MXA RACE TEST: THE REAL TEST OF THE 2024 HUSQVARNA FC450
Q: FIRST AND FOREMOST, IS THE 2024 HUSQVARNA FC450 BETTER THAN THE 2023 FC450?
A: Yes, as for the suspension, but a push on everything else.
Q: ISN’T THE 2024 HUSQVARNA JUST A BNG VERSION OF THE 2023 FC450?
A: Yes and no. We’re not spoiled enough to believe that Husqvarna (or any other manufacturer) should release an all-new bike every year. It’s not cost-effective and is impractical, not to mention the added cost on the showroom floor. In the eyes of MXA, there’s no such thing as a perfect bike—and all-new models bring with them a whole new set of issues.
As a rule, MXA prefers common-sense fixes to the successor of any recently developed model. Every manufacturer should aim to refine the existing design while keeping an eye on return of investment for both the company and the end user. The 2024 Husqvarna FC450 was an all-new motorcycle in 2023 and, logically, we wouldn’t expect a new Husky FC450 until the 2026–2027 model year at the soonest.
The 2024 model year for all brands has been christened “The Year of BNG.” The Honda CRF450, Yamaha YZ450F, Suzuki RM-Z450, KTM 450SXF and Husqvarna FC450 (as tested here) received no consequential updates, making the 2024 Kawasaki KX450 and 2024 GasGas MC450F the only totally revamped models.
Q: DOES THAT MEAN THE 2024 FC450 IS JUST A WARMED-OVER 2024 MODEL?
A: Yes, but it doesn’t mean that the 2024 FC450 didn’t receive any updates; it’s just that the mods don’t rise to the sobriquet of “all new and improved.” Here are the updates: (1) Larger Husqvarna “H” on the radiator shroud. (2) Smaller Husqvarna “H” on the muffler. (3) Grippier seat cover material. (4) Revised suspension settings that first came on the 2023-1/2 Husky Rockstar Edition.
In short, if you have a perfectly good 2023 Husqvarna FC450, no need to update to a $11,199 2024 FC450.
You could make the 2024 Husqvarna FC450 engine as responsive as its KTM brother with a vented airbox cover, remapped ignition and aftermarket exhaust pipe.
Q: IN WHAT WAYS DOES THE 2024 HUSQVARNA FC450 ENGINE DIFFER FROM THE 2024 KTM 450SXF ENGINE?
A: Although the KTM and Husqvarna share the same engine, they don’t run the same. The KTM is brisker, quicker and harder-hitting. The Husqvarna is smoother, mellower and easier to use. Since all the internal engine parts are the same, why are the two powerbands different? It is a given that all internal combustion engines use the “suck, squeeze, bang, blow” method of creating power. They suck air and fuel into the cylinder, compress it with the piston, light it with a spark plug and blow the fumes out of the exhaust port to make power. The more air, the more power.
But, what if an engineer or his bosses wanted less power or, more accurately, more manageable power? What would be the quickest, easiest and cheapest way to achieve that, given that the engine’s mechanical parts and configuration remain the same? That’s simple. Since throttle response is muted by reduced airflow, the Husqvarna engineers designed an airbox for the FC450 that barely had any air vents at all. Take a close look at the large air vents on each side of the 2023–’24 KTM 450SXF (just below the seat). They are wide open. Now, look at the identical air vents just below the seat on the Husqvarna FC450. Look closer! Those are fake air vents. They are molded shut so that no air can enter. With less air volume coming in, the 2024 Husqvarna FC450 engine produced a mellower, easier-to-ride and more pleasant low-to-mid transition than its KTM brother.
Voila! Thanks to air vents, the KTM is racier, and the Husqvarna is more manageable. Luckily, Husqvarna has an optional vented airbox cover that improves throttle response.
Q: IN WHAT WAYS DO THE 2024 HUSQVARNA FC450 FORKS DIFFER FROM THE 2024 KTM FORKS?
A:Just as each Austrian brand (KTM, Husqvarna and GasGas) gets its own style of power by manipulating how much air makes it to the combustion chamber, each brand also gets its own unique suspension setup.
For example, the KTM has firmer suspension that rides higher in its stroke and is stiff enough to take on big bumps and even bigger jumps. The GasGas MC450F forks are spec’ed with softer valving and are better suited to lighter or slower riders. The Husqvarna FC450 gets the same damping and recommended air-pressure rates as the KTM, but the Husqvarna fork internals and outer tubes are redesigned to make the forks 10mm shorter, which lowers the bike to make it more rider-friendly. To Husky’s credit, the WP engineers didn’t just stick a 10mm slug in each fork leg to shorten the length; they modified the cartridge rod and fork legs to keep the piston centered between the bushings and in the same location on the bleed slot as on the KTM forks.
