Best Motocross Bike 4th Place—2020 Husqvarna FC 450

Significant suspension changes make the Husqvarna more distinct in 2020.

In the past several years, the Husqvarna FC 450 has offered a similar ride quality to its not-so-distant relative, the KTM 450 SX-F. The main performance differences between them have been that the Husqvarna offered a mellower power delivery and slightly more chassis comfort through the use of a different subframe, swingarm, and handlebar than the KTM. Last year, the bikes felt more similar than ever, but in 2020, Husqvarna set out to further separate itself from its orange counterpart and did so through the use of very different suspension settings. Although the FC 450 finishes in the same position as it did in last year's 450 Motocross Shootout, it has more of a distinct feel and is clearly targeted for a specific rider demographic in 2020.

2020 Husqvarna FC 450 Engine

The Husqvarna has very little bottom-end power and the meat of the powerband is on the top-end. The clutch pull is great and the bike is very quiet as well.
"The Husqvarna has very little bottom-end power and the meat of the powerband is on the top-end. The clutch pull is great and the bike is very quiet as well." —Bryan WallaceJeff Allen

Before we began the shootout, we ran the FC 450 on our in-house Dynojet dynamometer. With a Dunlop D404 street tire mounted on the rear wheel, it churned out 52.4 hp at 10,100 rpm and 33.2 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm. With those numbers, the Husqvarna ranks third in horsepower and second in torque. We then installed a fresh set of Dunlop MX33 soft-to-intermediate-terrain tires to ensure consistency in traction among the six competitors through the duration of the test.

The FC 450 has a linear powerband that is easy to ride. It has the same character as the KTM, just with a slightly smoother power delivery. The Husqvarna’s bottom-end is the softest of all the bikes, and it builds power as the rpm increase with a plentiful midrange and excellent top-end and over-rev. With this style of powerband, the Husqvarna and KTM can carry a gear longer than any other bike in the test. It revs slowly, some of which is due to its lazy throttle response, and it doesn’t offer a lot of excitement or have a hit in the powerband like the Honda or Kawasaki. However, it is still plenty fast and very rideable, which makes it easy to ride aggressively. The Magura hydraulic clutch has a remarkably smooth pull and helps coax the engine into the higher rpm, where the meat of the power is. It’s also the quietest bike in the test.

The FC 450 makes 52.4 hp at 10,100 rpm and 33.2 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm.
The FC 450 makes 52.4 hp at 10,100 rpm and 33.2 pound-feet of torque at 6,800 rpm.Robert Martin

The Husqvarna has great tunability with a handlebar-mounted dual map switch and traction control, which can be used in either map. Map 1 is the same as last year and has a mellow, easy-to-ride power delivery from bottom to top. Map 2 offers more grunt on the bottom-end and midrange, and is the preferred choice of test riders. Being that the FC 450 has very manageable power delivery in both maps, traction control is slightly less useful than it is on the harder-hitting KTM engine, but it still works well in areas where the dirt becomes hard-packed and slick as the day wears on.

2020 Husqvarna FC 450 Suspension

Husqvarna’s flagship motocrosser has drastically different suspension settings than its KTM counterpart in 2020. Weighing in at 235 pounds, the Husqvarna is the second-lightest bike in the class—just 1 pound heavier than the KTM.
Left: Husqvarna's flagship motocrosser has drastically different suspension settings than its KTM counterpart in 2020. Right: Weighing in at 235 pounds, the Husqvarna is the second-lightest bike in the class—just 1 pound heavier than the KTM.Jeff Allen

Unlike in prior years where Husqvarna shared the same suspension setup as its orange counterpart, it adopted its own North American-specific suspension settings for 2020. Husky made huge changes to the settings of the Xact suspension components, going far in the direction of comfort. It works best for light riders and those of vet or novice-level ability. However, it is a little far off when you try to ride it at an intermediate-level or above track, especially one with giant hills and high-speed sections like Glen Helen Raceway.

Amazingly, the Husqvarna and KTM had different suspension characteristics, even with similar components.
"Amazingly, the Husqvarna and KTM had different suspension characteristics, even with similar components. Due to different valving and a lighter rear spring rate, the FC 450 was more plush and compliant in the back and the shock setting wasn't as critical like on the KTM, which was more sensitive to adjustments. I'd isolate that to the subframe and swingarm differences." —Casey CasperJeff Allen

The WP components are very soft and busy. Increasing the fork air pressure and stiffening the compression and rebound on all of the adjusters helps add more control. There is still some pitching, but if you are on an average-level track that is flat and has consistent dirt, it’s not as big of an issue. The Husqvarna’s softer suspension setup can be very good if you are riding tracks that are well maintained, fun, and flowing; it’s when the track gets a little more extreme that the suspension lacks in performance.

2020 Husqvarna FC 450 Chassis/Handling

With the new suspension settings, the FC 450 has lost some of the nimbleness that I have come to expect from it, and even with the softer suspension, the chassis is still a bit stiff.
"With the new suspension settings, the FC 450 has lost some of the nimbleness that I have come to expect from it, and even with the softer suspension, the chassis is still a bit stiff." —Eric StorzJeff Allen

The FC 450 is a very neutral handling bike. It carves corners well and has confidence-inspiring straight-line stability. With softer suspension settings and a few different chassis components from the KTM including the subframe, swingarm, handlebar, and bodywork, the FC feels plusher than the orange bike. Conversely, Husqvarna’s suspension settings also give it a little bit of a heavier feeling. However, since the bike is actually light, it responds well to rider input, further contributing to its easy-to-ride quality. It feels thin and has a sit-on feeling that also helps offset the weightier feeling as well.

Similar to the KTM, the front of the chassis is a bit stiff, but it’s less noticeable because of the softer suspension setup. The rear of the chassis offers great bump absorption on acceleration, which can be attributed to the different suspension settings along with the composite carbon-fiber subframe and different swingarm in comparison to the KTM. With its smooth power delivery and soft suspension, traction is very good too. As on the KTM, raising the fork in the triple clamps helps the overall cornering ability and stance of the bike.

The ProTaper handlebar offers an ideal amount of flex, especially in comparison to the Neken bar on the KTM, but positioning is crucial; it is very easy to move them to where they are too high or too low. The seat is noticeably stiffer and less comfortable than the KTM’s too. The Husqvarna and KTM share Brembo brakes, which are the best and most powerful on all of the bikes. The ODI lock-on grips that are standard on the Austrian bikes are the best in the class as well.

Why The 2020 Husqvarna FC 450 Should Have Won

Husqvarna designed this bike for a specific demographic [vet riders] and they did a great job with their setting for those riders.
"Husqvarna designed this bike for a specific demographic [vet riders] and they did a great job with their setting for those riders." —Allan BrownJeff Allen

Husqvarna designed this bike for a specific demographic, namely vet riders, and the engineers did a great job with the settings for them. It has neutral handling characteristics, the best brakes, an easy-to-ride engine with a broad powerband, multiple maps, traction control, and a hydraulic clutch.

Why The 2020 Husqvarna FC 450 Didn't Win

A serious motocross racer will likely need to get a suspension revalve soon after riding it, the engine character and mapping aren’t as good as most of the other bikes, and the chassis doesn’t offer as much comfort as the Kawasaki or Yamaha.

Gearbox

The Husqvarna FC 450 finished in the same position as it did in last year’s shootout—fourth place.
The Husqvarna FC 450 finished in the same position as it did in last year’s shootout—fourth place.Jeff Allen