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  • April 13, 2015
  • Dirck Edge
  • Chris Rubino and Dirck Edge
  • 51 Comments

MD Tests Crazy Light Street Legal Singles – KTM 390 Duke Meets Tricked Out Husqvarna FE 501 S Supermoto, Part One

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They say you only live once, and even if you get reincarnated you might come back as a cockroach. So go for it! Don’t worry about cost or durability. In this series of articles, we don’t.

We got tired of listening to our readers whine like babies about street legal, off-the-shelf motorcycles being unnecessarily heavy. So pay attention.

The heavier of these two bikes is the KTM 390 Duke ABS which, according to KTM, comes in at 306 pounds dry (more than 100 pounds lighter than a Yamaha R6!). I have paperweights heavier than that.

Oh, and that was the heavier of the two bikes we are currently flogging in the interests of enlightening the masses. The other bike is the focus of this initial report. A custom 2015 Husqvarna FE 501 S Supermoto. Okay, so this bike is not quite “off-the-shelf”, because Husky does not sell a supermoto in the United States. Our bike started life as a street legal dual sport weighing a claimed 251 pounds (more than 150 pounds lighter than a Yamaha R6). Some of the modifications undoubtedly remove weight, while others add some (such as the 17″ supermoto wheels, and big front disc brake). Our supermoto is still well under 300 pounds.

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This first installment in the series focuses on our riding impressions aboard the Husky. Here is a list of modifications made to the bike (we will provide prices in a later article).

  1. Akrapovic street-legal muffler system.
  2. Cyrca hand guards.
  3. Seat Concepts seat.
  4. 17″ Supermoto wheel conversion with oversize front disc brake and caliper carrier (a future article will focus on the details of this particular feature).
  5. Dunlop Q3 tires sized 160/60 x 17 rear and 120/70 x 17 front.
  6. Modified gearing (one tooth down on the counter-shaft, and four teeth up on the rear sprocket).

We can begin by confirming that the FE 501 S is a very capable dual sport. It shares components with the FE 350 S we tested earlier. As we stated in that earlier review, the stock seat and tires are very dirt focused. The stock seat is quite uncomfortable for even moderate length trips on road, and the tires are more suitable for deep sand than hard-packed soil or the street. A picture of the FE 501 S in stock form can be found at the very bottom of this article.

Riding the FE 501 S convinced us we wanted to try it in supermoto trim. The 510.4 cc engine is simply fantastic, offering strong low and mid-range power with a very healthy pull through the upper rpm range. The stock bike has extremely tall gearing, that has the motor barely purring at 75 mph. We didn’t dare test top speed on the stock knobby tires, but it must be well in excess of 100 mph.

We asked Husky if they would build a supermoto version of the 501 for us, and they actually said yes! Husky provided all of the modifications described, including the razor blade taken to the left lip of the rear tire (permitting chain clearance). Don’t try this at home.

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The first concern we had with the modified bike was steering geometry. Although the diameter of the rear Dunlop street tire is not radically different from the diameter from the 18″ knobby it replaces, the new 17″ front hoop drops the front end considerably compared with the 21″ wheel that comes stock. We knew the street rubber would handle much more aggressive steering geometry, and the steeper rake would be welcome, but we thought it might be too much. We were wrong. Thankfully.

Somehow, the steering geometry with the unmodified FE 501 S suspension turned out great. Balance feels good. Turn-in is excellent, and straight line stability at high speed is also good. Bravo!

Riding the big Husky supermoto is exhilarating, to say the least. In the city, this bike rules. Hardly any other way to say it. It pulls smartly away from stop lights with the front wheel in the air (if you wish), and the seating position gives the rider a great perspective on traffic. Slice-and-dice everything you see in town.

The larger front brake disc (now 280 mm) seems to offer plenty of power and feel. The stock caliper is held further from the hub by a stiff, billet extension piece.

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The lower gearing and change in tire diameter has significantly reduced top speed, although the modified bike is still capable of 85 mph+, and easily keeps up with highway traffic. The trade-off is better in-gear acceleration.

