Working on bikes, and building spectacular new projects, doesn't always mean we get to have the latest and greatest for ourselves here at MJR. It's been several years since our founder and shop owner has bought himself a brand-new motorcycle; but no longer!
It was just too good to pass up a 2022 Husqvarna FEs 501 when the opportunity came up, and Jack bought his first new bike in years with the plan of making it not only his dream bike, but an investment for the shop.
Expanding our customer's knowledge requires a test-bed for us to provide information and explanation on what works - and why. So, what exactly goes into a new bike build? What modifications are necessary, and which aftermarket parts are really worth the money?
We've set out to answer these questions.
This on-going project is positioned to test products that we offer here on MadJack-Racing.com in various riding conditions and terrain, as well as provide a guideline for a robust maintenance schedule. We want to show our readers, our customers, the practical applications, trustworthy modifications, and durability of everything we sell and services we offer for these bikes.
Our first changes to the modern Husqvarna/KTM models are fairly straight forward, and almost always involve removing/replacing things -- but we feel the need to give an overview as to why we're making these modifications.
Typically end users will remove the carbon-fiber reed system from the air intake behind the air filter on the FE/FEs and XCFW/EXC models; we do this typically because it can restrict airflow, and the reeds are somewhat flimsy and can crack or shatter.
Generally speaking, this does sacrifice some noise reduction at the airbox, and can cause a slight decrease in overall power at the bottom end on a dyno. Ultimately -- in real world situations - we find removing the reeds to be a gain overall, and it reduces potential mechanical failures.
Next, you often see people move from the OEM ECU system to a Athena GET or Vortex ECU unit; we do this because typically to meet CARB and EPA strictures the Austrian bikes come extremely lean, and therefore run hot, which puts them down on power. To remedy this we introduce more fuel by changing the mapping profile via our aftermarket ECU accordingly.
Why a full ECU rather than a JD Tuner or similar? MJR offers the JD Tuner, but this only changes the fuel advancement and doesn't change ignition timing - this the key advantage to moving to an aftermarket ECU and map.
MJR also moves to the FMF exhaust system and muffler, and while this does change the dBa rating somewhat, we're not necessarily looking for horsepower gain here, but a more efficient conduit for cooling and moving exhaust out of the motor.
We've said before that the Husqvarna/KTM models run lean, and therefore hot -- so we open up the airbox, add fuel with an ECU, and allow the bike to exhaust properly which in combination allows for notable power gains and a more responsive motorcycle for the end-user.
After we have the heart of the bike sorted out, we move on to comfort and control changes; by eliminating bulky bar switches and consolidating lighting controls we can free up the cockpit, which allows for a wider range of bar bend choices, lever positions, and handguard mounting than the stock components.
For Jack's bike, we had to get setup for higher-elevation and riding in the Idaho mountains; we went with a DirtTricks rear sprocket and changed to a DID VX3 520 Gold X-Ring chain; he also opted for a set of Flexxbars by Fasst Company for comfort and consistency having run them on previous bikes.
Other ergonomic changes included IMS Core Enduro pegs which are an improvement over stock with stronger construction, better grip, and a wider platform for your foot which pairs well with the Enduro Engineering brake-tip providing better contact points and control for the rider. Scott's Performance stabilizer with BRP providing a rubber-mounted conversion for the FE/FEs models - offering a huge improvement in handling and trackability in both tight low-speed riding conditions, and high-speed straight-line compliance. While these are completely individual comfort choices, we do back them!
SicAss Racing provided slimmed control switches which made space for our Rugged Radio setup to be cleanly mounted and within easy reach; we highly recommend a radio setup for organizing rides because it unilaterally reduces the dangers of trail riding and exploring by having instant push-button communication between riders.
Our MJR Baja Designs Package rounds out the front end of the machine with capable lighting provided by the XL80 LED headlight, with FMF providing the RCT 4.1 Muffler to complete our power-package. AXP provided full-coverage skidplate which covers everything from your waterpump to your linkage - we also wrapped our ignition, and swing-arm in Polisport's plastic covers for added protection.
Other major guard components included Bullet Proof Designs swingarm reinforcement, a new rear-disc guard fin by Hunt Racing Products, and Husqvarna Powerparts handguard add-ons rather than full wrap-arounds.
Jack opted for Maxxis Maxxcross Desert IT tires for the Idaho terrain, and felt they worked well in both the wet forest soil, and the sandy-dusty mountain trails, and a larger 3.0Gal IMS Fuel tank to give him the extra range required for longer days on the trail.
How did it perform?
The motor ran cooler than in stock trim, with more power off the bottom and through the meat of mid-range -- without becoming so explosive that it became work to ride. The bike was tractable and planted, which made the sections of flowy single-track extremely fun and kept harder sections of trail manageable. Our only complaint was that the Husqvarna handguard add-on kit didn't hold up as well against rocks as it did with brush and trees.
Jack was happy, but seeing is believing -- check out this footage of this build in action hauling ass through the forests of Idaho.
MJR's 501 FEs will be an on-going project and we're excited for the opportunities it will bring as a platform for improving and testing everything we offer as a shop. Stay tuned as we continue to update this bike, and use it to provide information on maintenance, and other aftermarket parts!