On Track Off Road No. 191

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MotoGP

ONLY A

MATTER

OF TIME...

A 98 point lead by round fourteen of nineteen is a

phenomenal amount and Marc Marquez’s final

dispatch of 2019 MotoGP cannot come soon enough for

his rivals (especially fellow Honda riders).

Even foe Valentino Rossi had to admit that the Spaniard

has rarely been stronger. Aragon was the eighth fixture to

fall to his powers and he’s only finished off the podium once

in 2019.

Photo by CormacGP


MXGP


TAKING

THE AIR

You can’t beat many riders for style over jumps than

Monster Energy Yamaha’s Jeremy Seewer. Not only did

the Swiss deservedly earn the status of MXGP runner-up

in just his second season in the premier class but will also

lead his country at Assen this weekend for the 73rd Motocross

of Nations. One of the most underrated GP racers

Photo by Ray Archer


WorldSBK

ONLY A

MATTER

OF TIME

(2)

After three rounds of

2019 WorldSBK there

were few that gave

Jonathan Rea much of

a chance towards an

unprecedented fifth

consecutive crown.

Now just three fixtures

before the end of the

season and Rea stands

on the brink of history

Photo by GeeBee Images


BENKELLEY

FACTORY KTM OFF-ROAD

2019 GNCC XC2 CHAMPION

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SAFETY

IS OUR PRIORITY


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MotoGP


MotoGP ARA

GRAN PREMIO MICHELIN DE ARAGON

MOTORLAND ARAGON · SEPTEMBER 21-22 · Rnd 14 of 19

MotoGP WINNER: MARC MARQUEZ, HONDA

Moto2 WINNER: BRAD BINDER, KTM

Moto3 WINNER: ARON CANET, KTM

ALMOST

IN THE

BOOKS

Blogs by David Emmett, Neil Morrison & Sienna Wedes, Photos by CormacGP


MotoGP


MotoGP ARA


MotoGP


MotoGP ARA


MotoGP


MotoGP ARA


MOTOGP

BLOG

TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING?

MotoGP is about to find out in a couple of years.

From 2022, the season will expand

to encompass 22 races, with

circuits in Vietnam and Indonesia

being added to the calendar.

There is a chance that these won’t

be the only ones: FIM president

Jorge Viegas has made no secret

of his plans to bring MotoGP back

to Portugal, and there are projects

underway in Brazil, Chile, Mexico,

all of which could also eventually

hit the calendar, displacing some

of the Spanish rounds.

Testing will be reduced to compensate

for the extra races. The

Valencia test is to be dropped in

2020, and if team representatives

IRTA get their way, the Qatar test

should be gone in 2021.

The idea behind all this is simple:

Dorna makes money by holding

races, being paid by circuits for

the right to host them, and TV

companies for the right to broadcast

them. They pass some of this

money on to the teams, as compensation

for their part in putting

on a show. Testing, on the other

hand, costs money, so Dorna and

the teams would rather race.

The factories are fighting back

against this reduction in testing.

They are racing to win, and that

means constantly searching for

a competitive advantage, which

in turn requires developments to

be tested. “The teams don’t want

to test, but how are we supposed

to build a competitive bike if we

can’t test new parts?” one factory

engineer complained to me

recently.

Are 22 races too many? I suppose

that depends on your perspective.

Each individual race brings in

more money, from the circuit paying

Dorna for the right to host the

race, from title sponsors for the

naming rights to the race, from TV

companies and streaming services

for the rights to broadcast

the race.

At some point, however, the returns

from each additional race

start to decrease. Every new spectacle

dilutes the value of existing

races. Being one out of eighteen

inherently has more value than

being one of twenty two. You run

up against the limits of sponsorship,

running out of companies

willing to be title sponsor to an

event, companies sponsoring multiple

races demanding bigger bulk

discounts. The value of broadcast

rights doesn’t increase in line with

the investment required to produce

the additional races.

At some point, it starts to cost

more to put on a new race than

it Dorna receives in revenue.

Costs are pretty much fixed: the

thousands of people involved –

team staff, Dorna admin staff, TV

production staff, security staff, etc

– still have to travel from country

to country, venue to venue, along

with all the equipment needed to

stage the show. Those costs have

to be covered somehow.

More than the financial outlay is

the human cost, however. Each

race means a week away from

home for most team members,

flying out on Tuesday, and home

again on Monday. Then there

are tests, training, media events,

meetings, season preparation.

Factory team staff are expected to

spend time at the factory.


More than Europe’s

largest MC store

By David Emmett

Back-to-back races mean even

more time away, and that is without

reckoning with travel delays,

missed or cancelled flights, and

more.

With a 19-race season, team staff

can be away from home for up to

260 days a year. Add three more

races – especially in Asia or the

Americas – and staff based in

Europe could be away from home

ten months a year.

Sustaining a relationship or raising

a family can be hard when

you are barely at home, making

paddock divorce rates unusually

high. Hooking up with someone

else in the paddock is not without

risk: instead of never seeing your

partner, you never spend any time

apart.

to recover properly before setting

off again. The stress increases

with each additional commitment

and less freedom to work off that

stress.

Even for the fans, 22 may be too

many. Races become commonplace,

people picking and choosing

which to watch, rather than

following the season religiously.

Maybe everyone will tune in for

Mugello, but how many will watch

Motegi or Vietnam? If viewing figures

per race drop, that decreases

the value to broadcasters, and the

amount they are willing to pay.

How many Grand Prix outings are

too many? There is only one way

to find out. And as much as I love

MotoGP, 22 races seems like too

much of a good thing to me.

Above all, perhaps, is the toll on

the riders. It gets harder to fit in

longer breaks when the season

is 22 races long. There is less

time to train, to prepare physically

during the off season, and

with so much travel, less time to

train between races. Less training

increases the likelihood of injury,

and more races means less time


MotoGP


MotoGP ARA


BLOG

FALLING DOWN

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

With the benefit of hindsight, KTM’s decision to rid itself of

Johann Zarco apparently backfired at Aragon.

Pol Espargaro’s crunching FP4 fall

ruled him out of the race and Mika

Kallio – the Frenchman’s replacement

for 2019’s final six rounds

– was always going to need time to

get up to speed after 15 months of

racing absence. They departed without

points and without a lead rider

to test at the dusty Spanish venue

this week.

But to listen to anyone associated

with the factory last weekend

and there was the distinct feeling

Zarco’s time at KTM had been and

gone. The atmosphere in his side

of the garage had grown quiet and

tense with few signs of joy. Kallio’s

inclusion represented a fresh start,

bringing a bit of levity back to proceedings.

One KTM employee said

even those in the factory that were

still on Zarco’s side had noted the

improved atmosphere.

Last Tuesday’s news that confirmed

the Austrian factory was dispensing

with his services ahead of the

remaining six rounds was a shock.

But in retrospect there were so

many events that acted as a warning

of such an event: the continual

negative comments about the bike;

his explosive criticism of its failings

at Jerez, caught on live TV; his

retirement at Assen due to armpump

concerns, which Motorsport

Director Pit Beirer called “the most

terrible thing you can do to us in

the team.”

It was all a far cry from Zarco’s

maiden season in MotoGP, a kind of

David and Goliath tale of a plucky

rookie on aged equipment fronting

up to the established names,

shrugging at their exalted reputations.

He rarely paid attention to

what his package lacked compared

to the factory names, a trait that

got KTM’s attention. “He didn’t care

what material he had,” Beirer said.

“He was never complaining or looking

over to the factory team; he just

took the bike and went faster. We

saw that and thought, ‘wow, that’s

the guy we need.’”

So 21 months on and with Zarco’s

future far from certain, how did it

all go so wrong? His inability to

adapt a riding style dependent on

flowing lines and corner speed was

the first point. He could never find

sufficient feeling with the front end

to enter turns with confidence. Furthermore

the bike which Espargaro

nicknamed ‘The Bull’ was more

physically demanding than anything

Zarco had ridden in his previous ten

years in grand prix.

“From the first moment at Valencia

last year he couldn’t build up a

good feeling,” admitted Mike Leitner,

the factory squad’s team boss.

It rarely showed signs of improvement

from there.

His feedback wasn’t what KTM

needed at a time when the RC16 is

still some way from being a regular

podium contender. One senior

technician told me Zarco’s comments

on new parts centred solely

on whether it helped his feeling with

the front.


By Neil Morrison

A new swingarm, engine or exhaust

may, of course, bring other

benefits. But the 29-year old rarely

handed out praise, such was his

focus on fixing that front end feel.

Another team member noted how

his evaluation of parts amounted to

four-letter profanity. When quizzed

on the part further, the said fourletter

profanity was simply repeated

but with added vigour. “There were

not many ‘candies’ coming from

his side to our side, that’s for sure,”

Beirer admitted.

But more than the riding style, it

was his demeanour and attitude

that was Zarco’s ultimate downfall.

He rarely – if ever – attempted to

forge relationships within his team.

By all accounts what the watching

world saw on TV at Jerez (he

was filmed saying, “[either] we are

f***ing s**t in chassis, or we are

f***king s**t in controlling power”)

was a regular occurrence. “He could

not control his emotions,” Beirer

said. “He put so much stress on

himself when things were not going

easy. To succeed at this level, of

course you need to be emotional,

but you also need to calm down

and analyse the situation.”

And Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal

believes Zarco was all-too-aware of

this fault. “Every time I met Johann

in the hospitality we were talking a

lot with [coach] Jean-Michel Bayle.

He was always saying, ‘I need to be

a bit calmer, I need to understand

this is a new project, so it’s step by

step.’ Everything was fine. He’s a

reasonable guy. But then he puts

his leathers on, goes in the garage,

does five laps, comes in, screaming,

shouting and forgets about the attitude

he said he should have.

“Even after the summer break I

saw him in the Czech Republic on

the Thursday before we started. He

said, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot and

I have a good position. My bike is

not bad. I do what I like. So clearly I

need to change my way of behaving

for the second part of the season

and next year.’ [Yet on the Friday] It

was exactly the same.”

This hasn’t been an easy time

for Zarco away from the track.

A fraught relationship with longtime

manager Laurent Fellon was

brought to a definitive close over

the winter. T

o hear him speak of his manager

during those success-filled years in

Moto2 was to listen to a man in raptures

to a kind of cult leader. Having

moved from his parents home in

Nice to Fellon’s training quarters in

Avignon, Zarco was engulfed in a

strict, rigorous programme which

honed the focus that took him to 16

grand prix wins, 47 podiums and

two world titles.

But it came at the cost of the regular

interaction that moulds most

adolescents into socially-aware beings

who value strong relationships

with those around them. And breaking

with a figure that had shaped

his upbringing was always going to

require a period of acclimatisation.

“We were a little bit unlucky to get

him in the wrong moment,” Beirer

said. “For me, something huge

happened when he split up with

Laurent Fellon, who was a guy who

could steer him mentally better.”

While Fellon’s limitations as a manager

were best distilled by his decision

to prematurely sign with KTM

in the winter of 2017, the eccentric

Frenchman could keep his rider in

line in the box.


BLOG

“From the outside, it was a weird

couple,” said Poncharal. “Everybody

thought, how can it last? Because

they were arguing a lot, they were

fighting. But in the end, all you can

say is as long as Johann was with

Laurent, it worked. [With Fellon]

Maybe would have been a bit easier.

Maybe Laurent would have told him,

don’t talk like this. Laurent was the

guy in the garage looking at him, and

Johann was waiting to scream and

he was telling him like this [motions

zipping his mouth]. But who knows?”

From November to September there

were regular signs of an uneasy

marriage. One moment stands out.

At the post-race test at Jerez Zarco

showed up to his debrief in a plain

white t-shirt. He was soon reminded

of the stipulation to wear team clothing

when addressing the media. He

tutted, feigned surprise and left to

retrieve the relevant clothing. “He’s

always doing these small rebellious

things when he feels we are not

giving him what he needs,” a team

member confided.

Just compare that to Espargaro’s

approach, a rider once described as

“like a can of popcorn” by crew chief

Paul Travathon.

“This attitude is fantastic,” the Kiwi

told me back at the start of their

working relationship. “There are going

to be dark days. There are going

to be times when you need a character

like that. I saw the engineers

walking around with a bit of a lighter

foot after some of his comments.”

That’s not so say Zarco’s a bad person.

Quite the opposite. Through all

of this he remained respectful and

polite when dealing with us. More,

this is an instance of the pressures

and demands of factory status being

too much to bear. It takes a special

kind of character with the adequate

skills – both on and off the bike – to

carry a project forward.

And despite everything that passed,

KTM still hold a degree of fondness

for him. A technician spoke of his

genuine sadness the move had not

worked out. And there was no bitterness

at their end. Zarco was present

at Aragon to shake hands with the

management that moved to dispense

with his services just two days before.

