We ride the 2020 Husqvarna FC 450 Rockstar Edition Review at Glen Helen Raceway.
“Factory Edition” is a relatively new idea in the motocross world. Essentially, it’s a limited-edition motorcycle that comes straight off the production line with race-inspired add-ons and a handful of upgrades that often give us a glimpse of things to come in the next model year. KTM got the “Factory Edition” trend started several years ago. Since then, a few other manufacturers have come on board, including KTM’s sister company Husqvarna. Husqvarna debuted its similarly named “Rockstar Edition” FC 450 in 2018, the same year Jason Anderson and Husqvarna won their first 450SX AMA Supercross Championship. The Rockstar Edition is back for 2020, and the Husqvarna crew gave us a chance to try it out at Glen Helen Raceway.
By Ryan Nitzen | Photography by Kit Palmer
At first glance, the Rockstar Edition is a dead ringer for Jason Anderson’s number-21 factory racebike, and for a good reason—because it really is a lot like his. The bike comes with a laundry list of parts straight out of the Husqvarna accessories catalog. Back again is the black powder-coated frame, factory team graphics and seat cover, carbon-fiber skid plate and holeshot device. The 2020 model also boasts new black D.I.D DirtStar rims laced to blue hubs, a factory Rekluse clutch cover, factory blue triple clamps, and an FMF Factory 4.1 RCT Muffler. Despite these changes, the Rockstar Edition FC 450’s MSRP is only $1100 more than its counterpart, the standard FC 450. This begs the question, is it worth it? We think, yes. Graphics, wheels, triple clamps, and an exhaust will easily exceed an $1100 tab at your local parts counter or mail order, if you plan on changing out these things anyway. With the Rockstar FC 450, Husqvarna has solidified itself as a player in the “Factory Edition” game, offering consumers a capable race-ready package straight off the showroom floor.
The shiny parts always catch the eye, but it’s what’s on the inside that counts, right? Well, the engineers at Husqvarna have been taking notes, and its 2020 Factory Edition has two significant internal changes; updated suspension and new mapping. It’s no secret that last year’s FC 450 was noticeably softer in the suspension department than the competition. In the search for increased comfort, they ended up going too soft, creating a Vet-like feel if you will. This allowed some of our faster riders to blow through the stroke and bottom the suspension in unwanted areas, losing the “hold-up” they were looking for. The team at WP and Husqvarna have come back with updated suspension in the form of the Xact air fork and Xact shock.
Their focus was to find a stiffer setting without sacrificing rider comfort. While the Japanese manufacturers have given up on air forks, Husqvarna and WP continue their pursuit of a perfect pairing. Done correctly, Husqvarna and WP feel air forks have their advantages. Light weight and greater adjustability quickly come to mind.
A tool-free design allows users to adjust compression and rebound on the fly with plastic finger-gripping adjusters located on the top and now the bottom of the fork. New updates to the fork tubes are designed to better equalize air pressure and reduce pressure peaks. The mid-valve of the fork has also been changed, at the request of most rider feedback. Smaller rebound spacers and new air pistons are designed to give the Xact fork more of a linear spring curve while the elastomer endstops relieve pressure and counter abrupt bottoming sensations. In simpler terms, the fork is aimed at having better overall hold up in the middle to bottom of the stroke without compromising rider comfort by becoming harsh or fading during a long moto.
The Xact shock is also updated to balance out the new changes up front. New low-friction seals are the most significant highlight as they aim to free up suspension movement and allow the linkage-shock combo to work in perfect conjunction.
Mapping changes for the Rockstar Edition are also on the list of changes for 2020. In years past, maps one and two have felt very similar—almost unnoticeable—on the track. This year the bike comes with an updated electronics package, with claims of a noticeable difference between maps. The FC 450 continues to feature the handlebar-mounted map switch with two map choices and the option for traction control.
New changes always sound great on paper, but how do these updates do in real-world riding conditions?
Quite frankly, we were thankful that the manufacturer had their ears turned toward the public. Updates like these may sound insignificant to the average consumer but can make all the difference while riding. We took to the “world-famous” hills of Glen Helen to find out.
