Motocross

On Test – 2019 Husqvarna MX range

On Test – 2019 Husqvarna MX range

2019 Husqvarna MX Test

As a brand, Husqvarna likes to make a big deal about its heritage and perhaps rightly so, as for the past 50 years or so the company – albeit, a few different variations thereof – has been developing and producing some of the most technologically advanced off-road motorcycles on the market.

Currently riding a wave of success that has seen the brand win two AMA Supercross championships so far this year – the 450SX title with Jason Anderson and 250 East series with Zach Osborne – as well as countless MXGP and MX2 grands prix/motos in the FIM World Championship it’s fair to say that Husqvarna is at the top of the game.

And as industry leaders they were keen to make a splash with the launch of their 2019 range of race bikes which meant the global MX media was invited all the way to Florida to check out the new models.

Claimed to be a new generation, the 2019 model year Husqvarnas have been heavily breathed upon and the five full-size models from the light and nimble TC 125 right through to the fire breathing FC 450 come with a whole heap of new parts and refinement which sets them apart within their respective classes.

2019 Husqvarna MX Test

The upgrades consist of – redesigned bodywork and graphics, a blue powder-coated frame with increased rigidity, new two-piece subframe that’s a quarter of a kilo lighter than the 2018 version, updated suspension settings, new, lightweight heads for the 350 and 450, stiffer triple clamps, updated cooling systems, a new diaphragm steel clutch for the TC125, FC 250 and FC 350, different bend Pro Taper handlebars and new Pankl gearboxes.

There’s more too but they are considered to be the highlights. The hydro-formed, laser-cut and robot-welded frames are constructed to be more rigid than before. This is to increase stability and rider feedback while absorbing energy.

The new subrframe is robust and stiffer than that found on previous models but made with 70 per cent polyamide and 30 per cent carbon fibre to keep the weight down. It’s 250g lighter and 30 per cent stiffer which again benefits handling and rider comfort.

WP 48mm AER forks are fitted across the range for their weight saving properties and levels of adjustability and refinement. There are new settings for 2019 and easy access clicker dials for riders who feel the need to tinker around to find the optimum setting.

The forks are linked to the chassis through 22mm offset CNC-machined triple clamps which are a work of art. These clamps offer three-way handlebar adjustment so riders can find that perfect set-up.

2019 Husqvarna MX Test – TC 125

The rear shock gets a tickle too and has been reworked to complement the new fork settings.  Pro Taper handlebars are a nice touch as are the ODI grips. On the handlebars you’ll also find Map Switch and Launch Control buttons for the three four-strokes.

The exhaust systems on all models are greatly changed to optimise power output, weight distribution, aesthetics and ground clearance.  There’s generally a weight-saving to be had too – every little counts. The ’19 models also feature new bodywork – that you’ll have seen on the factory bikes seen in MXGP action this year.

There’s also a Swedish-inspired look which I thought might mean lots of flat-pack pine panelling but is actually more concentrated on the colour of the graphics and what Husqvarna call modern design.

The seat is now 10mm lower than in previous years although I suspect most people’s buns won’t notice the difference.  A top-notch Magura hydraulic clutch system and Brembo controls and callipers keep the feel of quality high while Dunlop MX3S tyres are a nice touch too.

These are fitted to some of the trickes looking wheels I’ve seen on a stocker in some time – good work Husqvarna!  The tool-less filter access is a nice touch and when accessed it’s nice to see that the run of high quality continues with a Twin Air filter and cage fitted as standard!

That’s about the top and bottom of it and it has to be said that the 2019s not only look the part from a distance but stand-up to scrutiny such is the quality of build and parts used – it’s no wonder the bikes have been winners over the years.

But that was than and this is now and the only real way to tell how good these bikes are is to take them for a spin…

FC450

My first weapon of choice was the mighty FC 450 as I figured I would get the biggest and most powerful BIKE out of the way first and then work my way down!  It also meant I’d get chance to get the jumps dialled in on the fastest bike – old-school tricks!

It’s been a while since I’ve sat on a 450 but from the first second I swung my leg over this bike I could feel how much slimmer the 2019 model felt than earlier models!  A few laps in to figure things out and I was pleasantly surprised by how well the bike was handling.

Suspension is key on any 450 and in previous years I really struggled with the standard air forks as I felt that they always seemed to blow through the stroke and then when you stiffened them up they were really harsh with no feeling.