He also said goodbye to those

in the team, a sign that, with a clear

head and no pressure, Zarco is a different

person.

Beirer also confirmed he would not

only pay Zarco in full until the end

of the year, but grant him permission

ride for another manufacturer

in Thailand should the opportunity

arise. “To underline how much I like

this boy,” as he framed it.

The greatest shame in all of this is

Zarco’s current plight. Sure, there

may be offers to return in a testing

capacity. But so many flaws were exposed

over the past ten months, it’s

difficult to imagine another factory

team placing its trust in his capabilities.

For a rider who once shrugged

in the face of pressure and produced

performances like we saw at Losail,

Le Mans and Phillip Island in 2017,

it’s a damned shame it came to this.


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MotoGP ARA


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PRODUCTS

www.6dhelmets.com

6d helmets

6D Helmets have been working for two years

on the next generation of the ATS-1R; the

only street lid on the market with the ground

breaking omni-directional suspension system.

The first edition of the model caught

attention but was a victim of scepticism over

weight, shell size and rudimentary elements

such as the performance of the visor. These

areas have all been addressed for the new

2019 incarnation: and we should know. We

used an ATS-1R on a three-hour ride from

Barcelona to Aragon for the MotoGP last

weekend and were impressed by the fit and

the ventilation. There will be more of a

verdict in a coming issue but to answer a few

essential questions about the ATS-1R and it’s

relation to the off-road ATR-2 we contacted

6D founder and boss Bob Weber.

What are the biggest strides that 6D have

made with the new street helmet compared

to the first model?

We have evolved the internal ODS technology

to very similarly match the ATR-2’s

“Advanced ODS”. Both layers are EPS, but

the design is freer to do its work in sheering

type impacts. We have also increased the

amount of EPS by strategically filling the air

gap. With the new design, we were also able

to shed 200grams of weight compared to the

original as well.

In order to provide a new-and-improved ATS

how did you proceed with R&D and finding

solutions? How did you gather data and

info?

We had significant data from the development

side of the ATR-2 that we were able to

apply directly to this project. We knew we

could improve on the performance of the

system by updating to the newer design. Lab

testing confirmed the improvements and we

moved toward production. We worked closely

with Kyle Wyman and Sammy Halbert here

in the US, and the boys from Reactive Parts

in the UK (our UK distributor) who are deeply

engrossed in the BSB Championships to

improve the fit, aerodynamics, sealing of the

shield and solving fogging issues in the rain.

The UK guys really pushed us hard and we

finally solved the problems we were experiencing

in the wet conditions. It’s been awesome

having those guys on our side! We also

had some fit issues on people with certain

head shapes as we had a very narrow opening

on the shell. We adjusted this significantly

in the new helmet and I believe we have

resolved the fit issues.

Are there any complications or difficulty

with the application of ODS for the street

compared to other helmets in the range?

No, not really. There are many challenges

with manufacturing however and we solved

them some time ago. Our factory is proficient

in production and I believe producing

a helmet at the highest quality level; certainly

comparable and competitive with any

other available premium brand. We are really

proud of this helmet and excited to be able

to satisfy more riders with better fit, new

graphic designs and further improved safety.


MOTOGP

BLOG

COME IN JL99...?

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

It hasn’t been a tremendous season for five-time world

champion Jorge Lorenzo but unfortunately neither has

the last thirty-six months. He has jumped ship twice and

sailed into seasons strewn with adversity and injury.

On the other side of the Repsol

Honda box, reigning #1 and current

championship leader Marc

Marquez is in the prime of his

life. One rider at the top, one at

the bottom and a whole lot of

team members in between trying

to pick up the pieces. The 2018

Aragon GP exactly one year ago

marks the last weekend we saw

a fully fit Jorge Lorenzo. Since

then, we have spent time trying

to wonder where it can all go

next.

After crashing in practice in

Qatar and sustaining the second

of three injuries thus far in

2019, Lorenzo’s Honda debut has

been anything but positive. Having

completed a total of nine of

fourteen rounds onboard his new

bike, Lorenzo is on the back foot

and facing the biggest crisis on

his career. For the first time we

have seen him genuinely

struggle to crack the top fifteen

and his physical/mental state

seems weary. During each debrief

or television appearance

he has appeared detached and

lacking emotion. Eye contact is

limited, words are followed with

heavy breaths and a blase shrug

to top it all off. Progress has been

slow and in this industry patience

runs short. Talks of broken

contracts and rider changes

are controversial when paired

with a brand like Repsol Honda

because their nature is to work

things out with limited drama

splashed across the tabloids. It is

a journey that has proven to be

harder than they expected. Fellow

teammate Marc Marquez has

continued his domination of the

MotoGP class with eight victories

(including this years Aragon GP),

thirteen podiums and a shiny

seat at the top of the pyramid. It

is the most podium-consistent he

has been prior to flyaways since

his debut in the MotoGP category

in 2013 where he claimed

sixteen of the eighteen rounds.

He is calm and strong, fully fit,

has a well-blended and long

established team.

At the beginning of the season

the Repsol Honda/Jorge Lorenzo

collaboration was thrilling. We

were eager to see what the team

could do and how Lorenzo approached

taming his new beast.

He had just come out of a season

where he finally worked his way

under Ducati’s skin and secured

three victories over a two year

period. But, similar to this term,

the team dynamic did not mesh

well. The Honda appeared to be

an even larger obstacle but not

impossible after his adaptation to

the Ducati. However, we all know

that within this sport it’s not just

the rider or the bike or the team


By Sienna Wedes

that makes it work. They must all

mesh into one. Lorenzo’s team

consists of many new employees

who speak several different

languages, and through observation

haven’t blended as well as

Marquez’s team (a loss before

he even started). Their workflow

which naturally builds with time

has been disrupted frequently

and has affected the teams ability

to work as a cohesive unit.

Not only that, Lorenzo has not

kept coy about his struggles with

the RCV. “My feeling on the bike

was not good”, “I cannot ride

confidently”, “in this season I do

not think we will reach the top 5”

and “in this world, there is no

magic” has spread like wildfire.

When negativity cements itself

within the team an unfavourable

working environment cultivates.

Even when he was racing in

twelfth place at the beginning of

the Aragon GP, something still

lacked and he disappeared. He

hinted at a defective rear Michelin

in MotorLand and, on his side,

the Honda has been notoriously

hard to turn in 2019 – Cal Crutchlow

also not shy in voicing his

concerns and difficulties with the

equipment.

The physical and mental side of

Lorenzo’s job go hand in hand,

one does not favour the other.

In Saturday’s qualifying press

conference Marquez indirectly

provided words of wisdom when

attacking the Honda.“If you are

not fit, it is impossible to be fast

on this bike. You need to be fit.

It is difficult, you need to set up

well and believe in your project. It

is not the easiest bike of the grid

but if you find that point you can

be competitive”.

Lorenzo has suffered not only

physical injuries but also mental

scratches that are much slower to

heal. Broken bones, internal damage

and Chinese whispers have

raised doubts about his commitment

to Honda and his future

in the sport. We have witnessed

ex-racers like Kevin Schwantz and

Mick Doohan suffer painful traumas

and end their careers rather

than risk further damage. Could

this be a similar narrative unfolding?

Could the second most

successful rider of the decade

be holding himself back from

making any kind of damage but

also substantial breakthrough?

Maybe it’s becoming clearer that

the main block here is Lorenzo

himself and we are all just trying

to guess what the next step is. I

know I am.


PRODUCTS

www.dirtbikeshow.com

The International Dirt Bike Show

Europe’s largest dirt bike show – with over

100 exhibitors – moves to the confines of

the Staffordshire Showground this year (just

north of Birmingham in England’s midlands)

and starts this weekend with tons of

activities taking place between 10am-5pm on

Saturday and Sunday. Lee Musselwhite will

have his ‘Inspireshows’ running throughout

the programme, Yamaha and Kawasaki have

their ‘MX Experience set-ups’ and there is

loads more happening including live

big-screen streaming of the Motocross of

Nations at the same time from

Assen.

As always the annual event is a fantastic

chance to pick up some bargain ‘bits’ and

also meet and chat with the wide off-road

riding community. Tickets are 8 pounds in

advance (10 on the door). Children between

11-15 cost 5 on the door and kids under 10

are free. A family entry will set you back just

25 pounds.


T E A M U S A

Z A C H OSBORNE

O P E N

Photo: Octopi Media


T E A M U S A

J A S O N ANDERSON

M X G P

Photo: Octopi Media

@ P R O T A P E R P R O T A P E R . C O M


FEATURE

“I’M NOT REAL


LY THE NORM”

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by S.Cudby/Husqvarna

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETAENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/KTM


FEATURE

Rockstar Energy Husqvarna

Team Manager

Bobby Hewitt recently

featured in OTOR and the

Texan chatted at length about

his enduring career-long

relationship with the mercurial

Jason Anderson – 2018

450 Supercross Champion –

and how the racer from New

Mexico had to cope with the

wave of obligation and expectation

after winning one of the

sport’s biggest prizes.

After years of domination by

the likes of Ryan Villopoto

and Ryan Dungey (athletes

almost conditioned to success

and all the responsibility

that brings) it was refreshing

and ‘humanising’ to hear of

Anderson’s struggles: it was

a reminder that for all the

unbelievable discipline and

commitment and the energy

that a 29-30 race calendar

dictates that this elite athletes

are not infallible or indestructible.

Part of Anderson’s European

‘immersion’ and acclimatisation

to sand riding ahead of

his role for Team USA at the

73rd Motocross of Nations

at Assen was a visit to the

recent San Marino MotoGP,

and it presented the perfect

chance to ask the 26 year

old to open up about a 2019

where he experienced and

endured life as a #1 target.


Firstly, you’ve travelled before

and have kept open minded

about racing overseas but

when it came to the Nations

this year was there a part of

you that thought ‘this is a big

risk…’

Yeah, I felt that I really had to

come over and prepare for it

because of the sand. As far as

being a ‘risk’ then I feel any

time you ride the bike it can

be risky. At the same time I

love racing and I want to do as

much as I can. There are points

in the season where you get

burnt out but you take a week

off and then you are ready

to go again. I wanted to keep

racing this summer. I wasn’t

able to have a full Supercross

season. The MXoN will be a

difficult one due to the sand

and it will be a tall task to be

competitive but we’ll try our

butts off.

Talk a bit about this year

because Bobby mentioned

that you were perhaps not

prepared for the full set of

obligations that went with

being a defending Supercross

Champion. How was it to

achieve a lifetime goal and

then have to readjust?

“I LIKE TO KEEP THINGS AS

‘NORMAL’ AS POSSIBLE. IF

I KEEP THINGS FUN THEN

PROGRESSION PROFESSION-

ALLY IS EASIER AND THE MO-

TIVATION IS EASIER TO FIND

AND LONGEVITY COMES

WITH THAT.”

Obviously you reach your goal

and your lifelong dream and

you get excited but then all

the stuff and the BS that goes

with it is not always fun. I understand

that it is our job and

obligation to our sponsors to

market the #1 plate as much

as possible but at one point

I did not feel there was such

good communication so they

understood all of what I had

to do to be ready for another

season. I think at some point

that got overlooked with the

whole ‘that’s your job’.

There was a bit of them pushing

me and me pushing back!

The championship was awesome

and I was happy to win

it but as soon as it was over

it was non-stop stuff to deal

with. I like doing my own

thing. The attention is cool

but I like to hang out with my

own friends, my team and go

race. But there is a little more

to it at the level we are at now.

In the past did you find that

people asked you to do stuff

but that converted into people

almost demanding…

100%. There was a lot of

demands and talk of marketing,

selling more bikes and

this-and-that. I understood,

but I needed some more middle

ground and I don’t think

we reached that. Once we got

into the season they saw how

much it had taken a toll on

me. You only learn by trial and

error. Hopefully we can get

into that position again soon

and handle it better.

Fans and followers of supercross

and motocross know

you race a lot but they don’t

always see the hours of travel,

training and promo that

can make for some very short

weeks…

Yeah. I understand we have to

give the fans and the people

in the sport the attention that

they want and I enjoy doing

that. But at some point it does

take a toll and puts out a lot

of energy.

JASON ANDERSON


FEATURE

Sometimes on a Friday before

the race you just want to relax

but you can’t. You land, gotta

eat, gotta get to the dealer

signing, do media, get dinner

and get to bed. It’s a full

schedule. It’s not like you are

just hanging out. I don’t think

people see all the other side

of it and sometimes we get

crap for not being outgoing or

something like that but sometimes

we are just worn out. At

the same time I have learned

from this experience in the

last year and as the seasons

go on I’ll be able to manage

it better and have more communication

with my team to

do that.

