On Track Off Road No. 191

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MotoGP<br />

ONLY A<br />

MATTER<br />

OF TIME...<br />

A 98 point lead by round fourteen of nineteen is a<br />

phenomenal amount and Marc Marquez’s final<br />

dispatch of 2019 MotoGP cannot come soon enough for<br />

his rivals (especially fellow Honda riders).<br />

Even foe Valentino Rossi had to admit that the Spaniard<br />

has rarely been stronger. Aragon was the eighth fixture to<br />

fall to his powers and he’s only finished off the podium once<br />

in 2019.<br />

Photo by CormacGP


TAKING<br />

THE AIR<br />

You can’t beat many riders for style over jumps than<br />

Monster Energy Yamaha’s Jeremy Seewer. <strong>No</strong>t only did<br />

the Swiss deservedly earn the status of MXGP runner-up<br />

in just his second season in the premier class but will also<br />

lead his country at Assen this weekend for the 73rd Motocross<br />

of Nations. <strong>On</strong>e of the most underrated GP racers<br />

Photo by Ray Archer

WorldSBK<br />

ONLY A<br />

MATTER<br />

OF TIME<br />

(2)<br />

After three rounds of<br />

2019 WorldSBK there<br />

were few that gave<br />

Jonathan Rea much of<br />

a chance towards an<br />

unprecedented fifth<br />

consecutive crown.<br />

<strong>No</strong>w just three fixtures<br />

before the end of the<br />

season and Rea stands<br />

on the brink of history<br />

Photo by GeeBee Images



2019 GNCC XC2 CHAMPION<br />

YOUR<br />

SAFETY<br />






MotoGP ARA<br />


MOTORLAND ARAGON · SEPTEMBER 21-22 · Rnd 14 of 19<br />




ALMOST<br />

IN THE<br />

BOOKS<br />

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







MOTOGP<br />

BLOG<br />


MotoGP is about to find out in a couple of years.<br />

From 2022, the season will expand<br />

to encompass 22 races, with<br />

circuits in Vietnam and Indonesia<br />

being added to the calendar.<br />

There is a chance that these won’t<br />

be the only ones: FIM president<br />

Jorge Viegas has made no secret<br />

of his plans to bring MotoGP back<br />

to Portugal, and there are projects<br />

underway in Brazil, Chile, Mexico,<br />

all of which could also eventually<br />

hit the calendar, displacing some<br />

of the Spanish rounds.<br />

Testing will be reduced to compensate<br />

for the extra races. The<br />

Valencia test is to be dropped in<br />

2020, and if team representatives<br />

IRTA get their way, the Qatar test<br />

should be gone in 2021.<br />

The idea behind all this is simple:<br />

Dorna makes money by holding<br />

races, being paid by circuits for<br />

the right to host them, and TV<br />

companies for the right to broadcast<br />

them. They pass some of this<br />

money on to the teams, as compensation<br />

for their part in putting<br />

on a show. Testing, on the other<br />

hand, costs money, so Dorna and<br />

the teams would rather race.<br />

The factories are fighting back<br />

against this reduction in testing.<br />

They are racing to win, and that<br />

means constantly searching for<br />

a competitive advantage, which<br />

in turn requires developments to<br />

be tested. “The teams don’t want<br />

to test, but how are we supposed<br />

to build a competitive bike if we<br />

can’t test new parts?” one factory<br />

engineer complained to me<br />

recently.<br />

Are 22 races too many? I suppose<br />

that depends on your perspective.<br />

Each individual race brings in<br />

more money, from the circuit paying<br />

Dorna for the right to host the<br />

race, from title sponsors for the<br />

naming rights to the race, from TV<br />

companies and streaming services<br />

for the rights to broadcast<br />

the race.<br />

At some point, however, the returns<br />

from each additional race<br />

start to decrease. Every new spectacle<br />

dilutes the value of existing<br />

races. Being one out of eighteen<br />

inherently has more value than<br />

being one of twenty two. You run<br />

up against the limits of sponsorship,<br />

running out of companies<br />

willing to be title sponsor to an<br />

event, companies sponsoring multiple<br />

races demanding bigger bulk<br />

discounts. The value of broadcast<br />

rights doesn’t increase in line with<br />

the investment required to produce<br />

the additional races.<br />

At some point, it starts to cost<br />

more to put on a new race than<br />

it Dorna receives in revenue.<br />

Costs are pretty much fixed: the<br />

thousands of people involved –<br />

team staff, Dorna admin staff, TV<br />

production staff, security staff, etc<br />

– still have to travel from country<br />

to country, venue to venue, along<br />

with all the equipment needed to<br />

stage the show. Those costs have<br />

to be covered somehow.<br />

More than the financial outlay is<br />

the human cost, however. Each<br />

race means a week away from<br />

home for most team members,<br />

flying out on Tuesday, and home<br />

again on Monday. Then there<br />

are tests, training, media events,<br />

meetings, season preparation.<br />

Factory team staff are expected to<br />

spend time at the factory.

