It is surreal to think of the position that Husqvarna occupied within the industry just ten years ago. The manufacturer was not thought of as a legitimate threat at all, hence why the brand was not represented at the amateur level. Now, however, they are pushing boundaries within the industry and constantly raising the bar. The all-new MY19 range serves as proof of that.
The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing squad reached new heights earlier this season, as Jason Anderson climbed atop the 450SX podium in Monster Energy Supercross and Zach Osborne added another number-one plate to the door of the truck. Those triumphs were hot on the heels of an emphatic double-moto sweep by Max Anstie at the Motocross of Nations. Put simply, it is impossible to go anywhere without running into a white bike. Feedback from those heavyweights, who most long to be like, then trickles down to the Husqvarna base and is taken into account when it is time to produce a new fleet.
Running through the various upgrades and enhancements that each model has received would be tedious. A considerable amount of work has gone into the line to ensure that each model delivers that wow factor from the moment that it is rolled out of a truck. There is no denying the fact that was indeed the case when Husqvarna launched their MY19 range at the Baker Factory in Florida recently. The popular facility needs no introduction, especially to those familiar with the manufacturer and what their elite athletes have achieved, and undoubtedly added a lot to that immediate reaction. It was the perfect setting to launch an exciting range.
The fact that Husqvarna opted to send riders and media from across the globe to the exotic location makes their commitment to the sport clear for all to see as well. MX Vice were present with test rider, Jordan Divall, who hopped on five different bikes in a single day. The FC 350 stood out from the crowd for its weight difference in comparison to the bigger FC 450. Perhaps that was more recognisable on the tighter track in Florida that had long ruts? A style of track where the nimble nature of the FC 350 would be a major advantage. The FC 350 has always been considered perfect for the local club racer.
The facts do not necessarily indicate that there is too big a difference between the weight of the two bikes though, which comes as a bit of a surprise. The nimble feeling of the FC 350 was complimented by the lightweight frame that includes improved energy absorption and straight-line stability. All of which was very evident during the test. It felt like it was easy to throw the bike around and place it wherever it needed to go. It is not like any power was compromised in comparison to the FC 450, however, so it is hard to point to a single negative about the FC 350.
How about the championship-winning FC 450? When MX Vice visited the KTM test earlier this year, the SX-F 450 was the most popular machine on the day. Naturally that prompted plenty of excitement about the FC 450. However, oddly enough, Divall felt as though it was a slight disappointment. The power was a little lazy from the bottom and had to be ridden like the FC 250. A trait that would obviously work on the FC 350, but those who select the powerful FC 450 are looking for bursts of speed. Improvements have been made to the engine though, which elite riders will very-much enjoy.
"The camshaft is now closer to the centre of gravity, significantly improving handling while shorter valve timing improves bottom-end performance and responsiveness," according to Husqvarna. The conditions on the day may have not given that a chance to shine though, so it would be exciting to give it another whirl on a different circuit. Technical spiel can leave some lost. However, the following point is intriguing and worth noting. "The FC 450, like the rest of the four-stroke motocross range, features a KEIHIN throttle body and injector system that ensures optimal throttle response," a statement confirmed. "Throttle response is also improved thanks to a more direct mounting forgoing a throttle linkage."
Divall claimed that it was not possible to leave the FC 450 in a high gear whilst cornering, so you had to change down the gears and use the higher rev range to be in the right power. The FC 250, on the other hand, was another machine that stood out from the crowd. It was immediately obvious why there are so many of the bikes on starting lines across the globe each and every weekend. Divall was beaming about how well-balanced across the braking bumps, of which there were plenty in the loamy Floridian soil, which gave a smooth ride entering the turns.
A quality like the one mentioned above enables riders to piece together various different parts of a track in a seamless manner. Even whilst cornering, the responsive throttle on the FC 250 made it easy to keep everything under control. It is difficult to point to a single fault that the FC 250 has. The engine components on the FC 250, along with the shaft arrangements, are positioned closer to the centre of gravity and that reduces the effects of rotational inertia (effectively making everything as stable as possible). It is also worth noting that the engine is light (just 26.1 kg) too. All of that jargon contributes to the impressive handling that was prevalent on the test day.
The Husqvarna MY19 four-stroke range stayed true to what most tend to believe. The FC 250 and FC 350 are bettered suited to the weekend warrior, someone who wants to go out to local tracks and enjoy racing. The FC 450, on the other hand, is for a rider who wants to be competitive and have that little extra punch from their ride. It is very clear that the FC 250 and FC 350 are gaining pace though and can now tick boxes for all riders too, as they really are exquisite machines. Husqvarna have presented three impressive bikes that all need to be considered when selecting your new steed for next year.
Additionally, Husqvarna are one of three manufacturers who still believe in catering to two-stroke riders. There are a lot of them too! The TC 250 was a little disappointing to Jordan Divall though. Why was that? The bike was a little lazy off the bottom of the power and that caused some difficulties with the balance in the corners. When there is not enough power, which was more evident in the rough terrain at the Baker Factory, it is difficult to get back upright after leaning over in a turn. It is worth taking note of the fact that the power was smooth and manageable, but once the higher rev range was hit it was a tad restricted.
Husqvarna were eager to reduce vibration with the TC 250 and that was actually achieved. The vibration was barely noticeable, if it was even there. There is no doubt that is a complaint that most average riders have about their older two-strokes, so perhaps it is time to upgrade? There is something for everyone with the MY19 range thanks to the mini range, which is featured elsewhere on MX Vice, and that may be the greatest point to focus on. A rider can spend an entire lifetime with Husqvarna. The TC 125 is an important stepping stone and part of that process, as it bridges the gap between the youth range and adult bikes. The TC 125 is overwhelmingly popular too and, unsurprisingly, won Jordan Divall over.
Divall immediately recognised that the TC 125 epitomised fun, as it was easy to handle along the rough straights and large jumps. The throttle response was very noticeable and made cornering easy which, again, adds to that enjoyment factor. Not everyone enjoys being forced outside of their comfort zone. The weight of that bike is part of the reason that it was so easy to handle. When the 2015 TC 125 was released, which was at the start of this new era for Husqvarna, the engine weighed 19.3 kg. The same engine now weighs just 17.2 kg. The FC 450 engine weighs 26.1 kg, in comparison, but that is obviously a completely different animal. Those facts may make it easier to select a new bike that suits your needs.
For an easy way to summarise some of the key improvements that have been made to the MY19 range, these are the improvements and enhancements that were included; redesigned bodywork, redesigned SOHC cylinder head on the FC 450, a blue-coated frame featuring increased longitudinal rigidity, a new two-piece subframe design, updated setting on the WP AER 48 forks, WP DCC shock featuring new piston and updated setting, new mufflers on two-strokes, redesigned header pipe on TC 250, chain adjustment length increased by 5mm and a triple clamp protector integrated into front number plate. There are a lot of details there, including some that include performance and some that will just stop the consumer wasting money every couple of months.
The pioneering mindset that Husqvarna heavily rely on is apparent in the entire MY19 range. Whilst new bikes often featured some small different graphics and a slight performance tweak, these bikes are worth the investment. There are so many improvements that are arguably before their time that it is easy to see why the Austrian manufacturer are leading the way across the globe. Who would you not want to be a part of that charge?
Words: Lewis Phillips | Lead Image: Husqvarna/Marco Campelli