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2015 Husqvarna FE 350 S: MD Ride Review

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You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “race bike with lights”. More frequently, it might be applied to a sport bike that is stripped to the bone of any unnecessary weight, just like a track bike, but with all the necessary equipment to make it street legal.

The same analysis applies to dirt bike’s. A dual sport can range from something like a cushy, quite heavy Kawasaki KLR650, to a bike that essentially looks and feels like a motocross racer with lights added.The latter is what we have just recently tested in the form of the 2015 Husqvarna FE 350 S.

First of all, what is the FE 350 S? After the marriage of Husqvarna and KTM a couple of years ago, production Husqvarnas frequently share KTM components. In the case of the FE 350 S, Husky borrows KTM’s very capable 350cc single cylinder mill, originally designed for racing. This is a dual overhead cam, four-valve design that is capable of great power for its displacement. The Husky does have unique frame and suspension versus the KTM dual sports, however.

With the resurgence of small displacement street-legal motorcycles, nearly all of which MD has tested, we can categorically state that the FE 350 S has a great engine. Indeed, it is in an entirely different league from other small displacement single cylinder engines (under 300cc) we have sampled of late. The Ninja 300 (a twin, not a single) has more top-end, but the Husky has much stronger low and mid.

Good low-end power and a solid mid range is followed by quite strong pull up top for a single. This is a very flexible powerband, capable of plonking along at slow speed’s in the dirt, yet pulling decently above 70 mph on the highway. Quite a combination.

The excellent engine is complemented by very high-end suspension components. Both the fork and the shock are fully adjustable units made by WP. The fork even has tool-less adjustment for both compression and rebound you can turn from the rider’s seat.

This bike is slender and shares ergonomics with modern off-road racing machines. That means you are seated upright with a comfortable reach to the bars and generous legroom (courtesy of a very high seat height).

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In short, we found the performance of the Husqvarna FE 350 S off-road excellent. The slim ergonomics allow the rider to easily shift his weight, which is required for aggressive off-road riding, and the suspension was firm enough to handle large hits, yet the initial part of the stroke can be dialed in to be very plush on smaller chop. Off-road, the FE 350 S also changes directions well, and remains reasonably stable in a straight line through whoops or other rough terrain. In other words, this is a race bike … with lights. The bike feels light and nimble like a 250, but has some of the low-end grunt of a larger machine, which helps with corner exits and hill climbs.

Which brings us to the subject of on-road performance. That flexible engine allows the FE 350 S to handle city riding, as well as highway riding with a top speed north of 90 mph. Unlike some other small displacement singles we have sampled, the the FE 350 S still has some poke left at 70 mph or so, so that you do not feel like you are an obstacle to automobiles. In other words, you can still twist the throttle and get out-of-the-way at that speed. A useful feature.

The six-speed transmission, and clutch worked faultlessly during our testing, and the front brake proved surprisingly strong and fade free during one particular run down hill on a tight twisty road (chasing another journalist on his personal larger-displacement dual sport with much more street-able tires than on the Husky … he couldn’t drop me).

Where the FE 350 S falls short on the street, it does so in a rather big way. Unlike something akin to a KLR650, the seat on the FE 350 S is narrow and quite uncomfortable for extended street rides. It is a dirt bike seat, after all, rather than a street bike seat, or even a dual sport seat (there is an optional, more comfortable seat available according to Husky — I will update with details when available).

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The tires chosen for this model are also not particularly street friendly.The Metzeler 6 Days Extreme rubber features knobs that are so broadly spread it appears to be purposeful for riding in deep sand more than on the street or other typical dirt conditions. Despite this, and frankly to my surprise, they never slipped during the quick downhill run mention above, or elsewhere on the road during our test.

If you’re looking for a dual purpose motorcycle with a very strong bias toward dirt performance,this might be your bike. It could even handle a motocross track if asked. Your attitude should be “I want to get to the dirt to play without getting a ticket”.

