WE RIDE JASON ANDERSON’S ROCKSTAR ENERGY HUSQVARNA FC450
Opulence is reserved for the wealthy or those who reach the top through vigilance, hard work and dedication to their craft. Of course, the rags-to-riches story is much more aligned with the American dream than the lifestyle of some self-righteous spoiled nincompoop (unless “US Weekly” is your news source). MXA favors those who have failed or been down on their luck, only to rise to the top. The caviar and foie gras types belong in the Hamptons; real winners are found out at the test tracks at sunset when everyone else has gone home.
The biggest fear that all professional racers have isn’t injury or going deep into debt; instead, the prospect of losing is their greatest worry. Because there can only be one winner at every race, it’s up to the losers to turn failure into motivation, motivation into improvement and improvement into victory. This year there are 18 factory riders in the 450 class. The manufacturers hand-picked every one of those riders because they thought that they had a chance of being a winner.
A few short years ago very few factories would have chosen Jason Anderson to lead their race program. The kid from Edgewood, New Mexico, was far from dominant in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Up to that point Anderson had flash-in-the-pan rides, but his results were marred by inconsistency and frequent crashes. In fact, he had one 250 Supercross win to his credit. However, Bobby Hewitt and Dave Gowland of Rockstar Energy Racing (RER) believed in Anderson. They stuck with Jason through the bad times, and in 2014, things started to click when Rockstar Energy Racing received factory KTM backing. Anderson caught fire in the 250 West series, winning four of the nine rounds en route to the team’s first 250 West Supercross crown. Capturing the 250 West put Jason’s name on the short list for a 450 factory ride in 2015. Rather than sign with a different team, Jason signed on the dotted line with the team that believed in him from the start—Rockstar Energy Racing. Jason repaid their favor with his loyalty, even though the team was switching brands to Husqvarna.
The last time Husqvarna fielded a serious AMA effort was in 2002 with Steve Lamson. You’ll need to look back to 1976 to find the last time that a Husqvarna finished on the podium in the Supercross class or won an AMA National Championship. Kent Howerton was the brand ambassador 39 years ago. Now the pressure falls on the shoulders of Jason Anderson to do the “Rhinestone Cowboy” one better by putting the brand back on the map in America. Many have tried—Billy Grossi, Chuck Sun, Brad Lackey, Micky Dymond, Tony D—but all came up short. Anderson is Husqvarna’s first real threat at putting the white, blue and yellow brand back on top in the premier class.
The Rockstar Energy Racing/Husqvarna pairing paid immediate dividends when Jason Anderson finished second at the Anaheim 1 Supercross. It was race one of the season and the first-time 450 Supercross rider was on the box. It was a spectacle that the MXA wrecking crew never thought would happen. It’s not that we didn’t believe in Jason Anderson, but Husqvarna’s last foray in 2002 was the death knell of the brand’s attempt at racing Supercross. In the past decade Husqvarna has changed hands three times—from Cagiva MV Augusta to BMW-owned to being purchased by KTM’s Stefan Pierer. Thankfully for the manufacturer with deep Swedish roots dating back to 1903, the acquisition by Pierer was the best thing that could have happened. The race-minded Pierer envisioned Husqvarna’s return to prominence, and he was willing to back Rockstar Energy Racing’s return to AMA professional racing with his checkbook.
It was natural for MXA to want to test Jason Anderson’s Husqvarna FC450. We have tested every production Husqvarna motocross bike for every year that the brand has imported to America (except for the years when they banned us for saying bad things about their bikes the year before). We understand the lineage of the Swedish-turned-Italian-turned-Austrian company. We have also ridden Mike Brown’s EnduroCross bike, Zach Osborne’s FC250 and John-Erik Burleson’s factory FC350, so we are familiar with Husqvarna’s works trickery. Normally, Husqvarna doesn’t allow in-season bike tests, but they are justly proud of how well Jason and his FC450 are doing, so when we asked, they said yes. As a result, we offer a comprehensive review of what goes into building Jason Anderson’s FC450.
THE DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS. WHAT DOES JASON ANDERSON LOOK FOR IN A RACE BIKE? IT’S AN INNOCENT MISCONCEPTION TO SURMISE THAT ONE OF THE FASTEST RIDERS IN THE PADDOCK WOULD DESIRE GOBS OF POWER, ROCK-HARD SUSPENSION AND BOMBPROOF DURABILITY.
Being that Jason Anderson’s Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna FC450 is a true-to-life works bike, we expected a myriad of components that were classified as unobtainable by mere mortals. We were right. However, unlike ostentatious bikes found throughout the Pro pits, Anderson’s FC450 doesn’t have appeal based on gaudy trinkets and unimportant, but anodized, parts. Jason’s Husky is of the F-18 Raptor kind of fighter jet. It’s stealth. The custom axle blocks, frame welds, reinforced radiators, self-cleaning footpeg brackets and individualized handlebar mounts are subtle mods, but effective in ensuring that Anderson is comfortable and confident. After all, that’s what makes the difference when piloting a 60-plus-horsepower motorcycle.
