My Ride: Taking a closer look at Alex Salvini's Husqvarna FE 450, the black and white missile racing in the 2018 World Enduro Championship.
Striking a pose in the EnduroGP paddock from the get-go in 2018 has been the impressive figure of Alex Salvini in his new season, Jolly Racing colours. The Italian has been back to his very best in this year's World Championship, challenging for GP victories and regularly sticking it up on the top step of the podium.
Grabbing the limelight also is his equally striking black and white weapon – the Jolly Racing prepared Husqvarna FE 450. The Jolly team has a stack of experience and runs not just Salvini in 2018 but newly crowned 125 Youth World Champion, Ruy Barbosa, Junior EnduroGP contender Joe Wootton and Matteo Bresolin – all on Husqvarna machines.
Time then to get a bit more detail about this saucy black and white missile from Italy…
Testing is the key to good set-up
“The first thing we did when Alex arrived with us was to test the Husqvarna 450 enduro bike against the motocross bike to find which is better,” says Jolly Racing team manager, Franco Mayr as we catch up with him at the penultimate round of the 2018 World Championship in France.
“We wanted to find out from the start which he prefers to work with – enduro or motocross. In the end we decided it was better to make the enduro bike better than to bring the MX bike towards enduro.”
Working with the knowledge gained from testing the standard FE and FC 450 machines gave Salvini a feel for what worked best to suit his riding in the E2 class this year. “Alex decided quite early on to use the suspension of the motocross bike because it is lighter – it has the WP air forks – he likes that lighter feel of the fork.”
Mayr makes the important point that we’re looking at the standard suspension of the motocross bike, not anything special from WP: “Of course we also changed the shock absorber to the motocross type with a harder spring for Alex, but this is all.”
“We tested the Cone Valve forks, air forks and the factory kit but he was happy with the standard MX suspension. For him also it was important to decide on something for the season and stay with it, to not change it during the season and introduce problems. He decided what he liked and we stuck with it all season.” Franco concludes.
One difference is the suspension linkage which is the MX linkage – the enduro was too soft for Salvini, “too progressive you can say and also he is big and also very fast of course!” Mayr adds. “It was really easy to find the settings for Alex because everything we tested he was happy with and that mainly centred on switching those few FC 450 parts onto the FE 450 enduro bike. “It was so easy with him: we test the gearbox – perfect, we test the suspension – perfect. As simple as that.”
Upgrading the brakes
The brake set-up on Salvini’s FE 450 is 100% Brembo. In stock form the Husqvarna bikes come with Magura braking equipment which Meyr acknowledges has nothing wrong with it but the Jet Zanardo Enduro Team has a strong relationship with Brembo: “In the pre-season we tested some parts and brake pad combinations and arrived at the full Brembo set-up on the brakes and the clutch for Alex’s bike.”
His brake set-up is not all about power though: “Alex does not choose an aggressive brake with a bigger front disc for example, he wants to still feel the brake. But the Brembo system is more aggressive than standard for sure. It is the factory edition caliper and standard (aftermarket) master cylinder and lever.”
Excel rims and spokes are tougher than standard for Salvini’s intense riding style: “Alex is so fast and so heavy (meaning hard!) on the wheels he has the stronger spokes made from steel, and steel nipples also, but built around the standard hub. We have to change the aluminium parts because he rides so hard the stock parts have too much risk of breaking.”
Geco racing parts are a well-known parts supplier for enduro with a range of products. They offer neat touches to Salvini’s bike like the stronger triple clamps, disc guards and detail parts like the axle pulls. But foot brake and gear levers are stock parts however.
“The Geco footpeg is also the part from the motocross bike,” says Mayr, “that means it is a little lower and further back than the standard enduro bike – 5mm down and 5mm back. It is very good to have help from Geco in this way to help with solutions to make a rider feel comfortable on a bike.” Amen to that.
Standard FE 450 engine
We’re not sure why it should come as a surprise, but it does ultimately come as a surprise to learn Salvini’s FE 450 has a standard engine – the guy is so fast we figured it must run on rocket fuel or something!
“No, really, it is standard,” Franco tells us. “We use the Vertex piston but it is the same as the standard product. Really there is no difference, no changes to crank or compression, nothing like this.
“We fit Samco hoses to the engine to make sure those parts can withstand the races, the high temperatures in some races is a big effort for the cooling system. We run one cooling fan on the right side also like the enduro bike.
“But really it is very much the standard bike, standard radiators, nothing special inside the engine or chassis. It is a good bike and Alex is happy with it this way.”
Motocross, five-speed gearbox
Another direct swap from the MX bike is the gearbox. Alex has “the complete gearbox from the FC450” which obviously switches it to a five-speed not six-speed as on the FE 450. It’s a common switch for enduro riders.
Termignoni supply the full exhaust system which gives Jolly Racing’s bikes more power and better torque and “of course it is lighter,” adds Mayr. “The standard part adds a lot of weight but we are not using a special part with this exhaust, it is no factory exhaust system. Just the Termignoni system anyone can buy.”
“We also use a Rekluse clutch, for the stronger parts to be tough in the enduro conditions and with a little larger oil capacity. This is a part which has a hard time in EnduroGP so we fit the strong part.”
Because the riding and tests are short enough in EnduroGP the Jolly Racing team also run a stock motocross fuel tank for most of the season. The weight saving makes it an obvious switch and they only use the larger 8.5litre tank (FC 450 tank is 7litre) for long lap events.
It's all in the detail
Other details, Mayr adds, are “normal things like the Supersprox sprockets which are also stronger with the steel teeth. The DID chain is stronger of course and we have Domino grips and bars.”
“Racetech make the sump guard which is a simple addition to bring more protection around the front and sides of the engine. It is light and tough and a good part.”
“We run the Metzeler Six Days Enduro tyre – in the beginning they have a little fight about supply for us but when we get the results this year they remember who we are!”
“We work hard at the beginning to find the right suspension setting and the basic set-up for Alex but you can see, really, this is a very standard bike with those changes to the MX machine to be more aggressive and suit Alex’s riding style.”
It often comes as a surprise that a rider so high up the World Championship ladder is riding such a stock bike. Or at least it comes as a surprise to find rapid riders are doing it on bikes you could put together yourself. We have found similar story with leading contenders in the World Enduro Championship and it proves how set-up is important to suit your riding style, plus getting the bike right to meet the demands of the sport is crucial too but, ultimately, the fact is it comes down to the rider.
More information on the Jolly Racing Team: jollyracing.comPhoto Credit: Future7Media/Andrea Belluschi
Jon PearsonEnduro21 Editor and Bike Testerjon.firstname.lastname@example.org