Do race-winning contenders

in your position need more of

a breather? And I don’t mean

just physically…

Yeah, definitely mentally but

when you get to November

and December you cannot

really have one because you

need to keep training and

looking ahead to Anaheim 1.

If you cannot do it there then

you are going to feel it! I was

stressed out dealing with that

around the time in 2018 but

you cannot let-up. If you do

that it will affect your results.

One way or another something

has to give. I think my

riding took a bit of a hit. It

was a tough year for me but

valuable in another way and

going into next season I feel

happy and I feel motivated. I

don’t feel the pressure is on


me that much; not that it was

the pressure that got to me…

more all the stuff I had to deal

with. I’m 26 years old and I

feel I still have a few more

chances at making a title run.

That’s my goal right now and

to be best prepared to do that.

The Outdoor season was good

for me and I wasn’t expecting

very much. I just wanted

to enjoy it and bring myself

back-around and I think I accomplished

that.

Do you feel like warning

training-mate Cooper [Webb]

of the mantle of being a

champion?

Yeah, I think he will have to

deal with it. I really like doing

off-season races whereas

he doesn’t. So I think I put a

little too much on my plate

last year. I like to do two offseason

races and I did that

and followed it with the FIM

Awards. Then there was a

load of other stuff. I think his

schedule is lighter so it might

be easier. For me, I know what

I have to do now. I think he

will be good next season and

there are quite a few that will

be good. It’s interesting to see

how it will play out.

Supercross is unreal in terms

of how close it is and how it

will be in ’20. It will take the

whole package to go for the

championship again.

What about you and Bobby?

That relationship is very long

and has been through a lot.

Is it similar to a Dungey/De

Coster thing?

I was going to sign for him

as an amateur but it didn’t

end-up working out and we

waited until I went Pro and

we’ve been through everything

since then! First and foremost

I think the difference between

a ‘Ryan-Roger’ is that it’s

more about a human connection

rather than being about

JASON ANDERSON


FEATURE


ON TRYING MXGP: “THE LOGISTICS SIDE

WOULD HAVE TO BE A LITTLE BIT LAID-OUT

FOR ME IN TERMS OF HAVING A HOME AND

DEALING WITH THE CULTURE DIFFERENCES. I

DON’T MIND THE CHANGE BUT I’D JUST NEED

A PROPER PLAN. AS FAR AS RACING THEN

I DON’T MIND AT ALL AND ENJOY COMING

OVERSEAS.”

JASON ANDERSON


FEATURE

results or business. If I have

bad nights then it is not like

he’ll just ask about my riding

or my training or anything

like that, sometimes he’ll just

ask me where I am at with life

in general. He’s been a great

help to me because I’m not

really ‘the norm’. The way I go

about things is maybe not the

way other people would like

me to, in terms of the corporate

world. But the good thing

about Bobby is that he accepts

each person for who they are

and then to achieve the best

they can. I think that’s why

he’s been able to have riders

that maybe haven’t succeeded

in other places enjoy success

on our team. I think you can

see that with Zach [Osborne].

He had a hard time with Geico,

bided his time and look how

he is performing now. Bobby

helped with that and even if it

takes time and our programme

can sometimes seem like we

are ‘winging it’ we’re always

trying hard. As long as the

heart is in it and the effort is

made then we’re happy.

How do you manage life on

two coasts after all these

years?

I’ve had a home in Florida for

five years now. I don’t like


Florida that much but over

time I have learned to embrace

it and be more involved

over there. For me California

is my home and when I retire

I’ll be back there. I’ve become

pretty good at managing the

balance between going back

and forth lately. I think Bobby

will also get a base in Florida

because when we are altogether

there he’s usually on

the other side of the country.

It’s probably also the biggest

difference to a European

MXGP programme because

we have two working bases.

In Europe you can just be in

Lommel! We have to juggle

and it’s a six-hour flight. It

can be a bit wild. Most of my

friends and family and on the

west coast. I grew up in New

Mexico. California is just an

hour flight away.

“IN THE BLINK OF AN EYE IT

IS SUDDENLY TWO YEARS

LATER AND YOU ARE

LOOKING BACK THINKING

‘MAN, I SHOULD HAVE

ENJOYED THAT MOMENT

WHEN I HAD IT’ .”

You mentioned Bobby might

ask you where you are in life

at the moment. So where are

you? Did 2018 set you up?

Did it create even more freedom

away from dirt bikes?

I think, compared to most racers,

I have more of a life away

from motocross and sometimes

it gets tough to juggle

both of them. I have friends

who don’t have anything to do

with moto at all. Sometimes

I would like to hang out with

them…but I also really enjoy

what I do. I try to embrace

both sides. I feel I have a part

of my life that is not just motocross

based. Although I will

say there are people on my

team, and even teammates,

that feel like family to me.

We’re together every weekend

and also ‘in the trenches’

whether it is through those

hot summer days or being

sat there waiting for delayed

flights. [thinks] It can be difficult

to switch off but I have

a group around me that helps

turn off the motocross button

and we enjoy ourselves being

normal, sometimes dorky kids

playing video games or whatever.

I like to keep things as

‘normal’ as possible. If I keep

things fun then progression

professionally is easier and

the motivation is easier to find

and longevity comes with that.

I’d like to race a lot of years. I

know it will be hard to go for

that number one spot for a

long time but I feel like I can

do a top three pace for many

years to come.

The reality is that the window

for ‘title contention’ is

so short for anyone lucky to

make it to that level…

Definitely. And I don’t take

it for granted. When you get

stressed then you can [take

it for granted] but you know

deep-down that in the blink of

an eye it is suddenly two years

later and you are looking back

thinking ‘man, I should have

enjoyed that moment when I

had it’. I’ve learned that but it

still hard. You want to win, you

want to be good but you also

don’t want to be mad every

day because things are not

going your way. You try to find

the balance between joy, being

successful and having that

hunger to win.

No danger of you joining that

Carmichael/Villopoto/Dungey

‘27’ club of calling it a day?

Oh no. Sometimes you look at

JASON ANDERSON


FEATURE

“IT IS TOUGH BECAUSE WITH OUR

CONTRACTS THE HEAVIER SIDE LEANS

TOWARDS SX. AT THE SAME TIME YOU JUST

WANT TO RACE AND OUTDOORS IS THE

ORIGINAL GROUND, IT IS OLD-SCHOOL &

WHERE WE CAME FROM...”

the numbers and see there has

never been a supercross champion

past the age of 29. I feel

I have a good couple of runs

left in me. I’d like to break that

record and consider being an

older champion. If not then I’ll

take it for what it’s worth and

at the end of the day if you are

on the podium or in the top

five of your sport then that’s

very awesome. I think people

like RV and Dungey had a hard

time because they had to win

all the time. At some point

people add to the pressure

because if they were not winning

then something must be

wrong with them. But they’re

human, you know? I think if

they could have coped or been

ready for those kinds of questions

then they might have had

a longer career. It’s [the pressure

of] being in that group of

‘needing to win’. It’s not like I

de-classify myself from that…

but I am well aware that eventually

I’ll be a bit further back

and still hoping that some race

wins can come. As long as I

can stay in the top three or

be competitive then that’s the

goal. If I can keep that into my

30s then that would be really

cool.


Are people getting more

dismissive of motocross again

now compared to supercross?

What’s your view?

It is tough because with our

contracts the heavier side

leans towards supercross. At

the same time you just want

to race and you want to be

competitive and Outdoors is

the original ground, it is oldschool

and where we came

from. It has a culture. I want

to be good at both but sometimes

it’s hard because of

the amount of races. You’ll

get done with the supercross

season and you’ll feel mentally

drained and you’ve got two

weeks to get ready and feel

fully refreshed for an Outdoor

season. To do two solid seasons

in a row is one of the

hardest parts of the job.

Not wanting to push you in

a corner or ask for a blithe

quote but would you consider

the idea of MXGP? An

attempt at the world

championship?

I always tell them [Husqvarna]

that I’d be completely open

to it. The logistics side would

have to be a little bit laid-out

for me in terms of having a

home and dealing with the

culture differences. I don’t

mind the change but I’d just

need a proper plan. As far as

racing then I don’t mind at all

and enjoy coming overseas.

I’ve been in Europe for more

than two weeks now and have

a couple more weeks ahead.

I’ve enjoyed it! There are little

bits of home that I miss

– mainly foodwise! – but the

people are really helpful and

Firstly I have two more years

left in the U.S. then we’ll see!

Thoughts on MotoGP?

I’ve been to a couple of Formula

1’s and this feels similar.

I’ve always wanted to go to

the Austin MotoGP but it’s

at a weird time for us in Supercross.

It is amazing and

a different level to dirtbikes.

It’s funny because I’m a fan of

many of these guys and I go to

say hello and find out they’re

a fan of me! It goes back and

forth. This is another level

of racing. It’s cool and fun to

check out.

JASON ANDERSON

There is a lot of pressure on

supercross…but I think if you

can be good at motocross

then you are bad-ass and

that’s a cool thing.

[Rockstar Energy Husqvarna]

IceOne have a good thing

around them. I have good

group of sponsors around me

that would help make that

transition easier. I’d be openminded

about it.


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AMA

BLOG

HEADING TO THE BEACH...

With the 2019 Motocross des Nations looming this coming

weekend in Holland, I have no idea if Team USA is going to end

their record ‘winless’ streak (since their first win in 1981) of

seven years.

Let’s be real here, it’s going to

be really tough to beat the Dutch

on their home soil with their

preferred ‘soil’ underneath them.

I mean, last year they came so

close to winning at Redbud with

just four scores out of the five

needed!

There will be lots of pressure on

the Dutch for sure and you never

know how that can affect people

but they’re the heavy favorites

and for all the right reasons.

Seeing them win their first ever

MXDN at Assen and the first

Dutch Nations since Lierop in

2004 would be a pretty cool story

for sure.

But as far as the USA is concerned,

the team this year has

been all-in, all the time and that’s

a pretty cool thing to see for

American motocross fans. Last

year, IN THE USA, couldn’t have

gone any worse and was rock

bottom for the fans over here.

For 2019 there wasn’t the massive

change to the structure and

management of Team USA like I

thought their might be but there

was a change of the process,

a re-thinking of the team and

maybe, just maybe, they can pull

off a huge upset. Like, say, the

1981 team in Lommel perhaps?

The dysfunction from the team

has been removed in the fact that

Kawasaki, whose management

are not fans of current Team USA

manager Roger DeCoster, removed

themselves from the running

by keeping the two national

champions at home. Last year

the green guys used their own radios

and communicated amongst

themselves rather than the rest of

the team. The Honda guys have

also not always played nice with

DeCoster who has rankled some

feathers with the OEM’s going

back to the last Ryan Dungey

450SX title for KTM. So by default,

in 2019 Team USA has a

lot more “team” in it than in past

years with Rockstar Husqvarna’s

Jason Anderson, Zach Osborne

being on the same squad. They

work closely with DeCoster and

the KTM guys so that’s a good

thing. Star Yamaha that work

with Nations debutant, Justin

Cooper, will be team players as

they don’t compete with Roger,

KTM and Husqvarna week in and

week out.

So team unity will be better, the

red, white and blue team will also

pit all together or at least real

close for the first time in a long

time. No matter what the color,

Team USA used to all pit together

but has gotten away from that in

recent editions - another thing

that rankled some Team USA

members over the years.

The second thing that’s positive

is the fact that Anderson and

Osborne headed over to Europe

early to train and ride in the sand


By Steve Matthes

as well as, most importantly,

test. Talk to any member of Team

USA in 2011 in Lommel and

they’ll tell you that jetting in midweek

and trying to get the bike

to work on the sand wasn’t ideal.

Lots of confusion with the American

riders that just don’t ever

really ride the sand that much.

The Rockstar Energy IceOne

Husqvarna team has opened its

doors to Osborne and Anderson

and provided tracks, support

and help with settings for the

last three weeks. Anderson has

seemed to embrace it with a

series of Vlogs from his personal

film guys that’s pretty entertaining

and Osborne, well he’s all in

and has been since before he

was named to the team. This going

early stuff and sacrificing his

off-season time was something

he was accepting eagerly.

Cooper got there a bit later but

still earlier than any member of

Team USA the last decade and

he’s hooked up with the two

Husqvarna guys for some sand

training.

“It’s been a great experience

for all involved but I have to say

it wouldn’t have been possible

without the huge effort from

Husqvarna and Ice One. Having

those guys and the bikes completely

sorted with the most high

level workshop in the sport has

been a big asset for us,” Osborne

told me over text. “We both adjusted

quickly to the time change

and the lifestyle and got straight

to work. The riding has been better

than I actually expected and I

think as a team we are in a really

good place. No matter the result,

we have put in every bit of work

that we could and left no stone

unturned to have the best result

possible.”

