FE390, FE450 and FE570
The four-strokes need to be a bit special to tempt buyers into raising the extra cash I thought. Firstly, let’s look at the main ‘Husability’ ingredient of these three models - the 70-degree engine. When I first pictured the bikes with the new design, I genuinely could not see why they had done it. Do they really turn quicker? Is that added ground-clearance a real deal-breaker? Is the improved service access really that important? Can moving the rotating crankshaft to the centre of balance of the whole bike really make the advances they claimed?
Quite simply, the answer is yes. I grabbed an FE390 at random and ripped out onto the now familiar MX track. By now, I was getting very tired and had had a big off trying to jump the 125 into the one of the sand holes, trying to follow one of the works guys, followed by a nice backflip on to my, er… back attempting to get back out again, so I was also sore and tired. But this thing is so easy to ride! Think where you need to be, point the front wheel, make sure you are in some type of gear and open the throttle.
Let your attention drop to look at a view to one side, notice a corner that is tighter than it looked 50m back, jab the rear brake, pile the thing in and then snap open the throttle and simply proceed to the next corner, obstacle or whatever. It really is that easy. Add a super-light clutch and the ability to trickle over huge rocks without banging the frame, an engine that absolutely refuses to stall and you are now getting the picture. Man, I love two-strokes, but this bike could tempt me.
It was a tad too cramped for me when standing, but a simple bar riser kit would soon sort that and the fact that three of the factory riders had a 390 as their personal bikes summed it up nicely.
Alternatively if you’re 25 to 35 years old, a fit and strong rider who likes to really open the taps, with above average ability and are able to hustle a bike along at life-threatening speeds, then buy the 450 rather than the 390. Like its smaller brother, but with just a bit more of everything. I’m not knocking the factory for this model, but with the 390 being SO good, the 450 is slightly nudged to the side in terms of relevance.
Brilliant fun to ride on the open going and the road. I laughed myself stupid on the way back to the hotel following Tommy doing top-gear wheelies along the highway. The FE570? Okay I confess I only rode this along the wide-open main tracks for a short time until we stopped at a scenic lake for a few group pics on a wooden jetty. It is way more powerful and faster than anyone needs. In fact I don’t mind admitting that it scared me a little at times.
As soon as we stopped, a Finnish journo called Pratenen walked straight over and just said, ‘Give me your motorcycle’. It was like the scene from T2, when Arnie walks naked into the bar and lifts the Harley, clothes and gun from the biker. Okay he didn’t take my clothes and I didn’t have a gun, but you get the picture. The next 20km back to the hotel demonstrated just what one of these can do in the right hands. Full-lock drifting at 100kph on wet gravel tracks and stand-up wheelies flat-out in top gear on the main roads, including round the corners. Wow. I can’t really think why you would ever need one of these, but if you do buy one, put on your happy face and find a bolt-hole to hide from the cops!