2016 Husqvarna FE 501 S Dual-Sport Test
Prior to this test of the 2016 Husqvarna FE 501 S street-legal enduro, my last time on a Husky was my sponsorship deal of my Team Dual Dogs Dual Sport Series with the use of a Cagiva-built 2000 TE 610 E for the full year.
The 610 wasn’t the race bike I was expecting, and wasn’t as exciting as the various KTM LC4 dual sport bikes I’d grown to love from my event sponsorships with the Austrian company. The 610’s motor had no punch and the suspension was more suited for street.
So now the Husqvarna name is in the good hands of Pierer Industrie AG, a holding company that also owns a controlling interest in KTM, WP, and Pankl, with the FE 501 S being equipped with matériel from all three companies.
The Husqvarna FE 510 S is no clone of the KTM 500 EXC, however. While it does have a KTM-built 510cc SOHC motor, the Husqvarna has its own frame and suspension. The FE gets WP’s 4CS closed cartridge forks, a linkage-assisted WP Dual Compression Control (DCC) shock (with updated compression damping settings for 2016), and a three-piece polyamide nylon subframe with useful built-in grab handles. As Husqvarna establishes its own identity in the Pierer Industrie AG era, I expect the similarities to diminish, as promised.
Without the typical modifications for better performance most do on their personal machines (especially in California), I left the 2016 Husqvarna FE 501 S stock, including its high street gearing, as it has plenty of tractable torque at any speed. The USFS-legal exhaust is wonderfully quiet, as it is a bike that will likely be ridden in public areas.
As long as you don’t mind the tall gearing (1st is good for over 30 mph), the six-speeds are spaced perfectly and work well with the smooth multi-plate wet clutch (bathed in Bel Ray oil, and three ounces lighter this year) that features Brembo hydraulics. A bike of this displacement is perfect for high-speed fireroading, as well as occasional commuting (even though the wheels with DID DirtStar rims are not balanced and bounce at freeway speeds). I personally chuck the wheel locks, as most of my riding is in dry conditions and skip the balancing.
Seating doesn’t match those found on typical heavier dual sport machines, and I didn’t have anything negative to complain of during my daily use. Ergonomics felt correct and at home. A larger fuel tank may be considered for long treks, but the Keihin fuel injection keeps fuel mileage high.
The FE 510 S tracks straight, but feels light in the front due to a lack of steering damper. For 2016, a bit of weight has been removed from the front wheel by the introduction of a narrower 22mm axle (it replaces last year’s 26mm unit). At high speeds, the WP 4CS forks and DCC shock handle G-outs like the race-bred bike it should. The recalibrated suspension and smaller diameter axle were matched with a new triple clamp that has a 22mm offset to keep the geometry in balance.
While the bike does have the street-legal indicating S at the end of its name, Husqvarna considers it to be part of its competition enduro lineup. Still, to maximize flexibility for dual-sporting riders, the motor has a heavier crankshaft than the off-road only FE 501, and different standard suspension settings.
Out in the dirt, the Husqvarna FE 501 S cuts well at turning and feels nimble, just as you would expect from a dirt bike with lights and a plate, even though this is an open-class machine. If the 510 is too much for you, Honda offers the XR650L, which is relatively mild, and much less expensive.
Brembo braking performance is excellent, and black DID rims complement the FIM- and DOT-legal Michelin Enduro Competition IV tires. The dashboard is clean, and mirrors are the highly rated foldable HDBs on Ram Mount balls. I just wish the Husqvarna FE 510 S included HDB’s handguards.
The street-legal package of lighting works as it should, and the FE 510 S is a beautiful bike with top quality components and yellow/blue graphics that reflect the best of the renowned Husqvarna heritage.
There is just nothing to criticize about the 2016 Husqvarna FE 501 S, and it matches up well with the KTM 500 EXC and Beta 500 RS. Although the open-class racebike-with-lights class may be a small one, the more brands out there, the better!
Location photography by Damon Powell
2016 Husqvarna FE 501 S Specs:
- Design: SOHC single
- Displacement: 510cc
- Bore x stroke: 95 x 72mm
- Compression ration: 11.8:1
- Maximum power: 58 horsepower
- Starting: Electric w/ 4Ah battery
- Transmission: 6-speed
- Clutch: Wet, DDS multi-disc clutch, Brembo hydraulics
- Fuel management: Keihin EMS w/ 42mm throttle body
- Chain: X-ring
- Frame: Chromoly steel central-tube
- Subframe: Cross-linked Polyamide
- Swingarm: Aluminum
- Handlebars: Neken tapered aluminum
- Front suspension: Fully adjustable 48mm inverted WP 4CS closed cartridge forks; 11.8 inches of travel
- Rear suspension: Fully adjustable linkage-assisted WP shock; 13.0 inches of travel
- Brakes Front: 260mm disc w/ 4-piston Brembo calipers
- Brakes Rear: 200mm disc w/ 2-piston Brembo calipers
- Wheels Front: DID; 1.6 x 21”
- Wheels Rear: DID; 2.15 x 18”
- Tires Front: Michelin Enduro Competition IV; 90/90-21”
- Tires Rear: Michelin Enduro Competition IV; 140/80-18”
- Rake: 29.5 degrees
- Wheelbase: 58.3 inches
- Ground clearance: 13.6 inches
- Tank capacity: 2.4 gallons
- Wet weight, no fuel: 250 pounds
2016 Husqvarna FE 501 S MSRP: