MXA RACE TEST: 2022 HUSQVARNA FC350

MXA RACE TEST: 2022 HUSQVARNA FC350

THE GEAR: Jersey: Fly Racing Kinetic Mesh, Pants: Fly Racing Kinetic Mesh, Helmet: Fly Racing F2, Goggles: Viral Brand Factory Series, Boots: Gaerne SG-12.

Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2022 HUSQVARNA FC350 BETTER THAN THE 2021 FC350?

A: Yes, but for 2022, there are only three changes on the FC350. 

(1) BNG. Gone is the ugly dark grey bottom half of the rear number plates. Although the plates are still weirdly split, they are now white on the top and bottom. The large swath of yellow that ran across the radiator wing and seat cover last year has been replaced with just a hint of yellow. For 2022, the forks guards are blue instead of last year’s yellow.

(2) Counterbalancer bearing. Switching the counterbalancer needle bearing to a plain bearing (bushing) is a durability change. The needle bearing had the habit of walking itself out of the cases. It wasn’t a disaster, but Husqvarna wanted to play it safe for 2022.

(3) Clutch. After Magura solved its slave-cylinder seal failures on the FC450, we grew to like the Magura clutch. It had a smooth linear pull that required minimal effort. On the other hand, most MXA test riders preferred the “pop” feel of the Brembo master cylinder. The pop indicated where the clutch engaged and disengaged. Husky switched to Brembo for 2022.

Q: HOW DOES THE 2022 HUSQVARNA FC350 RUN?

A:  Every MXA test rider—Pro, Intermediate, Novice and Vet—fell in love with the 2022 Husqvarna powerband. It is the perfect blending of 250-style rev-ability and 450-style horsepower. A Husqvarna FC250 makes 39 horsepower in the midrange. An FC350 produces 50 horsepower in the middle, while an FC450 jumps up to 54 in the center of the powerband. In short, the FC350 makes 11 more horsepower in the midrange than the FC250 and only 4 less horsepower than the FC450 in the middle. But, the most telling numbers are at peak horsepower, where the FC250 is at 44.4 horsepower, the FC350 is at 54.4 horsepower and the FC450 is at 58.4 horsepower. At peak, the FC350 is 10 horses stronger than the FC250 and only 4 horses weaker than the FC450.

The broad but linear Husqvarna FC350 powerband enables the rider to get on the gas sooner, stay on longer and make enough power on top to close the deal. Yes, it does make less peak power than a 450, but it is so well-modulated, it is easier to go fast when the bike you are riding doesn’t fight you. We love this engine.

Husqvarna’s WP XACT air forks are comparable to any coil-spring fork once you learn how to set them up.

Q: WHAT DO WE HATE ABOUT THE ENGINE?

A: That’s easy. 

(1) Gearing. We’d like more bark on the low-to-mid transition. It has lazy gearing on the jump from second to third. We improved acceleration out of tight corners by installing a larger rear sprocket— the stock gearing is14/51 gearing.

(2) Airbox. The ultra-long Husqvarna airbox cover has several flaws. First, it doesn’t breathe as well as it should. Second, because of the airbox cover’s length and flexibility, the Husky airbox cover bends before it comes off. It requires a healthy tug to get it to release. We stick an 8mm T-handle in the back end and pop the rubber prongs out of the grommets. 

(3) Airbox cover. Husqvarna’s engineers are leaving power on the table or, more accurately, throttle response. You can prove it to yourself by riding one lap with the Husky airbox cover removed. 

(4) Backfire screen. The backfire screen in the air filter cage is too restrictive. You can cut the wire screen out, which isn’t easy, or order a KTM 250SX two-stroke cage, which comes sans backfire screen. As a failsafe, you might want to run either a fire-resistant Twin Air filter or use fire-resistant DT-1 air filter oil.

Q: HOW DO THE 2022 WP XACT FORKS WORK?

A: Plain and simple, these forks shoot holes in all the previous complaints about the WP AER air forks on KTMs and Husqvarnas. How big are the holes? Bazooka-size! The 2022 Husqvarna XACT air forks were redesigned last year to make the stroke more fluid, reduce air-pressure spikes, bleed off excess oil pressure and lessen the effects of an air fork’s hyper-progressive spring rate at the end of the stroke. The 2022 WP air forks have the same plush feel as coil-spring forks. They follow the ground, and they don’t spike at mid-stroke. In chattery acceleration bumps, the harsh feeling is gone. Very impressive. 

We know that you don’t believe us, but most WP fork whiners never took the time to learn how to set their air forks up properly. That lack of knowledge created a wave of air-fork negativity that makes no sense now that the forks work so well.

Q: HOW DOES THE 2022 FC350 HANDLE?

A: Husky is the first manufacturer to shorten its forks and lower the rear of the bike with a new shock linkage. You haven’t lived until you’ve ripped into a tight berm on the FC350’s lowered chassis. It is like a surgical scalpel through the corners, feels smaller between your legs and allows slight weight shifts to control the bike’s angle. The FC350 flat out handles better than any bike on the track, helped by its lightweight and resilient chromoly steel chassis. Every skeptical MXA test rider gushed about the handling after his first test ride.

