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bike HEAD-TO-HEAD

. ssor obsolete e c e d re p s it rs FE450 rende hine that’s c 13 a 0 2 m e e th th , e re g u psta the broch hly E450 really u F d e ir rg’s thoroug According to p e s b n a -i s u M T H K t , u w p e ll-n ? We from fiction. But can the a uro World Championship t c fa t r o s to ack End 0s back-to-b 5 just won the 4 E F 13 0 2 d 12 an dissimilar 20

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N O I T A R A P E S an andy wig

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usaberg has staked its entire reputation on doing things differently. From the first FE501 ever produced in their Swedish woodshed ‘factory’ in 1989 to the revolutionary machine that appeared with a fuel-injected, 70-degree, forward-sloping cylinder in 2009, the company has always pursued innovation, not imitation. And the philosophy has paid off. This boutique brand has bagged several world titles in both motocross and enduro over the past 22 years. But for 2013, due largely to economic imperatives, Husaberg’s flagship 70-degree models have been dumped in favour of more ‘conventional’ machines that use KTM engines and frames. Of course, Husaberg like to think their new bikes are much more than blue KTMs with a trick fork, and they’re insistent the 2013 FEs deliver a completely different ride to both their predecessors and the KTM

EXCs they borrow heavily from. But do they? Instead of blithely accepting what the glossy brochure kindly told us, we decided a head-to-head test of a 2012 and 2013 FE450s was in order; a comparo that’d clarify just how different the two bikes are to ride and race. But why compare only the 450s? Well, because from 2012 to 2013, the big-bore Bergs went from a 570 to a 501, and in the mid-capacity class, the 2012 FE390 was replaced by a FE350 for 2013. Too many variables there. But, as the ‘old’ and ‘new’ FE450 share the same engine bore and stroke measurements, a head-tohead with these two bikes lets us isolate how their entirely different engines, frames and suspension impact on performance. We sourced a 2012 FE450 from Wollongong-based KTM and Husaberg dealer, Dirtbike Factory (owned by three-time Mister Motocross champ, Anthony Gunter). Aside

from a set of Barkbusters, heavy-duty tubes and a few carbon protective bits, the bike was dead stock. And along with the 2013 FE450, it had just 10 hours run-time under its belt. To test the two machines, we enlisted the services (and test tracks) of reigning A4DE and AORC Vets-class champ, Damian Smith, and 21-yearold Pro Husaberg racer, Scott Keegan, who ran third behind Toby Price and Stefan Merriman in the AORC’s E3 class this year. And to broaden the scope of the feedback, they were joined by a couple of Clubman-cum-trailriders, Transmoto’s Andy Wigan and Greg Smith. After countless grasstrack and enduro loops and a long afternoon’s trailride in typical Aussie bushland, it became apparent that the 2012 and 2013 FE450s are completely different animals. But which bike suits what sort of rider better and where? And which is easier to work on and maintain? Read on...

2013 FE450

2012 FE450

Its powerplant and frame borrow heavily from the KTM’s new-generation 450EXC. But will Husaberg’s uncharacteristic embracing of convention help or hinder the brand?

Will the last of the innovative 70-degree, forward-sloping engine bikes be remembered for breaking new ground or simply as a fanciful experiment that cost Husaberg sales for four years?

$12,995

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$12,795

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bike HEAD-TO-HEAD

INITIAL DIFFERENCES When the slanted-cylinder FE450 first arrived back in late 2008, we were all very taken with its innovative design, beautiful engineering and striking good looks. Most of all, we all loved the idea that a manufacturer was prepared to take a gamble with such a departure from convention. Sweden’s Joakim Ljunggren had already won a round of the 2008 Enduro World Championship on a pre-production version of the bike, and these radical new Bergs appeared destined for a fairytale success story. Complaints about average front-end stability led to a larger triple clamp offset in

your knees – mainly because the fuel tank is no longer there – and the sideplates are also visibly narrower. With the slimmer rearend, getting back on the bike requires less effort, but there’s still enough meat to lock your boots into when riding sandy conditions. The seat/handlebar/footpegs triangle is very similar on both bikes, as is much of the componentry. Bars, controls, instrumentation and brakes are all shared across the 2012 and 2013 models, though the Magura hydraulic clutch master cylinder is replaced by the Brembo unit that’s used for the DDS clutch. The only other noticeable difference from the saddle is that the fork caps

