Automorbit, Motorcycle – In late May 2018, Husqvarna introduced its 2019 model motocross bikes, which have served as the basis for the brand’s latest generation dirt bikes. Some of the most notable changes shared across the entire full-size motocross and cross-country lineup for MY19 included a stiffer frame, two-piece subframe, more rigid upper triple clamp, new bodywork, and updated suspension settings across the lineup.
In the past two years, the Austrian brand has made calculated refinements to its motocross models to bring about a suppler feel from the suspension to better match with the stiffer chassis, and went one step further in modifying the WP components for 2021 in order to enhance the bike’s handling. Husqvarna invited us to test its flagship motocrosser at a track of our choosing. We headed to Glen Helen Raceway in San Bernardino, California, to get acquainted with the FC 450 and came away impressed with the improvements Husqvarna made to it for MY21.
2021 Husqvarna FC 450 Engine
There are no mechanical updates on the FC 450 engine for 2021. Although the bike’s EFI mapping has been changed to what came standard on the 2020 FC 450 Rockstar Edition. In stock form, I’d say the FC 450 has the easiest to control engine of all the 450 motocross bikes.
I enjoyed the more linear and smooth roll-on power of map 2. Map 1 was a lighter feeling and more free revving, whereas map 2 had a little more meat; it was better in the deeper dirt and you could lug it a little more in slippery sections. Adding in the traction control (TC) option helped me focus on better cornering technique and not worry about modulating the throttle.
If you are looking to liven the engine up a little, the optional ventilated airbox cover helps with overall throttle response and power. While the FC 450 features the smoothest, most linear powerband in the class, I would not call it slow. The bike always offers more power than the average rider can handle.
Third and fourth gear seem to be the most usable gears on the FC 450. Second is great for tighter corners where you lose a lot of momentum. Allowing the engine to rev higher than you might expect can reduce some shifting on shorter straights. On a faster course like Glen Helen’s main track, I used fourth gear several times because I felt it required less of my energy to control.
I had no issues with the Magura hydraulic clutch. It worked well with a consistent feel. The engine’s smooth powerband also minimizes the amount of required clutch input. It’s a softer-feeling lever. For my preference, a 10 percent more positive feel would be better.
2021 Husqvarna FC 450 Suspension & Chassis/Handling
This is the third year of the current generation Husqvarna chassis and it has come a long way. For 2021, the chassis is 10mm lower via the suspension, which was achieved by shortening the fork tubes and the cartridge inside the fork, as well as revising the shock linkage. There is a new mid-valve damping system in the fork to improve performance and rigidity. Also, a new air bleed system is designed to help with comfort and pressure buildup throughout the fork stroke.
The shock has a different seal head to reduce friction and a new bump stop to keep the rear wheel from rubbing on the underside of the rear fender. The lowering of 10mm in the rear was mainly achieved via the linkage. A longer pullrod along with a new bell crank keeps the rising rate the same as it was last year. Husqvarna also added new low-friction seals throughout the linkage to help make everything operate more smoothly.
I made some adjustments to the suspension, but by no means felt like this would be a final setting. After a few hours of riding, I set the fork compression to 6 (12 stock), the rebound to 10 (12 stock), the air to 11.0 bar (10.7 stock), and set the fork height to the first line (the second line being stock). The shock was set at 105mm sag, the low-speed compression at 12 (stock), the high-speed compression at 1-3/4 (2 stock), and the rebound at 10 (12 stock).
The chassis being lowered by 10mm makes a huge difference in the overall handling of the bike. It turns better and seems to be a little easier to hang onto. The suspension settings are still a touch on the soft side, but not too far off that I was not able to get it noticeably more comfortable with some adjustments. For a lighter rider less than 165 pounds, it’s probably very close to perfect in stock trim.
One thing that should be understood is that the rider triangle has not changed; it’s the overall bike that is lower to the ground—not just a lower seat. When riding the new FC 450, you feel lower to the ground—more like a Yamaha, but without the sensation of sitting in a pocket. The handlebar, levers, and grips are all great. The stock ODI lock-on grips offer slightly more feedback, but the convenience factor makes them totally worth it.
How Does The 2021 Husqvarna FC 450 Ride?
The 2021 Husqvarna feels like a whole new bike. One of my biggest complaints from the prior two years, the rigidity, seems to have almost disappeared. Husqvarna made a conscious effort to build a bike for more of an intermediate or vet rider, and this is easily the best setting they have had in the past couple years. It seems like 95 percent of the harshness in your hands is gone, while at the same time they have retained performance in the suspension. Add in the smooth powerband and you have a bike that is enjoyable to ride and won’t fatigue you as quickly as a Honda or Yamaha.