Hitting the trails on the Husaberg
FX 450 delivers the rush our test
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, especially when we start talking about what to do for enduro shootouts and what models we are going to test. 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 came aboard the Husaberg
FX 450. In a year where everyone else is cutting back on models and diversity, the ‘Bergs lineup is expanding. The introduction of the 2010 Husaberg FE 390
and FX model fit right into the corporate objective of keeping the Swedish bike distinct from everything else in the market and carving out new niches. Parent company KTM
has been pretty successful with this strategy; they have completely revitalized 2-stroke market with bikes like the 150 XC, 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 a 48mm WP closed-chamber fork, close-ratio six-speed transmission, more aggressive ignition settings and a 19-inch rear wheel. Other new features for 2010 Husabergs in general 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. As a closed-course model the FX has no lights, spark arrestor or odometer and a 2.25-gallon translucent tank. However, for 2010 all of the FE models are now green sticker legal and include lighting and spark arrestors.
When I tested the new generation FE 450
last season it proved to be an excellent “East Coast” style bike. The razor-sharp handling and ultra smooth motor made it very easy to ride in tight, technical conditions.
The Husaberg FX 450 feels slightly less planted in the corner than the FE mdoel, but will now steer a little with the rear wheel.
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 XC-F 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 the interview with factory rider Nick Fahringer, 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. It’s amazing how quickly we can become accustomed 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 commonplace. 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 hardest landings 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 at Trail Tricks 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.
For someone looking for a race bike, the FX provides nice upgrades. The additional power and close ratio transmission makes for an intelligently designed performance package.
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 2009 FE 450 felt like it was cornering on the front tire with the rest of the bike trailing after it. The new bike feels slightly less planted in the corner, but will now steer a little with the rear wheel. On last year’s 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 setup 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.
For someone looking for a bit more than what the 2009 FE had to offer, the 2010 FX 450 could be the bike for you.
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 an 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 out of harm’s way.
The FX is only available in the 450 displacement for 2010. The $9,498 retail price is the same as the FE 450 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 adds up to an intelligently designed performance package.