The devil is in the details. What does Jason Anderson look for in a race bike? It’s an innocent misconception to surmise that one of the fastest riders in the paddock would desire gobs of power, rock-hard suspension and bombproof durability. But, it’s not all wrong. Where the Rockstar Racing Husky team differs from some teams is that they error on the side of caution, preferring longevity over decreased weight, powerband over horsepower and ease of use over complexity.
Routine maintenance is part of their overall objective. That’s why Anderson’s mechanic, Chris Loredo, tears the race bike down on a weekly basis. The engine is sent from Rockstar Husky’s race shop over to Factory Services in Murrieta, California, where it is rebuilt, put on the dyno to check quality control, and returned to the race team. The same system is utilized with the WP suspension. Anderson’s forks and shock are delivered to WP Factory Services for maintenance. This may seem like a lot of time shipping, waiting and receiving parts, but Rockstar’s race shops, Factory Services and WP Factory Services, are all on the same block. Chris Loredo just walks his parts across the street. Anderson trusts in WP’s 52mm works Cone Valve fork and the robust WP Trax shock. Note that, unlike the air forks of BTO’s Andrew Short, Jason uses spring technology. As for other in-season changes made to the Husqvarna FC450, the team uses a new frame and swingarm every six races. They also run through three sets of Dubya wheels (Excel A60 rims with Talon hubs) through a Supercross series. Additionally, in an effort to shave weight, the team drills holes in the plastic seat base, battery housing and anywhere else they could drop a few grams.
It takes a meticulous eye to discern the intricacies of Jason Anderson’s FC450. To our way of thinking, the muted approach taken by Rockstar Energy Racing helps Husqvarna’s bottom line. Unlike other manufacturers, whose factory bikes look considerably different from what the public can buy off the showroom floor, Anderson’s Husky is a spitting image of a stock FC450. Sure, there are titanium Met-Tek bolts scattered throughout the frame, not to mention the Raptor titanium footpegs, works Brembo brakes, customized FMF Factory 4.1 exhaust, carbon composite subframe, Neken triple clamps and specialized Dunlop tires. Guess what? Most casual observers would mistake Jason’s steed for a slightly massaged stocker.
That’s the goal, and Husqvarna is succeeding at convincing the public that they, too, can own a motorcycle capable of the podium at the highest level. Of course, there are parts that can be purchased by anyone with a high credit limit. The Rockstar team aftermarket components consist of ProTaper Fusion handlebars, sprockets and grips, a complete Hinson clutch, RK chain, DT1 air filter, Bel-Ray lubricants, Selle Dalla Valle seat, Raptor footpegs, Dubya wheels, UFO plastics, Husqvarna graphics, Neken triple clamps, Brembo steel-braided brake lines, and Met-Tek titanium fasteners.
Many 450cc Factory bikes have the following traits: super-stiff forks, an engine with loads of bottom-end power, a massive front brake and a lowered subframe. Surprisingly, Anderson’s FC450 wasn’t the standard-fare factory machine. His engine was quite broad, with a decent amount of bottom-end grunt, and produced manageable breadth across the range. To give you an idea how powerful the Factory Services engine was, we were able to jump everything on the Husqvarna test track very quickly. To quote Rockstar Husky’s head tech Steve Westfall, “We wanted to make sure that Jason was comfortable with the power, because it has to be ridden hard for a long time. It makes no sense to build a power monster if you can’t finish strong on it. We wanted Jason to ride the bike rather than have the bike ride him.”
Anderson’s 52mm works WP forks were stiff, with the caveat that they were also quite plush in the initial part of the stroke. Bump absorption was excellent at low speed and created a nice contact patch between the Dunlop tire and the ground. At high speeds and under heavy loads, the WP units ramped progressively and with some semblance of fluidity (for factory rider suspension). Overall, we were impressed by Anderson’s settings, even if we couldn’t use them to their maximum capabilities. The Trax shock mated well with the forks in that it offered the same plushness in the first third of the stroke.
At 6 feet in stature, Jason Anderson is on the tall side of the factory-rider spectrum. The Rockstar team accommodates his lankiness by moving the footpegs down 5mm and back 2mm to open up the cockpit. Jason settled on 38mm-tall bar mounts, and ProTaper was kind enough to make him his very own Fusion handlebar bend (appropriately named the “Anderson” bend). Note that Jason’s FC450 subframe is made of a polymide composite and cannot be cut in order to be shortened. No matter, Jason doesn’t have any problems with the seat slapping him in the rear when blitzing the whoops. One note: Anderson removes the top subframe mounting bolt, leaving just the lower bolt because it provides a more resilient feel.
It was a privilege testing Jason Anderson’s factory Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna FC450 for five reasons. First, we are thrilled that Husqvarna is back in the fold. Second, the guys at Rockstar Energy Racing are a Cinderella story, rising through the ranks to becoming one of the preeminent teams in the pits. Third, Jason Anderson has talent in spades, and we were pleased to ride the bike that could take him to the top. Fourth, we were given exclusive access to Husqvarna’s private test track and spun laps with “El Hombre” himself, Jason Anderson. Finally, we were happy to experience the thrill of spending the day on Anderson’s Rockstar Energy Racing Husqvarna, with the star 450 rookie and living to write about it.