This wasn’t the case with the 2019 range and straight away the feedback from the AER48 front forks and the WP shock were positive – the suspension felt plush at the top but was also firm enough through the middle meaning it didn’t just blow through the stroke.

After speaking with the WP tech team they informed me that they made big steps forward with their damping and that the capsuled air cartridge and pressurised oil chamber work together to create progressive and consistent damping for all-round better performance.

2019 Husqvarna MX Test FC 250

The balance of the bike is also very good even though I can’t quite put my finger on why this is. Considering it’s the biggest bike in the Husky range the FC 450 still turns really well with the slimline bodywork and overall balance really helping it in tight turns.

This is an area where 450s sometimes struggle but the FC 450 excelled here. Moving on to the motor and another big noticeable change for me was how much more mellow the engine was than in previous years.
Husqvarna have always been known for making these super-fast 450s which can be a bit of a handful. This year, though, that’s really not the case and my initial thought was that the bike feels really tame which is crazy for a bike that throws out 63hp and weighs 101kgs!

In previous years the bike would almost be on the snappy side and want to wheelie everywhere however the new bike seems to want to put traction through the back wheel without that snap! The more I rode it the more I realised the engine is in fact really strong!

The power is there to pull high gears in the five-speed box and use the power delivery without ripping your arms off! This is the direction Husqvarna wanted to go and I think their development has worked pretty well.

I think for a clubman rider the bike now would be a lot more manageable to ride and race.
The word race is also a good way to describe how I think it would work at Pro level and I think out of the box the bike is very strong and raceable for 30 minutes.

FC 350

The 350 is a bike I’ve never really gelled with before – it was always an in-between bike for me and I always felt like I wouldn’t ever want to give 100cc away before starting an MX1 race anyway.

But I wanted to try the bike with an open mind and just rode it without the thought of ever racing it so I could give my honest opinion.

Again the bodywork and frame give the bike a really nice feel and the suspension was the same as the FC 450 in that it gave me great confidence to attack the track hard. A few laps in and I started to get into it and was actually really surprised by how strong the engine felt!

Husky are claiming 58hp for their 350 and on this slightly lighter bike that felt like plenty! Unlike the FC 450 that liked pulling higher gears the FC 350 needs revving and you can really hold on to each gear for a long time without the performance backing off.

2019 Husqvarna MX Test – FC 350

Even though on paper the FC350 isn’t loads lighter than the FC 450 it does feel it out on the track which makes it really easy to move around underneath you and again feels really balanced!

The bike does turn very well and I would say it turns a little easier than the 450 – not that I struggled with that though either!

The 350 is really easy to throw around in the air too and feels really nimble.  Having ridden the FC 350 for a few sessions I have to say it’s a great bike and while I’d always choose the 450 for racing in MX1, I do have to say that this bike would be perfect for someone who can’t quite get to grips with the weight and power of the 450.

I think the bike compares more to a 250 than a 450 – like a 250 on steroids – with the engine characteristics of how you have to keep it in the mid to high rev range to keep It going strong. The bike would suit riders with a more revvy or aggressive/hang it out riding style.

FC 250
As one of the front runners in the MX2 class I was really looking forward to getting to grips with the new FC 250 and it didn’t leave me feeling disappointed. The characteristics of the bike are the same as the other four-strokes in the 2019 Husqvarna range and right away I really enjoyed riding it.

The general feeling with suspension and balance is similar to the other four-strokes only it feels much, much lighter and easy to move around meaning you can ride it hard and also let it hang out a little.

The power from the bottom was pretty good in my opinion with the new camshaft timing seeming to have lifted the performance of the bottom-end power resulting in better throttle response than on the ’18 and earlie rmodels.

That said though I felt that the FC 250 could do with a little more mid-range power.
The test was held in power-sapping sand and I felt like after the initial response coming out of the corners you would run out of steam a little through the mid-range but once you reached the top-end the bike felt strong again.

I was lucky enough to be able to jump on one of the FC 250s decked out with the Husky Powerparts pack on. The FMF exhaust really lifted the bike and gave it a boost from the bottom-end all the way through to the mid-range.

It really seemed to be a positive coming out of deep sandy corners into a long section of rollers or on the run up to a jump – it kept the bike nice and strong and delivered nice power with out going stale.

The bike is so well balanced and the stability in the small sharp bumps going into corners is really positive which keeps things feeling settled and enables you to carry speed through the turns and to keep the little engine going and driving.

