(Not) Stuck In A Rut
We were surprised to find that only the Husaberg comes stock with handguards. The plastic units were a hot commodity during our tight woods testing.
Riding the Husaberg
has us convinced that Swedes either live in rainy, nasty conditions, or are all midgets. The riding position handed us our first clue as we tried to cram ourselves between the footpegs and handlebars. A MiniMe-sized layout was acceptable while sitting, but made for sore backs if the rider attempted to stand for any period of time. Only our shrimpy Editorial Director could fit easily in the 450e's saddle, and at 5'8" he was our shortest tester. However, to combat our little-people theory, the tallest seat height makes mounting the canary-yellow beast quite the chore for inseam-challenged riders.
The Husaberg seems to be geared at nasty, wet conditions. Tied with KTM for the lightest of the group, the FE450e can nearly float over any water crossings with its massive 140/80-18 rear tire. Add a fat tire to the knee-crunching peg height and it's begging you to drop it in a wheel-swallowing rut. Here the Husaberg outshines all the other bikes, keeping the brake and shift levers accessible and the rider's ankles out of harm's way. With their penchant for rut riding, the Swedes incorporated an extra hand-hold where the airbox is traditionally located under the seat. Not only does this offer extra grip on the bike, but it looks bitchin' as well.
Ruts, puddles and water crossings were the Husaberg's forte. High pegs keep a rider's feet high and dry and increases the safety of your ankles. Life isn't without compromise, however, and the riding position is cramped for taller riders.
"The Husaberg seems to be designed for riding in gnarly conditions," notes the tot-sized Ken. "The pegs are high, which is great for riding in the ruts, and the relationship of the bars-to-pegs allowed for a comfy position when standing up. The bike is meant to be ridden hard and it rewards you for it."
Indeed the 'Berg does like to be ridden hard. Priding themselves on producing high-performance race equipment, the Swedish bike's WP suspension was set up a bit stiffer than the others. We were prepared, however, thanks to the warning issued in our accompanying literature. "Engine power and overall performance are not suitable for every rider, but instead demand knowledgeable and experienced pilots who know their limits."
Not ones to be easily frightened, we continued with our testing anyway. What we found was that all of our riders detested the DOT-approved tires, but said the big 'Berg tracked well otherwise and handled big hits better than most while remaining plush on small, choppy surfaces.
The largest gas tank (2.4 gal) and heaviest front-wheel weight bias (49.8%) make the 'Berg tough to wheelie over obstacles. It's not for a lack of power, but the 39 lb-ft. of torque has a hard time compensating for the forward-leaning ergos. A couple of our testers felt that second gear was too short on the FE but that third was too tall. This was another area where the abundant torque was handy, but it couldn't hide the tranny quirk. Our riders all reported a noticeable amount of vibration that gets transferred to the rider's hands. While not nearly as quaky as the ATK, it was more noticeable than on the KTM.
With class-leading torque, a simple twist of the wrist is all it takes to get the back end sideways in a hurry.
Like the Sherco, the Husaberg suffered clutch woes that began early in our testing. The hydraulic clutch was less than stellar and made a terrible racket like its European counterpart. However, on the opposite side of the handlebar sits a lever attached to nearly the best front brake of the group. The dual-piston Brembo unit slowed things down in a hurry by clamping the 260mm disc. Only the KTM had a better front brake, but the Husaberg outperformed the Orange bike on the rear where it provides better feedback to the rider.
Husaberg puts some serious effort into making the FE450e a race-ready bike, with a strong motor, good suspension, high-quality brakes and almost as much attention to detail as its sister company, KTM. If you've been raised on Japanese bikes your entire life like we have, then coming to terms with the slightly different European design might take awhile. We found that the Husaberg was fairly easy to adapt to and is a very competent off-road machine, especially when in its nasty element.
- Left-side kickstart is funky. It probably wouldn't be so bad after more practice, but it just feels so wrong.
- Yellow tank is easy to gauge fuel level.
- Only bike with stock hand guards.
- Spring-loaded kickstand.
- Fender brace.
- MSRP: $7,899
It's cool to test these European imports against the common Japanese fare. The guys at Bike Barn made it all possible, so show 'em the love by checking out their site, www.bikebarnmc.com.