On the day of Indra Jatra, the Newari citizens of Kathmandu gather to celebrate one of the biggest festivals in the country. Amidst the people blanketing the streets a towering chariot, lumbers forward, navigating through the city crevices. Tethered to the chariot is a jute rope, at the end of which are fervent men heaving the massive chariot. Waves of emotions goad these fervent men into a raw frenzy fueling every tug and pull that lurches the chariot forward. Burbling under the surface are unabashed feelings and pure exhilaration that construe the faces into fearsome masks and guttural roars stemming from deep within their cores.
Ripping open the throttle of the Husqvarna FE 501, a bellow akin to those of these men emanated from deep within me. A mad machine created for serious off-roaders, this Husky had me holding on for dear life, and I loved every second of it.
One look at the Husqvarna FE 501 and you know it means business. The FE 501 was designed to be taken straight off the showroom floor, put on the pickup and into the elements; so it looks the part.
Adorned in the classic white, blue, and yellow of the Husqvarna brand the FE 501 is noticeably slim for a dual sports motorcycle. In fact, it is a featherweight by dual sports standards. The WP Xplor 48 front forks provide 300mm of travel while the WP shock absorbers with linkage provide 330mm in the rear. A massive ground clearance heaves the Husky 370mm off the ground, enough to tackle anything that may stand in your path.
With a seat height of 970mm, riders are perched heads and shoulders above other riders. However, also might mean that shorter riders having to sit this one out (unless you’re extremely comfortable on your tippy toes and can resort to mild acrobatics in bumper to bumper traffic).
What it promises in appearances, the Husqvarna FE 501 backs up with its performance. At the heart of this sleek machine is a 510cc engine with a single overhead cam that activates two titanium intake valves and two steel exhaust valves.
Starting the engine is pure bliss, stab and go. Twist the throttle and the engine responds with a tremendously resounding grumble. Pull in the clutch which comes in smooth and easy and turns on the power which is immediate, smooth and almost mirrors the crack of the throttle. Bottom range grunt is phenomenal and it yanks you from a standstill with vigor. What really takes you back is the buttery smooth delivery of the power from what is essentially a dual sport-inclined towards enduro riding.
As a result, things come extremely naturally to the Husky and the rider when you ride the FE 501. For an average Nepali rider with the average Nepali height, like me, riding this machine is no walk in the park. However, the Husqvarna FE 501 has a good center of gravity which meant I was really able to have my way with it. Whether it was slaloming through traffic, ripping through the asphalt, or flying through the terrains once the tarmac ends, riding the FE 501 was an exceptional experience.
That being said, it should be kept in mind that this is a dedicated off-road machine. Sure it’s an absolute hoot when on the road, but you’ll be burning through your tires at an appalling pace. You can also expect noticeable wobbling on the tarmac, thanks to its knobby tires. That still does not mean that it is difficult to handle. Taming the machine gets much easier once you get a handle in the power, mapping and traction control.
Take it to unchartered terrains and it really comes into its element.
The tires perfectly fit the dirt slinging instincts of the Husky, and the power output really works well in helping you take on any obstacle in front of you. Handling is sublime and inspires confidence in you, you didn’t even know you had. Shift your weight onto the front tires, look ahead and guide the rear tires to where your heart desires.
The six-speed gearbox provides the meat of the power in the lower end and spaces the gears out well throughout all ranges. Popping wheelies even in third gear was very easily doable. The forks do a good job of flattening terrains and cushioning the rider on all fronts. The rear suspension setup was softer than we’d like, so given another go we’d definitely tweak it a bit.
Put together the entire package and you have a fun loving machine that really does not want to stop. When you do want to take a pause, the disc brakes do the job well to bring you to a halt.
The Husqvarna FE 501 took my heart. It is one of the few motorcycles with which I have no complaints. It has a powerful engine that has unparalleled low range grunt that carries on through all gears.
Pair that with the supreme handling, braking, light maneuverability and the Husqvarna FE 501 is unstoppable. Direct it to where you won’t go and it won’t think twice about getting you there. It simply blows you away. Every time you conquer a route you’re left wondering what you could throw at it to even waver its confidence. If you’re riding it on the tarmac a lot, I suggest you snap on some dual sports tires on this baby and the possibilities are limitless.