extra lard on the 2012 becomes. Measured weight aside, there is also much less gyroscopic effect with the new bike’s engine – 15% less, if you believe Husaberg’s engineers. And we do. In spite of all the talk that the slanted cylinder made the Bergs more flickable from side-to-side, the huge reduction in oscillating mass for 2013 pays massive handling dividends. The 2013 is so much easier to crank into ruts or wrestle back on line if you’ve overshot a turn. Compared with this machine and its 113kg fighting weight, the 2012 bike handles like a cumbersome big-bore. No matter what sort of terrain you throw at these bikes, it doesn’t take long to discover that the 2012 likes

“The biggest difference between the 2012 and 2013 Husabergs is how much more confidence-inspiring the new chassis is.” 2010, and a closed-cartridge twinchamber fork arrived on the bike for 2011. But aside from that, the 2012-model really didn’t differ a lot from the 2009 bike. For 2013, however, the FE450 has undergone a massive overhaul. Much of the running gear remains, but gone is the semi-perimeter yellow frame, forward-sloping cylinder and mid-mounted fuel tank. In their place are items that new-gen KTM owners will be familiar with, along with different bodywork and a 4CS (4-Chamber System) fork that, until now, has only appeared on KTM’s up-specced Six-Days editions. Sit the old and new Husabergs side-by-side and it’s obvious the 2013’s seat is narrower, flatter and firmer. That creates a racier, MX-like feel in the saddle. When standing, the new bike is a fair bit thinner between

on the all-new 4CS fork run starclickers for both compression and rebound. It about time a suspension manufacturer did this. It’s practical.

THE ‘FEEL’ While the new bike’s cockpit is narrower, the difference is not massive. But the second you ride the bikes back-to-back, you realise they’re worlds apart when it comes to seat-of-your-pants feel. And the most pronounced difference is accounted for by the bikes’ 7kg weight differential. You feel it tipping the bike from side to side; you feel it under brakes; you really feel it in tight terrain; you feel on bumpy ground or around fast sweepers; you feel it lifting the arse-end of the bikes onto a stand. And the longer you ride the bikes, the more obvious that

you to take a more premeditated approach to turns. You need to set up earlier, draw smoother arcs and flow from one corner to the next. The 2013, on the other hand, handles and steers more like a small-bore. It has a very agile chassis, which almost implores you to ride the thing more aggressively. But at the same time, you don’t feel like you need to venture out of your comfort zone to go fast. It gives you the confidence to push hard on acceleration or under brakes, or to change lines mid-corner. Put simply, you have to adapt your riding style to get the most out of the 2012. With the 2013, you simply jump aboard and go fast without thinking.

THE HANDLING With a completely different frame, (Continued on page 65)

THE FE450 LINEAGE…

THE FE450 LINEAGE…

RRP – 2011 v ’12 v ’13 model

2007

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2008

2009 2010

2011

2012

2T TE125 TE250 TE300 4T FE250 FE390 FE350 FE450 FE570 FE501

2011

2012

2013

n/a $11,995 $12,595

n/a $11,495 $11,995

$10,495 $11,795 $12,295

n/a $12,995 n/a $13,295 $13,595 n/a

n/a $12,495 n/a $12,795 $12,995 n/a

$12,295 n/a $12,795 $12,995 n/a $13,295

Identical to 2012 KTMs, $1000 off remaining stock.

A $200-$300 premium over KTM equivalents for all 2013 models.

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bike HEAD-TO-HEAD

2012 fe450

COMPARING COMPONENTRY...

2013 fe450

ENGINE & EXHAUST The move from the 2012 to 2013 engine involves much more than tilting the engine upright in the new frame. While the 95 x 63.4mm bore and stroke remains unchanged, the 2013 FE’s powerplant has adopted the fuel-injected SOHC engine that first appeared on KTM’s 2012 450EXC. It still runs a single oil compartment and a Keihin EFI system with a 42mm throttle body, but the new donk also gets a new piston, ultra-light Pankl conrod, mechanical cam-chain tensioner, laterally mounted counterbalancer, revised combustion chamber and head porting, DDS clutch and a larger-profile muffler. With the kick-starter now gone and the old engine’s sand-cast cases replaced by more compact die-cast items, the 2013 donk is some 3kg lighter, plus its oscillating mass is reduced by a whopping 15%.

