Finding New Limits
Story by Trevor Hunter, Photos by Ryan Nitzen, (static) Scott Hoffman
Off-road riding and racing is on the rise these days, and the dual-sport segment is very much a part of this growth. The idea of riding right from your home to the trails is much more appealing than sitting in traffic, paying a gate fees or riding on a small tracks with tons of people, and it’s showing. The guys down at Ride Engineering had the same feelings, and they recently scavenged this street legal 2016 Husqvarna FE350 off of Craigslist to run errands around town, ride from the shop, or go on an adventure on and off-road, legally.
Adrian, the owner of Ride Engineering, snatched up this Husky from Arizona, where it’s little easier to convert a off-road bike into a street cruiser. In fact, you can make just about anything street-legal in Arizona whereas California rules are a little more defiant. Since Adrian plans on doing most of his dual-sporting in Arizona, he kept it registered at his Arizona place for the time being. The idea was freshen the new mount and make it his own, which also means lower because in the off-road world, he is considered vertically challenged.
Like myself, Adrian is slightly challenged topping out around the 5’7 mark. As a result, he employed Precision Concepts Racing to lower the fork one full inch to better reach the ground and have a little extra wiggle room when the going gets tough. Additionally, Adrian installed one of his link arms, and on this particular model, the rear end is lowered 33mm, equating to the rear end being lowered to match the fork.
Since it’s a Ride Engineering project bike, it only makes sense that Adrian installed some other Ride goodies. The upper triple clamp is a R.E. product and designed to mimic stock handling characteristics while reducing vibration and feedback to the hands. Additionally, Ride Engineering new-style Bar Mount was incorporated into the build to accept a steering stabilizer on top of the mount. Also, the bar mount is claimed to resist bending compared to the stock mount. The cockpit of Ride products is finished out with kill and starter switches, which mount to the throttle housing and clutch master cylinder respectively, along with his new crossbar which sits on top of a top-mounted steering stabilizer. It hasn’t made the full production run yet, but it will be released in the near future.
To finish off the Ride Engineering catalog, they installed a bling kit including the oil-fill plug, ignition cover plug, and master cylinder caps. Other mods to this bike include a FMF exhaust system, a GPR steering stabilizer, ASV levers, an SDG seat, and a DT-1 air filter. To cap it all off, R.E. laced the wheels up with Bridgestone Tires and Nitromousse’s.
So, how does this bike perform when the wheels are in motion? To our surprise, it worked very well. Coming from a racing background and a racer’s mentality, the idea of lowering the suspension is a widely disregarded, even when touching the ground is an issue. However, the dual sport way of things requires something different thinking, and the suspension setup is more than capable of handling an average dual sport trip.
First, the visual of being lower to the ground (yes, it is noticeable) is different, but confidence inspiring. Also, knowing that when the terrain toughened up, being able to dab a foot or prop yourself back up is greatly appreciated where usually the only option is to hit the deck. We got in some tougher terrain on a few different occasions and were easily able to save ourselves in tricky situations.
On the performance side of things, the lowered Precision Concepts tuned suspension works well for what it is. When riding at a trail ride pace on normal trail conditions, it works great. It soaks up all the little chop very well with no deflection or harshness making it a comfortable ride, which is important on long dual-sport adventures. Additionally, it worked well in the rocks staying planted and helping find some traction and stability when needed. The only place it suffers is when we get aggressive. Hammering through whoops at speed or jumping off of stuff results in a harsh bottoming, but that is something to expect when the suspension is valved for dual sport riding and is lowered. Bottom line, this bike isn’t a race bike and it’s not heading to the track anytime soon, but it excels in the area it’s designed to work in.
Onto the motor, the FE350 powerplant runs really good. It has a lot more torque than most of the other 350cc four stroke motors we’ve ridden, and the throttle response is crisp and responsive. It has good, linear power all the way through the range and pulls hard. The bike was a blast to rip around on the fire roads and could get up to speed in a hurry, almost like a 450 would. The bike barks with the FMF system installed and really wakes up the motor to feel more race inspired than trail inspired. It is a little on the loud side for trail riding and dual sport stuff, but nothing over the top.
The overall feel of the bike was complimented with having the GPR stabilizer mounted above the bars to keep the handlebars at stock height. The OEM bars are mounted, and provide a comfortable bend for us shorter riders. Additionally, we didn’t feel too much harshness from the front end with the Ride Triple Clamp and Bar Mounts in pace. Also, freeing up the handlebar space by mounting the starter and kill buttons to the perches is a huge benefit. With handlebar space becoming more and more limited, we definitely appreciate having the extra space if needed.
As for the other mods, flat tires are a pain, especially when the truck is hours of ride time away, Therefore, the Nitromousse’s are a no brainer and are fail-proof when taken care of properly. They also handled the terrain quite well and didn’t break down much after some time on the road and in the dirt. The Bridgestone Battlecross X tires worked really well in the hard packed SoCal dirt. They found traction in areas when other tires struggle, and braking was a non-issue with these hooking up. Adrian plans to spend most of his time in the dirt, so going with a dirt oriented tire is definitely the way to go to get the most out of the bike.
In conclusion, Ride Engineering’s Husqvarna FE350 Dual Sport build really surprised us. With the suspension being lowered on both ends, we were unsure of how the performance would be affected. After some seat time, we can say that it really wasn’t. Under normal conditions and when riding with a trail riding mentality, the bike worked as good as any other bike. However, trying to race the bike and treat it as a moto oriented bike doesn’t work out, but it really shouldn’t. Light valving and lowered suspension is aimed to boast comfort, and this bike certainly does. One complaint we have with this bike is that the kickstand needs to be cut. With the bike being lowered, it was almost impossible to find a spot to lean the bike over on the kickstand without it standing up and wanting to fall over. Other than that, we’re hoping to spend a few more days busting through trails in confidence with this machine!
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