MXA RACE TEST
INSIDE THE 2009 HUSABERG FE450
ÿÿ 1. Limited edition: Even in the best of times, Husaberg has never been a big player in the American market. And with a $9500 price tag, it never will be. Husaberg doesn’t run fancy color ads or spend millions on professional racers because they believe that if you want an FE450, you’ll find one. Husaberg claims that it brings in 1000 units a year?-we think that is an optimistic number.
ÿÿ 2. Stalking horse: KTM owns Husaberg, and while it may not be 100 percent correct to say that KTM doesn’t care if Husaberg sells any bikes in America, it is accurate to say that Husaberg is a stalking horse for KTM. What does that mean? KTM’s investment in Husaberg isn’t because of their giant sales numbers or ability to stand on their own in the marketplace. No, KTM bought Husaberg as a proving ground for new ideas. It is the “Let Mikey do it” approach to R&D. Husaberg can experiment with new ideas without any market pressure, and the ideas can be transferred to KTM once they are proven.
ÿÿ And, as stalking horses go, the 2009 Husaberg FE450 is amazing. It bristles like a porcupine of innovation. It is the first offroad bike to have closed-loop fuel injection, an all-plastic subframe, an upside-down engine, stacked transmission and maximized centralization of mass.
Q: WHO CAME UP WITH THE IDEA OF AN UPSIDE-DOWN ENGINE?
ÿÿ Then, one day back in 2003, Elmwall had an idea. Why not move the rotating mass as close to the motorcycle’s center of gravity as possible? Jens and fellow designer Roland Ohrn went to the Husaberg R&D department and cut two engines apart to build a rough version of Jens’ idea. Then they wedged it into an existing Husaberg chassis.
Q: WHAT IS THE MAIN THEME OF THE UNUSUAL ENGINE DESIGN?
A: Let us take you back to Mr. Wellman’s high-school physics class: By raising the crankshaft up 100mm, moving it back 160mm and putting the gearbox beneath the cylinder, rather then behind it, the rotating masses of the crankshaft, piston and valve train are placed closer to the bike’s center of gravity. With the rotating mass closer to the center of gravity, the torque effect on the chassis is greatly reduced. In layman’s terms, they’ve put the part of the engine that wreaks havoc on handling as close as they can to the place where it will have the least effect on handling. Simple, but clever. Clever, but unproven.
Q: WHAT ARE THE FE450’S PERTINENT ENGINE SPECS?
ÿÿ The 449.3cc engine has a bore and stroke of 95mm by 63.4 mm. The compression ratio is a mild 11.8:1. The transmission has six-speeds, and the starter system is electric. For riders who want more power and torque, Husaberg makes a 565.5cc version of the upside-down engine. It has a 100mm by 72mm bore and stroke. In the past, Husaberg offered three displacements of their previous engine design, but for 2009 only the 450 and 570 are offered.
Q: HOW DOES HUSABERG GET LUBRICATION TO THE UPSIDE-DOWN ENGINE?
A: Even though the engine is upside down, the lubrication system is no different from any modern four-stroke’s. The oil circulates via pressure pumps that supply lubricating oil to the crankshaft, piston, clutch, transmission and valve train. In addition, a special suction pump scavenges excess oil out of the cylinder head and reroutes it back to the transmission.
Q: IS IT SWEDISH OR AUSTRIAN? A KTM OR A HUSABERG?
ÿÿ And, since virtually every baseline part of the Husaberg is borrowed, in one form or another, from KTM, it quickly becomes obvious that, with the exception of the kernel?this is KTM’s popcorn. Even more telling, if it works it will be transferred to future KTMs.
Q: DOES THE HUSABERG FE450 HAVE A CARB OR EFI?
A: Given the 70-degree layout of the cylinder, carburetion would have presented some serious space issues. The FE450 is fueled by a 42mm, downdraft, Keihin electronic fuel injector. It should be noted that Husaberg uses a much more sophisticated closed-loop management system for its fuel injection compared to Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki’s open-loop system.
Q: WHAT IS AN OPEN-LOOP FUEL INJECTION SYSTEM?
ÿÿ The Husaberg FE450 does not use an open-loop fuel management system. It uses the more advanced closed-loop system.
Q: WHAT IS A CLOSED-LOOP FUEL INJECTION SYSTEM?
ÿÿ Not only does Husaberg have the only closed-loop fuel management system of the Big Five, but it comes with three preprogrammed maps that allow the rider to adjust the ignition curve without having to hook up a laptop computer. There is a soft timing/ignition/fuel curve, a standard one and an aggressive one. The three preprogrammed maps are activated by plugging the ECU leads into numbered ports. Standard map is unplugged, soft is plugged into number one and aggressive is plugged into number three.
Q: WHAT KIND OF SENSORS DOES THE FE450 HAVE?
