Any follower of this magazine will know I have a love affair going on with Husaberg motorcycles. It has been an ongoing thing, and I can’t deny that during my early lusting I was in a minority among other test riders. But since the all-new design in 2009 and the obvious KTM-esque build I have had much more company in appreciating what the ‘Berg is all about. The 2009s were only sold as FEs, strictly an enduro or trail bike, now the branches are growing to include racier types of riders with the all-new FX. It is very nearly a blue KTM XC, the same just a lot different at the same time. The components that make the FX more of a racer are the switch to a 19-inch rear wheel, a closer ratio six-speed gear box, no lights, only number plates, more aggressive suspension settings including a closed-cartridge WP front fork, and closed-course EFI settings. The bike does keep the side stand. It is a proper mix of motocross efficiency and trail-able comforts rolled into a package built to suit many tastes and riders. The motor is basically the enduro-spec with a non-spark arrested muffler, though it is still quite quiet, and an EFI tweak. Our test bike had the multiple-map ignition switch ($49.99 from Husaberg Power Parts) which easily allows going from a very mild to a slightly aggressive engine setting, and you could likely do a lot more with the FI tuning software (available for $600). When you ask the Husaberg guys, they are clear that this bike is not a motocross machine, yet they point out that it easily performs for what they consider a “hobby” MX rider. Translated, that means an “occasional practice day” rider, and bikes built to that spec tend to fit in perfectly to WORCS, GNCC or Hare Scrambles racing.
We decided to find out just where the bike fit in and took it straight to a couple of MX tracks on practice days to find out. We hit both Perris Raceway (www.perrisraceway.com) and Glen Helen (www.glenhelen.com) and came away impressed, calling the bike the “marshmellow.” Its suspension was plusher than any MX bike, as expected, but it didn’t do too much of anything funny as most off-road bikes can. The biggest drawback was the soft compression characteristics that were most noticeable on the faces of jumps where the Husaberg would get close to bottoming and lose a lot of speed. Landings, even hard ones, were not an issue since the bike has plenty of bottoming resistance. Trying to get the bike stiffer with clickers only lost a lot of the great feel (or lack of bump compliance) and it seemed to only hold the bike up in the stroke in the corners more, hurting the unbelievable turning. And that is part of the performance you get from the Husaberg’s unique engine placement. It makes the bike feel exceptionally light in the turns. The FX’s 19-inch tire out back adds just a little more bite and stability. On the rest of the track the bike feels plenty like a motocross bike, albeit a little stinkbugged. It is slim and easy to move around on. In the air it isn’t as impressive as in the turns, and I wouldn’t say it is as flickable as bikes that are easily 20-pounds lighter, but it makes any other off-road bike (read: Yamaha WR, Honda CRF-X, KTM XC-W) feel portly and a bit sluggish in handling. The power delivery is also soft by MX standards and this can be a good and a bad thing. Good since the bike is stellar at putting the power to the ground and being quite easy to ride. Bad in that it can’t quite jump stuff that it takes all of a 450 MXer to get over. We suspect the long and quiet muffler in conjunction with the more off-road spec engine (cam and timing) all combine to this in some way. But one place where the ‘Berg is all goodness is in throttle response from the flawless FI system. It responds right now, instantly and in whatever gear, at whatever temperature, at whatever altitude, no matter the RPM. The more of a lazy vet or senior rider you tend to be the better the Husaberg tends to work.
Get off the MX track and the FX just starts to improve. It isn’t as plush and mellow as its FE brothers but there is something in this bike’s setup that makes it better than even those wonderful trail tacklers. It still has the plushness to make it comfortable off-road, at any speed, but now the bike has bounce. Being stiffer you can use the little bumps on the trail to bound or spring over stuff and a lot of bumps take on the task of being jumps since the bike can and will hop over them if you desire. If you don’t, no worries it will just soak up bumps, logs, roots and rocks. We tended to ride the FX in the aggressive engine setting, even off-road, as this power character better fit the way the suspension wanted to be ridden. The bike likes to be ridden faster, hit stuff harder and overall speaks more to the racer in you than an FE does. Compared to the king of off-road machines, the KTM XC-W, the Husaberg FX feels much lighter and responsive to the rider, provided that rider isn’t much over six-feet tall. Then the cockpit can be cramped.
