The old Husqvarnas were flying bricks—and they didn’t fly all that high. Husky’s Italian caretakers, when tasked with finessing the grand old Swedish brand, threw in the towel. They opened up the playbook and rebadged the oddly configured Cagivas as Husqvarnas. It was the weakest play they had, but it was also the only play they had. It wasn’t until the Germans started throwing BMW money at the now-Swedish/Italian brand that any progress was made. However, progress is most often dependent on profits, and BMW had bought in high at a time when everyone else was selling low. The recession killed BMW’s enthusiasm for spending mega-bucks chasing a market that looked like it would hover around the 5000 dirt bike mark. While German/Italian Husqvarnas were getting better, they were far from the best. How far? Closer to the worst, as the Italians don’t like to listen to common sense, least of all from Germans. In the end, an end that included building a multi-million-dollar factory that would go fallow in short order, BMW wanted out of the dirt bike business—a business that the BMW G450X proved BMW was ill-equipped to succeed at, even without the liability of the clueless Husqvarna managers.
So, BMW held a fire sale, which in the Italian motorcycle business often comes with real fire. The buyer was KTM, and there is no guessing how much money BMW had to pay Stefan Pierer to take the albatross off their hands. The grand old brand, and “old” is the operative word, since Husqvarna first started making motorcycles in 1903—and many would say that except for a 20-year stretch from 1963 to 1983, what they sold was best described as new old stock (NOS)—was headed to Austria. Loyal Husqvarna owners, most of whom were still mourning over Husqvarna moving to Italy in the first place, were incensed. The Italian unions were lighting torches in front of the new, but soon to be unused, Varese factory, and KTM’s Stefan Pierer was renting moving vans to make a cross-border dash with what remained of the gun-sight logo and its luster before anyone asked why.
KTM has turned out to be a great custodian of the Husqvarna name. Okay, maybe they did eliminate another fabled Swedish brand—Husaberg—to make way for Husky, but Husaberg was just a spin-off from when Husky left Odeshog. You can kill a spin-off as long as you own the real deal. Sadly, we haven’t seen even a hint that a Husqvarna can be much more than a clone of a KTM. There is potential, but when you are hanging on the coattails of your big brother, you aren’t calling the shots.
OKAY, MAYBE THEY DID ELIMINATE ANOTHER FABLED SWEDISH BRAND—HUSABERG—TO MAKE WAY FOR HUSKY, BUT HUSABERG WAS JUST A
SPIN-OFF FROM WHEN HUSKY LEFT ODESHOG, AND YOU CAN KILL A
SPIN-OFFAS LONG AS YOU OWN THE REAL DEAL.
Which leads us to the 2016 Husqvarna FC250. Yes, Virginia, it is a KTM 250SXF wrapped up in a fake Swedish flag of plastic parts. It’s not Swedish, even if it has blue and yellow highlights and a Swedish surname. Thankfully, it’s not Italian anymore, either; however, it is kind of a shell game. Can you guess under which walnut shell the pea can be found? In Sweden, Italy or Germany? The answer? None of the above. The only pea in this game is Austrian.
The MXA wrecking crew isn’t worried about being fooled into thinking that a Husky is anything more than a KTM. We know better, but we are willing to play along. And so are thousands of Husqvarna buyers, proven by the fact that Husqvarna ended the 2015 sales season by selling 32 percent more bikes than the year before. A total of 21,513 Husqvarna motorcycles were sold in 2015 compared to 16,337 bike sales in 2014. Both numbers are bigger than any number the Swedes, Italians or Germans ever posted. Those numbers, made up largely of dirt bikes and dual-sport bikes, make Husqvarna a mover and a shaker, something they could never say under Italian or German management. Husqvarna gives motocross racers something different to hang their hat on. Maybe they hate the color orange, have a grudge against their local KTM dealer, or once owned a Husqvarna back in the day. No matter the reason, there are 21,513 enthusiasts who didn’t buy a Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki or Kawasaki during that calendar year. In truth, they didn’t buy a KTM, either, but their money went into Stefan Pierer’s coffers just the same. It’s a win-win.
The MXA wrecking crew knows a lot about Husqvarnas, not just because we tested them back in the Swedish years, but because we like them, race them and are way too obsessed with them for it to be healthy. We are charter members of the “I Love Husky” fan club. And, we would like to share what we know about the Husqvarna FC250 with the world. To that end, here is a breakdown of MXA’s personal 2016 Hooska. Feel free to copy any part of it that you can afford. Most of what we are telling you applies to the 2017 Husqvarna FC250—except for the need to work so hard to get forks that work. The new AER forks are great out of the box.
