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2021 HUSQVARNA FE350

2021 HUSQVARNA FE350

At last! A chance to revisit Husqvarna’s latest FE enduros. Here at RUST we’ve not found a great deal of love for the new low-boy chassis. But with a new rider, on a new (2021) machine, could we get different results?

Words: Jon Bentman & Nieve Holmes   Images: Jon Bentman

Venue: www.offroadtryout.com

At last we’ve seen and ridden a 2021 Husqvarna – just the one, an FE350. It’s taken this long on account supply has been very difficult given the Coronavirus situation. There was no World or local launch for the same reason, and probably no update to the spec (compared to the 2020 model) again for the same reason.
Equally this is no exhaustive consumer test – apologies there. Husqvarna UK was able to supply the bike (and a man and van) just for the one day. So we’re being honest, this is but a quick spin, with one rider at one location for one day. As they say in ad quick-speak on the radio: ‘individual results may vary’. However, every little morsel of information is of value when you’re considering a purchase, so let’s share some information.

A QUICK TECH BRIEFING

As said, the 2021 model is essentially the 2020 model with a change of graphics. That’s it.

What’s to know about the 2020 model? Well, that was the one where Husky made big changes to the chassis, especially with regards to the back end of the bike where between a subframe redesign, revised linkage and new saddle the seat height reduced from 970 to 950mm – a matter which has changed the handling (and general riding) characteristic of the bike quite markedly. At the time of the launch the Husky bods said this very much benefitted those involved in extreme enduro – which should keep that 0.2% of all enduro riders very happy!

However, we should quickly refresh our minds of the changes:

Chassis:

Ø New frame offering increased longitudinal and torsional rigidity.

Ø New 250g lighter two-piece carbon composite subframe

Ø Updated WP XPLOR fork with new mid-valve piston and setting

Ø Updated WP XACT shock with new main piston and setting

Ø New shock linkage dimension providing reduced seat height and added control

Ø All-new exhaust system for optimal performance and durability – and easier removal (no longer do you have to disassemble the shock and linkage to remove the header…)

Ø New seat that places the rider 10mm closer to the ground – combined with the subframe and linkage revisions this puts the seat a total 20mm lower

Ø Improved cooling circuit with radiators placed 12mm lower

NOTE: While there’s no mention in the spec sheet of any geometry changes, nor changes to the swingarm, yet the 2020 FE350 is shorter as well as lower than the 2019 model. So while seat height dropped from 970 to 950mm the wheelbase shortened up from 1495 to 1487mm. Rake on both spec sheets says 63.5º but we note Warren came back from the 2020 launch in Sweden talking about a 0.7º reduction in rake…?! So we’re not sure quite where lies the truth.

2020 Husqvarna FE350
2021 Husqvarna FE350 – note graphics and subtle colour changes
The new frame and sub-frame – and linkage – made for a lower rear of the bike, seat height dropping by 20mm
The new cylinder head is 200g lighter, while compression ratio has increased from 12.3:1 to 13.5:1

Engine:

Ø A new 200g lighter cylinder head featured improved cooling and an increase in compression ratio from 12.3:1 to 13.5:1. New camshafts featured revised timing

Ø The gearbox was in 2020 newly accredited to PANKL, although the internal ratios remain unchanged

Ø The Keihin EMS (engine management system) was said to be smaller, lighter and faster and offering new map settings

 

2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
Keen observers might be able to detect the lower sub-frame and seat in this image
2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
Perhaps we should shoot all our tests in late autumn...

THE RIDING

So, spec sheet refresh over, let’s look at the riding. For this test we had a new test rider, Nieve Holmes, who without a doubt is far quicker than Craig, Warren and I – but probably would place second to July in the race to the dessert trolley. So without further ado, over to Nieve…

THIS IS NIEVENIEVE HOLMES

I guess I should introduce myself. I’m Nieve Holmes. Just to give you a quick insight into my riding: I currently race a Rieju MR 300 two-stroke. Last year I competed in the FIM European Enduro Championship, where I finished second in the Women’s category on a Sherco 250 four-stroke, switching to a Gas Gas 300 two-stroke for the final round. I’m a keen motocrosser, where over the past two seasons I’ve raced a Husqvarna FC350, and as a youth I did a bit of trials as well.

NICE STYLING

So, the 2021 Husqvarna FE350. Looks? I’ve got to say I do like the new look, the colour scheme is attractive and I like the blue frame. I like the way Husqvarna has modernised the bike without taking away its traditional looks and colour scheme.

SMALL & LIGHT

My first impression of the bike was wow, this is super comfortable, it felt small and light, not heavy and wallowy, like some bigger four-strokes can be. I’ve recently been racing a 300 two-stroke, so I’m used to a bike with a lot of power and I’ve been learning to manage this power by using tall gears, so for me, the FE350 in the woods wasn’t too powerful, it was actually much easier to ride than my 300 two-stroke, which surprised me. I spent a couple of seasons racing a Husqvarna FC350 in motocross, and on the odd occasion I ventured into the woods, I found these bikes are pretty brutal, with lots of arm wrenching and lots of stalling, giving an overall heavy feel, so I was half expecting the FE to be similar, but in reality it was very different.