The KTM, GasGas and Husqvarna forks are identical as far as fluid dynamics go, but they are gently massaged to produce a different result on the track. There are KTM owners who would be much happier with the softer GasGas spec, GasGas owners who would benefit from the shortened Husky spec, and Husqvarna racers who would find KTM’s stiffer setup more pro-oriented.
Q: HOW DOES THE HUSQVARNA SHOCK DIFFER FROM THE KTM AND GASGAS SHOCKS?
A: Husqvarna’s WP rear shock is part of a comprehensive plan to move the Husky chassis closer to the ground. It starts at the front end with the shorter forks, but extends to the rear end with different component choices. With a lower center of gravity, the Husqvarna corners like a banshee, which is what you would expect of any vehicle that is looking for improved handling—think Formula 1 versus a pickup truck.
It should be noted that Husqvarna did not reinvent its WP shock to achieve this; instead, the Husqvarna shock has the identical valving and spring rate as the KTM (the GasGas shock has lighter valving and a softer spring rate). Husqvarna wanted to lower the rear of the FC450, but they didn’t want to shorten the shock, because it had already been shortened 15mm to fit inside the more compact 2024 frame. Instead, they designed a new bell crank and longer shock-linkage arms to drop the seat height by 1 inch. The only actual change to the WP shock was a 9.5mm-taller seal head cap to stop the rear tire from hitting the fender.
The difference between the lowered Husqvarna and a higher KTM is noticeable, not just on the track, but most obviously to riders with inseams of less than 32 inches. During testing, MXA test riders never complained about the Husky being too low, but many complained about the KTM being too tall.
One complaint from the peanut gallery is that the lowered Husqvarna FC450 feels more cramped in the rider triangle (bars/seat/footpegs). Poppycock! This idea is contrary to both good sense and physics. Nothing on the Husqvarna frame has been changed. The relationship between the handlebars, footpegs and seat remain as they ever were. The FC450 is lower to the ground, but the chassis dimensions remain the same.
For vets and older riders, the 2024 Husqvarna is a godsend in the handling department, but first you have to get through the requisite 10-hour frame break-in period. You read that right. The chassis is way too rigid, but thankfully it gets better with time as everything settles into its natural state.
Q: HOW DOES THE 2024 HUSQVARNA FC450 HANDLE?
A: There are MXA test riders who love the lowered chassis of the 2024 Husqvarna FC450, and there are MXA test riders who don’t like the lowered Husqvarna suspension. You can’t please everyone! But, there is no denying that science is on the side of the riders who love the way the Husqvarna FC450 handles. Thanks to its unique setup, it can do some magical things on the track, aided in no small part by the new chassis, lowered riding position and pleasant roll-on power. The FC450 can carve through deep ruts with ease and glide over braking bumps and whoops, thanks to its anti-squat characteristics. You can feel the Husqvarna’s advantages in lean-angle traction, rear-wheel connectivity and power transfer immediately.
Q: WHY DOES IT NEED 10 HOURS OF BREAK-IN TIME?
A: Husqvarna’s chromoly chassis doesn’t take a set until sometime between 8 and 10 hours of ride time. Why? The Austrian engineers went to great lengths to make the frame stronger and more rigid, especially in the head tube area. The 2023-2024 frame has ultra-strong, forged-steel brackets on top of the frame’s backbone (behind the head tube), and, no surprise, forged brackets on the downtube (below the head tube). Even the motor mounts that hold the engine to the frame are forged pieces (they used to be stamped-steel mounts). The combined strength of the forged pieces makes the frame more durable and stronger but also more rigid. Because of them, this frame needs a lot of break-in time.
Our frame got closer to its natural resilience with every hour of saddle time. It was perfect at the 10-hour mark. Husqvarna knows that these are ridiculous break-in times, but most sensitive riders can feel the chassis getting better after each ride.
Q: HOW DID THE 2024 HUSQVARNA FC450 RUN ON THE TRACK?
A: The Husky FC450 is pleasant to ride; you don’t hear many riders talking about how pleasant their engines are to race, but Husky riders do. Pleasant doesn’t mean “slow.” More accurately, it means “non-confrontational.” In short, it doesn’t bully you, fight you or try to bite you. It urges you to go faster.
