TESTED – 2015 HUSQVARNA FE 501
Because big girls need loving too, Enduro21.com takes Husqvarna’s 2015 FE 501 for a rip around some Scandinavian forestry…
Tester: Llewelyn Pavey
The 501 is almost entirely unchanged for 2015, but if it ain’t broke don’t fix it – right? It’s been the class leader for a fair old while now and is the only four-stroke that is currently coming close to the dominance of the two strokes in the E3 class in the EWC. At the hands of the Mathias Bellino, the Husky 501 is currently third in the standings having recently won day two at the GP of Sweden – one of the toughest rounds of the series to date.
Look further afield and the 501 engine has become the weapon of choice for fast, open, flat out desert racing like Australia’s Finke and Hattah Desert Races. Albeit in KTM colours – but effectively the same engine as the FE 501 – Toby Price has dominated those events in recent weeks. The combination of torque and top-end speed in an easy to ride, manageable package that both KTM and Husqvarna have to offer, has ensured the 501 is now at the top of many rider’s shopping list Down Under.
For 2015 the 501 has received the same small cosmetic treatments as the other Husky models – the new front mudguard/headlight combo, the new triple clamp that they require to fit said items, the theoretically less breakable handguards, a thicker, tougher seat cover and the obligatory brand new graphics. Otherwise the open classer is entirely identical to last year’s bike.
So why are we writing about it? Simply put, it surprised us.
The riding on the 2015 Husqvarna launch was very typically Swedish. Tight, slow, rooty, rocky and just a bit nasty. There were no hills, very little flow to the course and certainly no speed. It’s the type of course you’d expect the 501 to cause pain and suffering on, but the reality was very different. The 501 proved to be entirely manageable on track. It was incredibly easy to ride around on.
When we say ride around on, we mean ride around on. You’re pretty much always just riding on the 501, or at least we were. At no point did we ever feel fast, or like we were able to push hard. But the nature of the beast means it’s quite happy to simply cruise along. It dealt well with the roots, rocks and general nastiness of the terrain. Its weight and inertia definitely helped push through the objects in its path far better than all the other models and actually made the bike a pleasure to ride.
Because the terrain was very stop/start, the 501’s ridiculous torque makes it easy to pop over roots and in general is a surprisingly manageable bike. It’s still not light or nimble – those are not words that will be ever be spoken about an open class bike – but for a big lump it’s good. The front end does still feel a little heavy in the corners and it naturally takes longer to stop.
The suspension worked surprisingly well over the deflecting nature of the terrain, with the heavier spring rates coping with my size and the bike far better than a lot of the other models. A brand new design of seat cover was the most notable change across the model range and it’s actually a noticeable improvement. The material is thicker and stiffer, giving the impression of a harder seat. It’s also much grippier than the polished item that graced the ’14 model.
Unfortunately, the nature of the test loop didn’t allow us to pile on the coals and see what the FE 501 is like at higher speeds. So it’s difficult to voice opinion on that area of riding. But for where we rode the 501 it was a surprisingly widely enjoyed machine in the Swedish going.
It’s easy to manage, very smooth and gear selection is almost irrelevant. You’ll struggle to win anything in a traditional style enduro, but it’s probably not the person this bike is aimed at. For those who prefer a less technical pace of life the FE 501 is awesome.