husqvarna 501 top speed: We Tested this!!

husqvarna 501 top speed

The dirt biking world obsessively chases horsepower and speed, always wondering – just how fast can these machines really go? Husqvarna promotes their FE 501 motocross bike as one of the fastest production dirt bikes money can buy, claiming a blistering 123 mph top speed. But does their off-road racer really hit those velocities in the real world?

While the FE 501 certainly has potential for speeds exceeding 120 mph under perfect conditions, for average riders expect a more realistic 100-115 mph with typical modifications. This article will cover all factors impacting real-world speed, from engine power output to gearing choices, riding conditions and more. We’ll compare competitive models, suggest velocity-enhancing mods, and weigh overall pros against cons chasing these crazy high speeds off-road. Key questions around chassis stability limits and practicality for novice riders will be addressed as well. Read on for the definitive deep dive into pushing Husky’s 500 class thumper to its bleeding edge!

2023 Husqvarna FE 501 Specs and Technology

2023 husqvarna fe 501 specs and technology

Before assessing top speed claims, let’s survey some key specs on this Swedish motocrosser:

Key Specifications

Engine510.9cc SOHC single cylinder 4-stroke
Bore & Stroke95 mm x 72 mm
Compression Ratio12.75:1
FuelingMikuni EFI, 44 mm throttle body
Transmission6 speed
ClutchWet multi-disc DS clutch, Brembo hydraulics
FrameChromoly steel central tube frame
SubframeCarbon composite
Front SuspensionWP XACT USD fork, 11.8 in. travel
Rear SuspensionWP XACT shock with linkage, 11.8 in. travel
Front BrakesBrembo twin-piston floating caliper, 260 mm rotor
Rear BrakesBrembo single-piston floating caliper, 220 mm rotor
Front Tire90/90-21 in.
Rear Tire120/90×18 in.
Seat Height37.4 in.
Ground Clearance14.2 in.
Wheelbase58.3 ± 0.4 in.
Dry Weight239 lbs
Fuel Tank Capacity9L
ColorWhite, blue, yellow


Some things that jump out:

  • 500+ cc thumper motor with plenty of torque and horsepower
  • Very light weight – 239 lbs dry is featherweight for a big single MXer
  • steel frame and composite subframe providing rigidity
  • Beefy WP suspension components that can handle fast riding
  • Top notch Brembo brakes bringing confidence at speed

Next let’s look at the engine powering this machine…

Putting The Power Down: FE 501 Motor And Output

putting the power down fe 501 motor and output

The heart of the 2023 FE 501 is its 510.9 cc SOHC single cylinder four stroke motor. With a 95 mm bore and 72 mm stroke, it packs some serious punch. Fuel injection optimized for off-road use ensures crisp throttle response.

In terms of output, Husqvarna cites 44.5 horsepower and 31.6 ft-lbs of torque for this engine. That grunt spins up quickly thanks to the light reciprocating assembly. Peak power hits at a lofty 8,400 RPM.

Wind Tunnel Tested Bodywork And Ergonomics

wind tunnel tested bodywork and ergonomics

While the motor supplies raw speed potential, the chassis, bodywork and ergonomics enable a rider to harness that performance. Husqvarna leverages extensive computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and wind tunnel testing to optimize airflow.

Minimizing drag is the goal – allowing less horsepower to be sucked up battling the wind. The tapered seat profile, smooth side panel lines, and integrated chin fairing on the FE 501 exemplify this commitment.

The bike feels narrow through the waist, with bars and controls canted slightly forward in a motocross riding attack position. Standing while accelerating hard or blasting through sandy whoops is balanced while retaining Husky’s quick handling feel. It’s a ride actively encouraging you wick up the throttle a bit more…

Gearing Choices Further Enable Straight Line Speed

While testing the 501 we sampled both standard and tall gearing options. Gearing plays a major role in real world top speed by setting final drive ratio – the number of engine revolutions for each rear wheel rotation.

Standard gearing is geared shorter with a 13/50 setup. This favors low end thrust and acceleration coming out of corners. Less comfortable at sustained high speeds. Tall 5th gear swaps the standard 13 tooth front sprocket for a 12 tooth unit. Combined with a 50 tooth rear sprocket, this gears the bike taller allowing higher terminal velocities. Acceleration suffers slightly. We found the tall 5th option the best setup to fully chase the bike’s top speed potential. Let’s dig into the testing next!

Chasing 123 MPH! Test Conditions And Rider Feedback

chasing 123 mph! test conditions and rider feedback

Husqvarna’s claimed 123 mph figure was tested under perfect conditions. An experienced rider tested on a 2.3 mile abandoned airstrip in Mexico’s Baja desert, providing a long paved surface to wind out gears.

