The 2018 Husqvarna FC 450 Rockstar Edition marks the first time the brand has released a “factory edition” bike in order to give its pro racers a competitive advantage by essentially racing what is likely to be next year’s model.
It also gives consumers the opportunity to purchase something that looks and performs more similar to what the factory race team uses and to get their hands on next year’s platform early. Husqvarna invited us out to Milestone MX Park in Riverside, California to get a first ride on the new machine.
The new engine features a smaller, more compact cylinder head that Husqvarna claims is 1 pound lighter than the standard ’18 FC 450. The exhaust system has a new header pipe featuring a bigger resonance chamber, while the muffler is a new unit as well. The new system is now composed of two pieces, which eliminates the need to remove the shock when changing exhaust systems as on the previous FC 450 models. Other changes to the motor include a new Pankl Racing Systems transmission and a Rekluse clutch cover.
On the track, the engine changes are apparent immediately and in a very positive way. The new motor is much livelier and has more power across the board, most notably on the bottom-end and midrange. Where the standard FC 450 engine has a more mellow power delivery in the lower rpm, the Rockstar Edition engine pulls harder and the entire powerband feels more linear as a result. Both of our test riders were pleased with the appreciable amount of torque, but also how smooth the power delivery was. Like the standard model, the Rockstar Edition offers two engine maps and traction control, all of which can be accessed on the left side of the handlebar. Map one offered plenty of power for the tighter Milestone layout, but both test riders opted to use map two as it increased bottom-end hit and midrange pull. The new engine is a remarkable improvement not only in the amount of power and torque it delivers, but also how smooth and controllable it is.
The suspension might not look changed, especially in comparison to the rest of the bike, but the WP AER 48 fork and WP shock both received new internal settings to match the new chassis design. In stock form, the suspension understandably felt a little on the stiff side for our test riders who are both under the target 450 weight range of 175 pounds. The AER 48 fork has a good plush feel on braking bumps and maintains that plushness further down in the stroke, which was especially noticeable on some of the bigger jump landings at Milestone. Another positive is the fork’s tunability, which became evident as our relatively lightweight test riders of very different skill levels began to dial it in to their liking. Both test riders, a novice and a former AMA pro, found a comfortable setting by softening the fork, but in different ways. The pro only softened the compression clicker while the novice decreased the air pressure from the stock 10.5 bar to 10 bar and left the clickers in the stock setting.
The WP shock felt well balanced in relation to the fork and pleased both of our test riders after each made a few clicker adjustments to help the rear end settle into corners better. However, unlike the fork, the two riders went separate directions in terms of setup. The novice rider went half a turn out on high-speed compression and two clicks slower on rebound. Meanwhile, the pro rider went stiffer on the high-speed because he was bottoming out in the roller section when jumping through them. He also opted to go softer on low-speed compression to allow it to soak up braking bumps better.
The Rockstar Edition chassis features a slew of changes including a new black frame with revised geometry, a new two-piece polycarbonate subframe (replacing the three-piece unit), a longer swingarm, a new top triple clamp, new bodywork, new race team-inspired graphics, and the radiators have been mounted 10mm lower as well. The new frame is designed to increase rigidity as are the new subframe and top triple clamp, but to a lesser degree. Interestingly enough, one of the Husqvarna technicians informed us that part of their goal in designing the new frame was to make it easier to assemble, which in turn was a contributing factor to the increase in rigidity.
The new chassis is a remarkable improvement over the standard FC 450. The increase in rigidity in the frame, subframe, and upper triple clamp mount all culminate into a sharper-handling bike all around and most noticeably made the bike corner easier and quicker, especially on flat turns with no rut or object to bank off of. Despite the increase in rigidity, the new frame and subframe still offer plenty of flex and comfort as well, but feel closer to an ideal combination of the best of both worlds. With the new bodywork, the bike feels noticeably thinner than the standard model, especially in the radiator shroud area.
A special-edition bike just wouldn’t seem right without some trick parts, and the Husqvarna delivers plenty. The bike comes stock with a two-position holeshot device, front disc guard, skid plate, Carmichael-bend ProTaper bar, and ribbed seat cover. The new handlebar is a lower bend than the standard model, which both of our test riders liked. The new seat cover is a welcomed change as the standard model’s seat cover was a bit too stiff and grippy for some of our test riders’ liking.
The Husqvarna FC 450 Rockstar Edition is an excellent bike and a significant improvement over the standard 2018 FC 450 machine. The stronger engine and more rigid chassis give a much racier feel on the track, which is what a majority of our test riders desired from the standard model. Additionally, the new machine corners better while still maintaining good straight-line stability and is thinner in all of the right places. To top it off, it comes with high-quality components and aftermarket parts that really complete the package and do the Rockstar Edition name justice.
Additionally, the new machine corners better while still maintaining good straight-line stability and is thinner in all of the right places. To top it off, it comes with high-quality components and aftermarket parts that really complete the package and do the Rockstar Edition name justice.