MotoOnline.com.au tests the 2020 Husqvarna FE 250, FE 350, FE 450 and FE 501.
Words: Guy Streeter
Husqvarna Motorcycles recently hosted its international media launch for the 2020 FE and TE range in Jamsa, Finland, which marks a new generation in for the enduro line-up. MotoOnline.com.au were invited to the press gathering, where we were able to sample the entire fleet of MY20 models.
Where we rode:
The international media launch was held at Jamsa, about four hours north of Helsinki, Finland. We were treated to some of the best trails and conditions that you could hope for at the Jamsa off-road motorcycle complex – a motocross track which backed on to some impressive off-road trails. The facility boasted some really enjoyable single track over a variety of different conditions, including technical rocky ledges and seriously whooped out trails through the trees, flowing special test sections and enough sandy straights to stretch the legs.
The entire MY20 FE range has been revamped for the new year model, significantly improving on an already outstanding package that was its predecessor. The new generation bikes are built with 60-percent brand-new componentry, with the 2020 range receiving further developments that not only improve handling and increase performance, but also strengthens the line ups rideability. Husqvarna has further engineered the chassis and suspension, while also making gains with the FE engine package. The bikes sit 20mm lower than the previous generation, due to the chassis, seat and subframe design, along with the new linkage in the new WP Xact shock has lowered the overall seat height. WP has continued with the development of the XACT shock with a new main piston setting, and linkage has also undergone an update. The WP XPLOR fork receives an updated mid-valve piston and setting. New exhaust systems have added both performance and durability to the range, and Husqvarna has improved the cooling of the engines. The FE engines not only have progressed with more power, but the delivery has also been enhanced to offer better traction and more usable power. As we have come to expect from Husqvarna, we continue to see a list of high quality components, such as DDS (dampered diaphragm steel) Magura hydraulic clutch, Magura brakes, Pro Taper handle bars, composite carbon fibre subframe, CNC machined triple clamps, tool-less air filter access, nine-litre fuel tank with quick release cap, black alloy high strength DID rims, ODI lock on grips and electric starter with compact Li-ion battery.
Husqvarna has stayed true to the previous generation’s chrome-moly steel frame geometries, however for MY20, the chassis been improved with increased longitudinal and torsional stiffness to boost rider feedback and allow the frame to work better with the suspension, offering better energy absorption and producing greater stability. The FE 250 tipped into ruts really easy, even if you overcooked the corner entry speed a little. The motor and chassis on the FE 250 was really forgiving, and the precise feel – especially in the tight sections of the trail – really made it easy to feel comfortable and push the bike to its limits. The changes made to the frame, suspension and ergonomics were positively evident in the FE 350 – having a particular liking to the engine capacity, that chassis came into its own out on the trail, and just like it’s 250 counterpart, it excelled in the tighter terrain. Both the FE 450 and the FE 501 share a great feel over the previous generation, which is more precise and easier to negotiate narrow conditions. Typically the big-bore bikes aren’t as nimble in the turns and trails, and the same is true for the 2020 range, however there was noticeable improvement that came from the chassis that delivered a sense of confidence to do so. The more predictable feel to the suspension and chassis was evident on the faster sandier straights, confidence in the way the bike would handle made it easier to twist the throttle further and further with each lap. At the front end of the motorcycle, WP has updated the XPLOR 48mm spring fork with split rebound and damping functions. 30 clicks of adjustment and three-way preload adjustment at the top of each fork leg which can be tuned without the use of tools. The pre-load adjustment settings have been updated from the previous offering which has resulted in better performance. Out back, WP has worked on the XACT shock to match the adjustments made up front, additionally using a new linkage the result has lowered the rear end of the bike. The new shock receives a new piston and setting, new linkage progression, new pressure balance and a total of 300mm of rear wheel travel. Overall the suspension and chassis package is an improvement over the previous model, and after first impressions, it gives the bike a more planted feel, which is particularly noted in the fast sandy conditions as well as feeling a little more predictable in choppy whooped out parts of the trail.
The entire range of FE four-stroke models have received updates to the engine packages for MY20. The FE250 is always a really enjoyable bike to ride, and the motor is a stand out in the class and offers some serious punch for the quarter-litre contender. Switching between maps on this bike didn’t really come into play too much, as the conditions didn’t really require it – it was more about selecting the aggressive map and giving it hell in the sand. I’m sure in the slippery conditions, traction control would be an ideal tool to use. The FE250 for me feels great as far as power and delivery goes, but it does require you to work harder as a rider to maximise what it has on offer. The FE 350 motor for me is the easiest to adapt to and the most enjoyable, I feel like I can ride it faster for far longer, which is a plus in anyone’s books! The motor is really smooth and controllable with enough power to get moving when you start riding more aggressive, yet it can be lugged in a higher gear a little more like a 450 which you can’t really do on the FE 250. It’s easy to see why the 350 is such a popular bike for trail riders with a power range that is quite versatile. Bring in the mapping switch and traction control, and you can really adapt the power of the bike perfectly for any given condition or rider ability. The FE 450 has some grunt and there is no question about that. The key standout for 2020 is the delivery of the power – it’s still snappy but seems a little more smoother that the previous generation. On the straights and fast flowing corners, there’s an abundance of power on tap, but change to the smoother map and you can really control the power through the trees and be a little more precise with the reduction in power off the bottom. It really changes the characteristics of the bike in tighter conditions – using the mellow option allowed you to ride the bike for longer at a faster pace than on the more aggressive map. The FE 501 has changed a fair bit in the motor department, most notably in the tight conditions where the bike doesn’t seem to stall as easy as it did on the previous generation, thanks to the EMS. There is no doubt that lugging this bike in a gear or two higher the bike performs much better in between the trees and on slow trickier sections, so much so at times you hardly change gears and it almost feels like an auto. This motor really does belong on the open trail and the amount of power is impressive to say the least. On the majority of the trail rides you will probably benefit from riding in the smooth map, but when you know you have a straight or fire trail coming up, make sure its in the more aggressive mode you wont stop smiling with amount of horsepower you have at the throttle.
Its a tough ask to narrow down a particular standout in the range, for many reasons I might add. They all perform differently depending on the motor displacement, and they all perform outstandingly in their own category. It all comes down to what type of terrain you are predominantly riding. We had a wide range of terrain to deal with and each of the bikes shone in different parts of the trails – the 250 and 350 obviously really stood out in the tighter sections, from feeling light and nimble through the trees, the power of the FE 350 really pulls well on the faster parts of the trail and doesn’t lack the torque and power down low. Having said that, the FE3 50 is stand out for me, although I also enjoyed the FE5 01 for so many other reasons – being able to lug the big bore monster through the tighter trails in a gear – and sometimes two – higher was just as enjoyable and didn’t feel that much slower than the slightly more nimble 350 or 250. The overall confidence you get from the ergonomics, chassis and suspension was also a stand out for me. The bikes feel narrower between the legs and being 20mm lower than the previous generation, you feel more in control of the bike. The predictability when you are riding in the sandier sections that tend to push the bike in different directions or when you are in tighter sections with logs and rocks was a real highlight where I really felt more in control of the bike.
Engine type: Four-stroke, single cylinder
Capacity: 249.9cc, 349.7cc,449.9cc, 510.9cc
Bore/stroke: 78m x 52.3mm, 88mm x 57.5mm, 95mm x 63.4mm, 95mm x 72mm
Seat height: 950mm
Weight: 105.5kg, 106.8kg, 108.3kg, 108.3kgs (dry)
Fuel capacity: 9l
More information: www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com/au