The lower seat height pays big dividends that are blatantly obvious to even the most tone-deaf rider. And, for short riders who can’t touch the ground on a Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki or KTM, the Husky is a dream come true. It’s no secret that modern motocross bikes are too tall, but finally one motorcycle manufacturer has done something about it.

Q: HOW ARE THE CONTROLS?

A: MXA test riders prefer the FC350’s Pro Taper handlebars over the Neken bars on the KTM and GasGas. The ODI lock-on grips are easy to install and replace, but if you have sensitive hands, the rubber is twice as thick on glue-on grips (while having the same OD). The bar mounts twist in even the smallest crash. In 2016, KTM/Husky had a one-piece bar mount below the handlebars. Then, in 2017, they changed to a one-piece bar mount on top of the handlebars—neither setup stopped the bars from twisting. MXA ran the 2016 one-piece bottom bar mount with the 2017 one-piece top bar mount to stop the twist. Be forewarned that you can’t tighten the 17mm nuts under the bar mounts without taking the handlebars off and holding the bar mount bolt with a 45mm Torx wrench. Husqvarna includes a quick-turn throttle with the bike when you buy it. Install it right away.

Husqvarna’s rear suspension brings the seat height down, which brings the center of gravity down, which brings your boots in contact with mother earth.

Q: WHAT COMES LOOSE ON THE 2022 HUSKY FC350?

A: It’s not that a lot of things come loose; it’s that a few things are constantly loose. Here’s the list: (1) We torque the #45 Torx head stay bolts to 25 N/m (and add a small dab of Loctite 243 to each bolt). Sadly, one right-side head-stay bolt cannot be tightened without removing the pipe. (2) Always check the motor mount bolt on the front of the engine; odds are it is loose. (3) Check the spokes every morning, starting at the spokes next to the rim lock. (4) The rear sprocket bolts come loose with alarming regularity. It only takes three minutes to tighten the sprocket bolts with a 13mm wrench. (5) Check the 45mm bolts that attach the bottom of the subframe to the frame. (6) The rear nut on the shock linkage has a nasty habit of falling off; tighten it occasionally. (7) MXA carries a spare shock linkage nut, inline fuel filters, nylon airbox grommets and rear brake pedal springs with us to every race.

Q: WHAT ARE THE 10 PROBLEM AREAS TO WATCH OUT FOR?

A: Every motocross bike has its trouble zones. These are the 10 things the MXA wrecking crew keeps an eye on:

(1) The plastic/carbon subframe cracks right through the right-side lower subframe bolt hole.

(2) The electric starter wire pulls out of the white junction box behind the front number plate.

(3) The gas cap sticks if you tighten it too much.

(4) The bikes are shipped from the Husky factory with the kill button mounted inboard of the map switch and clutch perch; we move the kill button next to the left grip.

(5) The light on the FI idiot light falls out of its plug-in rubber holder all the time.

(6) Always pry on the shock preload ring with a long flat-bladed screwdriver, using the frame as a fulcrum. Don’t hit it with hammer and punch or you will chip pieces off the plastic ring.

(7) Getting the transmission into neutral on the starting line is hard. Sometimes it helps to rev the engine really high and then snick the shift lever before the rpm falls off. If this doesn’t work, use your hand.

(8) The WP fork’s compression clicker is hard to operate. The wingnut-like white plastic compression clicker’s wings are too short. WP needs to design a longer clicker for more leverage.

(9) When the bike is sitting on a bike stand, the front wheel sits on the ground. This is a hassle when checking the spokes, working on the front wheel or washing the bike; we shove a crescent wrench under the front of the frame rails to enable the wheel to spin.

(10) Be very careful when hooking tie-downs onto your handlebars so that they don’t crimp the metal tube coming out of the front brake master cylinder. Always use soft straps and tuck them under the brake and clutch hoses.

Think of the 2022 Husqvarna FC350 as a 54.4-horsepower 250. Ride it hard, rev it to the moon and reap the benefits.

Q: HOW GOOD ARE THE ECU MAPS?

A: Over the last few years of R&D, the Austrian engineers have responded to complaints that the two available maps were too similar to each other. Riders often couldn’t tell the difference. To Husqvarna’s credit, they rewrote the software and now there are distinctly different Mellow and Aggressive maps. 

Map 1 is the Mellow map. It delivers a nice range of usable power and is especially adept on hard-pack or muddy tracks. Map 2 is the Aggressive map and is crisper and more responsive. It hits harder, revs quicker and offers better throttle response. Both maps can be combined with traction control (TC) by pressing the TC button. With traction control engaged, the power remains the same as stock until the electronic sensor recognizes wheelspin, as evidenced by run-away revs; then it retards the ignition to stop the wheel from spinning. MXA test riders typically run Map 2 with Traction Control engaged. This dual setting allows for a snappier power delivery when traction is plentiful while retarding the ignition when encountering runaway rev situations that generate wheelspin.

