With the way supermoto has taken off across the globe, manufacturers are on the gas for 2007. As the sister company of arguably the most advanced SuMo machine producer, KTM, Husaberg has upped its bet in the Unlimited class with this 550cc beast.
I arrived at the track to find that only perhaps a dozen riders were on hand for this particular Thursday afternoon supermoto session. With so few riders, finding my target in the pits was an easy task. The guys at Bike Barn Motorcycles had invited me to try out their latest machine, the brand-new Husaberg FS550e. As the only Husaberg dealer in the Rogue Valley, I jumped at the chance to ride a bike that remains relatively scarce in our neck of the Southern Oregon woods.
Having collaborated with the Bike Barn during our 2006 450 Enduro Shootout I knew exactly what to expect from, and who to look for, owner Kurt Beckman. I found him under the bright yellow and blue E-Z Up, but I didn’t recognize the Knight Rider-looking dude beside him dressed in black leathers and riding some sort of black supermoto steed.
By the time I parked the van and made my way over for a handshake, the man was gone. Surveying the area from behind the dark anonymity of my sunglasses, I noted with a sense of worry that Beckman’s trailer was devoid of the Husaberg I was slated to ride. Scanning the track revealed a few KTMs, a Yamaha and the man in black, but no yellow-and-blue Husaberg. As my visual search became increasingly frantic, the black machine came rumbling back and slid into our small square of shade. Only then did I recognize that this would be the machine I’d be riding.
The FS550e gets a healthy dose of Mad Max ‘tude with its black bodywork, fork tubes and 17-inch wheels along with blue graphics. Combine that with the stubby front fender, squatty SuMo stance and Husaberg’s signature chassis design, the FS550e is a stark outline of wicked intent. Judged solely by glossy photos against a white background, the new bruised motif is a hot ticket. In the real world, however, that indistinguishable color scheme yet distinctive body style come off differently against a natural backdrop of dirt and asphalt. By the end of our short test session, the Berg was still very fresh, but as we all know, that black plastic is going to morph from hot to horrid in the span of only a few rides.
The graphics package this year only tells half the story, no matter which way you look at it. The left side is adorned with a large, blue block-lettered HUSA, while the right side finishes the label off with a titanic-worthy BERG. Like the 2006 enduro model, the 550e has a visually bulky tank, though the capacity is the same on the new bike. The 2.8-gallon tank is different however in that it feels slimmer between a rider’s knees as they straddle the 34.3-inch seat height.
You’ll notice a distinct lack of any kickstart lever in this photo. That’s because it’s on the other side, but that doesn’t mean the foot lever gets used regularly. Electric starts were fast, easy and very useful for SM purposes. Stalling the motor is easy to do in dirt sections where a lack or traction allows the rear tire to lock up easier than normal.
With an emphasis on the Unlimited class in American supermoto racing, Husaberg offered only the 650cc machine in 2006. For’07 the company has created the new street-legal FS550e based on the existing enduro machine. Only the street-legal versions of both the 550 and 650 will be imported this year, though Husaberg is making an FS650c competition model overseas. Since having one of these bikes and not being able to ride it around town would be a crime, we weren’t even disappointed that 550c models aren’t available at all this year. The only difference between a FSe and FSc models are the inclusion of a headlight, taillight and plate holder, kickstand and more street-oriented Michelin Pilot Sport tires, which add up to a claimed 4.4-lb difference. According to the spec sheet, our 550e has a claimed dry weight of 247 lbs.
All 550 cubic centimeters come from an oversquare, single cylinder with SOHC that boasts a 100mm x 70mm bore and stroke and an 11.8:1 compression ratio. Horsepower and torque figures weren’t available, but the 550e definitely has some stink. Unlike the V-Twin motor we tested on the ’07 Aprilia SXV550, the Berg has a punchier delivery. For those of you looking for a smooth, easy lover, the Berg can fulfill that role. Just know that it likes to play rough and isn’t shy about it. Several changes for 2007 ensure that the Berg keeps on playing dirty, such as tighter tolerances on the crankshaft, reinforced crankcase and a single-piece counter-balancer that does a good job at eliminating vibes. All of the 2007 550cc and 650cc engines are fed by the same Keihin FCR 41mm carburetor, including the enduros, FSe and FSc SuMo models.
