Project 2017 FE450: Parts Fitted
In the past, the mid-capacity FE350 has been my favourite model in Husqvarna’s four-stroke enduro bike line-up. And sales figures – both in Australia and globally – suggest I wasn’t alone. But for 2017, things have changed. Since the media launch for Husqvarna’s new-generation 2017 models in Sweden 12 months ago, I’ve made no bones about the fact the FE450 now tops my FE wishlist; for the simple reason that this 450 has made the biggest year-on-year gains in terms of both performance and rideabilty. Sure, the rest of its 2017-model brethren also come with an all-new engine, suspension, frame, subframe, swingarm, bodywork and seat, plus the all-new Traction Control switch and the tool-free spring preload dial in the fork. But with the FE450’s significantly torquier and more refined power delivery, its much lighter and more agile mass-centralised chassis, and a whopping 6kg reduction in its weight, I reckon the 2017 FE450 has evolved into the most versatile machine in Husqvarna’s 2017 range. In short, it combines with nimble handling of the 350 with the broad and forgiving grunt of the 501, and that makes it a ball to ride in all sorts of terrain and conditions.
Having spent the past eight months with the 2017 FE450 on our project bike fleet, we’ve already published standalone articles about the bike’s power delivery, suspension performance and a bunch of small but important observations about components on the new bike. So let’s now take stock of the parts we’ve fitted to the machine for added protection, enhanced performance, or just to bling it up. For RRPs, refer to the parts table below.
The 3mm thick hard-plastic bashplate that the FE range comes with in Australia offers decent protection. But if you want to beef up your frame’s and engine cases’ defences against big hits, fitting this Husqvarna Accessories alloy unit is a smart option. It may be a little heavier than the standard unit, but it’s much stronger, offers more protection for the frame, engine cases and clutch/ignition covers, and mates seamlessly with the AXP Racing Linkage Guard, which allows the bike’s undercarriage and linkage to slide over big rocks and logs without getting hung up. Let’s hope Husky takes advantage of its nifty new frame inserts to mount the alloy skidplate; because at the moment, the mounting bracketry is a bit fiddly.
We also added a Husky Accessories Brake Pedal Safety Wire (commonly known as a “brake snake”). It’s easy to fit and, again, a small price to pay for reducing the chances of a stick getting between your engine cases and brake pedal, and bending or breaking this crucial control.
If you tend to ride a fair bit of technical terrain or deep ruts, then you’ve probably bent a rear brake disc or three in your time. Fitting a disc guard (or “shark fin”) is a cost-effective way to minimise the risk of a rock bending or busting your rear disc. This alloy Brake Disc Guard from Husqvarna Accessories is beautifully made, super-strong, and comes with all the mounting hardware. And if you look at the abuse it’s copped, it’s already prevented at least one destroyed disc.
Everyone loves a black-anodised wheel, right? Well, yes, until you turn that asset into an aesthetic liability by scratching the bejesus out of them with a set of tyre levers. The best solution to the problem is a preventative one: simply grab a Husqvarna Accessories Rim Tape Sticker Set. If your levers scuff the tape, no problem – the kit comes with a few extra stickers you can use as replacements. The bonus is that this rim tape gives your wheels a cool look, without being teenage lairy.
As good as KTM’s no-linkage PDS shock absorber is these days, a majority of people still prefer the overall action of a rising-rate linkage to assist the shock’s action, particularly through a set of braking bumps. On the downside, a linkage is heavier and requires more maintenance, and it can get caught up on larger, sharp-edged rocks or logs. To address that third disadvantage, we fitted this nifty AXP Racing Linkage Guard. It still allows access to the shock’s mounts and clickers, but it makes for a much smoother surface when you’re sliding the bike’s belly over technical terrain. Note how seamlessly it integrates with the alloy skidplate, too.
Unlike a few Japanese brands, Husqvarna’s chain slider is not renowned for wearing quickly. But as a preventative measure and to prolong its life, we fitted a heavy-duty, super-tough blue Husky Accessories Chain Slider.
The FE450’s standard plastic chain guide is much better than the rigid, metal-encased alternatives because it’s flexible enough to bend when it cops a big hit, but doesn’t stay bent (which is when you’ll derail a chain). But because our FE450 sees a lot of gnarly terrain, we stepped up with this top-of-the-line Husqvarna Accessories unit, made by TM Design Works (the choice of pretty much every extreme enduro and desert-racing rider on the planet). It’s a little chunkier than the standard guide, but significantly stronger.