Yep, Team USA is indeed turning

it up to eleven to try and get

back to the top in the Olympics

of Motocross. You really gotta

love this effort by the guys if

you’re a Team USA supporter

and win or lose, you have to

respect what all three, and the

crew members, have done here.

Will it be enough? Who knows

but this has been really cool to

see. If they do pull off the

miracle win like the boys in 1981

then the blueprint for future USA

teams has been set right?


PRODUCTS

www.ktm.com

ktm

KTM launched their SX-E 5 with some fanfare

this week and deservedly so. The bike

will not hit KTM dealers until next month

(the last quarter of 2019) but there has

been a high degree of anticipation about

this model considering the path of development

and the ramifications for introducing

new kids and riders to off-roading. The SX-E

5 is aimed at three-ten year olds with ‘comparable

power output to the KTM 50 SX’

and ‘six power modes allowing a complete

beginner to step on with ease, whilst the

full power mode is exciting and challenging

for the fastest junior’. The chassis can be

adjusted to cope with the child’s changing

height. The SX-E 5 has been given the same

R&D importance as any other SX model

and the WP Suspension means this is a key

part of the wide KTM MX range.

“It offers a premium chassis, like those on

all of our SX models, but also a lot in terms

of rideability thanks to the electric motor,

as it’s easy to ride, but at the same time it

can be super-fast without making noise,”

says KTM’s Senior Product Manager for

Offroad Joachim Sauer. “We tested the bike

with such a wide range of riders; the complete

beginner can ride on a track almost

straight away, yet a national level rider can

have comparable lap times to that of the

combustion bike, which is something special.”

Click on www.ktm.com for

information on pricing and where to find a

nearest dealer.


FEATURE

THE EXPERIENCE

THE JOURNEY

TIM GAJSER TALKS ABOUT THE KEY

CHANGES FOR HIS SUPERLATIVE

MXGP CHAMPIONSHIP YEAR

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer


ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETAENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

ENTRADETA ENTRADETA ENTRADETA

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/KTM


FEATURE

Tim Gajser had a ‘Jeffrey

Herlings-free’ championship

year in 2019 but he

still had to take on the might

of Red Bull KTM and one half

of an axis that had obliterated

MXGP the previous term. The

Slovenian faced-off against

Tony Cairoli in two gripping

and close Grands Prix in Italy

and Portugal and profited

from some very rare slips by

the nine times world champion

and one of the very best

motocrossers of the modern

era.

Gajser is now a three-time

title winner and managed the

feat before his 23rd birthday.

He is very much the flagship

for HRC in MXGP and the poor

luck with injuries for Brian

Bogers means that #243 has

largely carried the red banner

by himself for two years.

When he claimed the 2016

crown against an ailing Cairoli

(dealing with neck and shoulder

nerve damage), a partially

absent Romain Febvre and a

Kawasaki ‘rookie’ in the shape

of Clement Desalle, Gajser

brought a new energy and

youthful verve to the premier

class. It was a level of performance

and speed that Jeffrey

Herlings hoisted onto his

shoulder and threw into the

air towards the end of 2017

and even more emphatically

last year. Gasjer was fantastic

in 2016 but there were some

that felt he existed on the

edge of his Honda saddle: just

one kicker away from disaster.

His luck ran out in 2017 with

several big crashes carrying

consequences and 2018 was

ruined from the outset with a

horrific prang at the Mantova

Starcross International (a concussion

and broken jaw was

the physical cost, the mental

repercussions lasted longer).

2019 saw the likeable and

strangely vulnerable racer mix

two powerful attributes: the

preparation and zeal to match

Herlings’ might and a milder

– more mature - approach

necessary for a nineteen

round campaign that was later

clipped to eighteen dates.

Sitting down for a conversation

at the Grand Prix of

Imola where he’d confirm his

‘gold medal’ status thanks to

a massive points lead (Cairoli

had long departed the

competition with a dislocated

shoulder) Tim is cheerful and

thoughtful company. He opens

up hesitantly, especially about

his Dad and the evolution of

their oppressing and close relationship,

but the honesty is

refreshing, almost innocent.

Impressively for an athlete

who is still so young – he

could have contested MX2 this

season – Gajser has made

huge strides in 2019. Importantly

and crucially this bodes

well for 2020 when Red Bull

KTM will be armed with three


MXGP WORLD CHAMPION TIM GAJSER

riders of such potency and

power that even the smallest

or most viable of threats will

be welcomed.

“YOU MIGHT THINK HE CAN

BE DIFFICULT TO WORK

WITH, BUT IT’S THE COM-

PLETE OPPOSITE. HE’S A

NICE GUY. HE’S A GENTLE-

MAN WITH ME, THE CREW,

WITH EVERYBODY.”

Did you reach a new peak this

year or was your level the

same as the crushing season

of 2016? It seemed that your

racecraft was a bit more consistent

and considered…

Well, it’s three years on, so for

sure I have more experience

but I think in my head and

with what I have been through

in the last two seasons - with

all the injuries and not riding

well - I was able to learn and

not repeat mistakes. I did a

couple of changes during the

winter with my preparation…

and my Dad…I think the decision

was the right one. I’m

feeling happy.

The relationship with your

Dad: has that changed from

him being more like a trainer

and coach to something more

paternal?

Yeah, let’s say it like that.

Since I started riding and

even up to last year he was

completely involved in everything

I did with training on the

bike, testing. Everything. Last

winter we had a little meeting

and I explained to him what

I wanted. I knew that I had to

change something because I

wasn’t happy any more. We

spoke nicely and we decided

we’d have to make a bit of

distance between us. He came

to two GPs this season I think

and it was just me, my girlfriend

and my brother: who is


FEATURE

also my practice mechanic.

When I was practicing then it

was just me and my brother

and he came along a couple

of times. He’d opened a bar

by the sea – quite far in Croatia

- so was busy with that. He

came to work on the practice

track a little bit and would offer

a couple of pieces of advice

but that was it.

Was it strange not having that

presence?

Yes, at first I didn’t really

know what to expect from my

race weekends. I was a bit

scared to make that change.

I’d never been to a race without

him – actually there was

one: in 2017 in France at the

final round he had hurt his

ribs and could not travel. That

was the first time ever. 2018

was normal so this year was a

big difference. He’d helped a

lot with advice about the track

and other things…but then it

was also too much. There has

to be a balance between when

he’d tell me something and

telling me too much. Know

what I mean? It was the biggest

change in my career so

far. It worked out, because I

feel more comfortable and a

little bit more relaxed at the

races.


It’s clearly worked but was

there moments when you had

doubts? Or did you find that

support you needed in the

team?

Definitely. I have such an

amazing team. They are always

behind me, even when

I have a bad race or two bad

seasons and I didn’t feel

myself, there was always support

and help. We had a good

winter and set the bike really

well. During the races now we

don’t change so much. Some

races – like Valkenswaard or

Kegums where the ground is

changing from year to year

and the sand feels like it is

becoming more hard-packed

and the bumps evolve differently

– I struggled a bit to

set-up the bike but we’d done

so much testing that if something

didn’t work then we had

another plan. We always found

something where I felt quite

comfortable.

Romain Febvre had a torrid

season in 2017 after making

a miss-step with winter testing.

If anything your championship

this year shows how

well it can work if you get it

right…

Yes and we did small things

like changing the dates so we

did our testing a bit earlier.

In the past I’d take a break

after the season and we’d test

in mid-November and, looking

back, I perhaps was not

the best prepared. It means

that some parts on the bike

are not acting or reacting the

same as when you are on top

form and race fit.

For two years you were also

hurt around that time-

Exactly. So the past winter we

did it earlier, straight after the

last GP so I could easily do

30-35 minute motos. It helped

me to develop the bike. When

I came to Argentina fully fit

and ready I had a familiar

feeling with the bike already.

In the past I was unable to go

fast in mid-November and to

really make those GP-speed

35 minute motos.

Have you become a better

test rider? HRC must have

many questions…

The winter was also the first

test without my Dad and

I think my focus was even

bigger. In the past I’d have a

feeling or idea but he’d always

see something from the outside

and have his opinion, like

the bike would be more nervous

in one corner or kicking in

another place. Without him I

focussed really hard on every

kind of test and every kind of

part and I paid more attention.

We’d do more comparative

stuff if I was unsure and

the whole team was there so

I could call on all the experience

of people like Massimo,

Marcus, Nico and Giacomo to

help me. We found that set-up

together.

Tell me about the effects of

injury. In 2017 there were a

couple of crashes and you

even started the season sick.

Then 2018 was ruined by that

massive pre-season accident

at Mantova. Was there a

sense of relief that 2019 gave

a clear run?

Definitely. When you have

a great winter and you are

free from injury then you can

also build your confidence.

You can bring everything you

have done in that time to

the races. When are entering

the season unfit then the

confidence and the mentality

is not in the right place.

MXGP WORLD CHAMPION TIM GAJSER


FEATURE


“WHEN YOU ARE ENTERING

THE SEASON UNFIT THEN

THE CONFIDENCE AND THE

MENTALITY IS NOT IN THE

RIGHT PLACE. YOU DON’T

THINK CORRECTLY. YOU ARE

NOT AFRAID BUT YOU DON’T

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF...”

MXGP WORLD CHAMPION TIM GAJSER


FEATURE

You don’t think correctly. You

are not afraid but you don’t

believe in yourself. In 2017

we had a great start and took

the red plate after the third

round but then the struggle

started with the crashes and

the injuries and I missed two

rounds. Tough, tough year.

I prepared and hoped again

for 2018 and kinda had what

I wanted before Mantova.

We had identified two preseason

races and now, looking

back, that was a mistake.

You should make more races

before the GPs start because

competition helps with confidence

and building a rhythm,

making starts and being with

others on the track because

during the winter you just ride

by yourself. That crash ended

my season before it started. It

was huge. I was still remembering

it half way through

2018: I looked down when I

was in the air and didn’t know

how it would turn out. I woke

up in the hospital. I couldn’t

talk. It was a very emotional

time. I was not angry but I

was disappointed I could not

race in Argentina because it

was only two weeks before the

first GP.

What was harder to deal

with: 2017 and the championship

slowly slipping away or

’18 when your chances were

wrecked from the outset?

They were both pretty tough!

Maybe 2018 was worse because

I didn’t even start the

season. In ’17 missing a GP

is very difficult because you

know the points gap is just

getting bigger and bigger and

the championship is not finished

but the prize has gone.

2018 was tougher mentally. I

would say two months after

the crash I was very close

to being 100% on the physical

side but mentally I didn’t

believe in myself. I was thinking

too much about crashes

and what could go wrong. I

think by the second half of

the season I was trying hard

to put that to one side and

focus just on the riding and

getting a good feeling. I was

trying to enjoy myself again

and got better to the point

that I was back on the podium.

I was second behind

Jeffrey at the last GP at Imola

but the gap was still too big.

I was confident though and I

knew during the winter – with

a little bit of a different preparation

– that we could close

that down.

Did you take confidence this

year by going toe-to-toe with

Tony Cairoli and beating him?

Capitalising when he made

mistakes?

Yes, for sure. I already had a

good feeling about the year

when we riding pre-season

in Sardinia because I was

enjoying myself so much

on the bike and the Italian

races went well. I thought ‘we

are on the way’. In the first

races Tony and I were always


close together and we’d gap

the next rider by something

like thirty seconds. I knew he

was well prepared and he’d

be really fast all year. I tried

to push and keep pressure

on him all the time and that

was the strategy but we rode

a similar pace so it was hard

to do. If I was in front then I

could not gap him and he’d

see where he was faster and

use that. He’d watch my lines,

and then I’d let him past to

have a look at his and he

wouldn’t be able to gap me. It

was like that in Arco and also

Portugal.

I imagine your preference is

to win by 20 seconds but do

those battles represent ‘good

days’? Is that part of why you

do this?

For sure. It was a case of ‘who

will crack under pressure?’

I was going into those races

with the mentality that if I

was leading then I would let

him pass. I would try to follow

and – knowing my preparation

was good – attack in the

last five minutes and as late

as possible so he could not

get me back. If I look back

now it seems strange because

the normal mode is to pass

and try to go, but we were

both at a good level. We were

both setting the fastest times

on the last laps. It was really

good.

What happened at Mantova

this spring? You crashed

multiple times and it was the

only race where you missed

the podium right up until the

end of the season…

Tough one. Maybe I put too

much pressure on myself

coming from Arco and winning

both motos after some

great racing. We’d had a big

break in the calendar as well

with five weeks off that kinda

broke the rhythm of the season

and I’d never had that

before. I had a lot of expectation

and people were telling

me that I would win the GP

again after I’d done it in ’16.

There were some bad things

that had happened at home

as well because our house

had been broken into from

Saturday to Sunday and I

didn’t sleep so much. It was

definitely a hard weekend,

and - added to all of that –

the track conditions changed

completely from Saturday to

Sunday. The start was the key

and if you were in front then

you were OK.