On the other hand, if you want a more balanced machine that can handle the occasional trip off road, but offer long-distance comfort on the road, look elsewhere. Something like the KLR might be your ticket. Notwithstanding this thought, the engine and chassis on the Husky FE 350 S are so good they had us dreaming about swapping the seat and tires to more street friendly items.

The 2015 Husqvarna FE 350 S has a U.S. MSRP of $10,049. Visit Husqvarna’s web site for further details and specifications.

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45 Comments

  1. GKS says:

    One thing that everyone should realize, is that Husqvarna dual sports (and their KTM counterparts) are not dual sports in the same sense as a KLR or DR. These are off-road competition-level motorcycles that been made minimally street legal. Anyone thinking of using one of these for regular on-road transportation will quickly discover the compromises that make them poor street bikes (tall, firm seat, tiny fuel capacity, off-road tires and lighting, etc.)

  2. gsbeliever says:

    The 501 version is only $200 more than the 350, that’s about the cheapest upgrade you’ll ever find!

  3. Gordon Haight says:

    Good bike for LA-Barstow-Vegas run. Probably the best choice of you can afford to drop 10G on one.

  4. Provologna says:

    OK, what about the test subject bike vs. 2012 or later Yamaha 2012 WR450R with street kit installed? Throw in a full honkin’ Super Motard kit (appropriate front wheel, 320mm wave rotor, radial front caliper, DOT race rubber, etc, etc) to swap between dual purpose and Super Motard.

    Note to self: add attorney contact to speed dial.

  5. Gillmartin says:

    I love how the only issue with the seat is the firmness and profile, not the fact that it’s 38″ high… I might consider a bike that tall if I”m only using it off-road, but on a bike that I’ll need to bring to a stop on a regular basis on the street? Nope.

    • william says:

      I agree on the seat height. It is too tall for me. I am tired of doing all the lowering crap for every dual sport, or dirt bike I buy. I would have to lower it for dirt as well as street. I wonder why they won’t make a shorter dirtbike with a softer more comfy seat. KTM freeride 350 is shorter, but I don’t know about the seat on it. I think the 350 freeride is better for me than this Husky. Maybe Husky can try again next year.

  6. iliketoeat says:

    240 lbs without fuel? That sounds awesome. Hmm I wonder how easily you could turn it into a supermoto…

  7. FE 501S owner says:

    I own the FE 501S version of this same bike. Amazing, all new Husqvarna with DNA from the former Husaberg chassis/subframe, linkage suspension, and KTM 350 or 500 engine and drivetrain. Dealers are sold out of the “S” models in my area. Gotta ride one to really understand and appreciate what the owner Stephan Pierer of KTM did here. Records sales for Husqvarna in 2014: http://www.cycleworld.com/2015/01/29/husqvarna-reports-record-sales-in-2014/

  8. Kent says:

    This seems like the answer to riding a dirtbike in California. With plates, the options are wide open, with none of the green/red sticker BS. You could legally explore Death Valley, ride El Mirage whenever you wanted, cruise all over the desert, etc.

    I think the market is going to be small, but a blessing to a lot of Californians. I assume there are other states with similar laws, too.

  9. Vrooom says:

    I was thinking I wanted one now till you got to the price. $10K for a small dualsport is rarified territory, that makes it hard to sell (new). I’ll look for used ones in a few years.

    • Mark says:

      Hard to sell? They will sell everyone they make (and they don’t make many)
      Some dealers are sold out.
      Yes, they are expensive,but with very little competition and stunning performance, they can do what they want.
      (I own an 14 350 KTM and love it!)

    • Seth says:

      They will sell everyone one in AZ, NV, CA, UT, NM, TX, and FL. You’ll have to order one from PA or upstate NY (blah) and pay $400 additional shipping. Florida is the ideal state because of its sandy national forests like Ocala, and beach riding at 10mph in Daytona!