We don’t feel compelled to do anything with the Husqvarna FC250 engine. Why would we? It pumps out over 44 horsepower when it is sitting on the showroom floor. In comparison, we spent $5000 on a Honda CRF250 engine trying to get it to match that 44-horse number. The Husky makes the most peak horsepower in the 250 class, and it makes it at the highest rpm; we are talking about an engine that revs to 14,000 rpm before the rev limiter kicks in.
So, what did we do to our FC250 powerplant? We added a Bud Racing/HGS exhaust pipe, which produced more torque to help the Husky get up on the pipe quicker. The only other thing we spent money on power-wise was lowering the gearing by one tooth to help us get to 14 grand sooner.
WE DON’T FEEL COMPELLED TO DO ANYTHING WITH THE HUSQVARNA FC250 ENGINE. WHY WOULD WE? IT PUMPS OUT OVER 44 HORSEPOWER WHEN IT IS SITTING ON THE SHOWROOM FLOOR.
For free, as in no cost apart from sweat equity, we made some major gains in throttle response and pickup by drilling holes in the left- and right-side panels. Before we drilled, we spent some time with the Rockstar Husqvarna team of Jason Anderson, Christophe Pourcel and Zach Osborne to find out where to drill the holes. Based on ample dyno testing, the Rockstar mechanics stressed that we needed to drill the holes in specific spots. They even drilled our panels for us. Look at the photos to see the exact location, pattern and size of the holes. What you can’t see is that behind the right-side panel, we took a box cutter and removed a large section of the airbox to let the holes on that side breathe directly into the airbox’s interior.
Next, we threw away the FC250’s stock air-filter cage and replaced it with a 2016 TC125 two-stroke cage. Why? Because it doesn’t have the restrictive wire screen installed. You could cut the wire screen out of your stock FC250 cage, but you could also poke numerous holes in your fingers in the process. We bought instead of bled.
Finally, we run the aggressive map; however, it isn’t as easy as flipping a switch. While there is a switch on the right side of the handlebars that allows you to choose between the stock map and aggressive map or mellow map, you have to select the map for the two-dash setting on the map selector dial inside the airbox. Pull the rubber cover back and you will see a dial with 10 numbers on it. Whichever number you choose on this dial will be the map on the rearward switch position. But, there is a trick. Map 1 is the mellow map. Map 2 is the aggressive map, and maps 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 0 are all stock maps. If you choose 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 or 0, then both switch positions will be stock maps. We put the dial on 2 (you have to look closely to see the white triangle on the side of the dial that indicates which number you are on).
CONTRARY TO PUBLIC OPINION, WE DON’T HATE WP’S 4CS FORKS. NOT BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE ATTRIBUTES WORTH HATING; THEY DO, ESPECIALLY ON BIG LANDINGS AND IN CONSECUTIVE BRAKING BUMPS.
Contrary to public opinion, we don’t hate WP’s 4CS forks. Not because they don’t have attributes worth hating; they do, especially on big landings and in consecutive braking bumps. We have a Rolodex (well, at least the modern cell-phone version of one) full of names of the men who have spent the last two years trying to get WP 4CS forks to work. One of the best mods we have tried involved enabling stock WP fork legs to accept either Kayaba PSF-2 air-fork internals ($1000) or Kayaba SSS spring-fork internals ($1600). We opted to run TBT’s WP PSF-2 air-fork upgrade, even though we knew that when these forks were on the Honda CRF450 they were ghastly. Surprise! TBT’s combination of Austrian fork legs and Japanese internals produced a set of WP forks that were excellent. In the end, we loved the feel of the Kayaba PSF-2 internals in our WP forks. Was it worth $1000? Not when we were forking out the dough, but it sure seemed like money well spent at the end of that long straight full of potholes.
As for the shock, we didn’t re-valve it, add remote reservoirs or hard-coat the parts. We focused our short attention spans on getting the correct shock spring rate for each test rider and used the clickers to get us where we wanted to be.
We’re picky. We know that the complete package depends on a zillion little bits and pieces. We focused on the bits. Need examples?
(1) Bar mounts. To eliminate any chance of the handlebar mounts swiveling in a crash or tip-over, we took off the two separate top bar mounts and replaced them with an existing Husqvarna one-piece top clamp. The part number is P/N 61301-0380-00335. On a 2016 Husky FC250, this gave us a one-piece bar mount on the bottom and a one-piece bar mount on the top. Let those suckers try to twist now!
(2) Zip-ties. We replaced all of the zip-ties that we were using to keep the electrical wiring for the kill button, launch control and map switch attached to the handlebars with stretchy rubber ties. There is some fear that the zip-ties, over time, will cause a short in the wiring under them. You can order rubber ties by getting part number P/N 60011-0930-60 from your Husky dealer.