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The Seat Concepts seat bolts right on and looks perfect … fit and finish is equal to the stocker. Comfort, on the other hand, is worlds better than the plank that comes with the bike. Both short and long rides are far more tolerable.

We ran the Dunlop Q3s at 27 psi, both front and rear. This seems right in the ballpark for these tires on a supermoto weighing less than 300 pounds. After we scrubbed in the new rubber, corner grip and confidence were fantastic. With the dirt bike ergonomics and wide bar, throwing this bike into corners is something you have to experience to fully understand. Even more nimble than the 690 Duke we tested and raved about.

We left the suspension with the stock settings, and it worked well, but we are still experimenting. We would like the suspension a bit tighter and more controlled.  We will report back with our findings.

This is not a long-distance tourer, and not even the most practical commuter bike. This is a hard core race bike that happens to be street legal. Vibration levels are tolerable, and not bothersome on shorter rides, but they will take their toll on longer rides. Nothing is rubber mounted on this bike, not the footpegs or the handlebars. You want light weight? You pay the price.

The six-speed transmission provides a nice spread of gearing, tightened considerably by the final drive changes we made. We have experienced no problems with missed shifts, and we believe the rear wheel hub provided by Husky incorporates cush drive, nearly a necessity on the street.

This bike is all about fun. You can get stupid on this machine – jumping curbs, pulling wheelies, and floating jumps (both concrete and dirt). The bike, perhaps unfortunately, encourages this. But even without riding  beyond the PC boundaries set by modern society, this bike can make you grin so hard your face might break.

Stay tuned for our story on the KTM 390 Duke, followed by an article comparing the experiences offered by both machines.  By the way, the Husky we tested is quite expensive, as you might guess. The stock FE 501 S is priced at $10,249. The cost of the modifications to our supermoto version are significant, and will be the subject of a separate article on the process of modifying the dual sport. Take a look at Husky’s web site for more details and specifications.

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51 Comments

  1. Tyler Wortman says:

    I have this exact bike but with Excel supermoto rims. I was wondering if you could show a picture of how the handguards are mounted around the clutch line. Or if there are any more pictures of this bike I would like to see!

  2. Mugwump says:

    I had my checkbook in my hand and then I saw that word, “custom”. Let’s see if the 701 shows up relatively soon.

  3. John says:

    Am I the only one who always pictures these things as an F450 type sport bike? I see them from time to time at the track. Maybe someday when I get a replacement for my KTM 450 xcw, she’ll be lowered. the KTM 6 speed will be perfect vs the CR/WR/YZ based bikes I’ve seen with 5 speeds.

  4. RD350 says:

    SuperMotos rock on the right kind of roads.
    City riding? Perfect.
    Pot-holed New England back roads? Perfect.
    Track day weapon (especially on shorter tracks)? Absolutely.
    Straight highway, heartland of America? No way.
    Single cylinders can never really be do-everything bikes. But in the right venue they are very capable and extremely fun!
    I wish the Japanese manufactures (and others) would built lightweight, SuperMoto style bikes around middleweight twins. That would make them a lot more attractive to a much wider audience. The original Ducati HyperMotard with the air-cooled motor captured this concept perfectly. It was just a bit too expensive for the average punter.
    For our crumbling roads and infrastructure todays America, SuperMotos just make more sense to me than stiff suspension-ed sportbikes.

    • Kagato says:

      sounds like you are describing a possible–SCRAMBLER!! bring it on manu’s! or Triumph will keep saying “There can only be ONE”

      • RD350 says:

        I would love to see more Scramblers! The Triumph Scrambler is good looking, but its really heavy and it has budget suspension. The Ducati Scrambler is a bit lighter but its still too heavy. And its also equipped with budget suspension.
        I want a Scrambler with real suspension and low weight (-300lbs) along with cool retro looks and the lower seat height. I want a well finished bike that is intended for experienced riders, not an entry level bike that needs serious mods to work well. This recipe would be very well received by older enthusiasts and young hipsters alike IMHO. Honda really has the deep history to draw on here .. the CL77 and the CL350 Scramblers being the most notable. I would love to see something from them.

