2020 Husqvarna FE350: Set-Up Tips
It’s incredible how many people underrate the importance of setting up a new bike to suit their size, weight and riding style, and/or the sort of terrain they predominantly ride the thing in. Sometimes, that has to do with them being distracted by bolt-on performance-enhancers and bling. Sometimes it’s because they don’t take the time to read their owners manual to fully understand the adjustments available on the bike. Often, it’s both.
While you can’t always set up a standard bike to suit you 100 percent, customising it around your preferences will go a long way to improving how it performs for you. In other words, it’s a free, personalised performance upgrade. Here’s a snapshot of what we did to customise the set up of our 2020 Husqvarna FE350 project bike…
Straight out of the crate, most riders will find the 2020 bike’s cockpit pretty conventional and comfortable. That said, the new seat cover is slippery in the wet and – care of the revised shock linkage – the entire seat is noticeably lower (10mm at the front, which grows to 20mm lower at the rear of the seat). It’s a confidence-instilling set-up for smaller guys and for riding technical and extreme terrain, but riders taller than 6’ will probably benefit from a taller seat. Which is why we fitted a Husky Accessories Factory Seat, which comes with the super-grippy diamond-textured seat cover and a series of ribs to give your arse extra grip. Aside from a bit more legroom, the other benefit of this taller seat is that it puts you in a more forward-biased, aggressive seating position on the bike. And we really like how that positioning works with the 2020 chassis.
With the bar mounts in rear mounting hole and forward offset, the Pro Taper handlebars can feel a little tall and straight in the standard “0” position, so rolling them back a couple of notches certainly creates a friendlier-feeling sweep for your wrists. This set-up gives you more control over the front-end around flat turns, but doesn’t cramp you when standing. With the tall seat, we found bringing the bars halfway back toward standard (that is, to one notch back from 0) generated the best overall feel in the cockpit.
Fork: To address the damping inconsistencies that both Husky and KTM experienced with their WP Xplor forks over the past few years, WP has improved the production tolerances of the fork’s critical internal components. And there’s no doubt this has resulted in much more reliable and consistent damping action for the 2020 production bikes. We reckon the fork’s overall performance is better this year too. The 4.2N/mm fork springs are a couple of spring rates softer for 2020, but when combined with the significantly firmer damping used this year, the fork rides higher in its stroke. That in turn gives it a plusher feel and better bottoming resistance because the extra damping ‘catches’ the compression earlier in the stroke; before it’s had the chance to gain too much momentum. After much experimentation (which is easy to do, thanks to the tool-free star clickers), we ended up pretty close to the recommended clicker settings for the fork: 12 clicks out on the compression (standard is 15 out) and the standard 15 clicks out on the rebound.
The biggest improvement we found with the fork came with the spring preload. Given that the 2020 models have a slightly more raked-out steering head angle (as a result of the new shock linkage), we didn’t add any fork preload initially as we were concerned it may compromised the bike’s steering accuracy in tight terrain. But after testing the bike with the 3mm and 6mm preload settings (again, easy to do as the adjuster in the fork cap is tool-free), we had five testers unanimously say they preferred the 3mm setting. Perhaps this has something to do with offsetting the taller seat, which automatically puts the rider in a more commanding position over the front of the bike. Perhaps not. In any case, the addition of just 3mm preload to each fork leg created a better-balanced chassis. That was especially noticeable when hitting downhill braking bumps and in sandy conditions.
Shock: Like the fork, the standard WP Xact shock absorber settings are also pretty close to the mark for an 80-90kg rider. After some trial and error, we settled on the standard settings for low-speed compression (15 clicks out) and rebound (15 clicks out), but wound the high-speed compression in to 1.5 turns out (standard is 2 turns) to improve bottoming resistance on those really big hits. We found that 38mm static sag and 106-108mm rider sag worked best (which is pretty close to the recommended 37mm and 110mm, respectively), when coupled with the additional 3mm of fork spring preload.
There’s nothing special to report about oil or air filter changes on the new FE350 powerplant. Both remain a cinch and idiot-proof. And it’s handy that the 2017 through 2019 air filter cages and filters still fit the 2020 bike. The separation of the LHS radiator shroud and sideplate for the 2020 model is a much better design. On the 2019 bike, there was a tendency for the entire LHS plastic panel (which incorporated the sideplate and shroud) to fall off if you failed to properly locate it on the two fuel tank lugs, or of you dropped the bike and unseated the sideplate’s pop-in fasteners.
Our only quibble is with the design of the muffler’s mounting brackets, which now slot neatly into two U-shaped recesses in the plastics. To remove and/or re-fit the muffler, undoing those two bracket bolts and the joining spring is not enough. You also need to loosen and remove the pipe’s mid-section. If you don’t, it’s impossible to properly realign the muffler and mid-section pipe before bolting it all back in place. Not a biggie, but also not something KTM owners need to be concerned with.
- Modifying the bar-mounted switchblocks to create space and improve functionality. In standard trim, the red kill switch is awkward to get to. Plus we reckon we’ll hardwire the headlight on, so we can replace that chunky LHS switchblock with a simple standalone kill switch.
- Try a less restrictive muffler. We plan to remove the extra baffles fitted to the 2020 muffler and/or sample an FC model’s muffler and/or fit an aftermarket lightweight unit from the Husqvarna Accessories catalogue.
- Do a back-to-back test with a remapped ECU to find some more throttle response and punch from the engine at lower revs (the mapping across Husky’s whole FE range for 2020 was intentionally altered to create smoother and more linear power off the bottom and through the mid-range. It’s a power trait that Euros love because they claim the stopwatch proves it’s faster. Aussie riders, on the other hand, tend to like as much punch and throttle response as they can get from small- and mid-capacity machines (probably because we ride a lot less in wet and slick conditions).
- Chat with a few WP Suspension’s new authorised dealers to get a feel for what they’ve been doing to the settings on the 2020 Xplor fork and Xact shock.
- Fit a fresh set of Michelin Starcross 5 hoops. Plus, we plan to sample Michi’s new Tracker tyres – especially the 80/10-21 front, which was designed as an all-round trail tyre, but seems to be highly rated by several Pro riders.
- Replace that old-school headlight assembly with a better-looking sleeker unit (and hope no one recognises it as a white KTM specimen!)
- Fit a fresh set of custom Holeshot Graphics, seeing as the bike now has about 20 hours’ run-time on its plastics are starting to look a tad tatty.