2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S Test

2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S Review | Race-Based Dual Sport
2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S

While many people think of dual-sport bikes as tame dirt bikes that work quite ably on the street as convenient commuters, there is a niche of riders who prefer an off-road race bike with just enough DOT accoutrements to make it legal on the street.

The 2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S is aimed squarely at those who want the ultimate in dirt performance and have little interest in the pavement, other than a means to tie trail systems together.

Husqvarna has given the FE501S all the high-end parts found on the off-road-only non-S version, including the KTM-derived 510cc SOHC motor plus WP suspension (4CS four-chamber fork, and linkage-assisted Dual Compression Control shock).

Given that the S is not a race bike, the motor has been tuned for increased low-end power and the suspension softened up a bit (though the adjusters are tool-free for nearly on-the-fly adjustment).

Without any question, these are premium components that serve the 2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S superbly out on the trail. The suspension, while softened up from racing specs, is still valved and sprung for spirited riding. While I didn’t skip whoops out on the trails, the bike is happy to jump between them without bottoming.

The 501 is able to work its way through technical rocky single-track confidently. The compliant suspension prevents hits from spiking my arms at speed, yet maintains a proper ride height without diving or wallowing. Riding at just less than race pace, it feels perfect.

With gobs of torque, the motor gives you an incredible amount of confidence on the trail. The power is there right off idle, and flawless fueling from the Keihin EFI means power is delivered when you need it, without a hint of hesitation, which is an impressive feat for a big single with a 95mm bore and 72mm stroke.

It is a good thing that the motor is so flexible, because the stock gearing is impossibly high—a common quick fix for passing sound test requirements. First gear is good for over 30 mph when you hit the rev limiter, while third gear (of six!) will take you over 70 mph. Now, this might not sound like high gearing to your typical street rider, but it is stratospheric for the dirt.

Because of the abundant torque, this isn’t a problem most of the time on the trail. Essentially, the 2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S becomes a one-speed bike, and you don’t even have to use the clutch all that much, the motor is that tractable and has a powerband a mile wide. The problem comes on steep, technical downhills that require you keep your speed down.

With gearing that high, there is very little compression braking at speeds below 15 mph, and you get the feeling that the bike is freewheeling. That means it is all on the Brembo brakes, which are excellent, but no substitution for the action of engine braking. Fortunately, this is fixed by going down a tooth on the countershaft and up five teeth in the rear, which drops the gearing to enduro spec.

Husqvarna’s first dual sport bike of the KTM-ownership era is absolutely fantastic. Pick the gearing combination that works for the types of trails and roads you ride, tune the suspension accordingly, and the 2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S will quickly take you anywhere you want to go.

2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S Review Riding Style

  • Helmet: Fly Racing F2 Carbon Acetylene
  • Googles: Oakley Troy Lee Signature Series Airbrake MX
  • Jacket: Fly Racing Patrol
  • Gloves: Fly Racing 907 Cold Weather
  • Pants: Fly Racing Evolution 2.0 Spike
  • Boots: Fly Racing Maverik MX F4

Story from Ultimate MotorCycling magazine; for subscription services, click here.