SUBFRAME & SHOCK Like the 2012 FE450, the new bike’s subframe is made from a special fibre-reinforced plastic (polyamide BGZ15), but it’s a completely new design to suit the 2013 frame and air intake. According to Husaberg’s engineers, the plastic subframe is slightly heavier than an alloy unit, but much stronger. The material also allowed designers to incorporate recessed grab-handles and better integrate the electrical wiring. There’s more airbox volume than last year’s bike, but the 2013 bike’s inlet tract is kept as close as possible to the KTM 450EXC’s to ensure the engine mapping isn’t thrown out of whack. As the shock absorber in the new bike gets much more airflow, it’s less susceptible to overheating and fade. And you no longer have to take the entire shock out of the bike simply to alter spring preload.

THE FORKS Both FE450s use a 48mm-diameter WP USD fork, but the 2012 bike’s twin-chamber has been upgraded to a patented 4CS (4-Chamber System) closed-cartridge fork for the 2013 machine. It’s the same fork used on KTM’s up-specced Six-Days models, and is claimed to be 500g lighter and easier to service. It also offers more bottom-out adjustability, and it’s incredibly practical that the tool-free star clickers for both compression and rebound are now accessible from the cockpit. Husaberg has used machined triple clamps since 2009, but the black CNC-machined clamps certainly sets them apart from the KTMs. For 2013, the lower clamp has been redesigned to reduce weight and ensure a smooth fork action, while the triple clamp’s 22mm offset now mirrors that found on the KTMs.

FRAME & FUEL TANKS The semi-perimeter frame used in the 2012 FE390/450/570 is replaced by a completely new specimen for 2013. Despite the forged area being a little different around the subframe junction and pegs, the new frame is based heavily on the latest-generation chromoly chassis that KTM introduced on its 2012 EXCs, with the remote upper shock mount creating longitudinal flex. The move to the 1.5kg lighter KTM-inspired frame with it more conventional backbone necessitated an all-new fuel tank design for 2013. It’s still made from the same practical translucent polyurethane, but it’s a more traditional design (that is, the centrally mounted section is gone) and its capacity increased from 8.5 to 9.5 litres for 2013. Unlike the 2013-model KTMs, fuel tanks are not interchangeable across the FE range.

AIR FILTERS The mods to frame and fuel tank for 2013 also spelled the end of Husaberg’s trademark airbox arrangement under the front of the seat. The 2013 bike runs a very similar set-up the new-gen KTMs, albeit with a plastic springslip rather than a wire one. The 2012 bike’s set-up worked a treat for deep river crossings, and generally needed less frequent filter changes because it breathes cleaner air. However, the 2012 bike’s design makes it alarmingly easy for dirt to fall directly down into the injector, and if you overfill the fuel tank, stray fuel tends to wash the oil straight out of the air filter. The more conventional airbox and filter set-up on the new bike works well, and the snap-off lid is less fiddly to line up and re-fit than the KTM’s.

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bike HEAD-TO-HEAD

“You have to adapt your riding style to get the most out of the 2012. With the 2013, you simply jump aboard a go fast without thinking.” fork, weight bias and curb weight, we always expected the bikes to have a different handling character. But we didn’t think they’d be so unalike, nor that corner exits would be where we felt the differences most. When you get on the gas, the 2012 chassis has a noticeable transfer of weight toward the rear-end, which makes the unloaded front tyre climb out of ruts or push on skatey terrain. This tendency is exaggerated on hills when fuel flows back to the mid-mounted section of fuel tank. The 2012 FE450 is surprisingly eager to loft the front-end under its own power and easily looped out on steep hills. The point being, you’ve got to get aggressively forward in the 2012 bike’s saddle at all times to counteract this and keep the front-

end on the turf and planted. On the plus side, that rear-end squat under acceleration gives the 2012 a grounded, sure-footed feel at high speed on bumpy or loose trail. And combined with its extra weight, the bike offers a very confidenceinspiring, stable ride at high speeds. But as soon as you start to flick the bike side to side or load up the frontend in slick conditions, the 2012 bike’s front-end is no match for the lightweight new machine. The 2013 can be pushed harder through singletrack and in technical terrain, mainly because its chassis is more forgiving if you don’t get your weight distribution perfect. The new bike gives you the confidence that the front tyre won’t wash out if you want to square off a corner or brake

hard and crank the thing into a inside rut. At just 113kg, the 2013 doesn’t have quite the same unflappable feel in a straight line as its more raked out predecessor, but it’s by no means flighty or nervous, either.

