MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2022 HUSQVARNA FC450
THE GEAR: Jersey: O’Neal Hardwear Haze, Pants: O’Neal Hardwear Haze, Helmet: Arai VX-Pro4, Goggles: EKS Brand Lucid, Boots: Gaerne SG-12.
Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2022 HUSQVARNA FC450 BETTER THAN THE 2021 FC450?
A: Not really. But don’t take that as a big “down vote” on the 2022 FC450. This was the best 450 motocross bike of 2021, and the new AOS and Brembo clutch are improvements.
Q: WHAT’S DIFFERENT ON THE 2022 FC450 VERSUS THE 2021 FC450?
A: When you compare the 2022 production FC450 against the 2021 production FC, you won’t be overwhelmed by the updates. Here is the complete list.
(1) Air/oil separator. Air/oil separators (AOS) separate excess air pressure from engine oil. If you’ve ever noticed an oil mist on your engine, that is blow-by from trapped internal air pressure. An air/oil separator reduces blow-by by using centrifugal force to route the air out through a vent tube while sending the oil back to the crankcase.
(2) 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 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.
(3) Clutch. Husqvarna dropped its Magura hydraulic clutch components (master cylinder, lever, slave unit) for the Brembo parts from the KTM 450SXF. Some MXA test riders loved the smooth, linear pull of the Magura system. It felt effortless. On the other hand, the majority of MXA test riders preferred the “pop” feel of KTM’s Brembo master cylinder. Why? The linear pull of the Magura system gave no clue as to where in the stroke the clutch plates were, while the Brembo’s “pop” feel made it much easier to recognize when the clutch was disengaged.
The 2022 Husqvarna FC450 is very much like the 2021 model except for the air/oil separator, Brembo clutch, blue fork guards, white lower side panel and BNG.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2022 HUSQVARNA FC450 HANDLE?
A: MXA test riders, to the man, think that the Husqvarna FC450 is the best-handling Open bike on the track (and that means better than its KTM and GasGas brethren). The $64,000 question is, what did Husqvarna do to get its chassis to handle better than the identical frame geometry of its stablemates? That’s simple! Husqvarna was the first manufacturer to come to the realization that with each passing year its bikes were getting taller and taller, but the riders weren’t. Riders, who could previously touch the ground with their feet, were now swinging their toes in clean air. The increased height wreaked havoc on rider equilibrium. It took more energy to get the taller bikes to turn, thanks to higher centers of gravity that made them tippy, not fluid. So, Husqvarna decided to shorten its suspension travel and bring the chassis down approximately 1 inch.
The difference between the taller KTM chassis and the lower Husqvarna setup was immediately noticeable on the first lap. You haven’t lived until you’ve ripped into a tight berm on the FC450’s lowered chassis. It sucks you to the ground in a way that allows you to push harder on the next lap. It feels small between your legs, allows slight weight shifts to control the bike, and plants the front tire firmly into the ground. The low, light, sleek and slim FC450 is a revelation on the track, helped in no small part by its resilient chromoly steel chassis.
Q: HOW DID HUSQVARNA LOWER THE 2022 FC450?
A: The Husqvarna engineers didn’t take any shortcuts in bringing the FC450 down closer to the ground. The list of things they modified on the 2021-2022 front fork and rear shock could fill a volume of War and Peace. Here is the simplistic explanation of how they did it.
Forks. Husqvarna shortened the WP XACT forks by 10mm by shortening the cartridge rods by 10mm and making a corresponding 10mm reduction in the length of the WP stanchion tubes. Changing both the cartridge rods and stanchion tubes allowed WP to maintain the same separation between the bushings in the stanchions and fork internals as on the longer fork. This increased fork rigidity while eliminating a spike in damping pressure. While they had the fork apart, they completely redesigned the internals with four innovations: (1) They added oil bypass notches to reduce oil pressure peaks. (2) Since the oil bypass notches relieve oil-pressure buildup, WP put four bypass holes in the air seal to lessen air pressure spikes. (3) WP doubled the length of the cross-over bleed slot in coordination with enlarging the size of the negative air chamber space for more progressive air pressure on the negative side. (4) The previous bottoming cone in the damping leg was replaced with a bump-stop rubber O-ring on the 2022 fork that made enough room in the fork leg for a rebound clicker that can be adjusted by hand.