The only other bits and pieces we fitted to beef up the FE’s protection were a Husqvarna Accessories CNC Front Brake Perch and a set of Ultra HD tubes. Plus we invested in an Exhaust Plug and Airbox Dust Cover from the Accessories catalogue to safeguard against water and dust getting into where it shouldn’t when transporting and washing the bike. Note also that we felt no need to fit accessory radiator guards to the bike as the 2017 model’s standard radiator louvers are now ingeniously reinforced and offer great, lightweight protection against crash damage without compromising airflow.
OIL, COOLANT & ASSORTED PRODUCTS
On the strength of the worldwide collaboration between Husqvarna and Bel-Ray (for both production bikes and race teams), we run Bel-Ray’s Thumper Racing Works Synthetic Ester 10w50 oil to protecting the engine’s internals, and Bel-Ray Moto Chill Racing Coolant in the cooling system; along with a wide range of Bel-Ray bike care products – from brake cleaner to silicon spray to chain lube.
Once you run a set of the PHDS (Progressive Handlebar Damping System) bar mounts, you’ll want to fit a set on every bike. Why? Because they offer all the benefits of rubber-mounted bars, but have none of the disadvantages. As the PHDS’s lower mounts are hard-mounted to the upper triple clamp, they offer precise steering feel and don’t twist anywhere near as readily as rubber-mounted bars in a crash. And yet the elastomer-damped top mount helps reduce the vibration and shock transferred to your hands and arms. And that genuinely reduces rider fatigue. The cool thing is that the kit comes with all its own mounting hardware, plus 10mm bar raisers (which tall riders may want to fit). Optional soft and hard elastomer inserts are also available. The only downside is that the PHDS is a little heavier than the standard bar mounts, and it makes it a little harder to see your digital instrument screen.
The all-new seat that first appeared on the 2017 FE range is a damn good thing. Aside from being flatter and firmer and easier to move around on, it’s way more durable and grippy than the flimsy and slippery seat cover Husky used a couple of years back (and its way better than the seats on KTM’s 2017 bikes, which get slippery with even the slightest amount of water on them). All that said, there’s an even better seat in the Husqvarna Accessories catalogue. Called a “Wave Seat”, it’s essentially a standard seat with a few ribbed sections toward the rear to make sure you arse stays planted if it does slide back that far. This thing works a treat in wet conditions.
I’ve always been a fan of the Metzeler 6 Days Extreme tyres that the Huskys come with. Even though they’re FIM-spec rubber with relatively short knobs, they’re super-predictable across a wide range of terrain and pretty long wearing. Once these Metzelers were done, though, we fitted a set of GoldenTyre hoops for better performance in specific terrain types. This Italian brand has a broad model-range and is massive in Europe, where it’s claimed several World Enduro and Hard/Extreme Enduro race and title wins. And while they might only be relatively new to Australia, GoldenTyre has already notched up multiple wins in the AORC, National Enduro-X and Finke and Hattah Desert Races. We found the best and most versatile combination was the GT233 on the front and GT333 on the rear.
SOLID REAR DISC
Talk to 10 average dirt bike riders about their rear brake, and nine of them will tell you they’d like more feel and modulation from the thing. So it’s commendable that Husqvarna lengthened their rear brake pedal by 10mm for 2017 to generate better feel. But we took things a step further by fitting a Husqvarna Accessories solid rear brake disc. In additional to offering noticeably more feel, the solid disc also reduces brake pad wear, especially in muddy conditions.
The TwinAir foam filter than comes in the 2017 Huskys is adequate. But to ensure peace of mind for our FE450 in the dustiest of conditions, we fitted one of Uni Filter’s ProComp 2 filters. As a genuine two-stage filter (that is, you can separate the layers completely), it’s easier to wash and oil, and offers excellent protection against dust ingress. For rides where dust is less of an issue, we run Uni Filter’s 02 Rush single-stage filter, for more airflow and performance. Whatever filter we go with, it gets carefully coated with Uni Filter’s legendary Filter Fix mineral-based foam filter oil (whose red dye helps ensure you oil the foam evenly and leave no dry spots).
Two other little added extras at are definitely worth considering are the Front Brake Bleeder Screw and Front Axle Puller. This bleeder screw is easy to fit and makes the job of bleeding your front brake system a whole lot easier (its one-way valve means you don’t have to close off the bleeder each time you let go of the brake lever). And the axle puller just makes removal of the axle for tyre changes that much quicker and easier.
You can go to town on blue-bling bits if you want to. And to be honest, it’s hard not to, once you enter the mechanical lolly shop that’s otherwise known as Husqvarna Accessories catalogue. We managed to restrain ourselves pretty well. Purely for aesthetics, we fitted a Husky Accessories Oil Filter Cover, Rear Brake Master Cylinder Cap and Schrader Value Cap Set. We also grabbed a Front Axle Puller and some Rim Tape – both of which are also functional additions.
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