If you listened to Monday nights Pulp MX Show then you would of heard how much I enjoy riding the new 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition.
What exactly does it do differently on the track compared to the standard 2018 FC450? Is it worth the extra money? Isn’t that always the question? Is the juice worth the squeeze? After putting over 11 hours on the bike in just over a week I wanted to break down what the differences are on the track. If you want to learn more about the 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition and the changes that it received click on this link to learn all about it: http://pulpmx.com/stories/18-things-about-2018-husky-fc450-rockstar-edition
Engine: The standard 2018 Husqvarna FC450 comes on smooth and builds RPM’s calculated which leads the rider to have maximum rear wheel traction. The Rockstar Edition is not different in that aspect, however with the engine changes Husky made to the “RE” it does have slightly more pulling power down low. The RPM response isn’t better on the RE, but getting out of the corner the 2018.5 machine pulls 2nd and 3rd gear just a tad harder. I still would like to have more RPM response like the Honda and Yamaha have, but what I do get out of this Rockstar Edition engine is a ton of connectivity from my throttle hand to the rear wheel. I can get on the gas so much sooner on this Husqvarna than I can on any Japanese model. My lap times are deceivingly fast because I simply don’t feel like I am charging that hard. When I do lap time comparisons on the Rockstar Edition in comparison to the 2018 FC450 and YZ450F, I am consistently 0.4-0.8 seconds faster a lap on the Rockstar Edition over the course of 15 minutes. What is even more confusing is that I don’t feel faster, but with how much rear wheel traction I have I can see why I am faster around the track on the RE. The Husqvarna engine also lets you pull second gear farther than any other 450cc model available (minus the KTM 450 SX-F). I did change the stock 13/48 gearing to a 14/52. On paper both of these ratios are the same, but the 14/52 gearing helped liven up third gear in corner for me. I could utilize third gear more with better RPM response than the stock gearing. Since I was on the prowl for more throttle response, I tried the smaller black throttle cam. The smaller throttle cam gave me more excitement down on low RPM’s, but it was harder to control through corners and I felt I lost some of that connectivity to the rear wheel some. It is a great option however for you rider that hit sand tracks and softer tilled dirt. The RE’s engine is slightly better than the standard 2018 FC450, but nothing that is life changing.
Chassis: This is where I think most of the improvements between the two Husky’s are felt on the track. The problem with the standard FC450’s chassis is that although super compliant and comfortable on intermediate to hard terrain, once you get on a softer, tackier type track and start to really push, you can feel the frame flex under loads. On east coast dirt the Husqvarna and KTM frames are not as magical as they are on the west coast hard pack dirt. The standard frame is great on square edge, choppy terrain, but if you have a long sweeper with some rolling whoops you can feel the frame flex and then release which gives you a swapping sensation out of the rear end (I can feel this on the west coast as well). It unsettles the rear end and forces the rider to let off the throttle. The new RE feels more planted from the swingarm pivot bolt back and has a more solid feel. Rigid? No. Solid? Yes. Some magazines are mistaken the solid feel for a harsh feel in the fork, but that couldn’t be more further from the truth. The new Rockstar Edition chassis carves corners with ease and feels super light on the track. It actually feels lighter than the standard edition when needing to make a sudden line change. Straight line stability is improved even with the solid feel and I can hang it out out a little more with the newfound solid feel. Since Husqvarna gave us 10mm more rear wheel chain adjustment space, I tried this and found it to be better for rear wheel traction, but also lended me a broken rear fender. If you bottom out the rear shock a lot (which is not that hard to do with the Rockstar Edition) be careful about putting the rear wheel too far back because when you bottom out, it could break the rear fender where it mounts up underneath the seat like it did on me.
Suspension: Now I have a theory about this Rockstar Edition suspension. I call it a “theory” because I didn’t speak directly to any of Husky’s R&D testers yet about this. As a production tester I kind of know how things are developed and feel Husqvarna went a little softer on their suspension settings because their RE frame was a little stiffer now. It makes sense to me and you can feel the soft suspension immediately once out on the track. The RE WP AER fork has a standard air pressure setting of 10.5 bars (from 10.8 on the standard edition), but I go up to 10.6-10.7 bars on jumpier style tracks. The fork bottoms out on flat landings and up steeper jump faces. On de-cel bumps (off throttle) the RE fork is better than the standard FC450 however. On throttle though the Rockstar Edition fork feels like it has less traction than the standard FC450 fork. When accelerating over some braking bumps or hitting the tops of acceleration chop the front end feels less planted to the ground than the standard version. If you are coming into a corner and chop the throttle the fork has a pretty comfortable mid-stroke feel, but once back on throttle the fork feels slightly harsh and has some deflection. Out back the shock is soft on high speed compression plain and simple. The shock has a good damping character at the beginning and middle part of its stroke, but near the end it just falls away and feels empty. I would like to see WP/Husqvarna fill that part in with some more high speed compression damping force. I tried going stiffer on the high speed, but it hurt the rear end comfort on acceleration chop for me too much for me to justify the change. I did go in four clicks on the low speed compression and slowed the shock down three clicks to try and get it to hold up just a bit more for me. Overall, the FC450 Rockstar Edition has a softer feel to it, but both ends of the machine feels balanced. I will be looking for more hold up and increased comfort in the common weeks so stay tuned for a Keefer Tested podcast on some updated specs.
Ergonomics: The standard 2018 FC450 was tough to lift my leg up high into corners because the mid shroud area always snagged my pant/knee braces. The KTM was even worse yet, but the new RE FC450 is much slimmer feeling and the rider sits more on top than in. I also can grip with my legs better and I don’t feel like the rear end of the bike is as fat as it once was. Some magazines were bitching about the lower bar bend, but I actually like it. I tried a slightly higher bend and I hated it so I went back to stock. For all you Husqvarna/KTM owners out there do yourself a favor and stick with a low/flat bar bend. Both of these bikes are a little front end high anyway and you don’t want to compound this with a higher bar. The gripper/pleated seat works well, but make sure to have some Bag Balm on hand to rub on your ass! This seat tears my butt up! I am working with a chaffed ass here people! I love riding this bike so much, but I pay the price when I get home that evening.
In closing the 2018 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition is a better machine than the standard 2018 FC450. If I was going to by a Husky (which I just might do) I would be willing to pay the extra grand or so for this model for the simple fact of the chassis and the small engine improvements that come with it. Stay tuned to pulpmx.com and keeferinctesting.com for more on-track testing info from this white stallion.