IS A 350 THE BETTER CHOICE FOR JOE AVERAGE?
The European’s gave us the 350 over a decade ago now but it has never really taken off with any manufacturers outside of Europe. The 350cc capacity originally started as a concept by Youthstream’s Giuseppe Luongo and AMA’s Steve Whitelock as they felt the 450’s were too powerful. I completely agree, the current generation 450’s are way too powerful for the everyday rider. The 350 is a much easier and gentler bike to ride but the issue they faced was convincing the public that they should be riding a 350 instead of a 450.
The second issue was that none of the Japanese brands intended building a 350cc machine as they didn’t believe it would increase sales enough to warrant the R and D and production costs. KTM however had a world champion rider in Antonio Cairoli that was all for the 350 concept and went for the idea putting into production the first 350cc motocross bikes. Over the last decade they have improved them drastically to the point where they can be very competitive up against a 450cc machine.
The new 2023 Husqvarna FC now has more power and torque than it has ever had and handles better on the track due to a new chassis design but will it replace the 450 machines?
The FC 350 frame just like the 250 and 450 is completely new with a different shock mounting position and rear shock. It is mounted lower in the frame so that the load is no longer transferred up the backbone of the frame. The foot pegs are 8mm longer and 5mm wider with a new folding direction to prevent hooking up in the dirt. The subframe is a mix of aluminium and composite materials for more durability and the swingarm has improved stiffness, new chain sliders and now has a 22mm rear axle.
The fork while looking the same on the outside has a new internal hydro stop and internal settings. The new shock is 15mm shorter in length but has a longer stroke. It also has new adjusters that can be changed by hand without tools. Along with the new shock is a new linkage system using the same linkage curve as the previous model.
The new triple clamps have the ability to run either hard mounted or rubber mounted clamps and have an hour meter that incorporates the FI engine light. The FC 350 now comes with an engine stop/start switch on the right handlebar and an engine map switch with the Quick Shift function on the left. The seat has a new texture and shape with a single mounting bolt in the front. All the body work and plastics are new and the new cooling system has a high pressure radiator cap.
The rear brake mounting position and brake caliper are both new. The fuel tank is new with a new one piece fuel pump. The electrical compartment is new along with the roll over sensor, battery position, earth cable and wiring harness. The engine design now has the engine tilted back two degrees and the front sprocket 3mm lower.
The engine covers have a more durable coating and engine service markers have been added to make servicing easier. The air filter is a different shape and the intake boot has been revised with the air intake sensor relocated. The exhaust system has been revised and the overall engine height reduced by 8mm. The compression ratio has been increased to 15.6:1, the highest compression ratio Husqvarna has used to date.
The bore and stroke replicates that of the Moto3 engines which they say delivers a much bigger combustion area. The gearbox receives a new shift shaft design for less operating force and receives an electronic quick shift function that allows you to change gears without using the clutch. The DDS clutch design remains the same but gets a redesigned basket and receives better lubrication. The oil pressure for the engine has been increased at low RPM and all the oil pump gears are now steel instead of plastic.
WHAT DIDN’T CHANGE?
- Brembo brakes
- Voltage regulator
- Throttle body
- Start relay
- ODI grips
The new 2023 Husqvarna FC now has more power and torque than it has ever had and handles better
WHAT DID WE LIKE?
- The 350 power is very strong and useable, more like a 450 to ride than a 250.
- The suspension has a very plush initial stroke and is smooth and progressive. While a Pro rider would want this suspension to be stiffer, it suits the masses very well.
- The FC 350 steers very well and is an easy bike to rail in and out of ruts on.
- The whole package is well balanced. The suspension is matched from front to rear and the bike sits very well planted on the track.
- The Brembo brakes are extremely powerful and pull the 350 up very satisfactorily. These are the same brakes as previous years so we already knew they were going to be good.
WHAT WE DIDN’T LIKE?
- The ride height on the FC 350 might be why it sticks to ruts so well but for someone who is six feet tall it makes me feel like a monster. I find the bike feels very low and I bash my knee under the handlebars in ruts.
- I didn’t actually disapprove of the Quick Shift, I have just spent the last thirty something years shifting with a clutch so it was something very difficult to get used to. In another decade or two all the young ones will be giving us lip saying “how did you ever ride without a quick shifter?”
While the Japanese brands believed the 350cc capacity would be a flop it has actually been very successful for KTM Group. The 350cc engine now comes in the form of a KTM, GASGAS and Husqvarna giving buyers three different brands to choose from. While the 350 may not be a popular bike in the professional racing world it is popular in the recreational riding scene. People have learnt that they are a much less fatiguing bike to ride while still having more than enough power to keep everyone happy.
The power of the 350 very much replicates the power of the 450 without being over the top aggressive. It is a great choice for a beginner to intermediate rider that might be too heavy for a 250 and also a great choice for somebody who might be too light to be on a 450cc machine.
I still cannot see the 350 taking over from the 450 anytime soon or even into the future. First of all, the Pro’s are all racing 450’s and the consumers all tend to want exactly what they have whether they need it or not. Secondly I still don’t see any of the Japanese brands showing any intentions of building a 350 and a professional racing scene cannot be sustained just by KTM Group all on their own.
I do however still see a very good place in the market for the 350 as I’m sure the KTM Group do also, as they would not be spending money on developing it and continuing to improve it over and over again if they didn’t.
HUSQVARNA FC 350
- Type: Single cylinder, four stroke
- Displacement: 349.7cc
- Bore & Stroke: 88mm x 57.5mm
- Cooling: Liquid cooled
- Compression Ratio: 15.6:1
- Fuel Metering: Keihin fuel injection
- Tank Capacity: 7.2 Litres
- Transmission: Five speed
- Clutch: Wet multi disc DDS clutch, Brembo hydraulic
- Wheelbase: 1490mm
- Seat Height: 939mm
- Ground Clearance: 336mm
- Claimed Weight: 102kg (dry)
- Front: WP XACT 48mm adjustable USD air fork
- Rear: WP XACT Mono Shock with linkage
- Front: Brembo twin piston caliper, 260mm disc
- Rear: Brembo single piston caliper, 220mm disc
- Handlebar: Pro Taper
- Front Tyre: Dunlop Geomax MX33
- Rear Tyre: Dunlop Geomax MX33
PRICE & CONTACTS
- RRP: $14,968
- Browser: www.husqvarnamotorcycles.com
- Warranty: Six months
WORDS MAT BOYD
PHOTOS CADE MEDIA
Article was published in ADB #520