When you start breaking it all down the 19-inch rear wheel might be more susceptible to flats but it makes the bike feel lighter and has a wider range of tire selection than an 18-incher. The thin layout comes at the expense of a smallish fuel tank. Don’t plan on much over 55-miles. First gear is a little taller feeling than a true trail bike, but with six speeds, there are plenty of final drive gearing options. Hell, the stock bike goes 90 mph on dirt. The brakes are some of the best; after all they are KTM parts. Working on the FX is simple, and it does not require much work. The air filter access is tool-less, and it stays clean hiding out where you usually find most of your gas. We’ve never been left high and dry by the Husaberg’s electric-only starting and we know the ignition puts out tons of power. It is an easy task to add lights if desired. The kickstand is unobtrusive and hugely functional compared to bikes without one. Then, there is the price. At $9498 it could be one of the most expensive bikes out there, though it is cheaper than its more trail-oriented FE brothers. But simply put, you couldn’t come close to making one of these with any other bike, even if you started with the cheapest new one you could buy. Just like the now-extinct KTM XC, Husaberg (or KTM really) have hit a niche market that might be just a little bigger than they imagine. And for all of us that fit into this category of looking for the ultimate do-all motorcycle, some will actually do the smart thing and buy one pre-built instead of trying to make it themselves. That bike likely is the Husaberg FX 450.
Specifications: 2010 Husaberg FX 450
Claimed Dry Weight: 248 lb.
Actual Weight (ready to ride, no fuel): 266 lb.
Seat Height: 37.3 in
Seat-to-Footpeg Distance: 20.8 in
Footpeg Height: 16.in
Sound Test: 95.8 dbSettings
Notes: We ran the ignition/EFI in the aggressive setting most of the time.
Other Notes: The more motocross you do the more sense a revalve makes.Modifications We’d Like To Try: Playing with the optional FI Tool. A less restrictive (and still quiet) muffler.
Intermediate Motocross, Novice Off-RoadThe Husaberg FX 450 was a bike that really surprised me. Just looking at the bike, it looks bulky and heavy. I definitely thought the FX would be more of a trail bike with soft power and harder to maneuver on the motocross track. I was wrong. The FX, although heavy to push around and lift on the stand, was easy to flick around in the air, and the weight really helped to power through gnarly braking bumps. The FX won’t over-rev, so you’re shifting quite a bit, but the bottom power is as good or even better than the other 450 motocrossers. The suspension was a little soft, but the handling and steering of the bike was unbelievable. Wherever you point the bike, it goes there. The FX makes getting and staying in ruts so effortless. With a little work in the motor to get it to rev out longer, and a stiffer suspension set-up, the FX would be competitive against the other top motocross bikes.
Vet IntermediateThe list of things I love about the Husaberg FX is long. And the don’t-like list is almost non-existent. The good side is the same things you’ve heard about the new ‘Bergs. They corner unbelievably. They handle great. They make power that is easy to use and in amounts aircraft carriers envy. Add in the FX package to the FE baseline and this bike gets much more friendly to riders like me. First, the 19″ rear lightens up the feeling all around. The closed-course EFI setting has opened up the power just enough to add some excitement but it doesn’t ruin the easy-to-use attitude of the torquey thumper. The closed-cartridge fork is probably my favorite improvement in that it lets me get more aggressive on the bike. I don’t want 260 pounds of angry bike blowing through the stroke and bottoming my fork. With the FX setup, this rarely ever happens. Even Glen Helen Raceway has a hard time putting the bike in its place. But it does. And that’s too bad. But this is not a motocross bike. It could be, maybe, but FX does not mean MX. The bike is still plenty plush for off-road rocks and roots. I’m not a fan of the Husaberg’s vibration. I’m disappointed that it’s so heavy and that’s the extent of my complaints. We can keep preaching about how amazing Husabergs handle tight terrain and the gnarliest corners but until you get in the seat and ride one you won’t realize how far behind your old four-stroke really is. The engineers that designed this motorcycle loved four-strokes but had a jealous hatred for two-stroke handling. With this bike they likely killed the two-stroke again.