More than Europe’s<br />

largest MC store<br />

By David Emmett<br />

Back-to-back races mean even<br />

more time away, and that is without<br />

reckoning with travel delays,<br />

missed or cancelled flights, and<br />

more.<br />

With a 19-race season, team staff<br />

can be away from home for up to<br />

260 days a year. Add three more<br />

races – especially in Asia or the<br />

Americas – and staff based in<br />

Europe could be away from home<br />

ten months a year.<br />

Sustaining a relationship or raising<br />

a family can be hard when<br />

you are barely at home, making<br />

paddock divorce rates unusually<br />

high. Hooking up with someone<br />

else in the paddock is not without<br />

risk: instead of never seeing your<br />

partner, you never spend any time<br />

apart.<br />

to recover properly before setting<br />

off again. The stress increases<br />

with each additional commitment<br />

and less freedom to work off that<br />

stress.<br />

Even for the fans, 22 may be too<br />

many. Races become commonplace,<br />

people picking and choosing<br />

which to watch, rather than<br />

following the season religiously.<br />

Maybe everyone will tune in for<br />

Mugello, but how many will watch<br />

Motegi or Vietnam? If viewing figures<br />

per race drop, that decreases<br />

the value to broadcasters, and the<br />

amount they are willing to pay.<br />

How many Grand Prix outings are<br />

too many? There is only one way<br />

to find out. And as much as I love<br />

MotoGP, 22 races seems like too<br />

much of a good thing to me.<br />

Above all, perhaps, is the toll on<br />

the riders. It gets harder to fit in<br />

longer breaks when the season<br />

is 22 races long. There is less<br />

time to train, to prepare physically<br />

during the off season, and<br />

with so much travel, less time to<br />

train between races. Less training<br />

increases the likelihood of injury,<br />

and more races means less time



BLOG<br />


More than Europe’s<br />

largest MC store<br />

With the benefit of hindsight, KTM’s decision to rid itself of<br />

Johann Zarco apparently backfired at Aragon.<br />

Pol Espargaro’s crunching FP4 fall<br />

ruled him out of the race and Mika<br />

Kallio – the Frenchman’s replacement<br />

for 2019’s final six rounds<br />

– was always going to need time to<br />

get up to speed after 15 months of<br />

racing absence. They departed without<br />

points and without a lead rider<br />

to test at the dusty Spanish venue<br />

this week.<br />

But to listen to anyone associated<br />

with the factory last weekend<br />

and there was the distinct feeling<br />

Zarco’s time at KTM had been and<br />

gone. The atmosphere in his side<br />

of the garage had grown quiet and<br />

tense with few signs of joy. Kallio’s<br />

inclusion represented a fresh start,<br />

bringing a bit of levity back to proceedings.<br />

<strong>On</strong>e KTM employee said<br />

even those in the factory that were<br />

still on Zarco’s side had noted the<br />

improved atmosphere.<br />

Last Tuesday’s news that confirmed<br />

the Austrian factory was dispensing<br />

with his services ahead of the<br />

remaining six rounds was a shock.<br />

But in retrospect there were so<br />

many events that acted as a warning<br />

of such an event: the continual<br />

negative comments about the bike;<br />

his explosive criticism of its failings<br />

at Jerez, caught on live TV; his<br />

retirement at Assen due to armpump<br />

concerns, which Motorsport<br />

Director Pit Beirer called “the most<br />

terrible thing you can do to us in<br />

the team.”<br />

It was all a far cry from Zarco’s<br />

maiden season in MotoGP, a kind of<br />

David and Goliath tale of a plucky<br />

rookie on aged equipment fronting<br />

up to the established names,<br />

shrugging at their exalted reputations.<br />

He rarely paid attention to<br />

what his package lacked compared<br />

to the factory names, a trait that<br />

got KTM’s attention. “He didn’t care<br />

what material he had,” Beirer said.<br />

“He was never complaining or looking<br />

over to the factory team; he just<br />

took the bike and went faster. We<br />

saw that and thought, ‘wow, that’s<br />

the guy we need.’”<br />

So 21 months on and with Zarco’s<br />

future far from certain, how did it<br />

all go so wrong? His inability to<br />

adapt a riding style dependent on<br />

flowing lines and corner speed was<br />

the first point. He could never find<br />

sufficient feeling with the front end<br />

to enter turns with confidence. Furthermore<br />

the bike which Espargaro<br />

nicknamed ‘The Bull’ was more<br />

physically demanding than anything<br />

Zarco had ridden in his previous ten<br />

years in grand prix.<br />

“From the first moment at Valencia<br />

last year he couldn’t build up a<br />

good feeling,” admitted Mike Leitner,<br />

the factory squad’s team boss.<br />

It rarely showed signs of improvement<br />

from there.<br />

His feedback wasn’t what KTM<br />

needed at a time when the RC16 is<br />

still some way from being a regular<br />

podium contender. <strong>On</strong>e senior<br />

technician told me Zarco’s comments<br />

on new parts centred solely<br />

on whether it helped his feeling with<br />

the front.

