is stored in a separate tank (shown above) and the electronic oil pump provides the correct amount of oil according to the RPM of the engine. 

Premix fuel is not required as the oil is stored in a separate tank (shown above) and the electronic oil pump provides the correct amount of oil according to the RPM of the engine. 

Once warm I was able to start ripping the bike around a bit and see where it shined, being that we were testing in the desert it was soon made clear that the TE wasn’t designed for being screamed across valleys. That’s because the TE isn’t a desert race bike, the T to us stands for "two- stroke" and the E stands for "enduro", so I left the whooped out open areas in search of tight single track and rock gardens. For the 250i, the tighter the terrain the better engine feels, the engine runs so crisp at such low rpm, it’s nearly impossible to stall. If you’re the kind of rider that likes to use the lower rpm (lugging) meat of the power and ride a gear or two high, you’ll be in love with the 250i. The throttle feels incredibly connected to the rear wheel and with how smooth the power is, it almost has a traction control like feel (in a good way) as the rear wheel seems to stick to the trail like Velcro. In tight, sandy, uphill switchbacks, the 250i could be kept in second gear and kept the bike moving forward, instead of just spinning and digging itself into the ground. On the more open and flowy type of trails where the bike could be opened up, the power was almost too smooth and lacked some excitement that usually comes with riding carbureted two-strokes. I’m not saying that it will fall on its face, but the excitement just got shifted a little higher up in the rpm range. The majority of the exciting power is in the mid-top end range, if you’re looking for that familiar peppy two-stroke feel. However, it can take some clutch work to get into that exciting part of the power if you’re in a higher gear in some corners or tighter areas. If you’re looking for that lugable, traction-esque power then the TE250i is the machine to give you what you need. There are two maps on the TE250i, Map One is the standard map and Map Two is a smoother map. I used map one most of the day as it had the most pull with a great amount of traction. Map two was a little too mellow for my liking, as it kind of took that excitement from the mid range away a little too much for the type of terrain I was riding in. If we had some slick conditions here in California I could see where this map would be beneficial. Hey, as a rider it’s good to have options and now we have two options when hopping on the TE250i. The Husqvarna always sounds crisp, like it has a perfectly jetted carburetor which is music to any two-stroke fans ears as well as throttle hands. 

The TE250i is light and flickable just like its TC brother. 

The TE250i is light and flickable just like its TC brother. 

The WP XPLOR 48mm fork on the TE is great for tight terrain. Initially the fork was a bit soft for big drop offs or g-outs, so we added a few clicks of compression (stiffer), as well as slowed the rebound down to try and slow the action of the fork some. This helped the bike from springing back up too quickly once low in the stroke. From middle to the bottom of the stroke the fork still has somewhat of an empty feeling and can blow through on larger obstacles. Although the fork and shock are a bit soft for fast pace riding, both work well together in tight, rocky single track. The balance of the TE250i is good and I could tell what Husqvarna/WP was after when going to this soft type of a feel. They were after plushness and they achieved that in the tighter spots I tested in. When going over multiple rocks the front and rear of the bike stayed straight and tracked right over any small to medium sized obstacle. The traction I felt was superb (with the softer feel) and this feeling instilled a lot of confidence in my riding, since I was able to focus on the next obstacle instead of fighting the bike. When standing on the pegs and riding, the 250i feels light and changes direction easy with minimal input when weighting the pegs or handlebar movement. Doing leg plant pivots around tighter areas took minimal effort and when entering corners the TE250i felt light on tip in. 

The WP XPLOR 48mm fork is soft on bigger hits, but works very well on the small to medium sized imperfections on the trail. 

The WP XPLOR 48mm fork is soft on bigger hits, but works very well on the small to medium sized imperfections on the trail. 

After spending some time on the 250i with not one hiccup, it’s clear that Husqvarna has really done their homework and made a great off-road machine. It also shows that there is a real future for clean and crisp two-strokes in the off-road market place. Husqvarna set out to make the ultimate bike for tight trails and extreme terrain and I’d say they did a pretty damn good job on the TE250i. If you’re an east coast style guy (or gal) who loves riding woods, tight single track, and extreme conditions this is definitely the bike for you. If you’re a west coast more open terrain style rider it can still be a formidable weapon, but you might want to get a slightly stiffer suspension set up. I’d be willing to bet that with the success of the TE250i, Husqvarna will be tuning a fuel injected two stroke engine for the TC250 in the near future. Keefer and I will be spending a little more time on the Husqvarna TE250i before it goes back to the manufacturer, and we will be playing with different power valve springs, adjustments, and gearing to see if we can get a little more bark out of the HusqvarnaStay tuned to KeeferIncTesting.com for more updates and an in depth podcast on this sexy looking Austrian/Swedish ride.