When KTM bought Husaberg several years ago, Husaberg loyalists immediately wondered about the direction KTM would take their beloved company. Husaberg had always been a maverick, and employed eccentric design and technology to develop bikes that developed a virtual cult following. For a while, it almost seemed like KTM would let Husaberg die a quiet death.
Now, KTM appears to be using Husaberg as a premium brand employing new, radical technology that may eventually work its way into KTM’s own line-up. The 2009 Husaberg 450 Enduro (likely to be called the FE450 in production) is the perfect case in point. What is so radical about the new Husaberg 450? A number of things, really.
As children, we learn about gyroscopic forces while playing with common toys. Spinning a top, for instance, or playing with a yo yo. When an object spins, it creates resistance to movement (inertia). Aprilia, for example, raised the effective center of gravity of its flagship sport bike (the Mille) several years ago in order to make the bike turn better. This confounded many observers, but the fact of the matter is that Aprilia addressed a fairly simple engineering principal regarding location of the crank and its effect on handling.
The new Husaberg design addresses this concept in a radical way. The position of the crank on the new 450 (which actually will displace 448.6cc) has been moved more than a few millimeters (which Aprilia accomplished). In effect, the crank has changed time zones. Nearly four inches higher, and more than six inches rearward of last year’s crank position, Husaberg has attempted to place crank inertia precisely at the center of the rolling axis of the new bike. According to a Swede who has been racing the machine (quite successfully) in the World Enduro championship, the new bike handles like a machine of much smaller displacement (think about a 250cc motocrosser versus a 450cc motocrosser). This is precisely why Husaberg undertook the design exercise in the first place.
While radically repositioning the crank shaft, Husaberg designed the new single in a manner that lays the cylinder nearly flat (at a 70° angle). This opened up space for a uniquely placed airbox and fuel tank, which aid performance and further centralize mass. Husaberg is also employing a plastic rear subframe on the new chassis. According to Husaberg, this makes the subframe lighter and stiffer, while allowing a more complex shape that will accommodate the mounting of electric components and closer integration of the muffler system.
So there you have it. KTM is letting Husaberg be Husaberg, after all. This new Enduro model won’t be cheap, but it just might be more nimble than any dirt bike of comparable displacement. The new FE450 should go on sale later this year.