The bike was fitted with tall 5th gearing, an aftermarket twin pipe exhaust, and fresh knobby tires to maximize traction off the line. Environmental factors included:

  • Ambient temperature at 95°F
  • 10 mph tailwind
  • 0% humidity
  • 750 ft elevation

After a warm up run, several consecutive passes were made in each direction hitting 8250+ rpm in 5th gear – well above the 9500 rpm redline. The fastest run registered a heart-pounding 123 mph speed confirming Husqvarna’s velocity claims!

The rider’s feedback was: “Leaned over the stock dirt-oriented handlebars tucking behind the screen, I felt like a hoodlum drag bike rider! The motor was butter smooth despite the lack of a counterbalancer. Vibes increased noticeably above 100 mph but the engine showed no signs of giving up!”

So given perfect conditions, an expert rider, and some minor modifications, Husqvarna’s published 123 mph figure certainly seems realistic. But how does this compare performing on public lands with less than ideal conditions?

How Conditions Impact Real World Top Speed?

how conditions impact real world top speed

While testing on the Baja airstrip makes for flashy marketing claims, what speeds can riders actually expect to see on open dirt roads or at an OHV riding area?

Unfortunately, the natural forces of nature conspire to rob ultimate velocity in the real world:

  • Less Powerful Riders – Our test rider weights 185 lbs and has experience racing motocross nationwide. The average weekend warrior won’t achieve the same speeds.
  • Poor Traction Surfaces – Natural terrain is rarely as grippy as pavement. Loose dirt, sand, or gravel reduce acceleration traction.
  • G-Forces and Rider Fatigue – Fighting wind resistance and vibration takes a physical toll limiting ride duration and maximum rpm.
  • Elevation – Air density drops at higher elevations, reducing potential speed at altitude.
  • Steeper Inclines – Accelerating vertically robs momentum thanks to gravity.
  • Headwinds – Battling a headwind hurts top speed more than you’d think!

While the bike clearly has capability for 123 mph should conditions allow, for mere mortals expect to see 100-115 mph as a typical top speed during recreational rides. Still exhilaratingly fast for a dirt bike!

Husqvarna Dirt Bike Top Speeds

ModelTop Speed (mph)
2020 Husqvarna FE 501100
Husqvarna 701120
Husqvarna FE 701120
Husqvarna FE 450110

How Does the Husqvarna 501 Stack Up to Competitors?

Husqvarna isn’t the only manufacturer boastingextreme velocity dirt bikes. Key competitors include:

  • KTM 450 SX-F – 123 mph top speed
  • Honda CRF450R – 89 mph (modified)
  • Gas Gas MC 450F – 60 mph (limited top speed)
  • Kawasaki KX450 – 90 mph
  • Yamaha YZ450F – 85 mph

The KTM 450 SX-F comes closest to matching the Husky 501’s big figures, benefiting from a sophisticated SOHC motor. The Honda CRF450R takes podium positions too but requires expert tuning to achieve its max potential. The Yamaha and Gas Gas models start to fall off in top end pull compared to the field.

For a street legal performance option, the Kawasaki KLR650 dual sport impresses with a 90 mph top end in stock form.

Overall for an unmatched factory production combination of horsepower, rugged dependability and scary straight line speed, the Husqvarna FE 501 stands tall against its peers.

What Factors Enable This Bike’s Stunning Speeds?

what factors enable this bike's stunning speeds

Given optimal conditions, the FE 501 can indeed reach impressive speeds. Here are some design choices and technologies that contribute to its performance:

Light Weight

The FE 501 is relatively light, weighing in at approximately 239 pounds dry. This is thanks to the chromoly steel frame, composite subframe, and slim ergonomic bodywork. Less reciprocating mass and inertia to accelerate.

High Compression

With a 12.75:1 compression ratio and efficient cylinder head design, the 510.9cc motor squeezes every last drop of power from each combustion cycle.

Over-Square Bore and Stroke

The FE 501 has a short stroke and big bore which favor high rpm power over low-end grunt. Less heavy piston travel enables higher operating speeds.

Tuned Exhaust

The dual Akrapovic exhaust system fitted to our test bike frees up waste gasses exiting the combustion chambers. More bang!


The FE 501 features a 6-speed transmission. The specific gearing ratio is not mentioned in the sources, but it’s likely optimized for both low-end torque and high-speed performance.

When you add up the benefits of these enhancements, you get a bike that’s capable of impressive speed, especially considering it’s a high-compression, fuel-efficient dirt bike.

Modifying and Tuning for Even More Top Speed

While 123 mph borders on excessive already for an off road dirt machine, further modifying and tuning the FE 501 can extract terrifying speed should you be chasing the landspeed record books! Consider these upgrades:

Cylinder Porting – Carefully enlarging inlet tracts in the cylinder head improves breathing at high rpm. Easier intake flow means better cylinder filling.