By Neil Morrison<br />

A new swingarm, engine or exhaust<br />

may, of course, bring other<br />

benefits. But the 29-year old rarely<br />

handed out praise, such was his<br />

focus on fixing that front end feel.<br />

Another team member noted how<br />

his evaluation of parts amounted to<br />

four-letter profanity. When quizzed<br />

on the part further, the said fourletter<br />

profanity was simply repeated<br />

but with added vigour. “There were<br />

not many ‘candies’ coming from<br />

his side to our side, that’s for sure,”<br />

Beirer admitted.<br />

But more than the riding style, it<br />

was his demeanour and attitude<br />

that was Zarco’s ultimate downfall.<br />

He rarely – if ever – attempted to<br />

forge relationships within his team.<br />

By all accounts what the watching<br />

world saw on TV at Jerez (he<br />

was filmed saying, “[either] we are<br />

f***ing s**t in chassis, or we are<br />

f***king s**t in controlling power”)<br />

was a regular occurrence. “He could<br />

not control his emotions,” Beirer<br />

said. “He put so much stress on<br />

himself when things were not going<br />

easy. To succeed at this level, of<br />

course you need to be emotional,<br />

but you also need to calm down<br />

and analyse the situation.”<br />

And Tech 3 boss Hervé Poncharal<br />

believes Zarco was all-too-aware of<br />

this fault. “Every time I met Johann<br />

in the hospitality we were talking a<br />

lot with [coach] Jean-Michel Bayle.<br />

He was always saying, ‘I need to be<br />

a bit calmer, I need to understand<br />

this is a new project, so it’s step by<br />

step.’ Everything was fine. He’s a<br />

reasonable guy. But then he puts<br />

his leathers on, goes in the garage,<br />

does five laps, comes in, screaming,<br />

shouting and forgets about the attitude<br />

he said he should have.<br />

“Even after the summer break I<br />

saw him in the Czech Republic on<br />

the Thursday before we started. He<br />

said, ‘I’ve been thinking a lot and<br />

I have a good position. My bike is<br />

not bad. I do what I like. So clearly I<br />

need to change my way of behaving<br />

for the second part of the season<br />

and next year.’ [Yet on the Friday] It<br />

was exactly the same.”<br />

This hasn’t been an easy time<br />

for Zarco away from the track.<br />

A fraught relationship with longtime<br />

manager Laurent Fellon was<br />

brought to a definitive close over<br />

the winter. T<br />

o hear him speak of his manager<br />

during those success-filled years in<br />

Moto2 was to listen to a man in raptures<br />

to a kind of cult leader. Having<br />

moved from his parents home in<br />

Nice to Fellon’s training quarters in<br />

Avignon, Zarco was engulfed in a<br />

strict, rigorous programme which<br />

honed the focus that took him to 16<br />

grand prix wins, 47 podiums and<br />

two world titles.<br />

But it came at the cost of the regular<br />

interaction that moulds most<br />

adolescents into socially-aware beings<br />

who value strong relationships<br />

with those around them. And breaking<br />

with a figure that had shaped<br />

his upbringing was always going to<br />

require a period of acclimatisation.<br />

“We were a little bit unlucky to get<br />

him in the wrong moment,” Beirer<br />

said. “For me, something huge<br />

happened when he split up with<br />

Laurent Fellon, who was a guy who<br />

could steer him mentally better.”<br />

While Fellon’s limitations as a manager<br />

were best distilled by his decision<br />