Smooth. That’s the first word that comes to mind when riding the Rockstar Edition. Just plain smooth. The power, the pull, the sound, all of it. Smooth. Tearing down the front straight of Glen Helen allowed us to really open up the power right away before taking on the steep hills. The throttle feels intertwined with the rear wheel, a simple twist sending you into lightspeed. But it’s totally controlled. Never once did we sense that “white knuckle over-my-head” feeling. Instead, we noticed ourselves looking around knowing how fast we were going but being utterly confident in our ability to run that pace.
The Husqvarna power provides that total confidence. Sound of the barking FMF exhaust fills the air, and the rear wheel bites with every last knob. The bike is just plain fun to ride. Our review team was pleasantly impressed by the FC 450 powerplant, selecting map one for most of the day. Map two did exactly what it said it would, providing a noticeably stronger hit in the bottom to midrange. Traction control is another nice option to have, especially as the day winds down, and traction becomes a premium here on the west coast. Say goodbye to wheel spin and speedway slides, as the TC minimizes mistakes due to deteriorating conditions. But, wow, that power, just so smooth.
New improvements to the fork and shock are e-Xact-ly what we had hoped for. WP is the only MX brand still focusing on the air fork idea, and this is the best one we’ve ridden to date. Their plan seems to be giving the bike a linear spring-like feel, with the light weight and easy adjustability of the air fork. And no, these updates aren’t just full of hot air. WP has continued their forward progress, and, from the get-go, we could feel a plush ride up top coupled with welcomed stiffness in the midrange. Thursday at Glen Helen does not lack for roughness and braking bumps, making for the perfect conditions for suspension testing. We could charge the downhills with ease, eat up chop, and slice through ruts with the best of them. The front end also feels noticeably light on the Husky. It was not something we noted on the first lap, but, during longer motos, we credited this light weight to our noticeably reduced fatigue.
Going fast for an extended period just felt easy. The fork did not get harsh or bind up as the laps wore on either. We did play with air pressure, adding a few PSI to the fork to make it even stiffer in the mid to bottom, and we eventually went back to stock settings as the track got rougher. The track-side clicker adjustments are also really cool, as the fork can be fine-tuned without tools. Simply pull off, twist the plastic adjusters and you’re good to go. We still haven’t perfected the midair clicker change though; we’ll save that one for Jason Anderson. All in all, this is the best air fork we’ve ever experienced.
As usual, the Husqvarna has other strong points like the overall handling, brakes and clutch. Its light weight makes the bike feel ultra-flickable and allows you to go anywhere on the track with minimal rider input. It corners well, tracks straight so you can focus on getting the power to the ground and continue driving forward. The Magura hydraulic clutch and Brembo brakes are some of the best in the business. The clutch performs as demanded and does not feel like a chore to feather over the course of a moto. Butter-smooth clutch pull definitely delayed the arm pump for a few more laps than usual. The brakes were also a welcomed addition on the hilly terrain of Glen Helen. Out-braking the rider next to you can be the difference between first and second, and the Brembos are a significant advantage in this department. Our only complaint during the day was the aerated front end tending to push in some off-camber or elevated corners. This was likely due to the lighter weight of the air fork but would likely be sorted out after a few more days on the bike.
Overall the new FC 450 Rockstar Edition is undoubtedly an upgrade over its standard sibling. Models like these are perfect for riders looking to get a head start on their race build, or those who don’t want to wait for add-ons and need the coolest bike in the pits instantly. Many of these new updates will likely find themselves on the 2021 production model, but you’ll be waiting another full year to look like El Hombre himself.CN
2020 Husqvarna FC 450 Rockstar Edition Specifications
||Liquid-cooled, SOHC, 4-stroke, single
|Bore x Stroke:
||95 x 63.4mm
||FMF Resonance Chamber
||FMF Factory 4.1 RCT
||Wet, DDS multi-disc, Magura hydraulics, w/Rekluse cover
||Keihin EMS, 44mm throttle body
||Handlebar-mounted two-way map switch, w/traction & launch control
||Li-Ion 2.0 Ah
||Central double-cradle-type 25CrMo4 steel
||WP Xact-USD, 48mm, fork, fully adjustable
||WP Xact Monoshock w/linkage, fully adjustable
|Front Wheel Travel:
|Rear Wheel Travel:
||300mm disc, Brembo caliper
||260mm disc, Brembo caliper
|Weight (dry, claimed):