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2021 Husqvarna FC 450 | First Test!

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In spite of the COVID-19 pandemic, new dirt bikes continue to roll off the production line on schedule and that’s a good thing because off-road vehicle sales are off the charts this year! Anxious to get outside and be active, consumers are buying up recreational vehicles at a record rate since the quarantine started. Last week we took delivery of our first 2021 motorcycle and this week that trend continued with a pair of 2021 Husqvarnas! We’ll start with the FC 450 as it is the most popular bike in Husky’s motocross lineup. 

CLICK HERE to read about and watch our video that details all of the changes. 

Though only the suspension was changed for 2021 the FC 450 is impressive and will be a contender for Bike of the Year honors, no doubt. Rene Garcia gives her a flick at Glen Helen.

We met Husqvarna’s Andy Jefferson and Anthony daGraca at Glen Helen Raceway this morning to put the new FC 450 through its paces for the first time. SML test riders Rene Garcia and Connor Ericsson. Because the engine is unchanged for 2021 we had a good idea of what to expect from the FC powerplant, and we were not disappointed. The FC 450 produces a ton of broad, usable power in map 1 that is most effective when ridden in the meat of the powerband at lower rpm. Overrevving the FC produces violent results that will wear you out in a hurry, so it’s best to keep shifting and chugging along. The map 2 setting produces a more exciting powerband that makes things happen in a hurry, and both Rene and Conner preferred it over the smoother map 1 option. Map 2 has a freer-revving feeling than map 1 and pulls further up top. As for the traction control, we’ve always had testers who love it and testers who hate it…it’s there is that’s your cup of tea.

Connor Ericsson loves the feel of the Husky’s steel frame and felt right at home on the new machine.

The big news for 2021 is the new WP suspension that has been lowered for better handling and cornering characteristics, thanks to the lower center of gravity it yields. In addition to being updated internally to produce the 10mm shorter results, both ends have been firmed up in comparison to last year’s “comfort” settings. Suspension action is much improved over 2020, and both testers agreed that the bike has gotten away from the wallowy feel it had last year. Instead, the bike has a well-balanced feel that is much calmer and controlled. Small bump compliance remains acceptable in spite of the firmer settings, but the fork has much more mid-stroke control before reaching the excellent end-of-stroke bottoming resistance. 

Glen Helen is known for its treacherous downhills, and the FC 450 stayed straight and in control all day long. Under heavy braking the fork will use all of its travel, but a bottoming sensation is never felt.

The FC 450 corners as amazingly well as it always has, as it enjoys a well-balanced weight distribution that allows it to claw for traction with both wheels. While the Husky does have a big feel at times thanks to its power characteristic, it never feels large when tipping into corners as it leans over with ease and changes directions as directed by the rider. Does the new lower suspension allow the bike to corner better than it did last year? We want to say yes, but since we tested the FC 350 concurrently it was hard to draw a definitive conclusion because the engine character of the smaller, freer-revving 350cc engine allows the bike to corner better than any full-sized 450. Was there a drawback to the 10mm less travel or 10mm less ground clearance? Absolutely not. Neither of our testers noticed a greater tendency to bottom out or drag the engine cradles in the dirt. We will report back on the handling of this machine once we have more time on it. Stay tuned!

The Husqvarna FC 450 tips into corners effortlessly and remains planted throughout.

As for the rest of the bike, it delivered the typical superb performance that we’ve come to expect from the Austrian machines: the brakes are strong with great feel, the hydraulic clutch is flawless, and the Pro Taper bars and ODI Lock-On Grips offer an unbeatable control panel. 

In the upcoming weeks we will continue to log more time on the new FC 450 and experiment with more settings and even some aftermarket parts. Stay tuned for more! In the meantime, yes, the 2021 FC 450 is a much-improved machine and out-performs the bike it replaces on the showroom floor.

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Donn Maeda

Donn Maeda is a 30-year veteran in moto-journalism, having worked at Cycle News and Dirt Rider before launching MXracer Magazine and TransWorld Motocross Magazine. Maeda is the Editor-In-Chief at Swapmoto Live and you can catch him on a dirt bike or in the saddle of a mountain bike on most days.

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