The internal modifications were designed to make the stroke more fluid, reduce pressure spikes, bleed off excess oil pressure, reduce the effects of an air fork’s hyper-progressive spring rate change and shorten the fork’s stroke. WP made major steps forward in its fork performance; how far forward? The 2022 WP XACT air forks are better than what comes on Honda, Suzuki and Kawasaki.
Shock. On the rear shock, Husqvarna changed the complete shock linkage by making the link arms longer, designing a new bell crank that dropped the seat height almost an inch and making the starting point of the shock’s rising rate match the rates of its red and orange counterparts. The finishing touch was raising the seal head cap on the shock by 6mm to limit shock stroke from 140mm to 134mm. Because Husqvarna changed the starting point of rising-rate curve, shock stroke and linkage arm length, they needed to up the spring rate from 42 N/mm to 45 N/mm.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2022 HUSQVARNA FC450 RUN ON THE RACETRACK?
A: Every MXA test rider, Pro, Intermediate, Novice and Vet, fell in love with the 2022 Husqvarna FC450 powerband. It was incredibly easy to ride. The combination of the great powerband, plush suspension, perfect geometry and lower overall center of gravity allowed the FC450 to carve around corners. Even our Pro test riders loved it. It only took them one race to realize that the kinder and gentler Husqvarna power output enabled them to ride harder, get on the gas sooner and be more aggressive in the tight stuff. The power is so well-modulated that there are no abrupt hits anywhere on the curve. It is easy to go fast on because the power comes on smoothly and just keeps pulling. It’s fast without any drama.
Why is the Husqvarna powerplant so much more manageable than the identical KTM powerband? Because Husqvarna’s engineers are leaving power on the table (more accurately, throttle response) with their airbox design. It is more restrictive than the KTM airbox. We have always believed that Husqvarna has never improved its airbox because the parent company wants the KTM to be the most responsive engine in the group (and the Husqvarna the most user-friendly).
The power is so easy to use that you think you’re going slow, but the guys chasing you know better.
Q: WHAT SHOULD YOU PAY ATTENTION TO ON THE ENGINE?
A: The engine itself is fairly bulletproof, but there are a few things to pay attention to.
Electric starter. The electric starter wire pulls out of the white junction box behind the front number plate. If your starter doesn’t turn over, look behind the front number plate for the problem.
Kill button. From the Husky factory, the kill button is mounted inboard of the map switch and clutch perch; we move the kill button next to the left grip.
FI light. The light on the FI idiot light falls out of its plug-in rubber holder all the time.
Finding neutral. If your FC450 doesn’t want to go into neutral, rev the engine really high and then snick the shift lever into the neutral detent as the rpm fall off.
ECU. To maximize performance, you should initialize the ECU before riding the bike‚ especially if the temperature, altitude or weather conditions have changed since the last time you rode. Start the bike and let it idle for three to four minutes. Do not touch the throttle during initialization.
Clutch rubbers. Replace the clutch rubber bumpers every six months. Rekluse makes aftermarket clutch rubbers that last longer than stock.
Inline fuel filter. Change your in-line fuel filter after break in. There is often plastic flashing inside new gas tanks.
Fuel filter O-ring. If you use the fuel line quick release often, keep an eye on the small O-ring. It tears and can cause a fuel leak.
Q: WHAT SHOULD YOU WATCH ON THE CHASSIS?
A: Every motocross bike has its trouble zones. These are the things the MXA wrecking crew keeps an eye on with the FC450.
Bar mount twist. The bar mounts twist in even the smallest crash. In 2016, KTM had a one-piece bar mount under 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 runs the 2016 one-piece bottom bar mount with the 2017 to 2022 one-piece top bar mount to stop the twist. For 2023 they have fixed the twisting problem.