SUSPENSION ACTION The average 80-90kg trailrider will have very little to complain about with either bike’s standard suspension package. Aside from the fact the WP suspenders have proven themselves durable, both bikes soak up rocks and roots really nicely, and offer the sort of plush and forgiving ride you can enjoy all day long. But when a fast guy starts to give things a nudge, the 2012 is the first to leave its comfort zone. It tends to squat in

WORKSHOP & MAINTENANCE…

T

he 2009 – 2012 FE450s have proved to be very reliable. The initial issue with the upper engine mount was fixed for 2010, and the occasional fuel pump issues were addressed on the 2011 models. But on the whole, Husaberg dealers and owners will tell you that these machines have been bulletproof. That said, how do the 2012 and 2013 bikes compare when it comes to maintenance? Here are the standout things we noticed in the course of testing, cleaning and working on the bikes for a couple of days:

● ENGINE – Like the 2013 KTMs,

the inline fuel filter has now been positioned immediately above the fuel-line connector. This makes it much easier to access and replace, compared to its previous hard-to-access home up near the injector. With single oil

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compartments, oil changes for both bikes are simple. Valve clearance adjustment is also the same for both bikes, though taking the fuel tank off to access the rocker cover isn’t. ● FUEL TANK – Removing the

2012 bike’s fuel tank is a much more laborious task because, in addition to the regular fasteners and connectors, it also requires you to remove four subframe bolts as well as disconnecting the airboot from under the tank. All of which can be fiddly and time-consuming. For the 2013 bike, tank removal is a simple matter of three bolts, fuel line and the EFI connector. ● SHOCK ABSORBER – Husaberg’s

designers performed a feat of engineering magic by getting the fuel tank, exhaust and shock absorber to all fit in limited space on the 2012 bike.

Unfortunately, the design also meant that the shock has to be removed from the bike simply to adjust spring preload. Plus the lack of airflow around the shock also created some fade issues for fast riders in hot weather. Those problems disappear with the more conventional 2013 design. ● PROTECTION – Hard-plastic

bashplates and super-strong handguards come standard on both year-models. The 2013 bike, however, doesn’t get the extended black frame guards (one of which doubles as a guard for the rear brake’s master cylinder), so the new bike’s frame is likely to get scuffed up a little quicker than its predecessor. ● NUTS & BOLTS – Like the KTMs,

both Husabergs have excellent faster commonality. The only issue we can

see with the new FE450 is the annoying fact that you need to remove the right-side sideplate simply to check the muffler bolts. Perhaps the designers thought a couple of access holes would spoil the aesthetic. ● WHEELS – For 2013, Husaberg

has adopted the mods made to the KTM EXC range’s wheel in the past two years. With alloy (instead of steel) spokes, each wheel is now 200g lighter. And a new black coating that’s designed to resist corrosion is also added for 2013. ● GRAPHICS – The Bergs use the

same in-mould graphics as the KTMs, which have proven to be extremely durable. But sideplate and rear guard decals used to peel off the 2012 bike after a ride or two. Thankfully, they’re much tougher now.

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bike HEAD-TO-HEAD

“When you get on the gas on the 2012, the unloaded front-end wants to climb out of ruts or push on skatey terrain.” the rear and wallow on fast, bumpy sweepers – which we reckon is more a product of the bike’s extra weight rather than its suspension, because the same fork and shock spring rates are used for both year-models (72 and 4.6N/mm, respectively). There’s not a huge difference in the action of the 2012’s twinchamber fork and the 2013’s 4-Chamber System, and both will bottom-out in the hands of the average 90kg rider who likes to huck off erosion mounds. But because the 2013 chassis has a better front-torear balance, it tends to feel more composed when it takes a big hit.