  10. Dave says:

    I wonder if KTM & Husky aren’t missing an opportunity with the currency rates as they are now. The $ to EU exchange ratio is the lowest it’s been since the introduction of the Euro. Seems like they could leverage that into more competitive retail prices relative to the Japanese brands, though that would devalue the product already in the pipeline.

  11. Hot Dog says:

    What’s the fuel capacity? What kind of fuel mileage? What’s the mileage range on a tank of fuel? Am I the only one who hates to run out of gas?

  12. brian says:

    Awesome bike. Wildly high priced. Won’t sell. Enjoy one now, they won’t be coming back over after this year, I suspect.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      I see quite a few of the KTM versions on local trails here. Perhaps there are a few people willing to tolerate the poorer dealer network to have a blue, white and yellow option?

    • mkviz says:

      Somre dealers are already selling it for 1000 off MSRP. Just wait for the leftover models

  13. HLRembe says:

    I’m as skeptical as endoman38 and yes I think I can do a proper eval in about 1 year as well at which time I can begin the comparison with the improved 2016 model.

  14. skybullet says:

    If this bike fits your mission it is probably well worth the money. Why? You don’t have to buy the suspension twice, high quality everything (not just barely good enough) and maximum performance for it’s size and weight.

  15. Dale says:

    Looks like it will be a great bike, but it seems to be about $2500 too high in price? I was in college in 1976 and bought a brand spanking new Yamaha DT400 for $1250 including tax. Using an online inflation calculator, this comes out to $5200 in today’s dollars. $10,000 is a lot to spend.

    • xlayn says:

      Keep in mind that this is a racing machine (let’s not talk about maintenance cost under spirited “I love the screaming sound” driving), maybe as Dirck mention, KLR may be more bang for your buck (or everybody’s bucks)

    • todd says:

      Sure, but a DT400 is more like a KLR, not a high spec racer like a Maico or Penton. I have a RT2 myself (DT360) and, great bike that it is, it’s a bit clunky and mediocre even for a vintage bike.

      • Dale says:

        Speaking of Maico, a couple of years later, I bought a new 400AW from Karson Cycles in Joppa MD. Ran the MSO through the Maryland DMV and got a real title and a tag! Put on a Preston Petty front light/ number plate, one of those small Triumph style fender mounted tail lights, an under the handlebar mirror, and a Supertrapp (downswept pipe, and I never dented it…). Couldn’t hook the lights up because there was no battery. Put thousands of street miles on getting to and from the available trails at the time, and was never stopped. Those were the days. And if I remember right, there was no reserve?

        And yes, a 400AW Maico was a brutal trail bike in its day. Second, third, and forth on the same wheelie. Coolest thing ever. Ah to be young again…

    • Norm G. says:

      re: “I was in college in 1976”

      2015 to 1976 is basically 40 years.

      as this is a luxury good wherein standard inflationary rates aren’t applicable, we should be glad it doesn’t cost $20,000 dollars.

    • iliketoeat says:

      Sure, but this bike seems at least twice as good as the DT400, no?

  16. Matt says:

    I have owned several race bikes with lights, KTM, Husaberg etc. I have really enjoyed them all. However my personal problem is I can never seem to enjoy them $10,500 worth..

    I sold my last Husaberg 570 and bought 2 used WR250X’s for me and my son, and had enough left for a Ninja 650 twin that had been lightly tipped over, didn’t even break a blinker. Those 3 absolutely pale in comparison, but as a whole I don’t feel bad when they sit in the garage for a week or 2 without getting ridden, or when I plonk along a scenic trail not taking advantage of the high end components and superior power to weight.

    If you can ride very often and forget what $10,500 will buy, there is nothing better.

    • Matt says:

      Sorry, it should have been $10,050.

