Words & Photos by Drew Rohde
I’ve been lucky enough to have tested some of the best (and not so best) mountain bikes for the last eight years. Since my teenage years dirt bikes have come and gone, and I’ve enjoyed riding hand-me-downs and borrowed bikes, but that changed last year when I bought my first new dirt bike. It was a 2018 Husqvarna FE350.
After riding that bike I realized my decade old second-hand bike was the equivalent of some dude showing up to the trails on a 2002 Specialized Big-Hit. Sure, it could be ridden, but holy $hi* have bikes gotten good. I was in love and wanted to ride my moto whenever I could.
Wanting to broaden my horizons, I heard the local Husky shop in Bend, Oregon – Pro Caliber, was putting on a demo day with a few of the new 2019 Husqvarna models. We awoke to snow on the ground, about 3 inches of it, and the disappoint was real. Since the van was packed and we were committed to going, I picked up my riding partner and we headed east to the Four Corners staging area. About 20miles east of Bend in the desert, the snow was fading and eventually turned into chocolate cake! We were even happier to find out, we were the first and only ones there as the snow had deterred a few people. It was time to gear up and get as many laps in as possible.
I’ve never been a huge 2-stroke fan in all honesty. The lack of engine deceleration has always weirded me out and I definitely like to lug motors around rather than rev them out. But I was excited to try out the new injected 250 from Husqvarna. The 249cc bike sports a 6-speed transmission, kick and electric starters and weighs 231.9 pounds. Surprisingly, this is more than both of the 4-strokes I rode!
I was disappointed the new FE350 wasn’t there to try but as it turns out, I was happier to try the FC350 as it was a real eye opener to the power of tuning! Despite having the same displacement as my bike, the FC’s power and suspension would have led me to believe I was on another level of bike! Where the FE is tuned to meet EPA and DOT standards to be street legal and capable on and off road, the FC in unapologetically off road. I had to keep looking down to see if I accidentally grabbed the 450. It is a fast bike with much more power and bite than the FE. The suspension is also quite a bit stiffer, and at 170lbs, would need to be softened up for the type of off road riding I like to do.
The FE350 has an updated radiator grill design to better shed mud, a new lithium-ion battery with more cranking power, WP suspension front and rear and a new, slimmer rear end. Split plastics at the air box area make for a slimmer ride profile, which was noticeable on the bike. Coming in at an impressive 220.3 pounds, the FC350 was light, fun and powerful. Would I trade my FE350 for it? No, because having lights and a plate are mandatory for me. I love being able to ride 8 miles from the garage and hitting trails, linking up riding zones and then grabbing a burrito on the way home. Although I wouldn’t mind some of that FC power! Still amazed at how much more snap this bike has.
The beast of the ball – the FX450 was the bike everyone came back shaking their heads and arms about. It requires a special type of rider or terrain to really shine. With many of the same updates to the bodywork and components, the FX450 is slimmer and more powerful than ever.
Like the FC350, the FX sports Husqvarna’s high tech engine management system and on the fly map adjustments. Traction control, launch control and two engine maps allow the user to tweak the bike for current conditions.
The FX450 is a lot of bike! Most riders who returned to the pits agreed it was more an experience than a desire. Few could justify needing that much power for the riding here in the high desert. With a 350 packing so much power in a snappy, slightly lighter package, it seems that’d be the way to go for lighter riders who aren’t riding flat out across the dunes or track.
The Wolf’s Last Word
While we’re far from experts in the motorcycle world, we’ve developed a sensitive palate over nearly a decade of testing the best mountain bikes available. As it goes with pedal bikes, a 10 mile loop is hardly enough time to make a total assessment of a machine, but it was certainly a fun experience and exactly what we needed to see just how different bikes that seem to be so close can be! With any luck we’ll get a bike for some longer term testing after I finish the long term review of the FE350 I rode around all of 2018.
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