THE POWER PLAY Even though both engines run the same 95mm bore and 63.4mm stroke, they are very different animals when

it comes to how they deliver their power. For starters, that trademark induction whistle on the old Bergs is gone and replaced by a more refined purr. The 2012 is notable for it super-smooth and tractable curve. It builds power more gradually and predictably and helps you get the grunt to ground on hillclimbs or loose off-camber turns. But if you need a quick squirt of power to step the rear-end out or wheelstand a log at an instant’s notice, the old motor can feel a bit sluggish. It’s more of a bottom and mid-range engine that responds better to being shortshifted, as holding gears too long on the 70-degree bike simply results in less drive and more vibration. The new engine has very little vibration, plenty of torque, pulls all the way to the rev limiter, and feels more refined and responsive

throughout the entire rev range. It’s true that you need to be more mindful of your throttle control with the 2013, as it’s a punchier and more free-revving powerplant. So, for less experienced guys, the map selector switch from the “Pure Tech” catalogue (Husaberg’s version of KTM’s Hard Parts) is probably money well spent. But the new donk’s fuel metering and throttle responsive is so crisp, you can perfectly control rear-end slides. There’s no problem with the 2012 bike’s ‘standard’ Magura hydraulic clutch, but the 2013’s DDS (Damped Diaphragm Steel) clutch with Brembo master cylinder has a much lighter pull. It also has a superb, direct feel and, aside from the fact its design allows the engine cases to be narrower, it has proven itself to be longer wearing than conventional

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bike HEAD-TO-HEAD designs, too. You just can’t overstate how good the DDS set-up is – it makes clutch use a subliminal issue and lets you focus more on what you’re doing and where you’re going. Even though the compression ratio, primary ratios and final drive (13/52 sprocket combo) on both machines is identical, you’d swear the 2013 runs shorter gearing. For the same corner exit, the new engine is much happier to be in a taller gear. And yet it’ll hold a gear all the way to the next turn; in situations where you’re forced to upshift the 2012 bike. In other words, the new

penny on the second-hand market – more for novelty value and nostalgia than anything else. And admittedly, the machines are engineering works of art. But the ‘old’ Husabergs now have an experimental feel about them; they’re different for the sake of being different. And in comparison to the 2013 FE450, which has benefitted massively by adopting the new-generation lightweight KTM engine and frame, the 2012 FE450 is off the pace. It’s overweight, slower revving and lacking in both engine performance and chassis agility. It actually surprised how just how

“The super-agile 2013 FE450 handles more predictably and has a broader and more responsive powerplant. Plus it’s 7kg lighter!”

BIKE SPECS

2012 FE450 $12,795 www.husaberg.com.au 6 months (parts & labour) 449.3cc 95.0 x 63.4mm Liquid-cooled Single cylinder, 4-stroke, SOHC 11.8: 1 6-speed 13/52 Wet, multi-plate, hydraulically operated 8.5 litres Keihin EFI (42mm throttle body)

MSRP (incl GST, excl pre-delivery) Distributor Warranty ENGINE

Capacity Bore x stroke Cooling Engine type Compression ratio Transmission Final gearing Clutch Fuel capacity fuelling

WP – 48mm (twin-cartridge) WP PDS 120.5kg (claimed 112.5kg) 1482±10mm 970mm Neken – alloy tapered Michelin Enduro Comp 3 Bridgestone M404

2013 FE450 $12,995 www.husaberg.com.au 6 months (parts & labour) 449.3cc 95.0 x 63.4mm Liquid-cooled Single cylinder, 4-stroke, SOHC 11.8: 1 6-speed 13/52 Wet, multi-plate, hydraulically operated 9.5 litres Keihin EFI (42mm throttle body) WP – 48mm 4CS (closed-cartidge) WP PDS 113.7kg (claimed 112kg) 1482±10mm 970mm Neken – alloy tapered Michelin Enduro Comp 4 Michelin Enduro Comp 4

Brembo – 260mm disc Brembo – 220mm disc

Brembo – 260mm disc Brembo – 220mm disc

SUSPENSION

engine has a broader range of usable power. We reckon you could even get away with running taller gearing (a 51 or even 50-tooth rear sprocket) to smooth the delivery out and lengthen each gear’s range even further. And the 2013 bike’s transmission is noticeably slicker than the sometimes clunky 2012’s, too.