Bar mount tightening. 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. For 2023 the 17mm nuts shave been replaced by a bolt that insert under the clamps and can be tightened without taking the bars off.
Tie-downs. 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.
Head stay. MXA torques the #45 Torx head stay bolts to 25 N/mm (and adds a small dab of Loctite 243 to each bolt). Sadly, one right-side head-stay bolt cannot be tightened without removing the pipe.
Subframe. The plastic/carbon subframe cracks right through the right-side lower subframe bolt hole. If you loop the FC450, check the airbox for bigger crasbk. The 2023 plastic/carbon airbox has aluminum struts molded in to strengthen the airbox.
Front motor mount bolt. Take the time to check the tightness of the motor mount bolt on the front of the engine; odds are it is loose.
Spokes. Check the spokes every morning, starting at the spoke next to the rim lock.
Sprocket bolts. It only takes three minutes to tighten the sprocket bolts with a 13mm wrench.
Subframe bolts. Check the 45mm bolts that attach the bottom of the subframe to the frame.
Swingarm pivot bolt. At regular intervals, remove the plastic frame guards and torque the swingarm pivot bolt to 100 N/mm.
Brake rotor. Before the first time you ride your new 450SXF, clean the front and rear brake rotors with brake cleaner (and wipe with a clean dry rag).
Chain adjustment. You need 55mm of chain free-play when measured from the back edge of the chain slider. If you are lucky, three of your fingers might be 55mm wide. The 2023 Husqvarna FC450 requires four fingers.
Rear brake pedal spring. MXA turns the rear brake pedal spring over so that the bottom tang curves towards the engine. This keeps your boot from unhooking the spring, which happens when the spring’s tang is sticking outwards. For 2023 the brake peal has been redesigned and the brake edal spring is laid-down at a 45 -degree angle to lesse the chance of it breaking.
Spares. MXA carries a spare shock linkage nut, inline fuel filters, inline quick-release O-ring, nylon airbox grommets and rear brake pedal springs with us to every race. The anti-air-fork brigade loves to hate WP air forks, but Husqvarna’s latest fork is light years better than most Japanese coil-spring forks.
Q: WHAT SHOULD YOU CHECK ON THE SUSPENSION?
A: We will cover suspension setup later, but here are some other things to check.
Triple-clamp bolts. The stock recommended torque on the triple clamp’s pinch bolts is 17 N/mm (top) and 12 N/mm (bottom). MXA test riders go to 20 N/mm (top) and 14 N/mm (bottom).
Steering stem. Make sure that your steering stem is properly tightened, especially after break-in. The correct method is to loosen the four top triple clamp pinch bolts and 10mm bolt on the back of the top clamp and the 17mm bolt in the center of the triple clamps before tightening the 17mm bolt a little at a time. Most MXA test riders check for their favorite steering stem tightness by flopping the forks back and forth until the resistance feels right.
Fork compression clickers. The wingnut-like white plastic compression clicker’s wings are too short. They hurt your fingertips when moving them. WP needs to design a longer clicker for more leverage. clicker is still to short.
Preload adjustment. When adjusting shock spring preload, MXA uses a long, flat-bladed screwdriver pressed against the frame (as a fulcrum) to pry on the preload ring. Don’t hit it with a hammer and punch or you will chip pieces off the plastic ring.
Bleed screws. KTM needs to change the fork’s bleed screws from Torx back to Phillips-head screws.
Shock linkage nut. The rear nut on the shock linkage has a nasty habit of falling off. Tighten it occasionally.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Bolts. Check the spoke nipples and rear sprocket bolts at very regular intervals.
(2) Vented airbox. We wish that Husky’s vented airbox had holes as large as KTM’s vented air box.
(3) Seat bolt. You have to remove the air box cover to get to Husqvarna’s very unique single seat bolt, but with its no-tools airbox cover, you don’t really need to remove the seat.
(4) Airbox cover. It is so long and flexy that it is hard to remove. We stick an 8mm T-handle in the back end and pop the rubber prong out of the grommet. For 2023 the Husqvarana FC450 will have a shorter airbox cover.
