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  • 2018 FE 501 Review: Stefan Innocente

2018 Husqvarna FE 501 Bike Review: Stefan Innocente

The bike release series interviews noteworthy riders and extracts as much information as possible to share with RemoteMoto readers. In this article we interview active adventure rider Stefan Innocente and get his views on his 2018 Husqvarna FE 501.

Purchasing the Husky 501

For three years (and over 30,000km) I rode a 2016 Husqvarna 701 on all kinds of rides, and for the most part I loved it. However, there were quite a few rides I did on it which really brought its weak points to light, those being the comparatively high weight and the suspension, in particular the 4CS forks. I figured hey, we ride these bikes primarily to have much fun once off-road, so why not do as my riding buddies do and get a proper enduro-come-adventure bike. So I did.

Visual Appeal

There’s really only one bike to compare it to, in terms of looks, and that is the KTM equivalent. There appears to be many more KTMs out there than Huskies, and me being me, I like to differ from the norm (in many ways!) so I was naturally drawn towards the Husky. Aside from that, I do think it looks better than the KTM, as for a start I’m not a fan of orange as a colour. But white with hints of blue, to me looks kind of classy. Plus in the world of rally racing and the like, Husqvarna are always seen as the underdog, which I also like.

Buy Price

At $15,200, my ex-demo with only 300km on the clock was a whopping $2000 less than true-new. So to me it seemed like a nice deal at the time – still does! Sure these bikes aren’t cheap but how they ride really does give justice to the price.

Riding Position and Comfort

As with just about all bikes I’ve had over the years, I had to alter the bar positions on the 501. In this case, the bars were raised 20mm and attached to the headstock in position #3 (one back from furthest forward with four possible positions). The ride position after this was simply perfect. Reach to bars and pegs cannot be bettered – I love it.

Seat Comfort for Extended Riding

The standard seat was like a wedge of granite! All enduro bikes seem to come out like this. So I installed a Seat Concepts one which was a massive improvement, although still not as comfy as the 701 due to it being about 30mm narrower. Overall though I am quite happy with the comfort, but when road riding I still need to get off periodically to sooth the old arse cheeks!

Feel and Control On-Road

Originally I was going to keep the 701 for extended journeys and use the 501 solely for, uh, hooligan duties, but after a test run down the motorway I was pleasantly surprised on its road manners and the amount of vibration when up at the proper cruising speeds of 100kmph-110kmph. With this in mind, I quickly came to the conclusion that I no longer needed the 701, so it was sold. The 501 is nice enough on the road, although overall not as nice as my old 701, but it’s surprisingly close! This really is to be expected though; after all it is pretty much a dirt bike with lights attached. I have done several long(ish) distant road miles on it without any real discomfort; in fact, on the 701 I occasionally used to get pins and needles and tingling sensations in my hands after long stretches of road but this never seems to happen on the 501, which is good!

Feel and Control Off-Road

Now, this is where the 501 really does make me smile and keep smiling for every minute I’m on the thing. Simply put, it is tamed savagery. It laps it all up with pure ease. You can potter about on it, hopping over rocks as if you were riding a trials bike all day, or, if you have the skill, balls and passion (or are just plain bonkers!) for speed, it can gallop along over very varied terrain at a very impressive speed! This MY2018 FE 501 really does rock my world. In some cases, when you and the bike are feeling good, I can’t find words that will praise the bike enough. What the design team have accomplished, in terms of chassis design is incredible; it sure could be considered a masterpiece. The only negative I personally have is the seat height, and even this only becomes a tad painful in very few cases. It’s only when in extremely technical terrain, such as the rocky riverbeds found way up our high country valleys and in deep and bouldery river crossings that the height becomes an issue for me and my 5’11” frame. This is currently being rectified by way of an internal lowering kit. I can’t wait to try it!

Weight

The bike sure is light. At only 110kg it’s easily light enough for my needs and a whopping 35kg lighter than my old 701!

Engine Power and Performance

The 501 has more than enough power and when you consider it has 63hp, which is a lot for such a lightweight bike, it is very accessible and easy to use all of it just about anywhere. I definitely don’t need more, that’s for sure!

Suspension Performance

Coming from the 701, which had (in my opinion) flawed suspension, the 501 is magnificent. For my riding ability, which I’d say is somewhere in the range of average to ‘pretty’ quick, they’re ample good enough. Having said that though I have decided to go up a notch in spring weights at both ends to suit my weight and the gear I carry. The results of this I’ve yet to see, along with them being 20mm lower.

Brakes

The brakes are fine. The feel is great and the bite is just right for all conditions.

Fuel Tank Size

The standard tank is 9.5 litre which is too small for our type of rides, so I fitted a 17 litre IMS tank which, for NZ is nigh on perfect.

Fuel Economy

The bike is surprisingly fuel efficient if you’re gentle on the throttle. I’ve yet to use a full tank in range testing but I’d say it’ll easily surpass 300km with mixed road and off road riding.

Service Intervals

The book stated oil & filter every 15 hours, but I go by km’s covered. I just swap it out at around the 1500km mark. And at this interval the oil still appears quite clean.

Ease of Servicing

The 501 is a very easy bike to work on. Everything is well put together and easy to get to, which is unlike my old 701 and before it my RMX450. It took me seemingly a few minutes to remove the swingarm and rear shock.

Reliability

It has only done 6000km so it should be expected that little or nothing has gone wrong with it. Well nothing has gone wrong with it yet! After the punishment it has had, this is quite impressive. There’s various blogs around which have shown this engine to be extremely reliable, which for my low budget is music to my ears. Time for me will tell.

Aftermarket Parts Availability

There seems to be a large number of aftermarket parts and accessories available for the Husqvarna 501. I haven’t needed any other than the 17 litre fuel tank, the bar risers and a better bash plate (I chose a plastic one).

General Thoughts

I totally love this bike. The fun factor is off the charts! The only thing I could think of that I could see as a possible future improvement (for me anyway) would be to push the 5th gear ratio a tad closer to 6th. What KTM/Husky have done for the MY17 & 18 is effectively made 6th gear an overdrive, perfect for road cruising. I feel that the jump from 4th to 5th is a tad too small and the jump from 5th to 6th is a tad too large, therefore pushing 5th out a wee bit would be good. This is only felt as a minor nuisance once you’re off-road and really pushing on the gas. Otherwise it's fine the way it is. I suppose everyone, regardless of what adventure bike they ride, would always welcome less engine vibes. They’re obviously present on the 501 but they’re not annoying vibes, but rather, they could be considered characteristic. At low running speeds in particular, I’d like less though, to be honest. These are only very minor complaints though. I genuinely can’t think of any other way they could improve it! Have I made the right choice in buying a 2018 Husqvarna FE501? You bet I have!

 

Bike review by: Stefan Innocente
Interviewer
: Jessie Meek