The slow-mo video of your

first corner crash was scary…

I know! I didn’t feel so bad

when I actually crashed but

when I saw that video later I

realised how sketchy it had

been [laughs]. It was scary.

MXGP WORLD CHAMPION TIM GAJSER


FEATURE


Outwardly you always seem

the same – friendly, open

– it’s hard to tell if you are

struggling and you also don’t

go too crazy when you win.

It is frustrating when people

cannot always understand

how hard the job can be and

how much pressure there is

going for a championship and

fronting a team like HRC?

For fans or people involved

in the sport that only see you

on race day winning or losing

or whatever, it can be difficult

to understand just how much

sacrifice and effort goes into

the race day. Actually, Sunday

is the easiest day of the

week. Every day you are pushing

hard or training hard and

watching every little thing you

do. When I get to a Thursday

I cannot wait to get to a race.

On Friday I can breathe a little

bit, Saturday I ride and Sunday

I race-

What about the pressure involved?

Sure there is pressure…but

otherwise you wake up at 7

and do everything to ensure

you are ready for the weekend.

Everybody does this.

Every pro athlete as well no

matter what sport. We’re

only human, not robots and

it can be hard to keep supermotivated.

When things are

not going in the right direction

then the motivation can follow

[down]…but the important

thing is that you don’t lose it

altogether. Even if there is just

a little bit then that’s crucial.

At the low times when you

look around then the people

that are there can really help.

I always have Spela next to

me and she always finds the

words that I need at any moment.

When I was completely

on the ground and watching

the races from the sofa in

2017 and 2018 I felt like crying.

You mentioned enjoying the

bike: has the current

CRF450R been the best race

machine you’ve had with

Honda?

Let’s say yes. The set-up is

not too radical, even from

what I had in 2016 where we

again didn’t change much.

Not even a click at some GPs

and it is very similar this year.

The starts seem to have improved

and this is where KTM

have been so strong…

Yes and that was one thing

where we were struggling

with in the past years. KTM

were always top three or taking

holeshots but we worked

hard with the engineers and

the Japanese to look at everything:

the clutch, the discs

and the small details. What

was important is that we

found a set-up where we could

start well consistently. People

always talk about good starts

and that is simply because

you can immediately go at the

pace of the leaders. If you are

down in tenth then you need

to scrap and take more risks

to get to the front. It’s easier

to crash in those circumstances.

So it’s the most important

part…and also the only moment

where you can pass

everybody in four seconds!

People said that Herlings

raised the bar in MXGP.

Did you think you’d have to

change much to catch him

and match that level?

Last year – every year – he

was really fast and if I look at

my 2018 then at the beginning

I was two-three steps

behind him and by the end

I was closer. The weakness

for me last year was the last

fifteen minutes and that’s why

I worked hard in the gym to

be stronger. I was definitely

focussed to meet his level –

and maybe do even better

– this year. During the winter

you never really know where

you are because you don’t

have the chance to compare.

You only get all the information

at the first Grand Prix. For

sure it is dangerous if you get

it wrong and that’s why every

year the ‘line’ is getting higher

and higher because everybody

is pushing harder. It’s not

always about how much you

work but the effectiveness of

it and it depends on the personality.

We are all different

and if you took ten riders and

gave them all the same programme

maybe only one will

feel good at the races. It takes

time and experience to find

and know the right plan.

MXGP WORLD CHAMPION TIM GAJSER


Photo: R. Schedl

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M

FEATURE

THE

ULTIMATE

BRUSH

HOLDER

TALKING ART, DESIGN, CREATIVITY,

PRESSURE AND POLKA DOTS WITH

TROY LEE DESIGNS’ ARTISTIC GURU

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Troy Lee Designs


FEATURE

Senior Designer Maki Ushiroyama

has been holding the palette, mixing

it himself or splashing colours

and ideas for Troy Lee Designs for almost

thirty years and three quarters of the

famous art-and-product company’s lifetime.

He has been responsible for some of the

company’s best, most memorable and

most talked-about visuals in motocross/

supercross and continues to find inspiration

on the same canvas to this very day.

“TROY LEE DESIGNS IS A GRAPHIC-

DRIVEN PRODUCT COMPANY, AND I

WANT TO PUSH A LOT OF GRAPHIC

INTO THE PRODUCT BUT AT THE

SAME TIME I AM ALSO THE ONE THAT

IS ELIMINATING GRAPHICS...”

In the depths of the TLD workshop/museum/workshop/function

space ‘hub’ in

Corona – the heart of motocross country

in California – Ushiroyama has a well

established base of operations; a working

space just across from Troy Lee’s office

from which he has constructed a ‘tower’

in the MX and motorcycling industry for

thinking outside of the box and never

fearing the outlandish.

Talking with Maki involves a breezy conversation

about creativity and challenge.

We’re curious as to how he can continue

to keep TLD at the top of the apparel and

helmet business when it comes to aesthetics,

and especially since the company’s

wares never cease to advance: their

MIPS-equipped helmets are excellent

products while the latest limited edition

apparel lines in collaboration with Adidas

promised an unbeatable forward step for

riding gear performance.

Taking a break from the pencil, mouse

and headphones we asked Maki for some

insight…


In all your time at TLD is it far to say the

practical and functional role of the products

like the helmets, protection and

race gear have caught up to the appeal

of the design and the artistic view?

Yeah. Since we’ve had a racing team

riders were always commenting on the

weight of the gear generally with helmets,

chest protectors, neck braces and

the whole thing together generates quite

a bit of weight. So we started researching

to know how we can shave it. Of course

in the price range we had to make sure

we were offering the customer durability

as well. If you are chasing the elite level

racer though and some of the world fastest

guys then they don’t care if the gear

lasts past thirty minutes! Supercross can

be fifteen minutes. We started doing a

lot of investigation into fabrics and we

MAKI USHIROYAMA & TLD


FEATURE

had a guru that showed us a lot of material

and construction technique that we

didn’t know anything about. We’d relied

on the vendor’s advice before when it

comes to triple and double stitching,

folding it this way or that way and using

this fabric: that was as far as it went for

strengths and durability. So it made a big

difference using another designer, Silvio,

with that knowledge and who pointed

out there is a lot that the moto industry

doesn’t know about fabrics yet. We

started experimenting and that’s when

the safety and also functionality part really

increased. For helmets we’ve been

doing our own studies. We use MIPS but

we’ve looked into it ourselves. Then we

thought ‘how can we do that with apparel

as well?’

“THE INDUSTRY WASN’T READY FOR

THE POLKA DOT AND – ALTHOUGH

I DON’T WANT TO PAT MY OWN

SHOULDER – I DID SOMETHING TO

WAKE EVERYBODY UP. IT WAS TIME

TO CHANGE...”

Did that mean any compromise for design

and the artistic side? Maybe even

down to a budget point of view…

That’s where the ‘good designer’ or ‘bad

designer’ kicks in because a good one

will know there is a limit to what a certain

fabric can do aesthetically. Sometimes

it can be as simple as a colour

block or even just a colour to get the

‘wow’ factor and bring in the newness.

Troy Lee Designs is a graphic-driven

product company, that’s what we are

known for, and I want to push a lot of

graphic into the product but at the same

time I am also the one that is eliminating

graphics. A lot of the time the mentality

can be ‘more is more’ but I have a ‘less

is more’ mentality too: stripping back

graphics to get to the core design. I think

Troy started getting it; an empty space

to him is scary. He has to fill it in some

way. To me it can also be beautiful and

can compliment something else. It is all

about the balance. To me, a single colour

can still be a graphic! When it is supersimple

it can blend in. It kinda becomes

like a wall.

I remember the video when you

launched the famous ‘polka dot’ livery.

It seems like the latest TLD stuff is a little

more conservative?

It [the polka dot] definitely shocked a

few people and turned some heads. And

a lot of people hated it! The industry

wasn’t ready and – although I don’t want

to pat my own shoulder – I did something

to wake everybody up. It was time

to change. When I showed Troy for the

first time he ‘got’ it; he knew that everybody

would hate us. I said “are you

ready? Because I believe in it” so we

went with it: TLD style. It kinda sold OK.

It’s not like we sold millions of sets but it

was another to cover the costs.

What the relationship like with Troy?

Can you go to him with a crazy idea or

will he just dismiss it?

It’s been about collaboration. Always.

He’ll show me his ideas and sometimes

they click and sometimes they don’t. Actually

a lot of times they don’t. He has a

particular way of doing things and what

he thinks is cool: and I have mine.


Do you ever bump heads?

Oh, all the time! We disagree on pretty

much everything to begin with! Although

when we click then that’s unbeatable and

we don’t care what people or sales guys

think. I’m totally fine with that.

Is that another good reason to have

stayed here so long? If you were at

another company and had some more

corporate responsibility then maybe

your visions could get closed down or

watered down…

Yeah, I’d have more ‘layers’ to convince

but I’m the only guy here designing motocross

apparel and it has been a long

time. I have a couple of guys doing the

helmet graphics. I still do a lot of helmets

too. Troy is an artist. He can know what

he wants but sometimes doesn’t know

how to execute it, so he needed people

like me to make sure that his visions

become a reality. I like that messy art approach

and I don’t want to lose it but we

must also be careful about what we are

offering. In certain years we have been

very clean looking but if I have a ‘busy’

type of year with a lot of art in there

then things get lost and ideas have to be

pocketed for the following collection.

MAKI USHIROYAMA & TLD

Are you principally an artist or more of a

designer then?

I’m a product designer with a graphic

designer mind. It’s like I design the form

of an F1 car but I am also responsible for

the livery as well and both are equally

important. Functionality without style

means that people will think something

is ugly. A terrible graphic will ruin the

first part of the product. So you have to

marry both together. A lot of people say

‘oh, Maki is great with a graphic’. No,

no…I’m an overall designer.


FEATURE

So have you ever been in a situation

when you have a good product but cannot

get the right graphic to do it justice?

Or vice versa?

Yes! We have had those moments. But

we also have quite a lot of variety in the

line. I think I know the products enough

to be able to say ‘this graphic goes here,

that graphic goes there’.

Has a blank document ever scared you?

Coming up with designs is never an issue.

I have almost way-too many ideas

that I want to show to the world. I have

ten+ years of sketchbooks full of stuff.

The last three-four years is always closeby

[in a book]. It will be in my backpack.

I’m still sketching, like the good old days.

No iPad! I should use one though. I’m

not denying new technology because it

makes life so much easier. For instance

an iPhone is a wonderful tool. I can get

all the information I need right away and

that’s what design is about, having those

first touches close to hand. I still need

to connect my head, heart and hand

though! It cannot just be ‘head to hand’.

There has to be a bit of heart and soul

in the stuff that comes out. That’s why

sketching just works. I cannot go straight

to a computer or a screen. It is small

things, small doddles: many ideas where

you just connect the dots. Sometimes

you get lucky, sometimes you don’t and

sometimes you can get too far ahead: it

might be an idea that is already ten years

old but it’s still not ready for the market.

I can be late too. I might have a great

idea but someone has already done it. I

might have made something look a bit

different but it was not exciting enough.

Is the sketchbook like your ‘vault’?

Where else do you draw inspiration

from?

Many visual places like Instagram, Pinterest

but also just going out and watching

people and shopping malls, museums

and art: daily stuff. I’ll even go somewhere

like the opticians and think ‘oh,

those graphics are quite cool’. It’s easy to

get inspired.

It must also be tiring to always be so observational…

It can be! My wife will say “can you just

shut it off?!” But I do forget, so I have to

keep recording it, whether that’s with a

snapshot or something else. Every couple

of months I have to download the

contents of my phone and organise it.

[About] half of the stuff I’d had similar

ideas before but the other half is very

new and I don’t know what to do with

it! If I think something is cool then it is

already brewing, and in my heart I am

ready to use it. The new stuff is also

exciting and I think ‘how can I link the

ideas?’ or ‘how will one link or bounce to

the other?’ I can present both ideas and

explain my inspiration and nobody will

‘get’ what it is. They end-up confused.

Do you have a system or a process? Do

you have slow days? Or hard deadlines?

We are all driven by the deadline right?!

Those ‘oh s**t’ moments can also bring

up some ideas. I think the older I get it

then it is not necessary to rely on that

pressure sometimes. You just train your

brain for ‘go time’. That period can also

be relaxed too. It depends on what it is.

