Late summer is always an exciting time of year. It is that joyous time when all the new models start to arrive, like a second Christmas. I feel fortunate that I still get that giddy feeling of expectation waiting to see which new present is going to be the best one. Ok, well that might be over doing it just a tad, but I do still get excited about the new bikes and JC and I have started talking about what we hope to do for enduro shoot outs this year and what models we are going to test and all that fun kind of stuff. It isn’t just a matter of going through the motions; we really do get pumped up about this stuff.
My first taste of the 2010 model year comes aboard the Husaberg FX450. In a year where everyone else is cutting back on models and diversity, the ‘bergs are expanding their line-up. The introduction of the FE390 and FX models fit right into the corporate objective of keeping the Swedish bike distinct from everyone else in the market and carving out new niches. Parent company KTM has been pretty successful with this strategy, they have completely revitalized two stroke market, so there is reason to believe these new ‘berg models will earn their own position among the hard core off road enthusiasts.
The goal of the FX line is to be a more focused closed course competition bike. New to the model are;
-48mm WP Closed Chamber Fork
-Close Ratio 6 Speed Transmission
-More Aggressive Ignition settings
-19” Rear Wheel
Other new features for 2010 include: new cam chain tensioner, stronger piston rings, low fuel light, new bend Rental “672” bar, mx style handguards and the change to 22mm offset on the triple clamps. Suspension settings have also been updated. The shock gets the new “big needle” and valving specs to match.
When I tested the new generation FE450 last season it proved to be an excellent “East Coast” style bike. The razor sharp handling and ultra smooth motor made it a very easy bike to ride in tight, technical conditions. Those characteristics make for a great trail bike, but as a race bike it suffered in open terrain conditions.
So when the news of the forthcoming FX model broke, the obvious question was if this was going to be a more aggressive race bike similar to the KTM XCF line? After riding this new Husaberg, the answer in short is, no, but that isn’t necessary a bad thing either. This is essentially what would have previously been considered and “XC” in the KTM RFS line, with the new tranny and suspension providing a nice upgrade to the existing FE package. As you will see in my interview with Factory rider Nick Faringer, these are exactly the mods he had on his wish list for next year.
Hitting the trails on the FX brings out the rush of all the things I like about the new generation Husaberg. I find it amazing how quickly we can become used to easy electric starting, flawless fuel injection, light clutch pull and great brakes. Things that were novel just a year or two ago now seem like common place. This bike has quality written all over it. Other internet boards are full of people looking for just the right aftermarket parts to make their bike great. On the Husaberg forums, about the only interesting discussions are about how to get more fuel on board. It follows in the Austrian mantra of “ready to race” right out of the box.
I think I am finally ready to pronounce the WP closed chamber fork as worthy of an enduro bike. WP has struggled to make this fork supple enough for off road use in the last two years. It takes big hits great, but has lacked feedback in the small stuff. This year it has finally come to represent the best of both worlds. On the moto track it will take the biggest hits without issue and still tracks well in the technical conditions. My only issue was a little bit of fork dive under braking. The bike I rode had seen quite a bit of use already and I suspect that the bladders may have been low on pressure. Our suspension guru tells me that he sees this on about 10-20 percent of the WP closed chamber forks that he services, so it is probably a little more important to stay on top of the servicing, especially if the performance starts to fade. As for the shock, it just works really well, it tracks straight, rides smooth and resists bottoming even with a spring rate that is too light for my weight.
The overall “balance” on this bike is still very unique. It is a complex combination of the motor position, frame and suspension. For this year, all of the bikes under the KTM/Husaberg umbrella receive the new 22mm offset triple clamps. The two bolt design has changed a little also, working towards the optimization of flex versus rigidity. For the KTM models this is coupled with a frame change also. On the ‘bergs the frame remains the same so it is just a straight offset change.
My riding impression is that this has slowed down the steering just a fraction and taken some of the feel away from the front tire. The ’09 bike felt like it was cornering ON the front tire with the rest of the bike trailing along after it. The new bike feels slightly less planted in the corner, but will now steer a little with the rear wheel. On last years model it was nearly impossible to do any rear wheel steering. The front tire will start to wander if you get lazy in your cornering. The up side is that the new 22mm set up should be more stable at speed. Overall this makes the FX steering feel a little more neutral, taking away some of the razor edge feel.
The three position ignition mapping still requires the accessory switch to change settings and needs two hands to manipulate. The different positions help customize the motor to suit the terrain. In testing the various settings, each has a distinct character, not simply fast and slow settings. This mimics the impressions from the 2009 model except that all the settings are slightly more aggressive. It would certainly be nice if the engineers could come up with a simpler mapping switch and make it “on the fly” adjustable, but it still beats having to make jetting changes.
The choice of a 19” rear wheel seems sort of confusing, for pure enduro use an 18” is far more accepted, although more top riders are switching to the moto size rear for its lighter weight and wider choice of the latest tire designs. Other than that, there is very little to complain about for the component parts. The Magura hydraulic clutch has the nice folding lever and great feel. The new Renthal bar bend is very natural feeling. The chassis feels narrow and compact. The header tucks in tightly and everything down low is tucked in out of harms way.
Factory Husaberg racer Nick Faringer is having a really solid year in the National Enduro series, finishing on the podium at the Michigan round and sitting fourth in points. Nick was pretty stoked to get the new 09 bike after spending the 2008 season on the old style model. We wanted to know just how much it takes to get the Husaberg prepped for national level competition. Nick tells us “My bike is really pretty stock. I do all of my own wrenching. I have upgraded the forks on my FE450 to the closed chamber models that will be on the new FX. I do all my own valving and run .48 springs, KRW Cycles helps me with the shock set up and I use the 7.6 spring. The Akrapovic titanium slip on muffler from Hard Parts catalog gives a little extra power over stock. Other than that, I just use a few personal preference things like a tall seat, the KTM PHDS isolation bar mounts and a floating front brake rotor matched with EBC “Extreme Pro” brake pads.”
Nick got his first ride on the new models at the KTM/Husaberg Dealer meeting at Red Bud, Michigan and here is his riding impression for the FX450:
Things I knew to focus on were handling via new 22mm triple clamp and power delivery through the new FX gearbox. Right out of the gate on the grass track I noticed how the bike’s 1st gear was taller. The FE450’s 1st gear is so low it is usable only in the nasty stuff and normally only from a dead stop. The FX450’s cog spacing allowed for more forgiveness on gear selection and to keep the RPM range you want without stabbing the clutch. Along with the sweet 6 speed gearbox, the motor has been retuned via the fuel injection mapping. The FX has noticeably more midrange punch, despite the stock silencer. This is due to richer mixture thanks to the closed course designation of the FX. The motor retains its smooth seamless power delivery, pulling stronger when the revs climb.
Handling on the FX with the 22mm offset triple clamp, designed for optimal flex, was quite good. The bike had a more settled feel at speed yet would follow ruts on the Red Bud moto track better than any other bike I tried. The bike resists knifing in and over steering yet feels precise enough to let rider input drive the bike anywhere. Cornering is still “Husa-light” as the bike will throw from side to side in tighter situations like a much smaller bike may feel.
Suspension is much firmer with increased bottoming resistance over the FE models. It handled all the jumps our grass track had without problem. Overall the feel is both stable and agile.
The FX is only available in the 450 displacement for 2010. The $9,498 retail price is the same as the FE450 model. For someone looking for a race bike, the FX provides some nice upgrades, particularly in the closed chamber fork that now shows a definite advantage over the conventional model. Pencil in the additional power and close ratio transmission and this ads up to an intelligently designed performance package.
Click here to see the Husaberg FX450 Video
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