Did I even bother kickstarting it? Hell no. The electric unit was plenty sufficient to keep me from attempting a lame, left-footed stab. The only aluminum I bothered to fondle with my left toe was the forged shift lever. Combined with a Magura hydraulic clutch, the two components make shifting the 6-speed transmission a pleasure. Even on our barely-broken in bike, I never missed a shift whether it be a late-corner pounding or rabid straight-away short shifting, not once did I find false neutral.
None of the straights on our local track were long enough to really test the high-speed stability on the Berg, but the tight configuration brought out strong, confident handling attributes throughout the circuit’s rough, twisty layout.
Extra attention has been paid to the bike’s handling characteristics. A CNC-machined adjustable-offset tripleclamp holds a 48mm WP fork with Husaberg’s supermoto internal specs. Spacers on the stiffer springs shorten the fork travel by 0.79 inch compared to the enduro model. Like the new KTMs, the 550e is adorned with a 12mm aluminum piston rod instead of last year’s 2mm-larger steel version, giving the new WP fork less weight and has reduced friction.
Where there was once plenty of yellow to be found on a Husaberg, the remaining spark on the 2007 FSe is quickly spotted at the gleaming yellow shock spring. The fully-adjustable 50mm rear shock also offers less travel than the enduro machine, this time 1.26 inches less, to 11.34. The linkageless shock kept things in check very nicely with only a small amount of rear-end chatter. Where skipping into a corner was often the primary sensation while riding the Aprilia SXV machines at Oakland Valley Race Park, riding the Husaberg a month later left me noticing how little the 4.25-inch rim was hopping on deceleration.
Our short ride indicated the fork is adept at handling varying course obstacles. Uneven pavement was readily available, but the front end stayed well-planted at all times, and front end dive was minimal. Our meager attempts at jumping tabletops on a set of 17-inch street meats were nothing spectacular; the suspenders’ ability to handle air time was much more impressive.
Not only was the bike stable around the entire track, but tossing it into turns was a simple procedure thanks to a 58.3-inch wheelbase and acute 26.5 degrees of rake. Both figures are identical to the ’06 KTM 560 SMR, which according to the race standings in the AMA Unlimited class, is a very popular and capable machine.
If you plan on riding off into the sunset on one of these babies, you’d better check that bank account of yours twice. European products are notoriously expensive and the Husaberg is no exception.
Wave rotors front and rear add to the visual appeal of the bike but are more than simple eye candy. The 310mm front disc is at the mercy of a powerful, four-piston radial-mounted FTE caliper. An oversized master cylinder and brake lever and the steel-braided line provide consistent, strong braking that slows things down in hurry. Out back, the 220mm rotor is handled by a single-piston caliper. Both reservoirs are made by Brembo. Overall, the machine stays predictable under hard braking and I was constantly rediscovering how deeply I could enter corners with the brawny binders.
Supermoto riders apparently have a much larger bank account that off-roaders; they’ll have to in order to afford the astronomical price tag. If you thought the $8,699 MSRP for Aprilia’s fuel-injected V-Twin was spendy, try out Husaberg’s asking price of $9,090. Whether or not you get a lot of bang for your buck, it makes KTM’s ’06 price for the 560 SMR a steal at $7,998. Regardless, it’ll only hurt until you get to the track. Hell, just the ride there will start to dull the pain of your wallet’s disembowelment.
The Unlimited class remains a very popular division in supermoto thanks to the eye-watering speeds and wheelie-poppin’ grunt of big-bore machinery. Husaberg riders will rejoice at the new 550cc offering in 2007. Though the 650 is no slouch, it does have more of a traditional, lower-rpm power delivery. Now riders have the Swedish option of quick-revving, modern 4-stroke equipment to assault the tracks and neighborhoods across America.
Our quick ride barely allowed us to get acquainted with the FS550e, but it was more than enough to ensure the Midnight Rider loiters nearby in the shadows of our wandering minds.
Supermoto is blowing up and sooner or later it’s going to get to each and every one of you. Tell us what you think about this particular SuMo affliction in the forum.