‘Alone times’ are productive whereas a

bunch of meetings can see designers

just doodling. I’m not quite ready for the

multitask thing. I kinda need to be in the

zone and when that happens everything

seems to disappear, even the music

stops in the headphones and the cup

of coffee on the desk gets cold. I think I


“I ASK PEOPLE: WHAT IS TROY LEE DESIGNS TO YOU? SOME WILL SAY

‘IT IS ALL ABOUT WILD AND WACKY AND NEON COLOURS’: SO THAT’S

COLOUR RIGHT? THE NEXT GUY WILL BE ‘YOU’RE ALL ABOUT THE

FLAMES AND EYEBALLS’: SO THAT’S GRAPHIC. OTHERS WILL BE ‘IT’S

ALL ABOUT THE FLAT BLACK, THE CHROME AND THE HOT ROD’ SO

THAT’S THE CONCEPT. SOME MIGHT SAY ‘THE SPORTY, FIELD-BASED

STUFF’ SO THAT’S A FOURTH ELEMENT. WHAT DO YOU WANT?”

MAKI USHIROYAMA & TLD

need that. Without it then I don’t think I

can come up with the ideas.

Are there any basic rules for motocross

gear? Things like rider’s position on the

bike? You might have a good graphic but

then sit in the stands at Anaheim and

not be able to see it…

Erm, rules? Mainly just to make our

gear look like ‘ours’: the TLD signature.

If our gear and graphic is presented

without the logo can people still identify

our look? Sometimes it is graphics,

sometimes colours, sometimes shape.

Of course we are living in a ‘make the

logo bigger’ world! Somehow people still

love the big logos. I’m the first person

to want to remove logos and just let the

graphic speak – which I have started to

do here and there – but every time I do

that then I have to be aware that people

are also buying as a branding/bonding

loyalty thing. I understand that. So it’s a

balance again. If I use giant TLD logos

on the sleeves then maybe only small

ones on the chest. A soccer jersey is a

good sports tool – a patch can represent

a team right? So how do we do that for

the moto industry? Instead of having

logos on the chest, arms, elbows, legs,

knees, thighs, butt and zipper area: how

many do you want?! Customers already

know the brand they have bought. I want

to break that rule. It’s a second priority

though. The first is: did I come up with

an idea that nobody has? If we have a


FEATURE

second year of gear and it has the same

feel or vibe as the one before then I definitely

reject it. Unfortunately I’m the only

one here doing that! The sales guys want

something comfortable so they can sell it

all day long - so we have something that

looks like TLD but also the other stuff

- but I try not to go there. My job is to

try and bring something original. Doing

something timeless is always my design

street.

Is there any pressure that comes with

that though? Especially for a company

with a name like TLD and the long archive

of your work and the firm’s output?

Yeah, people have expectations of us

but then I’d also ask them: what is Troy

Lee Designs to you? Everyone will have

a different idea. Some will say it is all

about wild and wacky and neon colours:

so that’s colour right? The next guy will

be “you’re all about the flames and eyeballs”:

so that’s graphic. Others will be

“it’s all about the flat black, the chrome

and the hot rod” so that’s the concept.

Some might say “the sporty, field-based

stuff” so that’s a fourth element. What

do you want?! People want the next thing

and that’s my job. I have to make a new

flavour.

OK, so talk about something that was

great but didn’t sell-

Oh! All the time.

And something that you thought ‘that

was a really cool piece of work’…

Well, a good rider makes everything look

good. Even the ugly designs where you

think ‘how or why did people buy that?!’

But that shows you cannot pick and

choose what is ugly or not because it

depends on personal taste. Mine changes

all the time, almost every week! Sometimes

a thing that seemed ugly to me ten

years ago suddenly has new virtues. So

it’s hard to really pick good and bad. A

lot of people ask me “what’s your favourite

design?” and the answer is always

easy: the one I came up with today!

Sorry… that’s not much of an answer.

Talk about the collaboration with Adidas.

That must have introduced some new

design constraints…or maybe possibilities…?

That was a fantastic project. It started

with an introduction and eventually collaboration.

A representative from Adidas

came up to us and said “hi, I work

in the Future Department” and we said

“what does that mean?” and he was part

of the advance team that is working on

projects five-ten years ahead. They were

keen to have some of Troy’s artistry on

some of their products and we thought


‘that’s cool!’ First of they gave us a small

range of shoes and asked us for the TLD

‘touch’ as we’d done with helmets. We

did a bunch and they loved it and that

triggered all the next steps. They are like

us, working behind a screen and looking

for inspiration and I wondered if I could

get rid of the ‘three stripes’: that was my

challenge. I did many, many things and

we just rolled on together for more stuff.

One day I was asking about new fabrics

and making new steps and it was another

direction in which the Adidas/TLD collaboration

could move. They did a study

for us. I remember them saying “this is a

new fabric, by the way its hundred dollars

a yard!” It was a bit advanced for the

market but they made a prototype mockup

and a video to show all the stretch. If

Adidas were going to make a motocross

pant then that’s how it would be. We were

shown a presentation and we were blown

away. It looked great on the mannequin

but we needed to get it into the real test

and race condition so that’s when we

used our race team – Shane McElrath

at the time and Jessy Nelson – and they

wore it and thought it was amazing but at

the same time we knew right away where

it needed improvement. So that was five

years ago and we just weren’t ready to

make and produce it: it was so ‘out there’

– Adidas and TLD! In the end, about

three years ago, we saw that our competition

was starting to come up with similar

things so it was the moment to push

hard. It was our fault that we weren’t able

to make it first. We knew the Adidas pant

would be good so three years ago we

went for it and a year ago the first pant

came onto the market. That was three

years of development on and off.

What about the actual look of it?

They give us a little more freedom but

the true story is that we couldn’t put

much of a graphic because of the nature

of the fabric. We tried, and we are

MAKI USHIROYAMA & TLD


FEATURE

working on the next generation where we

will be able to. It was an Adidas project,

idea and knowledge that went into the

patterns, fit and fabrics and the way the

construction is cut-in. There is a lot of

multi-functional stretch. It is very calculated

and if that is the main marketing

story then maybe we don’t need a graphic

but I see what you are saying because

people might have expecting more of a

‘wow’ thing from TLD and Adidas but in

the end it was quite simple. I heard that

many times.

It’s still a big deal for motocross and

the industry: a major sport-performance

brand putting their eggs into TLD and

dirt bikes. There’s expectation that

comes with that but also it’s a massive

opportunity…

That’s right and we have a wonderful

relationship. There is mutual help in

many ways. It’s not just TLD stuff with

an Adidas logo slapped on. It’s not like

that. The gear was born from Adidas and

manufactured by TLD. The shoes were

a different canvas and I loved it but I’m

sure half of the designs I came up with

they have done before in some degree

with colours and flavours. But for them

they had millions of variations of colours

– more than you can think of – and that

education process help us and our creativity,

especially because TLD is known

for having several layers on helmets to

get that right colour. It is not as simple

as saying “oh, there’s a red metallic”

there is a lot more: the kind of silver being

used, the candy colour that makes

the red jump and then which kind of red!

There are so many possibilities, which

I learned from helmets and could apply

to the shoes and even the gear. We even

surprised the manufacturers sometimes

by saying they have to use a particular

colour first to achieve the end effect.

Lastly how do you view TLD, your work

and the position on the landscape?

Interesting question. I don’t think I have

made it to the top yet. But what is the

top to you? Or to me? When I design and

finish the concept then I am the ‘king

of the world’! I’ll think ‘this is the best

design I could come up with’ but then I’ll

look at it again in the next days and think

‘oh man, that’s s**t!’ It’s like writing a

love letter in the night and you read it the

next morning and you’re like ‘what was I

thinking?!’ Same thing! But I will go back

and make sure it will be the best design

I can do at that time and be confident in

it enough to present it, whether it’s to a

customer, the sales department or Troy.

At least I will have put 100% into it. If it

doesn’t sell then tough s*t! I’ll do it again

and keep trying, keep trying. So, I don’t

feel like I have ‘won the championship

yet’ but I keep going and I keep enjoying

it.


MAKI USHIROYAMA & TLD


6


24mx is not liable for price changes, tyop’s or changed availablitly of products in the ad


PRODUCTS

www.scott-sports.com

scott sports

Two products worthy of attention here from Scott.

The first is the latest Limited Edition Prospect

to coincide with the 94th ISDE in Portugal next

month. The design features a ‘map motif’ and

comes with a matching storage bag. The Prospect

is the flagship eyewear from the goggle specialist

with the widest field of vision on the market, 3-layer

No Sweat Face Foam, the innovative Scott Lens

Lock System, articulating Outriggers an Enduro

ACS (air control system) and an anti-fog doubleglazed

lens.

For Scott bicycle fans and owners then the new

Syncros iS Tailor Cage ‘offers a safe, sleek and

integrated way to carry all of your ride essentials

no matter how long the route.’ This means a sideentry

cage for a re-designed bottle and compatibility

for other items such as new multi-tool with

19 functions and an integrated chain tool and a

MTB specific mini-pump and CO2 nozzle using a

bracket and shim system.


FEATURE

THE

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer

PERSISTENT

INNOVATOR


FEATURE

Watching Dr Chris Leatt

explain the reasoning

and virtues of neck

protection to an audience of

riders, team members and

curious paddock personnel

during a presentation at the

Grand Prix of Belgium was a

dynamic reinvigoration of a

key concept of safety and protection

that first made such

an impact on motocross and

off-road more than ten years

ago. Neck protection is now in

the phase where it has to be

refreshed or re-explained to a

new generation and the South

African creator of the device

was the ideal person to do

that.

Leatt talks passionately about

the role the neck brace can

play in the reduction of neck

injury and even broken collarbones

(yes, you read that

right) and the exposition at

Lommel would actually be a

precursor to a similar talk with

the FIM a few days later in

Geneva and the first key steps

towards establishing a belated

standardisation protocol.

The specialist has since been

at the forefront of a wider collective

effort at his company.

Leatt, the firm, have invested

and recouped on their innovations

and turned their

attentions to helmets, knee

braces, body armour, apparel

and other products where

they have spotted a flaw or a

shortcoming from their peers

on the market. They have now

focussed this approach on

motocross boots in another

alternative vision soon to grab

the attention of motorcyclists.

In between a series of interviews

and duties at Lommel

we pinned Chris down for a

twenty-minute conversation on

the role Leatt are playing with

their work and some of the

difficulties they’ve had to face.

What’s your personal involvement

in the business these

days because Leatt has grown

and diversified so much…

I think it is important to play

to your strengths and mine

is not running a business!

It doesn’t ‘get me up’ in the

morning. I’m an ideas person.

I like starting things and I’m

not terribly good at running

things. There are people better

suited to that. We have a

fantastic CEO in Sean Macdonald

who is a CA [Chartered

Accountant] by trade. We have

a very flat management structure

and a fantastic team. I

can remember back in the day

it was like a family; people

would play games and leagues

at lunchtime and go riding

after work. We’ve maintained

that. We’ve tried to find the

best people for the job and

that can fit into that culture.

I’m still chairman of the board

and I take those responsibilities

seriously and then I’m in

charge of R&D. That’s what I

really enjoy doing: looking at

the market and not necessarily

the status quo, things that

will challenge the norm and

ways that can make the best

product possible. I think that’s

viewable in some of the new

stuff we have been working

on.

There are only so many hours

in the day and so much energy

or attention you can exert,

so did you ever find that a

project like the GPX helmet

was swallowing 90% of your

time and other ideas suffer?

Some of these projects take

so long. By their very nature

there is a hive of activity and

then you make a prototype

and it goes out for testing.

You make more

steps and listen to

what the market

says and

the impact

testing

and then you

adjust again. So there are lots

of periods where you are

very busy and some where

you are not so busy.

When you are running

a lot of projects simultaneously

you

find a gap and

work where

you can.

Some you

have to

prioritise

as well.

Some

get put

on the


ackburner. Having said

that – and going back to

the team – we have great

biomechanical engineers

and designers and as a

whole they work well together.

I myself cannot run

simulations because I am

not a biomechanical engineer;

they’ll set up all the

test protocols after we have

discussed what we

wanted to achieve

and what

injury

LEATT & MOVING FORWARDS

XXXXXXXX XXXXXXXX XXXXXX XXXXX


FEATURE

limits and thresholds we are

testing for and then that goes

to a technician in the lab who

does all of that. We might do

repetitive testing 100,000

times on a component but in

terms of prototyping we may

have a pneumatic leg that can

test a knee brace and it will

run for 24-48 hours straight,

while we are looking at the

results we’re also keeping an

eye on other projects.

Have the lab and facilities in

Cape Town undergone any

expansion in the last couple

of years?

We’ve just got a new helmet

drop rig and had developed

a new rotational acceleration

rig. What with the new upcoming

FIM standard – of which

we are part of the working

group – we decided to forkout

for the same rig that will

be used in the standardised

testing. Now the discussion

is about which anvil to use,

which impact velocity and all

these things but being part of

the working team means we

are close to what is going on.

We don’t do that much neck

brace pendulum testing as

before because our database

is so large. We’re looking at all

the different tests and methodologies

that are happening

around the world at this time.