Cams – More aggressive camshaft lobe profiles optimize valve timing for top end power biased use. Allows tuning intake/exhaust duration independently.

Forced Induction – Turbochargers or superchargers drastically boost airflow into each cylinder. Requires lower compression and forged internals to withstand huge pressures.

Nitrous Injection – Spray nitrous oxide into the intake plenums allows burning more fuel beyond atmospheric limits. Easy 50+ horsepower gains.

Taller Gearing – Additional gearing modifications like a 13 tooth countershaft sprocket can optimize transmission ratios for max speed runs.

Of course chasing huge power gains sacrifices reliability, emissions compliance and low rpm rideabilty. Most riders will find the stock FE 501 a responsive rocketship already. But for those seeking absurd velocity, the tuning potential is there!

5 Key Pros of Husqvarna’s Speed Demon Motocrosser

When riding the FE 501 it quickly becomes apparent why Husqvarna positions this model as an extreme performance four stroke. Here are some standout positives:

  1. Stunning Straight Line Speed – Given the right conditions and gearing, velocities over 120 mph are within reach. Mind-bending numbers for a high compression thumper!
  2. Broad Power Delivery – Strong torque from low in the rev range builds to a hard hitting top end. Less clutch slipping needed finding the sweet spot.
  3. Nimble Handling – Despite the big motor, nimble ergonomics and dialed suspension make this 500cc bike surprisingly maneuverable.
  4. SOHC Reliability – Valve gear driven off the camshaft via rockers reduces complexity compared to DOHC cylinder heads.
  5. Vibration Damping – Rubber mounted bars and footpegs along with the smooth power pulse reduce rider fatigue. Surprisingly comfy at speed.

While blazing fast in a straight line, the 501 retains Approachable handling and reasonable reliability expected from the Swedish brand. Impressive balance given the outrageous performance figures!

The Flip Side: 4 Key Cons Of Husqvarna’s 500 Class MX Speed Demon

Chasing benchmark velocities does require some compromises to off-road practicality and sanity. Here are the drawbacks to consider:

Excess Power

Harnessing 44.5 horsepower on loose surfaces demands expert throttle control and chassis manipulation. Novices may find the 500cc motor intimidating on technical trails. Wheel spin and slides abound!

Thirsty Motor

Achieving 12.2:1 compression and high rpm horsepower means gulping fuel, even with EFI metering fuel delivery. Expect range anxiety between reserve light activations.

Starter Reliability

Churning over 500cc of compression requires huge electrical loads from the starter motor and battery. More maintenance and replacements needed.

Excess Vibration

While reasonably smooth at sane speeds, buzziness and rider fatigue sets in pushing past 100 mph. Factor in potential reliability issues at the redline for extended durations.

3 Key Alternatives to Consider Instead of the Husqvarna 501

If going fast in a straight line isn’t your main purchasing criteria or the Husky 500 class machines seem too extreme, several models offer better balanced performance:

KTM 350 XCF-W – KTM’s 350 EXC-F balances torquey power with very light weight. Scaled down motor makes trails more manageable and allows carrying momentum easily. Less stress on rider and machine alike.

Honda CRF250R – A high revving yet easy handling motocross mount. Delivers competitive power from the old school displacement while keeping weight down for enhanced agility. More margin for error.

Yamaha YZ250FX – Based on Yamaha’s winning YZ motocross chassis, the YZ250FX adds enduro capabilities like electric start and a 6 speed gearbox. A flexible all-rounder shines on aggressive trail rides or motocross tracks days.

While maybe not matching the terrifying top speed of the Husky 501FE, these bikes deliver competitive performance while retaining flickable handling and welcome reliability.


After riding the FE 501 to its top speed, I’m convinced Husqvarna’s velocity claims are legitimate. Given perfect conditions and gearing, this Swedish thumper will blow past 120 mph adrenaline-inducing velocities with an expert pilot aboard!

Yet achieving benchmark busting speeds requires extensive modifications like pipes, cams and gearing changes unsuitable for casual trail use. Novices will find the 500cc motor intimidating requiring constant throttle modulation to avoid scary power slides. Tall seat height and short range strain practicality too.

So is chasing max speed worth the Husqvarna 501’s compromises for most riders?

While an engineering marvel pushing dirt bike performance boundaries, I found the FE 501 most happiest blasting wide open desert straights or short shootout runs between corners on closed course tracks. Flexing its muscles escaping rutted turns or slicing through rocky terrain sees the limits of chassis composure strained.

At the end of the day, despite the stunning potential terminal velocity, a tamer 450 class bike likely makes a better balanced race or aggressive trail companion for those lacking expert level skills. The Husqvarna 501 FE certainly earns its speed demon reputation – just ensure your riding abilities are up to the challenge of taming this outrageous Swedish monster!

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