We set out to create a more off-road worthy Husqvarna FE501 with our 2018 Husqvarna FE501 Project Bike.
The Husqvarna FE501 is an amazing off-road-worthy motorcycle that happens to have a license plate. If you live in a state where it is necessary to have a license plate to connect challenging off-road trails, the Husqvarna FE line ranks high on the list of the best bikes, (along with the KTM EXC, Beta RR-S and recently released Honda CRF450L). All of these bikes, however, have some limitations required to meet emissions and sound requirements to be street legal. So we worked with well-known, inside-the-industry bike-builder Jay Clark to create a more off-road worthy Husqvarna FE501, and we came away very impressed with the results.
We started with a 2018 FE501, which shares the primary components with the 2017 and 2019 models so most of the modifications listed here will also work on those bikes. In stock form, the FE runs well, but like most off-the-shelf dual sport bikes, it is a little choked up and runs lean to meet the street-legal emission standards. It is important to note that some of the modifications on this project bike violate emissions or some state highway compliance guidelines so they might make your bike no-longer street legal. So you will have to check your local laws before making any performance mods to your bike.
The Husky’s suspension is also suitable for the average off-road rider, but faster and bigger riders will find the limits pretty quickly, especially in rougher or faster terrain. The goal for this project was to improve the performance of the engine and suspension, as well as make the bike more durable and reliable for off-road use. Of course, we wanted it to look nice, too, so we added some customization to give the bike a unique look (which we think we achieved.)
Photography by Kit Palmer
Click here to read this in the Cycle News Digital Edition Magazine.
Improved Engine Performance for the Husqvarna FE501
To begin with, Twisted Development, which is owned and operated by Jamie Ellis, a former factory MX/SX engine development manager, made the engine breathe more efficiently and did so by installing a Vortex X-10 ECU with his custom mapping. To go along with that, the stock air boot, which includes a sound reducing reed-valve, was replaced with a stock KTM 450 SX-F unit and a Uni Air filter. An FMF Q4 S/A muffler was installed to finish off the engine mods. These mods did wonders to improve overall engine performance throughout the powerband. We could feel improved throttle response and distinctively more outright power across the board, as well. Despite that gain of power, the Husky didn’t lose an ounce of rideability; in fact, it might’ve made it even easier to ride.
More power puts more strain on the clutch, so we installed higher-quality Hinson clutch plates while sticking with the standard clutch basket, hub, and pressure plate. A Hinson billet clutch cover was also installed to improve heat dissipation and “bash-ability” from rocks and debris.
To go along with the engine mods, the stock 14t/45t sprockets were replaced with Superprox 14t/48t stealth models. The additional three teeth on the rear significantly improve the trail performance with only a small trade-off in highway performance. This setup will allow you to crawl in first gear, use second more on the trails and still will enable the bike to ride along at 60 mph on the highway comfortably.
Improved Suspension Performance
The stock suspension performs great for fire roads and even pretty technical trail riding, but if you weigh more than 170 pounds or just want to really push the pace in the technical terrain, you will want to make some improvements. Clark had suspension specialists Enzo Racing install heavier springs and their internal valving specs both front and rear.
The results were significant. The bike is now capable of race-pace riding in the nasty rocks and whoops. Best of all, we noticed zero compromises. The stiffer springs and modified valving did not make the bike any less comfortable on more basic trails or at a slower pace. This here was a win-win modification, for sure.
Wheels, Tires, and Brakes
The Husqvarna FE line comes standard with Continental TKC-80 tires, which are excellent Adventure-bike tires that are surprisingly decent on dirt roads but not as good as genuine off-road tires once you hit the trails. Dunlop AT81 tires were chosen (90/100-21 front and 120/90-18 rear) and are a proven choice. These are excellent all-around off-road knobbies. Keep in mind; however, AT81s are not D.O.T. approved for street riding. If this is an issue for you, Dunlop also offers excellent D.O.T.-stamped D606 knobby tires.
Our AT81s were mounted up to a set of Faster USA wheels. These wheels replaced the stockers for no other reason than curb appeal. The Faster USA wheels come with either Excel (on ours) or D.I.D Dirt Star rims laced up to the company’s own billet (in our case red) hubs, and they did indeed give our Husky that factory look.