to prematurely sign with KTM<br />

in the winter of 2017, the eccentric<br />

Frenchman could keep his rider in<br />

line in the box.

BLOG<br />

“From the outside, it was a weird<br />

couple,” said Poncharal. “Everybody<br />

thought, how can it last? Because<br />

they were arguing a lot, they were<br />

fighting. But in the end, all you can<br />

say is as long as Johann was with<br />

Laurent, it worked. [With Fellon]<br />

Maybe would have been a bit easier.<br />

Maybe Laurent would have told him,<br />

don’t talk like this. Laurent was the<br />

guy in the garage looking at him, and<br />

Johann was waiting to scream and<br />

he was telling him like this [motions<br />

zipping his mouth]. But who knows?”<br />

From <strong>No</strong>vember to September there<br />

were regular signs of an uneasy<br />

marriage. <strong>On</strong>e moment stands out.<br />

At the post-race test at Jerez Zarco<br />

showed up to his debrief in a plain<br />

white t-shirt. He was soon reminded<br />

of the stipulation to wear team clothing<br />

when addressing the media. He<br />

tutted, feigned surprise and left to<br />

retrieve the relevant clothing. “He’s<br />

always doing these small rebellious<br />

things when he feels we are not<br />

giving him what he needs,” a team<br />

member confided.<br />

Just compare that to Espargaro’s<br />

approach, a rider once described as<br />

“like a can of popcorn” by crew chief<br />

Paul Travathon.<br />

“This attitude is fantastic,” the Kiwi<br />

told me back at the start of their<br />

working relationship. “There are going<br />

to be dark days. There are going<br />

to be times when you need a character<br />

like that. I saw the engineers<br />

walking around with a bit of a lighter<br />

foot after some of his comments.”<br />

That’s not so say Zarco’s a bad person.<br />

Quite the opposite. Through all<br />

of this he remained respectful and<br />

polite when dealing with us. More,<br />

this is an instance of the pressures<br />

and demands of factory status being<br />

too much to bear. It takes a special<br />

kind of character with the adequate<br />

skills – both on and off the bike – to<br />

carry a project forward.<br />

And despite everything that passed,<br />

KTM still hold a degree of fondness<br />

for him. A technician spoke of his<br />

genuine sadness the move had not<br />

worked out. And there was no bitterness<br />

at their end. Zarco was present<br />

at Aragon to shake hands with the<br />

management that moved to dispense<br />

with his services just two days before.<br />

He also said goodbye to those<br />

in the team, a sign that, with a clear<br />

head and no pressure, Zarco is a different<br />

person.<br />

Beirer also confirmed he would not<br />

only pay Zarco in full until the end<br />

of the year, but grant him permission<br />

ride for another manufacturer<br />

in Thailand should the opportunity<br />

arise. “To underline how much I like<br />

this boy,” as he framed it.<br />

The greatest shame in all of this is<br />

Zarco’s current plight. Sure, there<br />

may be offers to return in a testing<br />

capacity. But so many flaws were exposed<br />

over the past ten months, it’s<br />

difficult to imagine another factory<br />

team placing its trust in his capabilities.<br />

For a rider who once shrugged<br />

in the face of pressure and produced<br />

performances like we saw at Losail,<br />

Le Mans and Phillip Island in 2017,<br />

it’s a damned shame it came to this.




