Bikes 19 Sep 2019

Tested: 2020 Husqvarna FE and TE range

MotoOnline.com.au reviews the entire line-up of new Husqvarna enduro models.

Words: Guy Streeter

After attending the 2020 Husqvarna FE and TE international media launch in Finland, MotoOnline.com.au was recently invited to the Husqvarna Motorcycles Australia’s media trail ride, where we had the opportunity to test out the entire fleet again in local conditions in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.

We were fortunate to have Husqvarna Motorcycles Australia’s CEO and motocross legend Jeff Leisk along for the trail ride, which was headed up by Glenn Kearney as our tour guide, who led us through a variety of conditions. At most launches we attend, it’s very rare to be able to test the previous generation model back-to-back with the new generation to really get an idea on what and how the new range has been improved, if at all.

On this occasion, Husqvarna provided a couple of 2019 models for that reason alone – and it was interesting to say the least. The ride started from a small property near Berrima, where we headed out along some open fire trails to warm up into the day. We spent some time on a sandy grass track and moved onto some single trail, before tackling some steep technical climbs with loose rock and descents.

Image: Foremost Media.

The 2020 Husqvarna enduro range has been redesigned from the ground up, with the specific intention to create a collection of off-road motorcycles that are lighter, faster and easier to ride. It seems to be a constant theme that Husqvarna is forever chasing, and it’s good to see they are constantly delivering.

The bodywork and ergonomics have been updated, reducing weight and also giving a better feel to the cockpit, along with a new two-piece, lighter sub-frame design that has lowered the seat height by 10mm. As a result, the bikes have a slimmer feel, especially at the mid to rear sections of the motorcycle with the new side number plates being symmetrical.

Further refinements to the suspension linkage have lowered the seat height a further 10mm, giving the overall seat height 950mm. At the front, the forks have been updated with WP Xplor 48mm, while the rear now boasts an Xtrax shock. Both the forks and shock have been set-up to compliment the revised chassis, which has adjusted longitudinal stiffness.

Improvements have been made to the engine performance, with enhanced throttle response and power delivery being brought about via a number of upgrades to the throttle body and Keihin engine management system – combined, these updates make the engine more efficient as well as offering a boost in power.

Image: Foremost Media.

A new exhaust is now featured across the board for both two and four-stroke models, while a new airbox design has improved airflow to the motor for greater power. The cooling system has also been revised and lowered to centralise the bikes’ mass.

More specific to the TE range, the software and electronics package has brought better control from ambient air pressure, throttle valve position, water temperature, exhaust temperature and optimising the ignition timing and amount of fuel to the inject at all altitudes and conditions – which is obviously very complex with the endless variations that could possibly happen.

As we’ve come to expect from Husqvarna, the range is fitted with a list of high-quality components, such as DDS (dampered diaphragm steel) Magura hydraulic clutch, Magura brakes, Pro Taper handlebars, 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.

Image: Foremost Media.

Notable parts on the FE and TE range are the mapping and traction control switches and pre-load adjusters on the WP 48mm Xplor forks, which come standard. The ability to change maps on the fly is not a new feature, as Husqvarna has been utilising this on previous generations, however, the traction control is a really impressive function – especially on the FE 450 and FE 501, where you really notice the benefits on slick conditions or even on rocky climbs.

As mentioned, we were fortunate enough to be able to test the 2019 TE 250 back-to-back with the 2020 TE 250, as well as the 2019 FE 501 against the 2020 FE 501. While most of the time don’t get to match year models back-to-back, this time we were able to do just that and get a good gauge on what the benefits of the new model are.

For me, the big changes were in the ergonomics of the new 2020 model. Going back and forth, the 2020 model made you feel a little lower in the cockpit and more a part of the bike, rather than sitting on top of the motorcycle like the 2019 model felt.

Image: Foremost Media.

The 20mm height difference in the seat height felt most noticeable in the corners – the 2020 bike was more stable and it didn’t make your body feel like it was getting pushed forward – I just felt more stable on the bike and in greater control.

The FE range has four offerings: FE 250 ($13,995), FE 350 ($14,995), FE 450 ($15,395) and the FE 501 ($15,895). With so many options, it’s easy to get lost on which bike is for you. It comes down to the type of riding you typically do, and your riding style. There honestly isn’t a bad bike in the bunch – each bike is a standout in its own right, you just need to narrow down what is going to serve you best.