  5. Kagato says:

    Now we’re going to whine about seat height–whine whine whine

  6. jim says:

    Anyone who wanted an SM made one from a DRZ or XR over a decade ago and has moved on. SM was dead before it ever really got started.

    • Bob Krzeszkiewicz says:

      I ride 5 and sometimes 6 days a week and take lots of long trips throughout the year all over the US but mostly the south. I have yet to see a SM bike on the road. Lots of dual sported dirt bikes but have never seen an SM. I agree that SM really never took off. I can only recall seeing 2 SMs on a showroom floor anywhere in all my years. And people wonder why there aren’t more available from the mfrs?

      A purpose built 500cc dual sport that mimics an adventure bike would be a much more useful everywhere lightweight street bike. Not a “behave like a bastard” bike by any means though.

      • dman says:

        I live in a smallish city in coastal California surrounded by tight and twisty bumpy roads, and also heavy urban and tourist traffic, and I see SM’s daily. Mostly DRZ’s but also KTM’s, Husky’s and dual-sport converts.

    • Mugwump says:

      I have my KLX 300 SF. Ok that makes 1…

  7. Dug says:

    What a fun bike! Although above my current price range, I’m happy it exists.

  8. RD350 says:

    I am waiting patiently for the Husqvarna 701 Supermoto …

    I would like to know how the 501 engine compares to the 690 single?

    • pojo says:

      i dont know how it compares to the 501 but i had a 690 enduro with street tires and it was smooth like a v twin with good top end. The 690 is only 20 pounds heavier than the 390 duke so that might be a better comparo as the 690 puts out close to 70 hp

      • RD350 says:

        Thanks pojo.

        I am wondering if the 501 has a good counter balancer like the 690? I have ridden the 690 Duke and I loved it. Agreed, very smooth for a single.

  9. Aussie M says:

    Riding a supermoto is the most fun you can ever have on wheels. But these bikes are not appreciated by the masses because the majority of riders don’t have the skills to make them do what they are capable of doing. The irony is, if you buy one it will teach you. After awhile you will be performing manoeuvres that you previously thought were beyond your capabilities. Then when you ride other bikes you will be a much better rider. Buy one, ride it hard, and you will learn.

    • Bill says:

      i had one, now i have less fillings in my teeth, that thing shook like a dog trying to pass a peach pit…

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      “But these bikes are not appreciated by the masses because the majority of riders don’t have the skills to make them do what they are capable of doing.”

      These bikes are unappreciated because 99.9% of the masses don’t live anywhere near where these bikes actually can be appreciated. They are largely miserable appliances when ridden anywhere but a kart track or a road resembling such.

      I sure do want one, anyway.

      • todd says:

        Well, when you consider California has the largest number of motorcycles – by far, about as many as Texas and New York combined – and California is chocked full of twisty roads, I think your estimation is off.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          Forgive the exaggeration, but my point still stands.

          • pojo says:

            miserable appliances? what? these things are supremely agile and will absolutely dust heavier bikes on tight twistys especially with broken pavement, my favorite roads. And in an urban environment forget it there literally is no better motorcycle

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            Like I said, pojo, miserable appliances when ridden anywhere but a kart track or a road resembling such.

            Urban environment? They are OK there I suppose so long as speeds stay around 40mph, but there are better options. Dual sport versions make more sense in pot-hole ridden streets. Nothing goes over junk better than a 21″ wheel. Or for what this thing costs, get a Zero FX if urban use is the goal.

            Understand also I am not referring to supermotos in general but rather this machine which is essentially a race bike with blinkers. It would be much more humane and useful as a daily rider if we were talking about the 701 concept built around the KTM 690 family. I used to have a plated WR450F in supermoto trim. I didn’t ride it much.

      • mickey says:

        My nephew had one, loved it …on certain roads. Anywhere else, no fun. Getting to the good roads was sheer torture. But once on those roads he was in heaven. Sold it and replaced with an SV 650. Not as much fun on certain roads, but more fun on more roads.

