2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Review: Track Tested
Husqvarna could justifiably lay claim among motorcycle manufacturers to being one of the founding fathers of the supermoto movement.
From the big, vibrating 610 of the late ’90s, through various changes of ownership and even country of origin there has always been a supermoto somewhere in their range.
Since the purchase of Husqvarna by KTM in 2013, the historic Swedish brand has gone from strength to strength. The combination of Austrian manufacturing with Swedish design oversight has given us some of the best dirt bikes on the market.
The modern, Austrian-built iteration of the Husqvarna FS 450 track-only supermoto racing motorcycle was introduced for 2015 in very limited numbers for the US market. Like every competition machine, the FS 450 has seen continuous iterative improvements each model year with direct input from their race team.
For 2019 the Husqvarna FS 450 uses the current 2019 Husqvarna FC 450 motocross engine, which received a redesigned cylinder head this year and now puts out a claimed 63 horsepower at the crank.
The exhaust header has a resonance chamber to reduce back pressure on the overrun, allowing faster engine pickup on corner exit.
The frame has changed from grey to blue and has seen minor changes, as have the plastics. Also, there is a lighter carbon-composite subframe. In total, a significant four pounds of weight have been shaved off the previous model, with almost half of the savings coming from a new cylinder head and subframe.
Claimed wet weight is down to 238 pounds with the 1.85-gallon fuel tank filled. The bike comes with high-end black-anodized Alpina tubeless race wheels with Bridgestone R420 racing slicks mounted. The front rim has a 16.5-inch diameter, just like they use in MotoGP.
Sitting in the pits, the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450 has the austere, clean look of a pure competition motorcycle. Nothing has been added that is superfluous to the task of riding fast—no lights, fan, instruments, or ignition key. Even the mounting bracket for the sidestand is absent from the frame.
With a prod of the starter button the lithium-ion battery fires the FS 450 into life and it immediately settles into the smooth idle of a modern fuel injected motorcycle. A blip of the throttle reveals a seriously light flywheel.
Although the FS 450 has had electric start since the rebirth of the model, it is worth reiterating how essential this is on a modern supermoto race bike. Try to kickstart a hot 450 with a near 13:1 compression ratio on a hot day in a leather race suit after dropping it in the dirt section and you’ll likely still be there when the leaders come ‘round to lap you.
Our venue for the day was Adams Motorsports Park in Riverside, Calif. It is a tight and twisty kart track with a good mix of 2nd, 3rd and 4th gear turns.
Out on the track, the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450’s steering initially feels very quick—a combination of the leverage from the wide handlebars, the steep profiled race tires, and the small diameter front wheel. However, once the feel of the bike becomes familiar the steering is right on point, a strong countersteer push on the bar, slamming the bike on its side hard at the turn in point.
The grip from the Bridgestone slicks was impressive and they slid progressively once their limit was reached. The big Brembo M50 Monoblock caliper biting on a 310mm Galfer rotor was extremely powerful, with excellent feedback and lever travel stayed consistent all through the sessions.
Shifting the five-speed box was faultless in both directions. Downshifting two or more gears at once, and then dropping the clutch in the braking zone, resulted in very controlled slide initiation thanks to the Suter slipper clutch. Add a little rear brake to keep the rear tire rolling a little slower than road speed and you can back it in very controllably.
With the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450’s low rotating engine mass and low gearing, acceleration up to the 70-80 mph maximum speeds on the supermoto test track felt like a modern 600cc sport bike. However, the braking and rate of turning of the FS 450 place it in a different league. The FS 450 picks up the front wheel at every corner exit, yet it always feels controllable and drama-free.
The Husky also makes use of the latest KTM race traction-control technology. Without using wheel sensors the ECU compares the rate of change in rpm with predefined maps for each gear ratio. If the system sees the revs rising too fast, it retards the ignition, immediately reducing power.
The traction control system feels unobtrusive until you really snap it open at high lean angles when it felt like it could stop a highside in slippery conditions.
Despite the big peak power, the engine feels very torquey and rideable. If you exit a corner one gear too high, it still pulls cleanly and strongly.
I didn’t have an opportunity to ride in the dirt section, but on the asphalt the suspension at both ends worked well and felt perfectly sprung for my 155-pound weight. Some riders have complained of a lack of small bump compliance in the new WP air fork of the FC 450 motocrosser, but on the smoother asphalt surface of the supermoto track it was not an issue.
The fork dives nicely to load up the front tire on the brakes without ever feeling like you’re going to run out of travel. The linkage rear end gave great traction out of corners and the bike always felt comfortable, even at peg scraping lean angles. Travel at both ends is slightly less than on the FS 450’s motocrossing counterpart.
Though supermoto racing is starting to enjoy a mini revival, it is still a niche sport in the United States with a limited market. However, the serious road racing track day enthusiast might want to consider mothballing that big liter bike for the off-season and spending the time riding foot out instead of knee down.
The experience of backing it in and invoking and controlling slides, all at safer, lower speeds, transfers to every form of street and track riding, not to mention the finesse of riding a slick shod motorcycle in the dirt. A rider can learn more on the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450 ’round a supermoto track in a weekend than in a year on an overpowered superbike on the big tracks and have a lot more fun while doing it.
The 2019 Husqvarna FS 450 is a finely honed and uncompromised factory built race bike that at the same time manages to be docile and user friendly, allowing the rider to concentrate solely on the business of getting faster on the track.
Husqvarna is bringing in only 200 examples of this model to the States this year—more than in previous years—but it remains an exclusive and enticing offering. At an expected MSRP of $10,800, the FS is also a relative bargain.
To purchase this equivalent level of supermoto specific componentry to convert an MX bike can run you around $5000 and you would still be a long way from the engineering expertise and attention to detail that makes the 2019 Husqvarna FS 450 such a dialed package.
2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Specs
- Type: Single-cylinder four-stroke
- Displacement: 450cc
- Bore x stroke: 94 x 63.4mm
- Compression ratio: 12.75:1
- Valvetrain: SOHC; four valves
- Fueling: 44mm Keihin throttle body
- Ignition: Keihin EMS
- Starting: Electric w/ 12V, 2 Ah lithium-ion battery
- Lubrication: Pressurized w/ two pumps
- Transmission: 5-speed Pankl
- Clutch: Suter slipper w/ Brembo hydraulics
- Frame: Central double-cradle chromoly
- Subframe: Carbon composite
- Handlebar: ProTaper, 22-28mm taper
- Front suspension: Fully adjustable inverted WP AER 48 fork; 11 inches
- Rear suspension: Linkage-assisted fully adjustable WP shock; 10.5 inches
- Wheels: Alpina
- Front wheel: 3.50 x 16.5”
- Rear wheel: 5.00 x 17”
- Tires: Bridgestone slicks
- Front tire: 125/80 x 16.5; Bridgestone Battlax Supermoto
- Rear tire: 165/65 x 17; Bridgestone Racing Battlax
- Front brake: 310mm Galfer disc w/ radially mounted Brembo M50 Monoblock caliper
- Rear brake: 220mm disc w/ Brembo caliper
DIMENSIONS and CAPACITIES
- Wheelbase: 58 inches
- Rake: 26.1 degrees
- Triple clamp offset: 16mm
- Seat height: 35 inches
- Ground clearance: 11.4 inches
- Fuel capacity: 1.85 gallons
- Wet weight: 238 pounds
2019 Husqvarna FS 450 Price:
- $10,799 MSRP