As we develop a new product

we develop the specific test

for it, which means the test

equipment changes from time

to time.

What’s the scene like for neck

braces at the moment? You

invented the market for that…

So we’ve sold about 800,000

to-date and – I might stand

corrected on this – but I believe

we have 70-80% of the

market. It’s our flagship product.

But can you also talk about

the helmet because that is a

major-

Investment?!

I was going to say task

because the market for this

product and things like

apparel is massive with so

many competitors…

Our apparel has done extremely

well and we are very

delighted and with our body

armour and chest protectors:


we have taken serious market

share away from the big

players. We’re really proud of

what we have done. There is

a concertina study made in

the U.S. which shows what

riders are wearing and what

they will buy next so we follow

that and look at our market

share. We’re really happy and

of course we are in bicycle

as well and that is growing

quicker than the motorcycle

market. In terms of helmets:

that is an enormous project.

They say it takes at least five

years to develop a helmet and

we’d have never done it before.

It’s been three and a half

years and it’s a busy time. We

have learned a lot and you can

produce the best helmet technically

and if the fit isn’t quite

right then you get hammered.

You might think your styling is

right and the market doesn’t

think so. When you have a

neck brace and nobody else

makes one and you are known

for being the gold standard

then it’s easier! When you

start making helmets then you

are playing with the big boys.

The irony is that it can be a

headache…

It can be a headache! Hopefully

not with our helmet on!

It seems that the aesthetics

of the helmet and the overall

design is something in which

you have made big gains in

the last year or so…

We had to go from ‘tech’ to

‘cool’. You can have the best

products but if they don’t

look the part then people just

won’t wear them. So we had

to make a conscious decision

and we are growing up. We

are still a young company and

we were wet behind the ears.

Growing up means you have

to take market, industry and

fashion trends seriously and

get in that matrix. Hopefully

we can still push boundaries

but within the scope of what

the industry expects. The

other challenge for us is that

we are used to innovating a

product and releasing it when

it was finished. You cannot do

that with helmets and apparel.

You have orientate around the

release dates of the others, or

what the distributors require

or you won’t hit the market at

the right time. You’ll miss the

peak sales periods. If you miss

it by a day then you’ve missed

it by a year.

Are you allowed to be frustrated

by that as a Doctor and

innovator? A product with a

lower safety spec might be

the most popular purely because

of a look…

You have to have your feet

firmly in reality. You have

to play the game in certain

boundaries but also keep trying

to push the envelope. Even

with our apparel we try to put

3D design and choose the

right materials and to make it

the best fitting gear possible

while at the same time still

try to make it cool. It’s never a

dull moment.

The helmet and the knee

brace: it has been interesting

to watch Leatt create an identity

where they have tried to

find holes or flaws with products

on the market and do

something better. It’s a good

selling point.

It is. I think our starting point

is not to necessarily look at

what everyone else is doing.

If we decide to make a helmet

then how do we make the best

one possible: that’s the first

mark. If we want to make a

knee brace then what is one of

the main customer preferences?

In my mind if you are riding

a motocross bike then you

want to be able to be able to

grip the bike as much as possible

so let’s not put a hinge

in the middle. That’s quite an

engineering challenge so how

do we do that? The DNA of

Leatt is to work on the intrinsic

problem and come up with

the best solution possible. We

recently launched our goggles

and for us it was a milestone

moment because it was supported

by the first proper

marketing campaign we ever

did and it bore fruit. So we are

moving and evolving.

Isn’t it tough to keep developing

products that have a

distinct angle or reason-forbeing?

Yes and no. This is a debate

we often have. You go to your

LEATT & MOVING FORWARDS


FEATURE

patent attorney and say ‘I’d

like to patent something’.

Then you have to look at the

prior art and then - however

innovative or clever you

thought your idea was - you

find out that someone has

done it somewhere. It might

not be for the application that

you have in mind but it is still

known on the market place.

People say advances in technology

is like a snowball and

it gets bigger and bigger but

in our industry it is getting

difficult to come up with constructive

technology. I think

our role is to come up with

products and make them as

efficient as they can possibly

be. We started in motocross

circles and now we are in

cycling and I still think there

are enough products out there

that could use some improvement.

I don’t foresee there will

be a decrease in innovation in

the next decade. Maybe not as

many disruptive ideas but still

some innovation.

What about shoulder protection?

It’s an area of the body

that always takes such a hit

and the 2019 MXGP title was

partially decided by one of

the riders suffering that kind

of injury…

Shoulder injuries are hugely

common, especially collarbones,

and we have talked

about how neck braces actually

helps prevent collarbone

injuries. We have a number

of athletes and one of my old

consultants in orthopaedics

when I was doing an orthopaedic

rotation said to me

“I’ve got a netball team in

South Africa and there are

so many dislocations…” The

problem is that surgery often

means the end of a season.

So he wondered if there was

any way an operation could

be pushed until after a season

and the player could keep on

competing. So we looked at

the pathophysiology of shoulder

injuries and why people

have them and what’s the

mechanism causation; like

we did with the neck brace in

fact. And we found that 85%

- depending on whether you

are looking at something like

rugby or downhill mountain

bike or motocross – are anterior

inferior displacement: in

other words the shoulder gets

hit from behind but slightly

above and it forces the top of

the humerus bone downwards

and forwards. If you look at

all the shoulder braces on

the market they all strap the

shoulder down and forwards.

It’s the opposite of what you

need to do: you need to go up

and back. So we designed a

strapping system with lots of

different iterations until we got

something comfortable and

usable and it reengages the

shoulder joint in place. The

interesting thing with people

who have had a dislocated

shoulder is that they usually

tell you that their shoulder

is unstable. With this protection

we gathered comments

that the feeling had decreased

and they were playing basketball

and riding bicycles even

though they’d had a dislocation.

They were able to push

back the operation. It is not a

huge product for us but it is

fantastic because it works so

well.

Is it amazing to you that

somebody hasn’t already

made that discovery for

motorsport specifically?

Every time I look at a problem

I am amazed by the solutions

out there, and people are

still missing the boat or the

picture. They are not looking

at research or studying the

problem properly. Also if it

has actually been done somewhere

before then what were

the subsequent issues? With

biomechanics you have to be

incredibly careful that you

don’t induce another injury

when you are trying to avoid

the primary one.


LEATT & MOVING FORWARDS


FEATURE

“EVERY TIME I LOOK AT A

PROBLEM I AM AMAZED BY THE

SOLUTIONS OUT THERE, AND

PEOPLE ARE STILL MISSING THE

BOAT OR THE PICTURE. THEY

ARE NOT LOOKING AT RESEARCH

OR STUDYING THE PROBLEM

PROPERLY...”


What’s your view on airbags?

Is it something that can enter

off-road and bicycles or is it

something that is too impractical?

So there is a device called a

Hovding which is sold in Holland

for street cyclists and

at a point it will deploy and

cover the head and neck and

it has really good head-andneck

force results. It’s a great

product. If you look at MotoGP

and airbags then they are getting

better, better and better

in terms of the algorithms.

There are a couple of key

problems: how do you deploy

at the right time? And there

have been huge advances in

the algorithms to help with

that. We are not privy to the

data and the actual end result

and the clinical worth of an

airbag and what it does so

there are a few reservations.

We have discussed airbags ad

nauseam. We have also tested

them and airbag jackets and

we are still convinced that it is

not the right solution for Leatt.

We believe that a hard shell

in the right place, at the right

time - all the time - is the best

solution. Why? If you have a

piece of safety equipment it

absolutely has to be there or

deploy at the right time or

you risk causing an accident.

If you look at body size and

shape between deployed and

non-deployed then it is considerably

different. Our major

concern after doing some

research and impact testing is

that the way the body impacts

the ground changes: air does

not absorb energy. It becomes

a rigid structure and it protects

the occupant but if stays

that way for more than the

primary impact then it needs

to dissipate air over a period

of time. If you look at a car

airbag then as soon as you go

into it then it starts dissipating

energy immediately. Initially

when they started testing

them in cars – and Volvo did

this – they were a lot of fatalities

particularly from children

from hitting airbags that

did not dampen the force or

because the size of the occupant

and the airbag were

mismatched. If you consider

a MotoGP rider who crashes

at high speed and slides down

the track with the airbag

deployed then his ‘shape’ has

changed. If he starts tumbling

instead of sliding then you

have other injuries. In a motocross

environment it would go

off and can you imagine getting

back up and trying to get

on the bike with a deployed

airbag? Will it actually protect

you when you hit the ground?

Will it cause more injury and

how will you quickly deal with

the inflated airbag? I think for

these types of sporting applications

then it is not practical.

For someone riding on the

street then I think the products

test really well but I don’t

think you can take that technology

and apply it to all sorts

of situations.

Lastly, you spent time and

effort developing a road

racing brace that never came

to fruition. Is the road neck

brace something that’s dead

in the water?

I think street is a very different

market and naïve enthusiasm

in the beginning meant that

we tried to solve all problems

with the same solution. I also

think that you have to pick

your battles. If a problem is

very difficult to solve then

your solution might not be the

best one. In off-road racing

there is no doubt that Leatt

provides the right solution.

But if you look at the instances

of head and neck injuries

at high speed sports then

normally it is reduced because

you slide. Probably the worst

thing you can do is fall off a

horse – at a height at relatively

low speed because your

whole force and weight follows

the head into the ground

and your torso weight-loads

the neck. You don’t slide out

of the way, you just load the

neck. The same in motocross:

you hit sand and you just stop.

On the street you can slide

more and that’s why the neck

injury rate is much lower. I’d

really like to see what impact

the airbags have had in MotoGP.

I’m not sure we’ll ever

see that data but it would be

fascinating.

LEATT & MOVING FORWARDS


WEAR YOUR

STRENGTH

THE SCIENCE OF THRILL


LEATT.COM


PRODUCTS

www.ride100percent.com

100%

The first of two hits to come out of 100% for

2020, and before dipping into the cool-looking

casualwear we’re looking at the American

company’s glove offerings. We use 100%

gloves for mountain-biking as well as general

use on the motorcycle in and around the

city. The combination of the stretchy, comfy

fit, and appealing design is the attraction.

For 2020 100% say they bring ‘a variety of

new graphics and designs across the staple

100% glove chassis. The Airmatic, Ridefit

and iTrack all bring a fresh look, while maintaining

the fit, feel and function that 100%

customers are accustom to.

Returning to the glove range will be the

newly-released Ridecamp, the fan-favorite

Brisker, the D3O enhanced Cognito and the

Hydromatic line of waterproof gloves with

options for cold and warm temperature demands.’

Check out some of the images here

and click on photos to head straight to the

website.


FACE FOAM


www.alpinestars.com

PRODUCTS

alpinestars

Alpinestars unveiled the fruits of a special project at the

MotoGP GP Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini.

Founder Gabriele Mazzarolo was joined by President of

the OTB Group, Renzo Russo, to talk about the association

with renowned fashion brand Diesel. The collaboration

led to creation of a special motorcycling-influenced range

that includes three men’s jackets and one for women,

leather pants and a smattering of t-shirts and sweatshirts,

shoes and a cap. The exclusive collection will be on

display at flagship Diesel high street shops and is notable

for the heavy ‘biker theme’ with sponsor-type livery

and colouring. “I love Alpinestars and I’m a very big fan

of motorcycle gear,” said Russo exclusively. “Diesel, if you

see our archive and our history, we have a lot of this kind

of mentality and design. One day I thought it would be

super-nice if I could do something ‘real’, so I called Gabriele

with my idea and he immediately said ‘yes’”.

“We have known each other for a long time and Renzo

rides motorcycles as well,” said Mazzarolo. “Alpinestars

has always focussed on something very technical and we

have over hundred people working on safety equipment

and electronics but style is also a very important part of

our activity. Working with Renzo and his team at Diesel

was a perfect combination to bring the feeling of motorcycling

to a bigger audience.”

“We have put this collection only in the best Diesel stores

in the world because we want to give a good image and

not just have it everywhere,” Russo adds. “It is a limited

edition and the young generation love this selective gear:

they are buying it and selling it on and making money!

Limited edition is great. It’s so exclusive that it helps build

the brand, build the status.”


SBK

BLOG

ALL THE RIGHT MOVES...

More than Europe’s

largest MC store

It would seem that part of the ‘sport’ of WorldSBK in the final

weeks of the current season is actually putting together

the puzzle for the forthcoming season.

There have been some announcements

on rider signings but whilst

most other series have declared

their calendars for 2020, the

WorldSBK schedule is still a mystery.

We know that the first race will

take place in Phillip Island as usual,

at the end of February, but after

that it is anyone’s guess.