KTM<br />

450 SX-F<br />

“Winning is a complex puzzle where every element has<br />

to fit perfectly to get the job done. For me though, there is<br />

one factor that stands above the rest – my KTM 450 SX-F.<br />

The ultimate weapon to take into battle”.<br />

Cooper Webb – 2019 AMA Supercross 450SX Champion<br />

Photo: S. Cudby, KISKA GmbH<br />

www.kiska.com<br />

Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing, and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations!<br />

The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost.


WE ARE<br />


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www.6dhelmets.com<br />

6d helmets<br />

6D Helmets have been working for two years<br />

on the next generation of the ATS-1R; the<br />

only street lid on the market with the ground<br />

breaking omni-directional suspension system.<br />

The first edition of the model caught<br />

attention but was a victim of scepticism over<br />

weight, shell size and rudimentary elements<br />

such as the performance of the visor. These<br />

areas have all been addressed for the new<br />

2019 incarnation: and we should know. We<br />

used an ATS-1R on a three-hour ride from<br />

Barcelona to Aragon for the MotoGP last<br />

weekend and were impressed by the fit and<br />

the ventilation. There will be more of a<br />

verdict in a coming issue but to answer a few<br />

essential questions about the ATS-1R and it’s<br />

relation to the off-road ATR-2 we contacted<br />

6D founder and boss Bob Weber.<br />

What are the biggest strides that 6D have<br />

made with the new street helmet compared<br />

to the first model?<br />

We have evolved the internal ODS technology<br />

to very similarly match the ATR-2’s<br />

“Advanced ODS”. Both layers are EPS, but<br />

the design is freer to do its work in sheering<br />

type impacts. We have also increased the<br />

amount of EPS by strategically filling the air<br />

gap. With the new design, we were also able<br />

to shed 200grams of weight compared to the<br />

original as well.<br />

In order to provide a new-and-improved ATS<br />

how did you proceed with R&D and finding<br />

solutions? How did you gather data and<br />

info?<br />

We had significant data from the development<br />

side of the ATR-2 that we were able to<br />

apply directly to this project. We knew we<br />

could improve on the performance of the<br />

system by updating to the newer design. Lab<br />

testing confirmed the improvements and we<br />

moved toward production. We worked closely<br />

with Kyle Wyman and Sammy Halbert here<br />

in the US, and the boys from Reactive Parts<br />

in the UK (our UK distributor) who are deeply<br />

engrossed in the BSB Championships to<br />

improve the fit, aerodynamics, sealing of the<br />

shield and solving fogging issues in the rain.<br />

The UK guys really pushed us hard and we<br />

finally solved the problems we were experiencing<br />

in the wet conditions. It’s been awesome<br />

having those guys on our side! We also<br />

had some fit issues on people with certain<br />

head shapes as we had a very narrow opening<br />

on the shell. We adjusted this significantly<br />

in the new helmet and I believe we have<br />

resolved the fit issues.<br />

Are there any complications or difficulty<br />

with the application of ODS for the street<br />

compared to other helmets in the range?<br />

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MOTOGP<br />

BLOG<br />

COME IN JL99...?<br />

More than Europe’s<br />

largest MC store<br />

It hasn’t been a tremendous season for five-time world<br />

champion Jorge Lorenzo but unfortunately neither has<br />

the last thirty-six months. He has jumped ship twice and<br />

sailed into seasons strewn with adversity and injury.<br />

<strong>On</strong> the other side of the Repsol<br />

Honda box, reigning #1 and current<br />

championship leader Marc<br />

Marquez is in the prime of his<br />

life. <strong>On</strong>e rider at the top, one at<br />

the bottom and a whole lot of<br />

team members in between trying<br />

to pick up the pieces. The 2018<br />

Aragon GP exactly one year ago<br />

marks the last weekend we saw<br />

a fully fit Jorge Lorenzo. Since<br />

then, we have spent time trying<br />

to wonder where it can all go<br />

next.<br />

After crashing in practice in<br />

Qatar and sustaining the second<br />

of three injuries thus far in<br />

2019, Lorenzo’s Honda debut has<br />

been anything but positive. Having<br />

completed a total of nine of<br />

fourteen rounds onboard his new<br />

bike, Lorenzo is on the back foot<br />

and facing the biggest crisis on<br />