    • Chrisgo says:

      I agree with you Matt. I’d love to be able to afford one but 11K (with tax etc) for a dirt bike that I am sure to drop the very first time I ride it is a little rich. My current dual sport is a ’01 DRZ400S that I paid 2K for (with 1700 mi). That is no where near this bike in performance but I can buy a lot of other moto fun with the remainder. My trail bike, a ’99 KX250 2T just keeps on going….

  17. MGNorge says:

    One then could think of the FE 350 as a dirt bike that allows for some side trips on pavement connecting two or more parcels of dirt? Not a bad thing.

    I always wonder though, just how an engine designed for race does in plonking down the superslab. Is that even a concern? What makes me wonder is how some race engines are designed to have the top end freshened up every so many hours. In non-race use would that be extended?

    • xlayn says:

      maybe things have got better, according to GP two comments below

      ” My 350 has not needed anything other than rear brake pads in over 2 years of ownership.”

      although he doesn’t mention how many miles or under which conditions.

      • Tommy D says:

        I have 3471 miles on my ’12 KTM 350 EXC-F. It has 164 hours on the clock as well. That’s a miserable avg speed of only 21 mph. Yep that’s about right as I tend to end up on trials type trails here in the Northeast. Not much fire roads. In that time I have replaced standard wear parts. Brakes, chain/sprockets and clutch (Rekluse now) Had the valves checked at 80 hours and they were spot on. (time to do it again). To be honest I beat the snot out of this bike in the bone yards of New England. I LOVE the engines willingness to rev while retaining great low end pull. I can lift this front wheel at any speed to clear stuff. It feels SO much lighter than friends older 450EXC’s. A great 4-stroke for tight stuff and a blast when the trails open up as well. I do change the oil ever 10 hours.

        • xlayn says:

          “To be honest I beat the snot out of this bike in the bone yards of New England. I LOVE the engines willingness to rev while retaining great low end pull”
          sounds like you are having all the fun around here…

          Thanks for all the info, this helps anyone wishing to put their hard earned bucks on it to decide if it’s the right machine!

    • todd says:

      An engine that is designed to withstand high RPM mud caked abuse will last forever plodding around a trail.

  18. James S says:

    Sorry for the nitpicking, but the Ninja 300 is a twin cylinder engine, not a single.

  19. GP says:

    Owning a ’12 KTM350 EXC-F, I would say that this report is spot on. This is a street legal dirt bike. This bike tolerates pavement, but it is not comfortable there. Gearing is the single biggest issue to having the bike be suitable at both realms. Gear it low enough to be fun in the dirt (13/48-51), and pavement speeds suffer badly. Use the stock gearing (14/45), and dirt capability suffers.
    A Rekluse clutch, and middle of the road gearing make this one of the best bikes for playing around local woods trails.
    My 350 has not needed anything other than rear brake pads in over 2 years of ownership.

    • EdR says:

      GP,

      did you have to make any valve adjustments? I looked into the 550 EXC-F but was put off by the frequent valve check intervals.

    • Tommy D says:

      I own the same bike. I wanted a dirt bike with a plate. Not a dual purpose bike. Here in the Northeast the Turkey Runs and Enduros require registrations for the road transfer sections. Yes some people figure out ways to get their 2-strokes plated. This bike makes it easy. Yes gearing is a compromise so I replaced mine with 13×50 gearing. It’s fine for secondary roads but not for highway use. I also use a Rekluse clutch and love it. A EE bash plate, real bark busters, heated grips and studded tires for winter and an EE seat make this bike great for those 100 mile trail ride days.

  20. endoman38 says:

    I don’t believe a word of this report. You need to let me use the bike for about a year and I’ll do a proper evaluation. Better make that 2 years.

    • casatomasa says:

      LOL, agreed!!!

      • Provologna says:

        Do you agree that endoman should get the bike for a year, or you get the bike for a year?

        Frankly, I disagree with both/either, and believe readers would be better served if I got the bike for “long term test of unspecified duration.”