(5) Bike stand. When the bike is sitting on a bike stand, the front wheel is on the ground. This is a hassle when checking the spokes or working on the front end. We stick a crescent wrench under the front of the frame at the track to get the wheels off the ground. Since MXA races different bikes every week, we don’t want tilted bike stands or stands with bumps on them.
Behind the clutch cover is the greatest clutch in motocross history.
Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Brembo hydraulic clutch. MXA test riders prefer the 2022’s Brembo’s “pop” over the previous 2021 Magura clutch’s smoothness because the pop tells the rider when the clutch is disengaged, but the Magura lever was folding, which was a nice touch.
(2) Weight. At 224 pounds, the 2022 Husqvarna is 14 pounds lighter than the YZ450F. If you don’t think that 14 pounds makes a difference on a race bike, you need to take up tiddlywinks.
(3) Pankl transmission. No other motocross brand offers a transmission built by a Formula 1 gearbox supplier. The metallurgy is a step above what other brands offer.
(4) Chain guide. We put a TM Designworks chain guide on almost every Japanese 450, but not on a Husky.
(5) Wheel spacers. Husqvarna has awesome wheel spacers. Unlike on a lot of motocross bikes, Husqvarna, KTM and GasGas wheel spacers run on bearings, which means that the front and rear wheels can accept different axle sizes just by changing the wheel spacers.
(6) Hour meter. Kudos to Husqvarna for putting an hour meter on its bikes as standard equipment.
(7) Throttle cam. Your Husky sat on the showroom floor with the stock, long-throw throttle cam installed. Take it out and put on the quick-turn black throttle cam that your dealer gave you on the way out the door.
(8) Twin Air filter. If you’ve never installed an air filter into a KTM or Husqvarna, you will be amazed at how foolproof it is compared to the normal gymnastics of other air filter/cage/airbox designs.
(9) Bushing. 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.
(10) Linkage seals. The shock linkage operates on low-friction SKF seals for freer movement of the new shock linkage.
(11) Wheels. The black-anodized D.I.D. rims are mated to CNC-machined hubs using lightweight spokes and silver anodized aluminum nipples.
(12) Handlebars. We love the resilient feel of the ProTaper handlebars and the ODI lock-on grips.
What do you want? Killer brakes? A manageable powerband? Light weight? A bullet-proof clutch? Perfect handling? It is all in this package.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: Racers from 10 years ago would consider the 2022 FC450 to be an exotic $50,000 factory works bike. Guess what? Except for the price tag, that’s exactly what it is in 2022.
MXA’S 2022 HUSQVARNA FC450 SETUP SPECS
This is how we set up our 2022 Husqvarna FC450 for racing. We offer it as a guide to help you find your own sweet spot.
WP XACT FORK SETTINGS
We assume you know that a large number of factory riders have gone back to racing with air forks, including Star Yamaha’s 2021 450 National Champion Dylan Ferrandis and Christian Craig. KTM switched to air forks in 2017, using the mistakes that Kayaba and Showa made on its air forks as a guide. The 2021-2022 WP XACT air forks are the best air forks you’ve ever raced with. These 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 2022 Husqvarna FC450 (stock specs are in parentheses):
Spring rate: Pros (10.7 bar, 155 psi), Intermediates (10.3 bar, 150 psi), Novices/Vets (9.6 bar, 140 psi).
Compression: 15 clicks out (12 clicks out stock)
Rebound: 10 clicks out (12 clicks out stock)
Fork leg height: Third line
Notes: To 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. Bleed the outer chambers at regular intervals.
WP SHOCK SETTINGS
Most MXA test riders added more high-speed compression and more rebound. 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 2022 Husqvarna FC450 (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 stock)
Lo-compression: 15 clicks out
Rebound: 10 clicks out (15 clicks out stock)
Notes: We turned the high-speed compression damping in a 1/4 turn to lessen G-outs and run more rebound than the recommended setting. ο