his career. For the first time we<br />

have seen him genuinely<br />

struggle to crack the top fifteen<br />

and his physical/mental state<br />

seems weary. During each debrief<br />

or television appearance<br />

he has appeared detached and<br />

lacking emotion. Eye contact is<br />

limited, words are followed with<br />

heavy breaths and a blase shrug<br />

to top it all off. Progress has been<br />

slow and in this industry patience<br />

runs short. Talks of broken<br />

contracts and rider changes<br />

are controversial when paired<br />

with a brand like Repsol Honda<br />

because their nature is to work<br />

things out with limited drama<br />

splashed across the tabloids. It is<br />

a journey that has proven to be<br />

harder than they expected. Fellow<br />

teammate Marc Marquez has<br />

continued his domination of the<br />

MotoGP class with eight victories<br />

(including this years Aragon GP),<br />

thirteen podiums and a shiny<br />

seat at the top of the pyramid. It<br />

is the most podium-consistent he<br />

has been prior to flyaways since<br />

his debut in the MotoGP category<br />

in 2013 where he claimed<br />

sixteen of the eighteen rounds.<br />

He is calm and strong, fully fit,<br />

has a well-blended and long<br />

established team.<br />

At the beginning of the season<br />

the Repsol Honda/Jorge Lorenzo<br />

collaboration was thrilling. We<br />

were eager to see what the team<br />

could do and how Lorenzo approached<br />

taming his new beast.<br />

He had just come out of a season<br />

where he finally worked his way<br />

under Ducati’s skin and secured<br />

three victories over a two year<br />

period. But, similar to this term,<br />

the team dynamic did not mesh<br />

well. The Honda appeared to be<br />

an even larger obstacle but not<br />

impossible after his adaptation to<br />

the Ducati. However, we all know<br />

that within this sport it’s not just<br />

the rider or the bike or the team

By Sienna Wedes<br />

that makes it work. They must all<br />

mesh into one. Lorenzo’s team<br />

consists of many new employees<br />

who speak several different<br />

languages, and through observation<br />

haven’t blended as well as<br />

Marquez’s team (a loss before<br />

he even started). Their workflow<br />

which naturally builds with time<br />

has been disrupted frequently<br />

and has affected the teams ability<br />

to work as a cohesive unit.<br />

<strong>No</strong>t only that, Lorenzo has not<br />

kept coy about his struggles with<br />

the RCV. “My feeling on the bike<br />

was not good”, “I cannot ride<br />

confidently”, “in this season I do<br />

not think we will reach the top 5”<br />

and “in this world, there is no<br />

magic” has spread like wildfire.<br />

When negativity cements itself<br />

within the team an unfavourable<br />

working environment cultivates.<br />

Even when he was racing in<br />

twelfth place at the beginning of<br />

the Aragon GP, something still<br />

lacked and he disappeared. He<br />

hinted at a defective rear Michelin<br />

in MotorLand and, on his side,<br />

the Honda has been notoriously<br />

hard to turn in 2019 – Cal Crutchlow<br />

also not shy in voicing his<br />

concerns and difficulties with the<br />

equipment.<br />

The physical and mental side of<br />

Lorenzo’s job go hand in hand,<br />

one does not favour the other.<br />

In Saturday’s qualifying press<br />

conference Marquez indirectly<br />

provided words of wisdom when<br />

attacking the Honda.“If you are<br />

not fit, it is impossible to be fast<br />

on this bike. You need to be fit.<br />

It is difficult, you need to set up<br />

well and believe in your project. It<br />

is not the easiest bike of the grid<br />

but if you find that point you can<br />

be competitive”.<br />

Lorenzo has suffered not only<br />

physical injuries but also mental<br />

scratches that are much slower to<br />

heal. Broken bones, internal damage<br />

and Chinese whispers have<br />

raised doubts about his commitment<br />

to Honda and his future<br />

in the sport. We have witnessed<br />

ex-racers like Kevin Schwantz and<br />

Mick Doohan suffer painful traumas<br />

and end their careers rather<br />

than risk further damage. Could<br />

this be a similar narrative unfolding?<br />

Could the second most<br />

successful rider of the decade<br />

be holding himself back from<br />

making any kind of damage but<br />

also substantial breakthrough?<br />

Maybe it’s becoming clearer that<br />

the main block here is Lorenzo<br />

himself and we are all just trying<br />

to guess what the next step is. I<br />

know I am.