      • MGNorge says:

        When I was young this type would surely have had the juices flowing. Good power, ultimately flickable and a wheelie machine with wonderful suspension…for some types of riding and roads. No longer in that age group I don’t think I’d appreciate all that they had to offer. Still fun to look at and read about. Hail diversity!

    • Bill says:

      I should comment, I live in FLorida, A.K.A. Flatistan

  10. Bill says:

    10 grand…..good lord

  11. 1. 2. Many says:

    >>They say you only live once, and even if you get reincarnated…

    But I don’t want to be re-incarcerated.

  12. Vrooom says:

    Super cool, impractical, but cool. If you lived on one end of the Beartooth highway or the other, perfect bike.

  13. Trent says:

    Awesome article. And you make me feel much less guilty for upgrading my Z750S with ZX-6R and other parts.

  14. Blackcayman says:

    I didn’t see one picture of the FJ-09 in this post…

  15. Mick says:

    I bought a Husky 610 with a Ducati 916 to take pressure off the Ducati. When the XR650R came out I built a supermoto from one and haven’t purchase a new off the rack street bike since. I still have an XR650R SM, though not the same one.

    I have bought a couple of used old school Multistradas for two up use. Love that air cooled two valve 1000/1100.

    Yamaha should horn that 700 twin they have into a supermoto. Yeah!

  16. FNFAL says:

    Hmmm…I guess my CR480 that I picked up when I was 16 in 82′ at 227 dry was pretty advanced then….

    • Dave says:

      Sure, it was the best Honda could do at the time. I doubt if you’d be able to find any tangible benefit to it’s fewer pounds against this bike, unless you had a thing for pushing them around with their engines turned off.

  17. John A. Kuzmenko says:

    Motards are fun.
    To me, they’re the lightest-weight sport bikes.

  18. xLaYN says:

    I guess the extremely high power to weight ratio requires a tight track to bring the most (grin to the face)/sec.
    I wonder if it’s like the super bikes (sorry again) that requires a track to open gas without compassion and some ample some tight turns.

  19. Alex says:

    I had a Husqvarna SM450R. Yes, I am a fool for having let it go. I’ll have one again someday I hope, but at twice the original price apparently. The prices are getting ridiculous. Maybe someone can tell me how things really work, but I paid $6599 for a new 2007 model. Granted, they were not fuel injected yet, but is 50cc’s and FI worth $6,000 (based on their 2015 supermoto’s $12k pricetag and engine capacity)? I know that countless technological advances have been made that simple consumers can’t begin to comprehend so I’ll just assume it’s twice as good. Luckily for the buying public, our salaries have also doubled in the last 7 years so it’s a wash. Seriously though, can someone explain the economics to me? Is it greedy shareholders? The cost of labor? Inflation? Tradewinds? Is it the bears? I always knew it was the bears!

    • xLaYN says:

      bears…. I knew once day I’ll had to speak…
      everything started with with a fool trying to keep engine temperature low by sending the FI systems to be built in the poles…
      the thing is the experiment went out of control, they had bears producing by millions the systems but the high pressure, tesla containers a weird planet alignment with a couple sun flares produced what we know as bear-jection-gate.
      Mutant fuel injected bears with power to…. fuel inject things armed themselves in order to take back earth control from the enginos who are behind warming the earth and destroying/melting the poles…

      it’s been a cruel war, as the demand increase for injectors in both bands a third party with personal interest came to the game… the injectinos.

      introducing scarcity by moving features to the injectors themselves… if you want to include ABS you’ll have to change a injector… flat tire… injector… you see where that’s going…

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      Once you get to a certain point, each extra pound shaved off and each extra horsepower gained costs exponentially more than the previous, bears be damned. For reference, an archaic 2015 DRZ400SM costs $7K. You could throw another $5K at it and still not be as light or as powerful as this Husky.

      And who knows. You might find one of these languishing in a dealership two years from now that you can pick up for $8K or so.

  20. todd says:

    Awesome. I had a street legal KLX300R that was heavily modified for power. With it’s 37hp on the dyno and the 230 pound weight the thing was brutal to all legalities. I can’t imagine what this Husky would be like with its 30% greater power! It probably even has electric start.