The 2024 Husqvarna FC450 powerband is almost perfect for the average racer, because it combines manageable low-to-mid power with forceful mid-to-top acceleration. It allows the rider to roll the throttle on sooner at corner entrance and keep it on through corner exits. It doesn’t burp, jerk or lift up. It is so smooth that it makes going faster a rider option, unlike some bikes that don’t give the rider any options short of puckering up and hanging on. Most MXA test riders preferred map 2 (the lower button on the switch).
The Husky FC450 pumps out 59.30 horsepower and 36.33 pound-feet of torque. Those aren’t just respectable numbers; they are better than anything the majority of the bikes in the 450 class can muster.
Q: IS THE LOWERED SUSPENSION GOOD OR BAD?
A: Are taller handlebars good or bad? Is a seat bump good or bad? Are redheads good or bad? These are questions that only the rider who chose the bars, installed the hump or dated the women can answer. But, if you want a nay or yea answer, we think Husqvarna’s layout fills a void in the market.The start/stop buttons are next to the throttle.
Q: WHAT DID WE HATE?
A: The hate list:
(1) Chain slack. You must relearn everything you know about chain slack. If you are used to checking chain slack by sticking three fingers under the chain at the end of the buffer pad, you will need to use four fingers on a 2024 Husky, GasGas or KTM. The actual chain slack measurement is 70mm.
(2) Seat bolt. Do you remember how the radiator wing bolts used to seize in the riv-nuts molded into the gas tanks of the 1980s two-strokes? The same thing can happen to the front-mount seat bolt if you tighten it too much.
(3) Brake pedal tip. The foot pad on the rear brake pedal can be crushed in a close encounter of the dirt kind. Luckily, there is a wide variety of stronger brake pedal tips available from Scar, 3Dmoto, Tusk, Power Parts, Nihilo Concepts, Enduro Engineering, 7602 Racing, Zeta and more.
(4) Plastic shock cover. This ugly cover is an afterthought. With better designers, it wouldn’t have been necessary. It is there to keep your leg or boot from changing the shock’s clicker settings.
(5) Finding neutral. Getting the transmission into neutral on the starting line is hard. We rev the engine really high with the clutch pulled in and then snick it into neutral as the revs fall off.
(6) Weight. Although it is still lighter than all the Japanese 450s, it isn’t as light as it was in 2022 by 4 pounds.
(7) Spokes. Check them regularly. Start with the spokes closest to the rim lock.
(8) Colors. The 2023–2024 Husqvarna color palette bears no resemblance to any Husky or KTM that ever came before. We love the look of the all-white Husqvarna Heritage Edition.
(9) Kill button. Maybe it’s just us, but we still reach for the kill button on the left side of the handlebars before realizing that it’s on the right side. Q: WHAT DID WE LIKE?
A: The like list:
(1) Seat height. We think every brand should bring its seat height down.
(2) Brakes. The Brembo brakes are both powerful and well modulated. They are awesome!
(3) Shock collar. The 2023–2024 shock collar is much easier to turn than any other preload ring.
(4) Quick Shift. It’s great for long high-speed starts, but it can be quirky in half-throttle situations, especially on jump faces.
(5) Handlebars. The Husqvarna is spec’ed with excellent ProTaper handlebars.
(6) Air filter. The Husky/GasGas/KTM air filters are incredibly easy to change, thanks to their plug-and-play design.
(7) Handling. Thanks to a lower center of gravity, the Husqvarna corners like a dream.
(8) Clickers. All the compression and rebound clickers on the 2023–2024 KTM, Husky and GasGas models can be adjusted by hand. No need for a screwdriver to adjust compression or rebound, just turn the dial. The rear shock is even more whiz-bang. Its clicker dials look like a pinwheel, with easy-to-use clickers for high-speed compression and low-speed compression on the reservoir, while the rebound clicker is on the bottom of the shock clevis (it, too, can be adjusted by hand, but it isn’t as easy).
The taller red seal head cap stops the rear tire fromhitting the underside of the rear fender.
Q: WHAT DO WE REALLY THINK?
A: We think that the 10-hour break-in time is a big hurdle for potential buyers to jump over. Long-time Husqvarna loyalist will take the break-in period in stride because they know that once the time is reached, they will be rewarded with the most balanced 450 motocross bike on the track. The 2024 Husky FC450 offers a package that is unlike any other 450 motocross bike’s. The FC450 is lower, smoother and more controllable. It is the best Vet bike made and the only showroom stock bike that a short rider can touch the ground on.