For improved stopping power, a Galfer oversized front rotor and adaptor were installed along with Galfer pads. The rear also got a fresh Galfer rotor and pads.
Improved Dual Sport Performance Items
There is room for improvement with the stock lighting system if you plan to do night riding. Baja Designs offer several options that will dramatically improve your visibility in the dark. Clark went with an XL80 LED light, which is a relatively easy plug and play installation. The increased visibility is impressive.
Speaking of lights, the stock rear tail section on most high-performance dual sport bikes will not last long if you ride any serious trails. They flap around and eventually break off, usually taking the turn signals with them. One of the best options for the Husqvarna is to use the smaller, lighter rear light from Husqvarna’s TE off-road models and then smaller aftermarket turn signals. That is precisely the path chosen with this build with Tusk signals mounted directly to the new tailpiece.
A 3.2-gallon IMS gas tank was installed to extend the range. Because of its slim design, there is no bulky feeling between your legs at all, and it will add approximately another 50 miles of riding before you need to look for gas.
Protection and Durability Items
Since a popular point of dual sport riding is long-distance exploring, improved durability is a must; you want to reduce the chances of getting stuck miles from home. This bike has some added essential items to help keep that from happening.
For one, TM Designworks chain guides are a significant improvement from stock because they take a lot of abuse and never bend. To improve the durability, even more, a Bullet Proof Designs guard is attached above the chain guide to add strength to the swingarm mounting tabs. On the opposite side, a TM Designworks disc guard was installed. This is a must-have item, since straightening a disc on the side of the trail is not easy.
Bullet Proof Designs also makes an excellent guard for the bottom of the shock, which hangs dangerously low on the Husqvarna.
A P3 Carbon skid plate was installed to protect the bottom of the frame and engine cases. Not only does it look good but it is seemingly indestructible.
Enduro Engineering aluminum handguards were installed to help protect the levers, and clutch and brake master cylinders (and, not to mention, knuckles). For added protection, Works Connection rotating lever clamps were also installed to allow the master cylinders to twist rather than break.
Controls and Customization
Most of the remaining modifications to this FE were centered on customizing the riding compartment, personal preference, and giving the bike a unique look.
Renthal 603 Handlebars were chosen along with Tag Metals Rebound grips. On the throttle side, a Motion Pro Titan Throttle Tube was fitted for improved strength and the ability to change the throw with alternative cams. Oversized IMS footpegs were also installed to increase reliability and, perhaps more importantly, improve comfort on the wider platforms.
For style, a long list of parts from Works Connection items was installed, including front brake and clutch master cylinder caps, steering stem nut, and oil filter cover.
A Polisport FLO yellow plastic kit was mated up to a custom set of DeCal Works graphics to provide a really cool and unique looking motorcycle. Moto Seat provided the seat cover to finish off the look, as well as increasing grip.
The Wrap Up
You can certainly have a lot of fun with a stock FE, but if you are looking to use it for aggressive trail riding or for even some off-road racing, then modifications will make the bike a lot more capable and fun. We were very impressed with the final performance of this project bike and the customization and protection items chosen made for a great looking bike that will stand up to some abuse.
2018 Husqvarna FE501 Project Bike Parts List
Stock KTM 450 SX-F air boot
Vortex X-10 ECU & mapping
Muffler Q4 spark arrestor
Hinson Clutch Components
Clutch plates and outer cover
Suspension re-valve and setup
Drive Train, Wheels and Tires
Rear 48T Gold Stealth sprocket
Gold Enduro O-ring chain
AT81 front 90/100-21
AT81 rear 120/90-18
Oversized Rotor/Adaptor Bracket
Improved dual sport performance items
Rear fender under piece and light off of a trail version Husqvarna
Blinkers for the rear
Off-Road Durability Improvements
Rear Chain Guide
Rear Disc & Caliper guards
Bullet Proof designs
Rear swingarm guard
Rear shock/link guard
Plastic set in custom FLO Yellow
Semi-Custom Graphics kit
Pre-printed number plates backgrounds
Factory II Stand
Front brake cap
Clutch master cylinder cap
Rotating bar clamp
Steering stem nut
Oil Filter cover
Custom Cool seat cover
Titan Throttle Tube
603 Fat Bars
Tag Metals Racing