A: Because it is a closed-loop system, it has more sensors than an open-loop system. The FE450 has seven sensors: air density, water temperature, throttle position sensor, tip-over (activated at 65 degrees), manifold pressure, lambda (oxygen sensor) and intake air temperature. The typical fuel-injected Japanese-built motocrosser has five sensors.
Q: WHAT DOES THE HUSABERG USE FOR FORKS?
A: Since KTM owns both Husaberg and WP, there is an inevitable swap of technology from Holland to Austria to Sweden. The FE450’s 48mm WP forks mimic the forks on the KTM EX-W enduro bikes?although they seem to be much softer.
Q: WHAT DOES THE HUSABERG USE FOR A SHOCK?
ÿÿ You cannot use the shock off a KTM on a Husaberg (although they are virtually identical in design, spring rate, valving and length). The piggyback body on the Husaberg shock is oriented differently and a KTM piggyback will hit the gas tank.
Q: WHERE IS THE AIRBOX?
A: It is where you think the gas tank should be. The air filter is located directly behind Husaberg’s remote gas cap and uses the seat as an airbox cover. This is a very cool location. It is easily accessed by removing the seat (which has a rip-cord-style cable release system). And, given the down draft EFI system, it really couldn’t be anywhere else.
Q: WHERE IS THE HUSABERG GAS TANK?
Q: WHAT’S WITH THE PLASTIC SUBFRAME?
A: The Husaberg does not have a conventional, aluminum-tube subframe. Instead it uses a monocoque cross-linked polyethylene plastic structure to do the job of a metal subframe. From an engineering and innovation point of view this seems very trick, but it is really stupid. It is ungainly, bulky, blocks access to the shock and, even with molded-in handholds (which are too far forward to be of any use), it adds nothing to the Husaberg?apart from buzz at the yearly plastics convention.
Q: IS THE FRAME STEEL OR ALUMINUM?
A: The double-cradle perimeter frame is built from ovalized chromoly steel. Although it is not a KTM frame, it does borrow KTM’s tubing, forging and basic layout. The KTM frame parts lead directly to a KTM swingarm.
Q: WHAT OTHER PARTS ARE BORROWED FROM KTM?
ÿÿ The Husaberg does not use the valve-train from the latest generation KTM 450SXF, but rather from the single-overhead-cam, rocker arm-equipped 450EX-W engine. This SHOC engine is the replacement for KTM’s old RFS design. The single cam activates rocker arms that control four stainless-steel valves.
Q: WHAT IS THE EXHAUST PIPE MADE FROM?
A: Stainless steel. Its routing is so unique that it is virtually impossible to damage the head pipe or midpipe in a crash.
Q: DOES THE 2009 HUSABERG FE450 USE THE SAME BRAKES AS KTM?
A: Yes?the good ones. The front Brembo is directly off the 2009 motocross bikes. This is a super brake.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES THE HUSABERG WEIGH?
A: It is heavy for a motocross bike, but the Husaberg FE450 isn’t a motocross bike. It is an enduro bike. As it sits, it weighs exactly the same as its main competition, the KTM 450EX-W, at 250 pounds. That is 15 pounds more than the comparable KTM 450SXF motocross bike.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
A: $9499. For comparison, the suggested retail price of the YZ450F is $7399, KX450F $7549, KTM 450SXF $7998, RM-Z450 $7499 and CRF450 $7599.
Q: WHAT IS IT LIKE TO RIDE THE HUSABERG FE450?
ÿÿ There is no doubt that Jens Elmwall is creative, but when you mix creativity with mediocrity, the result is no longer Mensa material. The Husaberg may well be very light in yaw, roll and pitch, but that fact escaped us. Elmwall’s original hypothesis is theoretically correct, but what’s the point of jerry-rigging physics to work in your favor and then putting it on a bike that weighs so much that not even plasma physics would work? We think that as a woods bike, which is what it was designed as, the FE450 would be brilliant. As a motocross bike, not so much. Although the Husaberg addresses one theoretical battleground in chassis dynamics, it ignores many others?not the least of which are precession, chassis pivot points and the negative effects of a high rotating mass.
Q: DO WE THINK THAT THE UPSIDE-DOWN ENGINE HAS POTENTIAL?
A: Yes and no. As it sits in this bike, it can’t demonstrate what it is really capable of. The lightweight feel of the upside-down engine will never be felt in a heavyweight machine. Perhaps a motocross version of the upside-down engine, bolted into a true-to-life race frame, would offer sensations that most racers have only dreamed of. Other manufacturers (most notably Yamaha) will have their own spins on slant-engine design in the near future.
ÿÿ The biggest caveat is that the Husaberg FE450 isn’t a motocross bike. It is a proof-of-concept vehicle that, in our opinion, doesn’t prove anything (although it does give KTM a head start on closed-loop, fuel-injection systems).
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: We were glad to get the opportunity to race the 2009 Husaberg FE450…and equally glad to get off of it. We’ll wait for a purpose-built motocross version.