4th Place Of The 2019 450 MX Shootout: Husqvarna FC 450
Husqvarna gave us a preview of the 2019 FC 450 last December with its 2018 FC 450 Rockstar Edition, which had improvements to the engine, suspension, and chassis. These changes added up to a freer-revving, better suspended, and quicker-handling bike for 2019. Although certainly an improvement over the standard 2018 model, like its distant relative the KTM 450 SX-F, the FC 450 has a mellow bottom-end power delivery that could be improved to give the bike a livelier feel on the track. Our testers praised the Husqvarna for its cornering ability, stability, and high-quality components.
The FC 450 engine sees several updates including a more compact cylinder head that is 15mm shorter and 500 grams lighter, a new camshaft, a Dampened Diaphragm Steel (DDS) clutch, a Pankl transmission, a redesigned exhaust system, and updated traction control and launch control settings.
We mounted a Dunlop D404 street tire on the rear wheel and ran the FC 450 on our in-house Dynojet dynamometer, where it churned out 51.46 hp at 9,430 rpm and 33.07 pound-feet of torque at 6,880 rpm. With those numbers, the Husqvarna ranks third among the six bikes in both the horsepower and torque categories. 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 engine has a smooth power delivery that is deceivingly good, but the lack of a bottom-end hit makes the bike feel heavier than it really is despite being the second lightest motorcycle in the class at a 236-pound wet weight. This also makes it more difficult to ride in the lower rpm. Plus, there’s a noticeable amount of vibration down low which dissipates at about a quarter throttle. The power comes on strong in the midrange, and the engine has excellent top-end. The over-rev is fantastic, and you can resist the urge to upshift because it keeps on pulling.
The Husqvarna has two maps that can be changed via a switch on the left side of the handlebar. It also has traction control, which can be used in either map. Map 1 offers slightly more bottom-end power while map 2 delivers more top-end and over-rev along with improved torque feel from the midrange to the top-end. Traction control mellows out the power delivery, and we found it worked best on map 2.
The FC 450 is equipped with a WP AER 48 air fork and WP shock, and Husqvarna updated the components to match the new chassis for 2019. Both the fork and shock get new new damping settings and the latter features an updated main piston.
The fork offers lots of adjustability with air pressure, compression, and rebound. It has a plush feel throughout the stroke but is bouncy on hard impacts. Slowing down the rebound fixes this, and it also helped the front end track better during braking bumps and cornering. In comparison to the fork, fewer changes were made to the shock to get test riders dialed in, with only a couple of testers opting for a few clicks in on the rebound and high-speed compression. Overall, the WP suspension on the Husqvarna is good and continues to improve from year to year. However, the AER 48 fork doesn’t offer the same amount of performance or comfort that the coil-spring units on the Kawasaki or Yamaha do in stock form. Fortunately, it’s the most adjustable, and with some time and testing, it can get fairly close.
The 2019 FC 450 has a stiffer blue frame, a two-piece composite carbon-fiber subframe, a more rigid upper triple clamp, an updated swingarm, new bodywork, and a ProTaper handlebar that has a different bend. The Husqvarna is one of the best-handling bikes in the class. It’s very neutral, balanced, corners well, and has good stability. The increased rigidity allows it to change direction quicker than the previous year model, yet it remains stable in a straight line.
The FC 450 is easy to move around on with its open cockpit area and flat, grippy seat. The rider triangle of the seat, handlebar, and footpegs is very comfortable, too. The ProTaper handlebar has an agreeable bend and offers more flex than the Neken bar on the KTM. Like the orange bike, the Husqvarna has the strongest brakes in the class with the Brembo components in the front and rear. The two also share the fantastic ODI lock-on grips.
It has a neutral-handling chassis, comfortable ergonomics, the strongest brakes, and a hydraulic clutch.
Why It Didn’t Win
The mellow bottom-end and ultra-smooth power delivery lacks excitement and makes the bike feel heavier than it really is. Also, the stock suspension doesn’t match the comfort or performance of the Kawasaki and Yamaha.