What happens when you throw everything, even the kitchen sink, at Husqvarna’s FE 501S dual sport?
Photography by Kit Palmer
This bike isn’t like most Husqvarna FE 501S machines you’re likely to encounter on a good old dual-sport bashing. If you do, it’s probably because you’ve just run in to Andrew Jefferson, Husqvarna’s North American Media Relations Manager, on the trail. It’s his bike, after all. And, without an abundance of reason, he let me ride it—and the $17,000 in extras it comes with—for a whole day.
In a lot of ways, I eyeroll hard at bikes like these. They are quite liberally barfed upon by the modification mob and, often, the addition of bling does little in terms of usability or performance enhancement. In fact, I ride so many new stock bikes with high levels of satisfaction, jumping on a hyper mod like this just seems silly.
In reality, this bike isn’t supposed to be reality. It’s been swarmed by bolt-on parts and submerged in shiny bits almost entirely from Husqvarna’s Technical Accessories catalog, intentionally. What better way to showcase the catalog of parts than by throwing them (all) on a bike? Other exclusive pieces on this build are borrowed from the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Race Teams’ shop (look closely at the engine side cases and covers). And it has a few of Mr. Jefferson’s favorites thrown in for good measure. It is definitely a rolling showcase of what you could do. A dream bike, so to speak.
If you want to build this bike, go to your local Husqvarna dealer with a very high-limit credit card and follow Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Race Team vans around and wait for parts to fall off the back. If you are looking for a few functional, smart upgrades, they are definitely in here, too. We’ll try to dissect some of our favorites and least favorite mods for you here.
The biggest budget item and most drool-worthy componentry on this machine is the full suite of WP Pro Components suspension. This is also the focus of much of the performance improvement/change on the bike. Thank goodness, because if it wasn’t noticeable, this $5000-plus upgrade would be hard to justify.
The $3500 WP fork and $2250 WP shock elevate the bike’s stock suspension capabilities to astronomical tuning levels. This bike is set up for Mr. Jefferson, a fixture in Southern California’s fast-guy scene and someone who has a hard time slowing down on motorcycles even when he’s dual-sporting. The fork and shock are lively and ready for bigger, faster, harder impacts than anything the stock components could handle. Fully fueled with three gallons of go-juice, this bike can moto across trail whoops or bash into rocks and drop-offs with aggressive stability. Yes, comfort is sacrificed in this particular build.
These suspension settings are taken directly off of Jefferson’s 2019 Husqvarna FC 350 motocross machine. And on a heavier bike, the behavior is surprisingly compliant, but I’d still prefer more comfort for all-day rides or any trail scenario. The beauty of WP Pro Components is in their high performance and their tunability. If you have the cash, this is a modification to any bike you can get behind with competent tuning. Find a WP Authorized Center and order some if you’re able and they can make it the best suspension you can buy, for you.
I could take this bike to a practice day at Glen Helen and be comfortable. That’s a huge usable-range upgrade from stock, for sure. But the fork/shock combo does cost more than the totality of modifications many will make to motorcycles in their entire life.
The next componentry you’re likely to notice on this bike are the binders. The Brembo-built brakes are bonkers and this bike features upgraded rotors front and rear. Headlining the brake build are factory front and rear calipers (over $1000 each). These look amazing and are exactly what the top-level competitors use. But they’re probably only relevant if you’re a top-level competitor or you just like having top-level competitor stuff. Yes, they stop the bike extremely well. But the stock Magura brakes on a Husqvarna FE 501S are fantastic, as well.
More bling stacks on top of the triple clamp with Husqvarna’s in-house kit to upgrade a fork-to-frame connection by mounting up a Scott’s stabilizer. The split-design triple clamp system is effective at eliminating pressure points on fork tubes at clamping surfaces to ensure smoother fork action. And adding a Scott’s stabilizer to a bike that is comfortable going about a billion mph is a pretty solid upgrade. In our experience, nothing beats a BRP/Scott’s parts combo to ensure all the components line up and work flawlessly. And that is true in this case, as well. We had a clearance issue with the bar-mount bolts contacting the frame-mount for the stabilizer pin. This is likely easily fixed with some installation adjustment, but that’s something we don’t normally have to, or want to, worry about on something as vital as being able to steer. This mod will set you back over $1000, too.
Out back, Akropovic adds some pop with a slip-on line muffler. This titanium treat is 50-state street legal and avoids any uncomfortable conversations with constables you could encounter. It doesn’t negatively affect the power character or do anything weird to the fueling like some exhaust add-ons can. It’s very high-quality and, surprisingly, is a relatively reasonable mod on this unreasonably modified bike. At $700, it is a high-quality replacement for a damaged stocker, for sure, and comes with a weight and power advantage. For comparison, the $475 Akropovic titanium footpegs are just super cool, without a ton of performance benefit other than they are sharp, and you don’t slide around at all. Super cool, but not worth it to most.
As far as power mods go, the exhaust is about all that’s bolted on to boost the oomph. There is a Rekluse inner basket and pressure plate under the race team cover as well as fancy high-volume factory radiators and an overflow catch tank to go with the factory oil plug and oil-pump cover.
The rolling business is fancy here, as well. Custom factory hub/spoke systems combine with Excel rims to make strong wheels. And a ProTaper complete final drive system powers the fun and matches the handlebar brand. Guards and protections are Lightspeed carbon and Husqvarna’s own in-house products. Finishing touches are courtesy of Guts Racing Products on the seat and a slew of graphics from race team takeoffs and available-for-purchase kits.
Jefferson mounted up some Dunlop 606’s on this bike. Which are good, fairly aggressive all-around street-legal tires that like to stick to rocks, if you’re crawling over them. There’s extra fuel capacity and more light output on-board, as well as increased wrap-around hand protection. All of these mods are inexpensive and definitely worth it to any bike project. Maybe we should have started the story with those?
The most unique modification to this bike, to me, and some that don’t scream, “fancy bolt-on” is the complete rear swingarm from a motocross bike, the Brembo clutch master cylinder/lever and the 701 Enduro shift lever. The swingarm modification allows Jefferson to run a bigger rear axle, and the axle cutout allows for more chain adjustment range with gearing swaps. The Brembo swap on the clutch master cylinder is actually a higher-flowing unit that makes the pull a little easier. And the shift lever? Well, the indents on the 701 shifter indexing with the shift spline shaft are oriented so the lever is just a few millimeters higher than any of the enduro or MX shifters. This difference is more comfortable to get your boot under for better shifting, plus it has a rubber tip, which is nice for positive engagement. It essentially fine tunes shifter height to a perfect level. I told you there were some smart mods under all this anodizing.
Yes, Jefferson’s bike might seem a little overkill, but we can all dream, can’t we? There are certainly some good and useful ideas here, especially when it comes to anything that has anything to do with increasing durability, as well as protection to both bike and body. Anything that will increase your chances of getting back home is a number-one priority for us, so any part on this bike that ends with the word “cover,” or “guard,” is certainly worth a second look.
And, anything to improve comfort is good with us, too. After all, dual-sport rides are often all-day affairs with some unplanned exploring. So, not only do you want to get back home but get back home feeling rejuvenated, not hurting. Performance parts are simply icing on the cake that make you and your bike look/feel cool. And we all know how good icing on the cake is. More the better, but just try not to overdo it and make yourself sick. CN