By Victor Wanchena
Pure mischief lies in the heart of this bike. Wheelies, stoppies, power slides; if it can get you a traffic ticket, this bike can do it. Not being much of hooligan myself, I wondered how I would like the Husaberg. The short answer is that I loved this bike despite being humbled by it.
Husabergs are a new return to the US market. Founded in 1988, former Husqvarna employees found themselves without work after Cagiva had taken over and Husqvarna and then promptly replaced all the Husky parts with Cagiva bits. Well, our heroes wanted to restore pride to the Nordic tradition of off-road bikes, thus was born Husaberg. They have been campaigned successfully in Europe for some time. Now, ironically the Husaberg has been bought by KTM but rest assured the engineering wing of Husaberg remains planted firmly in Sweden.
Our test mule is the FS 650e Super Moto bike. The Super Moto style of racing combines the light, agile bikes of motocross with a tight road course and short dirt section. Not a battle of horsepower, it is instead a test of agility and handling. A skilled rider will often slide his bike into a corner à la flat track racing. Based on their enduro model, this literally is a race bike with a license plate attached. This is not a slogan, it’s the truth. Lacking the refined civility of a machine intended for mass consumption, the FS 650e is raw and hard edged. It likes to be ridden hard and will perform at a level beyond most riders. Even the obligatory warning sticker bears witness to this. And I quote, “This machine is intended for MAINLY competition use.” The street version is built with a kit from the standard race bike.
Husaberg is unapologetic for the hard-edged competitive nature of their machines. The brochure I read unabashedly proclaimed they are not a “lifestyle” company. You get a high-tuned motorcycle available in one-color. If that doesn’t work for you, a Husaberg isn’t the bike you’re looking for.
Husaberg has defined itself as a four-stroke company. Their line-up contains 3 variations of the same, single cylinder motor. The FS650e is the largest of the family, using a hugely over-square bore of 100mm x 80mm to achieve a displacement of 628cc. This ultra compact motor is a marvel of well thought out design. The cases are very narrow; hardly any of the motor extends past the lower portion of the frame. There are no external oil lines to snag or smash off ,and the coolant hoses are adequately tucked out of harm’s way. Husaberg didn’t give us any specs on horsepower but the informed say power is in the range of 65hp at the rear wheel. The model we tested did have an electric start. It was a nice feature even if it does add a few pounds to the bike.
The big single can be hard starting due to its high compression ratio. This is alleviated by a compression release located on the bars. The choke was located in a rather difficult spot to reach under the tank. Once started the motor warms quickly. To help with hot starts, a second choke button is also located on the carb, which opens a different air passage. Not a motor to be babied, you’re best advised to grab a hand full of throttle and feather the clutch on take offs. Both Sev and I killed the motor like a pair of rookies before we got the hang of good launches.
The motor is carried on a simple and elegant chrome-moly steel frame. I actually got see and lift a stripped frame. It’s super-light, maybe 30-35 pounds, and uses the main backbone of the frame as the airbox. Genius. The rear swing-arm is a very long ,cast aluminum piece. It was obvious for the length of the swing arm and the size of the rear shock that the Husaberg has huge suspension travel; over 10.8” in the front and 11.3” in the rear.
So, how do they build a Super Moto? Hang from the aforementioned motor, some minimalist bodywork, and some high end WP suspension units. The bodywork is standard motocross-style plastic, with a few Husaberg touches. It’s light and cheap to replace for the racing crowd. The suspension, on the other hand, is first rate all the way. Up front are inverted shocks with full adjustments including high speed rebound dampening, an adjustment only found top shelf components. In back the Husaberg has a monstrous WP mono shock that features all the adjustability of the front. Put massive brakes front and rear with trick wave rotors. To finish it off, lace up some fat Behr rims and spoon on stick Michelin radial tires.
The ride on the Husaberg can be a bit punishing. The seat is about as wide as a 2×4 and about as comfortable. After 30 miles I was ready for a break. The vibrations from the motor are felt in the bars at high revs. I used it as an indication I was approaching redline. The controls were a bit of an after thought. They work but were not well integrated. The gauges consist of a simple LED readout that has readouts for multiple lap timers, average speed, max speed, etc. I never completely figured them out. The headlight is sad at best; night rides should be reserved for full moons. But who cares! This bike weighs only 240 pounds and has 65hp.
