Yesterday kicked off new bike season and it was Husqvarna that was first out of the gate. The 2020 Husqvarna FC450 Rockstar Edition launch was held at Glen Helen Raceway and it turned out to be great test day as a lot of the West Coast 250 Supercross riders came out to get their outdoor legs underneath them. What did that mean for me while testing? It meant that I had a rough track to evaluate the new Rockstar Edition and really get to know a couple of the updates that Husqvarna highlighted for the new half year model. The Rockstar Edition has an updated ECU setting that really helps wake this machine up on low rpm situations. The current year model has more of a lethargic roll on feel than the new RE, as well as a heavier chassis feel on the track. The updated Rockstar Edition feels lighter around the track (side to side movement) with less engine braking and to me that is directly felt when trying to dive into corners hard.
WP and Husqvarna went with a stiffer suspension setting with the new Rockstar Edition and focused their efforts on more plushness with the AER’s initial fork stroke. The updated AER fork has a new mid-valve damping system, new air piston, new hand adjuster on the bottom of the fork for rebound adjustment, and a new elastomer endstop that replaces the hydrostop in order to reduce weight. There is also a new low friction rear linkage seal that provides freer movement of the swingarm in order to help with plushness on acceleration chop. What did all of these changes with the suspension mean on the track? The overall balance of the bike rides higher up in the stroke, but gives the rider more control unlike the standard 2020 FC450. The standard FC450 rides low in the stroke and that can upset the chassis when pushing hard into corners, but with the new Rockstar Edition, there is more control and less movement on de-cel. Less movement means less pitching and more front end traction on lean angle. I always had a problem with past AER fork’s having minimal feel on throttle while leaning, but the updated fork has better traction when I am trying to roll my corners under throttle.
I didn’t really feel anything with the updated low friction seal inside the linkage, but I will try to ride the standard FC450 version against the RE, to really hone in on that part of the bike in the weeks to come. The shock does have a kick to it on de-cel so thinking that it was too low in the stroke, I went in on the high speed a quarter turn and this helped balance the Husqvarna out going into corners. Once that adjustment was made I was able to drive harder into corners without upsetting the rear of the bike as much. Sticking with a 105mm sag reading is something you should try to follow if at all possible. Going to a higher sag measurement only hurts the AER fork’s plushness and will give you less rear wheel traction out of corners.
I like that the FMF 4.1 slip on comes with the insert installed as this helps with throttle response and gives the Rockstar Edition slightly more connection out of corners. The exhaust note is more pleasant to the ear with the insert installed, but if you want a little more mid range pull, mating the 4.1 muffler with the megabomb headpipe will give you this. The Pro Taper handlebar remains the same on the new Husqvarna, but with the fork now staying up in the stroke more, the overall bar height doesn’t feel as low. It feels as if I have more room in the cockpit and my arms don’t hang so low when diving into ruts. This really helps me enter my corners more efficiently and allows me to carry more speed. All from a fork setting!!!!
If you feel like there is some harshness in your front end, you can try going to a 9Nm torque setting on the bottom triple clamp and that can actually help relax the AER fork a little under load. I did this at Glen Helen and it really helped when hitting bumps coming down the hills without negatively affecting other areas of the track.
Even though this is a first impression I feel the changes Husqvarna made to the 2020 FC450 Rockstar Edition do make a noticeable difference on the track. The updates Husqvarna made were very similar to the ones I made to my standard 2020 FC450 test bike, but instead of slapping on a pair of $3000.00 WP XACT spring forks, this updated AER fork is giving me the front end traction feel that’s similar to my more expensive A-Kit style spring version. That’s good news! WP should be commended for sticking this whole air fork thing out. To me it seems like they’re working towards getting their air fork to feel more like a spring fork.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team graphics
Updated WP XACT split air fork with a redesign of the internals
including a new mid-valve damping system and new oil bypass in
the outer damping-leg tube to increase comfort and performance
Updated settings on the fully adjustable WP XACT rear shock for
superior suspension performance and feeling
Vented airbox cover included that can be changed without the use
of any tools for a sharper throttle response according to rider
preference or track conditions
PANKL conrod with a bushing in the small end reduces friction for a
faster revving engine
Billet aluminum REKLUSE clutch cover increases durability while
enhancing the factory look
CNC-machined triple clamps with adjustable offset [20 – 22 mm] and
perfect fork clamping
Ultralight FMF Racing Factory 4.1 silencer with titanium body and
carbon end cap
Anodized D.I.D DirtStar rims with machined, anodized hubs and
three-cross pattern in the front for optimal handling
Hydro-formed frame with black premium powder coating
Magura hydraulic clutch for perfect modulation in all conditions
Floating front waved disc with disc guard
Lightweight and robust carbon fiber and polyamide composite
Carbon fiber reinforced engine protector and mechanical holeshot
device as standard
Handlebar-mounted map select switch also activates launch and