The FC250 turns really well, the standard triple clamps come set with an offset of 22mm and that works well and suits my riding style. The Husky Powerparts triple clamps come with the option of moving the offset to 20mm if that would suit you better but for me there was absolutely no problems when it came to turning the smallest bike in the four-stroke range.

TC250

This is the bike I couldn’t wait to test! I’ve done a lot of development with my 2018 Husqvarna TC 250 that I race in the UK so I couldn’t wait to try out the 2019 version. Truthfully, the bike all round just feels that little bit better than the current model.

I never really thought the ’18 was fat around the tank area but the ’19 models definitely do feel that bit slimmer which makes the riding position that little bit more comfortable and easy.

It also turns better than before but I think that’s down to a few small changes and not just one. Every Husqvarna this year features an extended swing arm that means you can adjust your wheelbase so it’s up to 5mm longer but at the same time still go all the way back in if need be.

This change will work great on some of the sandier, rough tracks with long wave sections. Along with the upgraded subframe I think this will be a great step in the right direction for the two-stroke machine as they can be a bit lively on the back end.

Husqvarna made it clear this year that they wanted to take smart riding (intelligent Moto) to their range and make the bikes rideable for the end user. In the past the 250 two-stroke has been known for having aggressive/snappy power. However the 2019 bike doesn’t quite feel like that.

The power delivery is really smooth from the bottom-end through to the mid-range power. For me the bike was a little too smooth and I did want that little bit more as the bike comes with the ‘less aggressive’ power valve spring inserted.

2019 Husqvarna MX Test FC 450

In the pack when you buy the bike there is another spring which alters the power delivery from smooth to something a little bit livelier. This is all personal preference and for me the snappier more aggressive spring suits my style as I tend to ride in the higher range of the five-speed gear box.

That said, it’s always nice to have the option of smooth power delivery for different track conditions and it’s only a two minute job to change and with big results.

The carburettor has been updated and now features a 38mm flat slide Mikuni TMX carburettor with new settings for improved performance. Providing a smooth and controllable power delivery, it also offers optimal performance over the entire RPM range.

There has also been a lot of changes to the exhaust system for 2019 and the front pipe is a lot slimmer and narrower than in previous years. With this change it offers more ground clearance, making it less susceptible to damage as well as improving the overall performance.

Another big change to the TC 250 is that it features a laterally-mounted counter balancer shaft. This significantly reduces the vibration from the engine. Normally when revving the bike on the stand it is one of the first things you feel through your hands.

When I started the ’19 bike up for the first time I could really feel that the bike didn’t vibrate as much as before. This for me is a noticeable change and one for the better as the older 250 two-strokes could shake the bones off a skeleton!

TC 125

The TC 125 may be the baby of the adult fleet but it can still go like the clappers!

It is the smallest and lightest bike Husqvarna offer to the adult market but it could also be classed as one of the most fun bikes to ride too as you are permanently on the pipe – the TC125 really does love to be singing.

The 125 is such a light and nimble bike to ride. The overall feel is really good and the bike is balanced really well. It turns exceptionally well – you could almost turn it on a dime – either the coin or the chocolate bar version, it’s up to you!

Clearing the bigger jumps on the 125 was super difficult but the upgraded suspension could handle whatever I threw at it.

However, with the bike turning so well I was able to carry really good speed through the turns and with the rear of the bike tracking perfectly it made it possible to get the power to the ground and over the jumps.

Again, there are many upgrades to the 125 for this year much like the 250 – there’s the same upgrade to the carburettor and also a modified exhaust port. The 125 is Husqvarna’s only bike to feature a six-speed gear box and I would also say it’s the only bike that needs it.

To get the most out of the bike you really have to work the gears and to keep it hauling in the deep sand requires a certain amount of intensity. I guess this is why so many people find this size bike so much fun to ride.

The 2019 bike features a new DS (Diaphragm Steel) clutch. The exclusive characteristics of this system include a single diaphragm steel pressure plate instead of traditional coil springs. The big gain to this is the clutch is lighter with better lever feel but also improved durability.

Overall the TC 125 is a great bike and a great stepping stone for the younger generation moving up from the 85 class before making the steps to the four-stroke range. A stint on a 125 will certainly teach you to work the bike hard and carry speed absolutely everywhere.

But as well as that this bike also fits the bill for the many others who just want to enjoy riding.