The Buriram race will be consigned

to the history books given that MotoGP

has moved to an earlier slot

but options for a replacement seem

limited. There had been a suggestion

that a return to Sepang was on

the cards, it may still be, but my

understanding is that the previous

WorldSBK events were so poorly

attended that the circuit have no

interest in hosting another one. All

indications point to another European

race being added to maintain

a 13 date schedule but I can’t

imagine anywhere other than Jerez

being an attractive option climate

wise for racing in March.

There have been press reports that

the series will return to Oscherleben

in Germany but ‘when’ is the

big question. Slotting it in in the

middle of March I don’t think would

be ideal from a weather perspective.

It would inevitably have a

detrimental effect on the crowd

figure and when you are trying to

re-establish the event, a slot between

June and September would

be preferred. That, however, is the

most congested part of the calendar

at the moment so something

else would need to be shuffled.

When the Superbike championship

last visited the German circuit it

was at the end of May/beginning of

June, but that itself was a shift from

an early September slot. The World

Endurance championship currently

has the 8 hours of Oschersleben

in June so a March or September

opening might be the only choice.

I would still like to see a race in

August to fill in the summer gap.

The MotoAmerica championship

has released their calendar for

2020 with the usual early July date

for Laguna Seca. However, there

is a big TBC next to the entry on

their website and I have heard

from some of the photographers

and journalists I work with in the

US that the circuit and County

of Monterey are playing hardball

again. The last I heard was that it

would not happen but then that

MA calendar was announced, so

I would put it back in the ‘maybe’

folder. I have already had a look for

accommodation and with a two star

motel charging $200 per night I

guess someone is hanging their hat

on that date.

Personally I would really like to see

a race in Japan to fill that early part

of the season. I really enjoy travelling

to Japan and with the current

level of manufacturer support in

the championship form Kawasaki,

Yamaha and Honda I really think a

Japanese race could be viable.


By Graeme Brown

The only question would be which

circuit to use. There will have reservations

about using Suzuka given

Dorna previously deigned it unsafe

for MotoGP, although it is homologated

by the FIM for the 8Hrs endurance

race. Sugo was never well

attended when I was there and you

have to ask; are HRC committed

enough to the series at the moment

to offer up a date at Motegi for

WorldSBK. I fear my wishes will ever

be fulfilled but there is now harm

in having a dream. It worked for

Soichiro.

One piece of the HRC puzzle has

finally been confirmed with Alvaro

Bautista taking a seat on the 2020

Fireblade. It was one of a few poorly

guarded secrets and maybe now the

others will start to come into the

public domain. Whilst it has been

all the talk for a few weeks I am

still surprised that he has chosen to

move. I can only imagine that HRC

have opened their cheque book far

enough to tempt him away from

Ducati, who are beyond desparate

to win the championship again, with

some reports suggesting he has

been offered close to €1m as a base

salary, more than double what was

allegedly on offer at Ducati.

Ducati came into the 2019 season

with an unknown package in Bautista

and the Panigale V4R but promptly

blew everyone away in the first half

of the season. The wheels have

however, well and truly fallen off the

wagon and I now can’t see beyond

Jonathan Rea re-writing the history

books again with five championship

wins in a row.

Who will join Bautista at Honda is

still to be announced but the smart

money is on Takumi Takahashi. With

Johann Zarco ending his relationship

with KTM in MotoGP though there

may still be some heat in the embers

of the rumour that was stoked way

back at the beginning of summer.

I would expect this coming weekend

in Magny Cours to be a busy one,

either lots of rumour and intrigue or

announcements to fill in some of the

blanks. Another worst kept secret

is still to be made official; Toprak

Ragatlioglu joining Michael VD Mark

at Yamaha, but that may not be

released until all the seats in the

Yamaha teams are confirmed. In the

twitter chat that followed the HRC

announcement both Razgatlioglu

and Loris Baz replied to

comments with a ‘what about me?’

I expect Baz to stay at Ten Kate but

he should have a teammate for next

year and then there are the two

seats at GRT. On the outside there is

still much work to be done at Yamaha,

as there would appear to be at

Kawasaki.

Having announced that they will

retain Jordi Torres for 2020 Pedercini

this week confirmed that he will

be joined by Lorenzo Savadori. The

Orelac team of Leandro Mercado on

the other hand have more or less

said farewell as team owner Jose

Calero is stated as being unwilling

to bankroll their participation

in WorldSBK any further and with

Puccetti Racing having lost their star

man there is still the potential for

some shuffling in the green corner.

Chat still persists that Alex Lowes

will be taking over from Leon Haslam

with JR’s current team-mate

moving to Puccetti, or indeed back

to BSB. The Kawasaki UK teams

in BSB have just gone through a

transformation with Haslam’s former

title winning JG Speedfit team losing

their support for the Superbike class

to FS3 Racing. His best bet would

therefore seem to be to either stay

where he is or take the seat at

Puccetti.


SBK

BLOG

One interesting little insight came

to light (to me anyway) at the last

race when Dorna issued the details

of the engines used per rider this

season. Each rider has an allocation

of seven engines and Alvaro

Bautista currently has six engines

‘in use’. That means he only has

one fresh engine left to use for

the season. I remember from days

gone by that the service intervals

on the likes of a 996 or 1099 were

really short and there were stories

that the Ducati engines were

so stressed to get the maximum

performance that they had to be

changed at the end of each day.

With my conspiracy theory hat on I

wondered if Ducati had started the

season with the wick turned up on

their engines to get the maximum

performance out of them, whilst

at the same time a few crossed

fingers to hope they will last. That,

however, may not be possible any

more given that all engines have

their maximum revs restricted

but it is an issue nonetheless why

Bautista has used so many engines

whilst Rea, by way of contrast,

has three unsealed and one

completely unallocated engine still

in his locker. We now come to the

final three races of the year with

circuits that have long straights,

Magny Cours, Villacum and Losail

so it will be interesting to see how

the Ducati fares.

We are in the home stretch of 2019

now and the coming weekend will

see JR have his first chance of

clinching the title. Magny Cours is

a favourite destination for him to

do so but the opportunity won’t

arise until Sunday. I expect it to

run until Argentina but then again I

didn’t expect Bautista to crash out

of the lead in Jerez or Misano. I am

now ready for anything.


PRODUCTS


www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com

husqvarna

Husqvarna have really upped their game with

the line of casual wear and functional

clothing for 2020. The company have maintained

the tone of smart and simplistic

thanks to subtle branding and attractive

colours such as blue and grey. As ever,

quality materials and construction are the

hallmarks of the collection and the latest

goods do not disappoint for the price/offering

ratio. Check out the Remote Parka:

a forceful protection against the elements

made of polyester but with 2-way stretch material,

an inner bag, concealed pockets and

tapered seams. The Remote Pants are an

ideal compliment and are made of Duratec,

4-way stretch and a pre-formed knee.

The construction mixes polyamide, polyester

and elastane. The Remote Hybrid Jacket is a

breathable but water repellent, wind resistant

hooded top with raglan sleeves, side pockets

and a PRIMALOFT Silver insulation. The ORI-

GIN sweater is made of cotton with a natural

touch and a 3D embossed logo. The ORIGIN

polo is a moisture management product with

cotton and polyester, odour management and

is fast-drying but with a natural touch. There

is much more choice on the Husqvarna

website and from garments with a similar

neutral appearance or more sport-related

stuff for Husky fans or riders. We’ll feature

some more in a coming issue.


TEST


SPEEDING

TO A NEW

TWIN

Words by Roland Brown

Photos by Phil Masters


TEST


Triumph’s new Speed Twin has a tough

act to follow. The original bike of that

name revolutionised the motorcycle

industry on its launch back in 1937, inspiring

a new era of British dominance with its

500cc parallel-twin engine, which suddenly

made rival singles seem lumpy and dull.

More than eight decades later this latest

Speed Twin can’t hope to make a comparable

impact, in a market containing multi-cylinder

machines of almost every imaginable

layout. But there’s a reason why Triumph is

now bringing back the famous name: this

bike introduces a new level of performance

to the firm’s retro-roadster family.

TRIUMPH SPEED TWIN

There’s nothing revolutionary about this

Speed Twin. Its format of 1200cc liquidcooled,

eight-valve parallel-twin engine and

steel-framed, twin-shock chassis is shared

with several of Triumph’s other modern

classics, and dates back to the Hinckley

firm’s reborn, 790cc Bonneville of almost

20 years ago.

But this latest lump is livelier even than the

current Thruxton café-racer’s similar-sized

unit, thanks to a magnesium cam cover and

new, lightened components including the

crankshaft and clutch. The maximum output

of 96bhp is modest for a 1200cc unit

but the hefty peak torque figure is delivered

below 5000rpm, and the reduced internal

mass makes for quick pick-up.

Triumph also trimmed weight from the

Thruxton chassis, giving the tubular steel

frame a new aluminium lower section, and

specifying new aluminium wheels and a

lightweight sealed battery. The Speed gets

slightly more relaxed geometry and a longer

wheelbase for added stability, plus higher

handlebars and more forward-set footrests

for a less racy riding position.

This is a compact and stylish bike, not overly

retro despite its twin rear shocks. Its shapely

fuel tank holds just 14.5 litres; its seat is a

mere 807mm off the ground. It has plenty

of neat details including Monza fuel cap and

brushed aluminium mudguards. Its fairly

sophisticated electronics set-up incorporates

three engine modes and switchable traction

control.

The Speed Twin ‘look’ hits the spot – especially

with the test bike’s fashionable brown

quilted accessory bench seat fitted – but it’s

the riding that really impresses. Its engine’s

performance is a huge part of that. After riding

other Bonneville family models you’d expect

sweet fuelling, a broad spread of grunt,

and a pleasingly smooth yet characterful

parallel-twin feel and exhaust note.


TEST

“IT’S THE RIDING THAT REALLY IMPRESSES. ITS

ENGINE’S PERFORMANCE IS A HUGE PART OF

THAT. AFTER RIDING OTHER BONNEVILLE FAMILY

MODELS YOU’D EXPECT SWEET FUELLING, A BROAD

SPREAD OF GRUNT, AND A PLEASINGLY SMOOTH YET

CHARACTERFUL PARALLEL-TWIN FEEL AND EXHAUST

NOTE: THE SPEED TICKS THOSE BOXES...”


TRIUMPH SPEED WORLDSBK TWIN POR


TEST

The Speed ticks those boxes, and adds a

mightier low-rev punch that makes the bike

thrillingly lively and involving. Pull away,

click the six-speed box into second and

open the throttle, and the Triumph leaps forward

with exhilarating eagerness, then just

keeps on charging as you lean forward into

the growing breeze and keep changing up.

By 90mph it’s still accelerating with plenty

to come before a top speed of about

130mph. And the short-geared Triumph is in

its element at a slower yet still brisk backroads

pace, thundering out of turns with

enough force to excite but without the sometimes

brain-frazzling ferocity of a supernaked.

A more relaxed ride is enjoyable too. The

Speed cruises long-leggedly, and its milewide

torque band ensures it’s always happy

to snap forward into an overtake with a lazy

roll of throttle. The exhaust crackle on the

overrun adds to the entertainment, especially

with the test bike’s accessory silencers

fitted.

Chassis performance is excellent, despite

the Speed’s relatively basic suspension

specification of KYB front forks and the

same Japanese firm’s shocks, whose preload

is the only option for adjustment. There may

be little scope for fine-tuning, but Triumph’s

development engineers are among the best

in the business and the bike steers with

confidence-inspiring ease and neutrality.

Practicality is never going to be a highlight

of a naked retro-bike, but the Speed is

very useable, helped by a riding position

that mostly feels like a good compromise

between Thruxton urban wrist pain and a

more upright position’s open-roads windblast.

The bar-end mirrors work well until

you’re threading through traffic; the twin

clocks are attractive if busy. The alternative

riding modes are easily activated, if hardly

essential on such a rider-friendly machine.

There’s an argument that the return of this

famous old name demanded a more aggressive

bike with top-class suspension,

radial brake calipers and cutting-edge

electronics.

But arguably the original Speed Twin’s

greatest achievement was that it sold in

huge numbers. Keeping its namesake’s

spec simple has enabled a competitive

price (starting at £10,700 in the UK) that

can only add to its popularity.

More Speed Twin performance will doubtless

come in the near future, with an uprated

S or R model. In the meantime Triumph’s

stylish, quick, sweet-handling and

most of all fun-to-ride parallel twin is pretty

damn brilliant just as it is.

At 196kg it’s light, and those trim 17-inch

wheels and relatively slim, 160-section rear

tyre help make it flickable whether you’re

banking into a back-road bend or negotiating

traffic in town. A pair of four-piston

Brembo front calipers ensures plenty of

stopping power, and Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso III

tyres make the most of the generous ground

clearance.


TRIUMPH SPEED TWIN


BACK PAGE

MXGP of China: photo by Ray Archer


ON

TRACK

OFF

ROAD

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