All that power is delivered to the ground to sticky radials tires which inspire confidence. Pick a line and throw it into a corner. It’s almost impossible to not have fun on this bike. I myself found wishing desperately for tighter corners. I clicked my riding boots together three times, but wasn’t transported to Deal’s Gap. The Husaberg and I were stuck firmly in Minnesota.
The corners couldn’t get tight enough for the Husaberg. Cornering clearance is equal to lying on your side. You run out of tires or crash before anything starts dragging. On a couple of occasions I even managed to slide the rear wheel a little into a corner, giggling the whole time. The suspension was very firm but provided excellent feedback, always letting me know what the wheels were doing.
In the end, I was simply humbled by the Husaberg. It can perform at a level far above anything I’m capable of. It begs to be ridden hard and I felt bad for not showing it a better time. A better rider could have made it really sing. Sure I could lift the front wheel or do a mild stoppie, but my best efforts had the Husaberg yawning. Is that all you’re going to do?
The model we tested was an ‘05 and the ‘06 do have a few refinements but they mainly amount to bold new graphics.
For the Super Moto fanatic, this is the bike to buy. The power, weight, and top quality components make this a hard bike to beat. Those looking for a more refined street machine should look elsewhere; you will only be disappointed by the Husaberg’s hard-edged race pedigree. For you urban commuting guerillas this one is hard to top. And for the Super Moto racers, why spend $16 grand building a machine that you can buy for $9 grand?
By Sev Pearman
Forty-one…G-G-G-Gug. Forty-two…G-G-G-Gug. Forty-three…G-G-G-Gup-rum-rum-pfff. C’mon baby…I know you are ready to go…Forty-four…G-G-G-Gug. I fall forward on the bars, sweating and winded, unable to coax the ferocious 650cc single to life. Forty-plus jabs on the kickstarter have put a bruise on my left calf that will mock me for more than a week. I have long ago run the miniscule battery down and the only way home is via the boot. Either I kickstart this Husaberg or I am pushing it home.
I had tried three bump-starts earlier, but the stratospheric seat height foiled me. I recalled the wrath from die Publisher and the $2,000 repair bill when I dropped another test bike on a gravel parking lot and reluctantly unfolded the kicker for another series of swings.
A kindly father and former motocross racer takes pity on me and we jumped it. I thank him for his trouble and quickly roared home to plug in the Battery Tender and contemplate the beast that is the 2005 Husaberg FS 650e.
Husaberg is a Swedish company created when Italian bike conglomerate Cagiva purchased legendary motocross manufacturer Husqvarna in 1987. Former Husky employees formed Husaberg the following year and went back to what they did before; building monstrous 4-stroke single-cylinder off-road bikes with lightweight frames and excellent chassis.
The recipe worked and Husaberg enjoyed sales and track success. Dirt bike manufacturing rival KTM purchased Husaberg in another Euro-brand shuffle in 1995. KTM moved Husaberg assembly to Austria in 2003, but retains Husaberg as a separate brand and keeps R&D in Sweden.
What is it?
I am riding a 2005 Husaberg FS 650e. It is a purpose-built, track-ready Super Moto weapon. Super Moto is a growing form of racing combining elements of road racing, flat track and motocross. Super Moto tracks contain both paved and unpaved sections. Typical Super Moto machines are modified dirt bikes with lowered suspensions and different wheels carrying street rubber. Flexibility and agility are prized more than outright horsepower or top speed.
The FS 650e is Husaberg’s turnkey Super Moto race bike. Derived from their ferocious Enduro bike, it has all that bike’s power and strength morphed into a Super Moto package. The engine is a 628cc (100mm x 80mm) liquid-cooled single with 4-valve OHC head and 11.8:1 compression ratio. It is a cammy screamer that begs for 3/4 to full throttle.
Once the motor warms enough to turn off the enrichener, you can get down to business. While this bike can be run at sedate engine speeds it will grumble. Low-speed bogging is undoubtedly due to EPA strangulation. The Husaberg would breathe easier with larger pilot jet(s) and a change in needle position. The FS will fight you below what feels like 5,000 rpm. Above that, the cam kicks in and it screams out a rorty Bwaaaahhp! – Bwaaaahhp! as you row through the gearbox.