2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
On the gas – the linear power made this kind of stuff a doddle
2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
Corner carver – the handling was pin-point & turn-in so easy
2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
Air time – weight is unchanged at 106.8kg
2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
Woods weapon – the FE350 is easy to boss through the trees
USEABLE POWER

The 2021 FE350 was super smooth, with very linear, usable power throughout the full range, from bottom to top, and it didn’t stall once. But it has to be said the conditions were perfect, with plenty of grip and no slimy surfaces. I’m pretty sure if it were a lot wetter, the FE350 would have been less easy to control at my weight and size. There’s always a trade off between nimble manageable 250Fs and the much more powerful 350Fs when it comes to the surface and terrain you are riding on, so today with the conditions as they were, I would have been happy and faster on the FE350.

TURNS BEAUTIFULLY

This standard bike, as with all standard bikes, is over sprung for me, which gave me the feeling of it sitting tall in the corners; however this didn’t hamper the way it turned, it still turned beautifully and with great ease, this shows how well balanced the bike is. The 2021 bike has been lowered slightly at the back end, this probably adds to why the bike felt so manageable for me, with me on paper being too light for the bike’s settings.

I really felt the quality of the products this premium bike has to offer. The bike is equipped with Metzeler tyres, providing the feeling of being planted on the track, enabling the confidence to hold your lines and to really use that power the bike has to offer. The Magura hydraulic clutch felt surprisingly light and smooth. The ODI grips, the ProTaper bars – again nice accommodations. The Brembo brakes gave a nice feeling, I needed only to slightly adjust them for personal preference. The bike comes standard with a fan to prevent overheating. There really has been no expense spared when it comes to high spec components.

The bike also features traction control as well as two options on the engine mapping – but in the perfect conditions we had I was quite happy on full power and no traction control. Probably very useful though for those slippery days.

2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
Speed – Nieve hit this bermed corner hard, the FE350 on rails
2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
New dimensions suits smaller riders better?
2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
Are we allowed a little art?
2021 HUSQVARNA FE350
Crack on – the FE took third gear corners well
CLUBMAN PERFECTION?

To round up, in the conditions we had today and out of all the bikes we rode (KTM’s 250 EXC TPi and 250EXC-F were also there), I would go for the FE350. I also feel that sportsman and clubman riders would feel comfortable on this bike due to its manageable power, with expert and above riders benefiting from that extra punch of power the FE350 offers over let’s say the 250Fs. However, in tough conditions ie. bad weather, I feel that this extra power, which is nice today, could be a bit much, and the 250F could then potentially be a better option.

THE WRAP

Sometimes we’re a little too blasé as to just how well-developed these Austrian bikes have become. Fact is KTM and Husky (and now Gas Gas) have benefitted from decades of year-on-year development. All of which has given them ‘out-of-the-box’ instant rideability and a sense they are finely tuned to the needs and wants of the average enduro bike rider – that is to say, the majority.

The new dimensions of the FE350 – smaller, lower – might not suit all (in which case there are the full-height KTM and now Gas Gas options), but they do make the FE350 even more the super-250 that this class originally began as. Equally the latest changes (circa MY2020) have improved the performance, the bikes start instantly on the button, don’t stall as often as four-strokes used to (ie. not at all on this test) while the increased computing power of the latest EMS has refined the engine responses so that the fuelling and the power response feels faultless.

Added to this, the chassis responds extremely well. Nieve was amazed just how well the Husky handled – something she exploited to achieve bar-dragging turns and was able to scythe between the trees with scalpel-like accuracy. Of course with her being lighter than the average male the stock suspension set-up actually worked very well at her highly above-average pace. It would equally work very well for average male going average (clubman) pace. As ever, it’s the top 10% of all riders, those fast-as expert/championship riders who’ll want to get the suspension reworked, firmed up.

If there is a stumbling block – and this is starting to be felt just about everywhere in the dirt bike world – it’s the price. What are the drivers of this price escalation? Is it inflation? The rising costs of materials? Ever increasing homologation regulations? The devaluing pound? It all leads to a hefty price hike. Yep, this 2021 model costs £9249.00 (and some FE models have now breached the £10k mark). That is a lot of money, and while we can see value in the high-end componentry of the Huskies, for sure, for a non-essential luxury item that is a lot of dough… But that issue isn’t exclusive to the Husky, it’s happening everywhere. What are you going to do?

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do feel free to leave a comment on this test. Any thoughts you have on the broader issues – like bike affordability – likewise, we’d like to hear your thoughts. And if you have already bought a 2020/21 FE350 – what’s your feedback? The comments section is there waiting for you, just below the ‘Related Posts’ section!  

RELATED POSTS

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