TIME TO TRADE UP? Yes, without a doubt. Okay, 10 or 20 years down the track, the revolutionary 2009 through 2012 Bergs are likely to attract a pretty

big a gulf there was between these machines. And with just $200 separating the 2013 FE450 from its KTM counterpart on dealer floors, the new machines are sure to attract not only Berg owners who are looking at trading up, but also KTM fans who like the idea of standing out from their orangemounted trail posse. That $200 premium gets you not only a more individual look; it also gives you an up-specced fork and billet triple clamps. And as for those age-old slurs about Husaberg’s reliability ... well, they’ll evaporate overnight.

Fork Shock GEOMETRY

actual weight (fluids, but no fuel) Wheelbase Seat height RUNNING GEAR

HANDLEBARS FRONT TYRE (as tested) REAR TYRE (as tested) BRAKES

Front Rear

MORE ONLINE... For footage of this comparo and an insight into the pricing between 2013 Husaberg and KTM models, check out www.transmoto.com.au

rider feedback pro: SCOTT KEEGAN 21, 78kg, 185cm

“I raced a 2012 FE570 this season, but got a 2013 FE501 a few weeks before the 2012 A4DE. So I’ve kind of been doing this 2012 versus 2013 Husaberg comparo for a month now. I decided to race the new 501 at the 4-Day because, like the 2013 FE450, it gives me so much more confidence to push. It lets me attack obstacles more aggressively and I can ride it much harder for longer. I’ve also found I can get myself out of trouble easier on the new bike – because it’s lighter and because you can use the throttle response to put it exactly where you want it. The older bike does have a very grounded and stable feel on firetrails, but to get it to work, you need to set up earlier and draw smoother arcs around turns. Plus it wallows on fast corners and the front-end grip just isn’t as predictable as the 2013 bike’s. On the one hand, the new bike is a racier and more aggressive overall package and it’ll take a more experienced rider to get the most from it. But then you look at the weight difference between the two, and even inexperienced riders will appreciate the added agility that comes with that. They’ll also like the fact the new bike is simpler and more function to work on.”

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vet/PRO: DAMIAN SMITH 38, 67kg, 180cm

“Pela Renet just won the EWC title on the 2012 FE450, so it’s not a bad bike. But the 2013 makes it feel dated – from its agility to its seating position to its power delivery. The thing is, you’ve got to adapt your riding style to make the 2012 work. For me, the biggest difference between the two bikes was the lack of confidence I had in the 2012’s front-end, especially when you get on the gas and the weight is transferred off the front wheel. Obviously, the 2013 FE450 works like a KTM. It’s so much easier to ride aggressively, but it feels more balanced and forgiving at the same time. It’s much more nimble and I liked the way its throttle response lets you control power slides perfectly. I’m 10 to 20kg lighter than the other testers, but I still found the suspension set-up pretty good. I could race with that set-up, though the shock spring on the 2013 was a little firm for me. Husaberg has taken a massive step forward with the 2013 bike. The 70-degree machine was a gamble and winning the world title on that old motor and frame is a good way to send them out, but I think they’re going to have a lot more success with this new one.”

vet: ANDY WIGAN 45, 90kg, 182cm

“Much like the KTM’s 400EXC, which still sold well for years after the 450EXC was launched, the 2012 FE450’s smooth power will still appeal to trail-oriented riders who value tractability over outright performance. But the problem is, that 70-degree powerplant comes in a chassis whose handing is nowhere near as predictable or confidence-inspiring as the 2013 bike’s. I’ve never been a fan of the rear-set weight-bias of the slanting-engine models because I found their front-ends only feel planted if you work overtime to keep your cods on the fuel cap. That can be fatiguing after a long day in the saddle – for you body and cods! The 2013 FE450 has a racier all-round feel and it gave me so much more confidence to push the front-end, which offers plenty of warning before it lets go. As the 2013’s power is much more responsive to throttle inputs, I reckon I’d fit a Map Selector Switch and slightly taller gearing to soften its punch in slick conditions or when I got tired. But the new powerplant is so refined and versatile, it lets you get away with short-shifting and riding lower in the rev range. Priced just $200 more than the KTM 450EXC, the 2013 FE450 promises to be a very lucrative model for Husaberg.”

70 Degrees of Separation  

70 Degrees of Separation