(3) Seat bolt. We drilled a hole through the side panel so that we could remove Husqvarna’s unique one-sided seat bolt without taking the side panel off first. Be careful not to let the spacer fall off the seat bolt when you pull it out of the seat bracket. We glue it in.
(4) Right-side panel. The left-side panel can be removed without any tools, and the righ-side panel has the same no-tools design, except, in what is the weirdest design exercise in motorcycle side-panel history—Husqvarna used a teeny-tiny #20 Torx bolt to tack the right-side panel in place by the brake master cylinder. Nobody carries a minuscule #20 Torx socket with them to the races. We swapped it for a 6mm hex head bolt. The bolt we used is Husky part number P/N 00140-5012-3. We’d appreciate it if Husky would make the right-side panel as no-tools friendly as the left side in the future.
(5) Heat shield. We doubled the heat shield on the pipe side of the left-side panel. The pipe will melt through the side panel eventually. Just place the second heat shield over the OEM one.
(6) Rear brake-pedal spring. Turn your rear brake-pedal spring around so that the tang on the bottom of the spring faces inward. If it faces outward, you can hit it with your boot and unhook the spring. We also crimp the tangs once they are turned around to make them fit tight to the pedal.
(7) Rear brake pedal. The 2017 Husqvarnas and KTMs will have 10mm-longer rear brake pedals, but you can order a 10mm-longer brake tip from 7602 Racing for $34.95 (in black, gold or blue). Contact them at www.7602racing.com or (719) 274-0606.
(8) Battery. When cold weather arrives, you should pre-heat the lithium-iron phosphate (LiFeP04) battery before trying to start the bike. We touch the starter button enough to activate the fuel pump but not enough to get the bike to turn over. When you do this, you can hear the starter clicking over (or feel it with your hand on the gas tank). We do this two or three times. Why? Because iron phosphate batteries get stronger as they get warmer. Then, once we have the battery preheated, we pull the choke down (not up) and start the bike.
WE’RE PICKY. WE KNOW THAT THE COMPLETE PACKAGE DEPENDS ON A ZILLION LITTLE BITS AND PIECES. WE FOCUSED ON THE BITS.
(9) Fuel-line quick release. Husqvarna installs inline fuel filters in its gas lines. They can be accessed via the quick-release fitting on the fuel line. You can flick the small nylon filter out and check it for debris. The filters can be back-flushed or replaced. Clogged filters hurt the fuel pressure and flow. Be very careful to make sure that the fuel lines click back together completely any time you have them apart. We have had the quick releases pop off because we didn’t get them clicked. The engine dies almost instantly—great in the pits, not so great on the track. The Rockstar team uses the clip from the rear brake-pad pin to ensure that it can’t come loose during a race. They also use the same clip to make sure that the radiator cap doesn’t back off.
(10) Chain guide. We like Husqvarna’s stock chain guide and buffer pads, but we love TM Designworks’ indestructible plastic chain guide.
(11) Throttle tube. We run a Pro Taper aluminum throttle tube. It replaces the stock ODI lock-on throttle assembly and can take more of a beating than ODI’s plastic throttle tube.
(12) Wheels. We had Dubya lace up a set of Talon hubs to Dubya’s proprietary rims for a set of bulletproof wheels. This is important to the MXA wrecking crew, because one day a Vet Intermediate may be riding the bike and the next day an AMA National Pro might be riding it. We want to have the ultimate wheels, not just adequate wheels.
(13) Plugs and caps. The small Allen plug on the back of the ignition cover can leak oil (not enough to create any major issues, but enough to make a mess). This plug can be sealed with high-temp silicone. The Allen doesn’t attach to anything; it is there to block a hole that was drilled in the case during manufacturing to allow the internal oil line to make a 90-degree bend. Additionally, we installed a Hinson clutch cover but kept the stock clutch. So, what is the Hinson cover for? It’s stronger than the stock clutch cover and has an oil-filler cap that can’t accidentally be loosened by your boot rubbing against it. If you don’t want to spring for the Hinson cover, at least order Husqvarna’s or Works Connection’s aluminum oil-filler caps.
(14) Graphics. We told Red Label the basics of what we wanted for our graphics design and left them alone. The black/yellow/red combination makes our Husky FC250 stand out in a crowd. The MXA logo on the radiator shrouds comes directly from the top of our orange helmets. For more info on Red Label, go to www.redlabel.mx.
(15) The end product. We love this bike. In stock trim, it was fast, well behaved and agile, but we wanted it to be special—not a fire-breathing beast that would require race gas and a full-time mechanic, but a solid race bike that could be used week in and week out without fear of failure (on the bike’s part at least). And, most especially, super front forks.