2020 Husqvarna FE 501

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5 Things to Know About the 2019 Husqvarna FE 501

The barely-legal dual-sport bike that wants to ride anywhere you want to take it.

If you want to go back far enough I know that moto bikes came from street bikes. But when it comes to modern, performance-based dual-sports, we are really lucky that most, including the 2019 Husqvarna FE 501 share so much of their DNA with their motocross cousins. Now I know this isn’t a motocross machine or even a true off-road-only bike, but it still blows my mind how good this bike is from the streets to the track.


1. LEGAL!!!

Obviously, this is the point of the bike, but it still feels like you are getting away with something when you ride this bike on the street. The frame is from the 2018 Husky moto bikes, as is the most of the engine architecture. But it has just enough street-legal equipment to pass, which is harder and harder to do each year. For 2020, the FE 501S will have

If you want to go back far enough I know that moto bikes came from street bikes. But when it comes to modern, performance-based dual-sports, we are really lucky that most, including the 2019 Husqvarna FE 501 share so much of their DNA with their motocross cousins. Now I know this isn’t a motocross machine or even a true off-road-only bike, but it still blows my mind how good this bike is from the streets to the track.


1. LEGAL!!!

Obviously, this is the point of the bike, but it still feels like you are getting away with something when you ride this bike on the street. The frame is from the 2018 Husky moto bikes, as is the most of the engine architecture. But it has just enough street-legal equipment to pass, which is harder and harder to do each year. For 2020, the FE 501S will have the latest frame and engine architecture from the moto line, making their dual-sports even better and more moto-y. For off-road riders, having a license plate is a free pass for connecting so many disjointed trails. Also, it is insanely convenient to ride from your garage to get a little moto fix, even if you aren’t hitting the track. Plus, if you have a short commute or need groceries, why rip around on a dirt bike than in a truck. 


2. Long Distance Ridable

Well, we would say mostly. And when compared to moto or off-road bikes, most definitely. The 2.2-gallon tank is good enough for a full day of trail riding but if you’re trying to get across state lines, you’ll have to fill up often. I rode this bike about 90 miles of a mix of street, highway, and trail before the low-fuel light came on. Though we didn’t do any weeklong treks with the 501, we know that there are a ton of guys that turn this bike into light-weight dirt-focused ADV machines with bigger tanks, bangs, and some comfort mods like a wider seat. The stock tires are Continental TKC80s, which you see way more on full-size ADV bikes than you do on off-road machines. This is by far one of the limiting factors of the stock bike’s off-road performance. But for long distance rides of dirt and street, these are a really good mix of low-rolling resistance and durability. Knobbier tires, even DOT legal ones, wear down quick on the highway and don’t offer great traction on asphalt. 


3. Capable Suspension

This was one of the biggest surprises of riding this bike. Sure, the WP XPLOR 48 fork and XPLOR shock have much softer, plusher and comfort-focused settings than the FCs, but it isn’t as soft as you’d think. The initial part of the stroke is very free and soaks up little hits really well and while the mid-stroke could be a little stiffer to better handle obstacles at higher speeds, the bottoming resistance is surprisingly good. When I took the FE 501 to Milestone, I rode the Vet and Main track and I was expecting to quickly find the limits of the suspension. But what I found was on that slap-downs and hard jump landings the bike was very composed. I never blew completely through the stroke and clanked metal to metal. 


4. Torque For Days

Its a big motor - 510.4ccs to be exact. Even in a tame state of tune to pass sound and EPA restrictions, there is gobs of torque on tap. Throttle response is a just ok, but you can be so lazy with gear selection and, at any rpm, the engine dishes out punchy grunt to get you going in a hurry. And the way that the FE lays down power, it is extremely usable and doesn’t catch you off guard. Some riders like smaller off-road bikes for the trails and that is fine, but you don’t have to worry about the 501 being too much of a handful in the tight stuff. It still is lighter than most other dual-sports in its size range and the extra power is just insurance that you can make it up pretty much any hill or through any sand wash without getting stuck. Riding it at the track, the Husky 501 doesn’t have the same aggressive snap that moto bikes do, but it makes up for it with how much power it does have. I didn’t have the balls to jump some of the bigger jumps on the main track, but I jumped everything on the vet without hesitation. With a rider with more bravery than brains, this bike could hit any moto jump out there. 


5. Feels Like A Dirt Bike (because it is)

I’ve been lucky to ride a lot of dual sport bikes in the past, from small bikes like the Suzuki DR200S to the moderately big Honda XR650 and KTM 690 to full-on BMW ADV bikes. Other than the KTM and Husky dual sports, all of these bikes have to make compromises somewhere to make them feel way different than dirt bikes. Most get wider, some get taller, they all get way heavier, and some are too small. But if you are a die-hard moto guy and is used to moto ergos and are looking to ride a bike with plate, the 501 will feel right at home. It is slim, light (relatively speaking) and reacts the same way you expect a dirt bike to react to rider input. I didn’t feel out of place all day riding the bike on the street, trails, and track. 


Downsides

To be honest, it is mostly roses with the Husqvarna 501 and there is little to complain about for all of the bike that you get with this machine. But, we can’t say there aren’t a few things that we would change. The biggest gripe is high-speed highway riding. We know this bike isn’t designed with that being a high priority, but for cruising down the freeway to get to the trail there is a ton of vibration in the bars and pegs if you ride above 65 to 70 mph. At 65, it hums along happily, but your hands will tingle painfully if you push past that speed, though the bike will get close to 100 mph if tapped out (not that we did that). 

The only other downside, which is sort of a non-complaint, is the tires. TKC80s are only good for ADV bikes. But, since it is a wear item it’s not really a bike problem than a OEM choice problem. As soon as someone buys this bike, they can swap the tires out for real dirt tires and keep the TKC80s for when you want to do a road trip. 

At the end of the day, being able to ride from my house to the moto track, hit the trials on the way home, and never load a bike is pretty amazing. Now, if I can only convince the wife I need another motorcycle...


Specifications

Product Husqvarna FE 501
Model Year 2020
Engine Size 500cc
Engine Type Four-Stroke
Engine Displacement
Bore x Stroke
Compression Ratio
Fuel System
Ignition
Transmission
Final Drive
Suspension Front
Suspension Rear
Brakes Front
Brakes Rear
Tires Front
Tires Rear
Overall Length
Overall Width
Overall Height
Seat Height
Wheelbase
Ground Clearance
Rake/Trail
Fuel Capacity
Curb Weight
Features
Miscellaneous
Price N/A
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