Fuel is gulped through a 41mm Keihin FCR-MX carb. Why a carb and not fuel injection? Factory teams have techs capable of injection mapping. Do you bring your laptop trackside? This is a machine for real-world racers and Keihin FCRs are proven and bombproof. FCR-MX models have additional features for off-road use including a hot start knob in addition to the cold start enrichener.
Burned dinosaurs exit through a beautiful twin-port nickel-plated pipe and trick aluminum exhaust can. Yes, it is loud. Yes, I forever bitch about loud exhausts. Call me a hypocrite – I don’t care. I am under the voodoo spell of this evil beast. Note that you have to snake your left glove over the sizzling header to reach the enrichener and hot start knobs. Hope you have good gloves.
Full-on singles are delicious. They are slender and easy to move about on. They are simple. A single is four times as easy to tune than a four, and 1/4 as costly. They are lightweight. The Husaberg has a claimed weight of only 110 kg (242.5 lbs) I like a bike that makes 65 hp and weighs less than me.
Combine a powerful motor with little mass and you get the keys to one-wheel riding. I brought the Hoozy to our pavement skunk works and went to work. Simply rev to 3,500 rpm and release the clutch. The front end of the Husaberg raises with zero effort. Owner Brett Donahue of Donahue Harley-Davidson/Buell in Sauk Rapids cheerfully pulled repeated riding wheelies in the dealership lot. To put it another way, even your geezer editor can wheelie this motorcycle.
Braking is phenomenal; a perfect blend of easy-to-modulate power and sensitive feel. Up front, a FTE four-piston radially-mounted floating caliper pinches a honking 310mm (12.2 in) stainless steel rotor. A Brembo single-piston floating caliper grabs a 220mm (8.7 in) stainless rotor in the rear. Here’s another pointer: keep looking well ahead when on only the front wheel.
The Behr wheels are gorgeous; beefy spokes laced to polished aluminum rims. The front tire is a 120/70-17, the rear wears 160/60-17 rubber. Brake dust and road grime wipe off easily. I don’t know why every super moto bike I have ever seen runs spokes over cast wheels. Readers?
The rear shock is a top-of-the-line WP unit, adjustable for spring preload, rebound, and both high and low-speed compression damping. The shock is undersprung for my bulk but should be fine for sub-200-pounders. The fork is also by WP, also adjustable for spring preload, rebound and compression damping. Both front and rear are fully rebuildable.
While the Super Moto shares the excellent chassis and suspension as the Enduro model it also shares the seat. The narrow thin perch is well-suited for enduro riding where you have to slide all over the bike and spend little time in the saddle. Unfortunately, it makes a terrible seat for the street. In fact, it is, without question the most painful seat I have ever sat on in twenty-five years of riding. Tough. Our cruisers are over here, sir.
The sticker on the rear fender says it all: “Mainly for competition use.” There is no chainguard. There are no passenger provisions. The detachable headlight sourced from the enduro is a reading light at best. The exhaust, while good for the track, is l-o-u-d on the street. The Husaberg 650 is buzzy, the seat sucks, the blinker indicator didn’t work and I never saw a neutral light. I loved every minute of it.
The starting technique? Make sure the petcocks are open, pull out the carb-mounted enrichener; disengage the clutch; squeeze the decompression lever with your left index finger; hit the starter button; let it spin through two or three cycles; release the decompression lever and mmwwWWAAAARRrrr! The Husaberg FS 650e will roar to life every time. Once I figured out this technique, I secured the kickstart lever and never looked back.
Thanks to Donahue Harley-Davidson/Buell in Sauk Rapids, MN for their help in this review. They are the only Husaberg dealer serving central and southern Minnesota. Donahue can be reached at 320-251-6980 or www.american-thunder.com.
Wife’s First Reaction: “It looks like a box of crayons.”
Unholy Beast: Raw and unrefined
More lean than you can use or imagine
“One-Wheeled Riding for Dummies”
Summon the Priest: Raw and unrefined.
The Husaberg 650 can smell fear.
Kickstart ritual can make you cry.
By the numbers
Rider: Editor Pearman
5’-10”/250 lbs/32” (height/weight/inseam)
Total miles driven: 3 tankfulls
Fuel consumption: 47mpg
Ducati Hypermotard (2007); Husqvarna SM 610; KTM 625 SMC; Suzuki DR-Z400SM