When it comes down to it and what I would part with my hard-earned cash wit,h there are two of the four that standout to me for different reasons – the FE 350 and FE 501. The FE 350 does everything you could ask from an enduro bike – it feels racey, it’s lightweight and handles like it’s on rails – it’s the complete package.

Image: Foremost Media.

However, there is something about the FE 501 – it’s like riding an auto, there was what seemed like a 20-30 minute period of riding the bike over a wide range of terrains where I feel I didn’t shift up or down from third gear – single trail, steep climbs – you name it, the bike seems to do just fine without too much rider input.

The FE 501 has that much torque it just lugs around happily, then the moment the trail opens up or you hit the fire trail, twist the throttle and your eyes get bigger and things start to feel like they’re jumping at you.

The only area I feel the FE 501 lacks would be in the handling department – the inertia the motor produces makes the bike a little harder to corner and the added weight as well, but what you lose in handling, you make up in spades with power. One area which was noted in particular is how the FE 501 managed slower speeds and lower RPMs – the 2020 doesn’t tend to stall, thanks to the updated engine management system.

Image: Foremost Media.

The FE 250 is a weapon, and for a 250cc four-stroke, you can’t want anything else – it handles exceptionally and is a really fun bike to ride, especially on the tighter trails or grass tracks you will really find the bikes strong points. Following on from that, the FE 450 is a standout as a trail bike. Finding fault in the bike like this is hard to do and personal preference is the only way you will be able to make a decision.

For me, the FE 501 suits the way I like to ride and I’m a typically lazy type of rider – the less I have to move my throttle hand to get the same outcome is a good thing for me. There is not a bad bike in this line-up – you really need to know what type of riding you typically do or what size displacement really works best for you and run with that – the 2020 Husqvarna FE range won’t disappoint.

2020 marks the first time Husqvarna has only offered fuel-injected two-strokes in its range of enduro motorcycles. They’ve taken the lessons learned in the previous generation and have perfected the technology. Also new for 2020 is the inclusion of the TE 150i ($12,329) model, alongside the popular TE 250i ($13,995) and TE 300i ($15,395) offerings.

Image: Foremost Media.

Fuel injection in the TE range has brought a host of benefits and improvements to riding a two-stroke enduro bike. The engine is now far more efficient and the power is so much smoother and usable right off the bottom of the RPM range. Jetting is clean and there is no need to jet for different conditions from sea level to mountain riding – you are good to go.

Throwing a leg over the TE 300i, it’s easy to see why the 300 two-stroke is such a sought after platform. The TE 300i is light, nimble and has plenty of power everywhere. It ticks the box for me being able to be a little lazier on this bike and lug the engine around, while still having plenty of up and go at a moments notice. Out of the three options from Husqvarna, this is by far my favourite and a bike I always look forward to riding.

Next up for me was the TE 150i, which felt like a mountain bike on steroids. For a 150cc two-stroke, I was a little surprised how the torque felt right off the bottom and didn’t feel like you needed as much throttle to get moving. This bike was such a fun bike to ride through the single trail, more so the open flowing trail rather than the slower and tighter trails.

Image: Foremost Media.

It really felt like a mountain bike, but where I would run into trouble was on the blind corners or the unexpected obstacles on the trail that I didn’t have that power on tap to get me out of trouble. As good as the bike is, it;s important to ride the bike the way the motor needs to be ridden, and for me, I just don’t like trying to twist the throttle tube off the handlebars. Having said that, on the open fire trail, nothing sounds better than a 150cc two-stroke on the pipe.

The TE 250i for me feels more like a motocross bike – it likes to be revved and handles exceptionally, turns when and where you want it, has plenty of power and was a real pleasure on the grass track.

But, on the trail I would constantly find myself between gears and felt when you were in the right gear the rear wheel would spin up really easy – changing the mapping switch to the milder map was a big benefit in this regard.

Image: Foremost Media.

I feel the TE 300i holds a broader spectrum of trail conditions over the TE 250i. If you do more motocross type riding mixed in with trails, then maybe the TE250 would suit you better.

From the entire range, two-stroke and four-stroke, you are not going to be disappointed – and choosing a bike in either TE or FE range is not an easy task. The only assistance we can offer is to base it off what your riding style, what trails or tracks you typically ride and what you have ridden in the past.

Best bet is to try and line up a test day with your local dealer and narrow your choice down. With whatever you come up with you won’t be let down. For more information about the entire range, visit www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com/au.

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