The Launch Control function improves traction until the rider shifts to third or shuts the throttle off. To set Launch Control, the rider must press the map and TC buttons at the same time (until the FI light flashes). It may sound easy, but try it with gloves on while sitting on the starting line trying to see the flashing function light.

The first time you rail a corner on the 2022 Husqvarna FC350, you’ll go, “Wow!”

Q: WHAT’S SO GREAT ABOUT THE 2022 HUSQVARNA FC350?

A: How do we love thee, let us count the ways:

(1) Although a hydraulic clutch master cylinder only activates a push-rod that pries the clutch plates apart, there are still good and bad hydraulic clutch systems. Last year’s Magura clutch was good on the FC350, but the new Brembo system is better. Good move.

(2) While on the subject of Brembo, the Brembo brakes on the Husqvarna, KTM and GasGas have no peers. It’s not how powerful a brake is. Performance is more about modulation, control and a light touch. Brembo has those in spades.

(3) Name another brand of motorcycle that buys its gearboxes from a Formula 1 supplier. You know the metallurgy is topnotch.

(4) The Husqvarna FC350 comes stock with minimal expansion, 64-strand, braided steel brake and clutch hoses. Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Kawasaki don’t come with braided hoses.

(5) KTM Husky and GasGas no longer stand alone with their electric starters, but they do stand alone in adding electric starting without adding excessive weight.

(6) At 223 pounds, the 2022 Husqvarna FC350 is lighter than most of the available 450 four-strokes and most of the 2022 Japanese 250 four-strokes.

(7) If you’ve never installed an air filter into a KTM, Husqvarna or GasGas, you’ll be amazed at how foolproof it is compared to the normal gymnastics of other air filter/cage/airbox designs.

(8) Husqvarnas come with fuel lines that can be disconnected without breaking the steel band that holds other brands’ fuel lines on. And, there is an inline fuel filter that can be replaced or back-washed in under three minutes.

(9) We put a TM Designworks chain guide on almost every Japanese bike, but not on a Husqvarna.

(10) The traditional top-end rod bearing has been replaced by a bronze bushing, while the crankshaft’s big-end features a plain bushing with two force-fitted bearing shells for a 100-hour service time.

(11) No-tools adjuster. Thanks to the extra space found by removing the bottoming cone in 2021, WP eliminated the need to get down on your hands and knees to adjust the rebound damping with a screwdriver. Now, a racer can adjust the fork’s rebound damping by turning a clicker by hand.

(12) Our feet can touch the ground on the starting line. You may not think that’s a big deal, but try starting with your feet dangling in the air.

(13) The Husqvarna FC350 is the best all-around bike made in 2022.

Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?

A: We love this bike, and we think that you will, too. It’s fast, light and low. It works with you to make you best that you can be.

The Husqvarna is just a few tweaks short of being the best bike in the universe, not just the best bike in the world.

MXA’S 2022 HUSQVARNA FC350 SETUP SPECS

This is how we set up our 2022 Husqvarna FC350 for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot.

XACT FORK SETTINGS
The 2022 WP XACT air forks will change your mind about air forks. They are plush, supple and offer the feel of a coil-spring fork while being 3 pounds lighter. To get that feel, you only need to find your perfect air pressure and do all additional tuning with the clickers. For hardcore racing, we recommend this fork setup for an average rider on the 2021 Husqvarna FC350 (stock specs are in parentheses):

Spring rate: Pros (10.6 bar, 155 psi), Intermediates (10.3 bar, 150 psi), Fast Novices (10.0 bar, 145 psi), Novices/Vets (9.6 bar, 140 psi)
Compression: 15 clicks out (12 clicks)
Rebound: 10 clicks out (12 clicks)
Fork-leg height: Third line
Notes: How do you find your best fork air pressure? Put a zip-tie on one fork leg and go out and ride. If the zip-tie is 3 inches short of bottoming, lower the air pressure. Keep lowering it until you are 1-1/2 inches from bottoming. That is your air pressure. Remember it. From then on, use the compression clicker to control the travel. Don’t be afraid to go wild with the clicker. We have test riders who run it at 6 clicks out and test riders who run it 30 clicks out. It is important to bleed the outer fork chambers at regular intervals.

WP SHOCK SETTINGS
MXA testers liked the Husky rear shock. It has been spring-sensitive to rider weight in the past, but the longer linkage arm demanded a spring rate upgrade from 42 N/mm to 45 N/mm. MXA test riders don’t stray far from the stock 15 clicks out on low-speed compression, relying on the high-speed and rebound adjustments to have a crossover effect on the whole shock.  For hardcore racing, we recommend this shock setup for the 2021 Husqvarna FC350 (stock specs are in parentheses):

Spring rate: 45 N/mm
Race sag: 105mm
Hi-compression: 1-1/4 turns out (1-1/2 turns out)
Lo-compression: 15 clicks out
Rebound: 10 clicks out (15 clicks out)
Notes: Husqvarna spec’ed 10mm-shorter WP forks, while longer link arms lowered the rear seat height by 1 inch. We turned the high-speed compression damping in a 1/4 turn to lessen G-outs and run more rebound than the recommended setting.

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