www.dirtbikeshow.com<br />

The International Dirt Bike Show<br />

Europe’s largest dirt bike show – with over<br />

100 exhibitors – moves to the confines of<br />

the Staffordshire Showground this year (just<br />

north of Birmingham in England’s midlands)<br />

and starts this weekend with tons of<br />

activities taking place between 10am-5pm on<br />

Saturday and Sunday. Lee Musselwhite will<br />

have his ‘Inspireshows’ running throughout<br />

the programme, Yamaha and Kawasaki have<br />

their ‘MX Experience set-ups’ and there is<br />

loads more happening including live<br />

big-screen streaming of the Motocross of<br />

Nations at the same time from<br />

Assen.<br />

As always the annual event is a fantastic<br />

chance to pick up some bargain ‘bits’ and<br />

also meet and chat with the wide off-road<br />

riding community. Tickets are 8 pounds in<br />

advance (10 on the door). Children between<br />

11-15 cost 5 on the door and kids under 10<br />

are free. A family entry will set you back just<br />

25 pounds.

T E A M U S A<br />


O P E N<br />

Photo: Octopi Media

T E A M U S A<br />


M X G P<br />

Photo: Octopi Media<br />

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



LY THE NORM”<br />

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by S.Cudby/Husqvarna<br />








By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/KTM


Rockstar Energy Husqvarna<br />

Team Manager<br />

Bobby Hewitt recently<br />

featured in OTOR and the<br />

Texan chatted at length about<br />

his enduring career-long<br />

relationship with the mercurial<br />

Jason Anderson – 2018<br />

450 Supercross Champion –<br />

and how the racer from New<br />

Mexico had to cope with the<br />

wave of obligation and expectation<br />

after winning one of the<br />

sport’s biggest prizes.<br />

After years of domination by<br />

the likes of Ryan Villopoto<br />

and Ryan Dungey (athletes<br />

almost conditioned to success<br />

and all the responsibility<br />

that brings) it was refreshing<br />

and ‘humanising’ to hear of<br />

Anderson’s struggles: it was<br />

a reminder that for all the<br />

unbelievable discipline and<br />

commitment and the energy<br />

that a 29-30 race calendar<br />

dictates that this elite athletes<br />

are not infallible or indestructible.<br />

Part of Anderson’s European<br />

‘immersion’ and acclimatisation<br />

to sand riding ahead of<br />

his role for Team USA at the<br />

73rd Motocross of Nations<br />

at Assen was a visit to the<br />

recent San Marino MotoGP,<br />

and it presented the perfect<br />

chance to ask the 26 year<br />

old to open up about a 2019<br />

where he experienced and<br />

endured life as a #1 target.

Firstly, you’ve travelled before<br />

and have kept open minded<br />

about racing overseas but<br />

when it came to the Nations<br />

this year was there a part of<br />

you that thought ‘this is a big<br />

risk…’<br />

Yeah, I felt that I really had to<br />

come over and prepare for it<br />

because of the sand. As far as<br />

being a ‘risk’ then I feel any<br />

time you ride the bike it can<br />

be risky. At the same time I<br />

love racing and I want to do as<br />

much as I can. There are points<br />

in the season where you get<br />

burnt out but you take a week<br />

off and then you are ready<br />

to go again. I wanted to keep<br />

racing this summer. I wasn’t<br />

able to have a full Supercross<br />

season. The MXoN will be a<br />

difficult one due to the sand<br />

and it will be a tall task to be<br />

competitive but we’ll try our<br />

butts off.<br />

Talk a bit about this year<br />

because Bobby mentioned<br />

that you were perhaps not<br />

prepared for the full set of<br />

obligations that went with<br />

being a defending Supercross<br />

Champion. How was it to<br />

achieve a lifetime goal and<br />

then have to readjust?<br />








WITH THAT.”<br />

Obviously you reach your goal<br />

and your lifelong dream and<br />

you get excited but then all<br />

the stuff and the BS that goes<br />

with it is not always fun. I understand<br />

that it is our job and<br />

obligation to our sponsors to<br />

market the #1 plate as much<br />

as possible but at one point<br />

I did not feel there was such<br />

good communication so they<br />

understood all of what I had<br />

to do to be ready for another<br />

season. I think at some point<br />

that got overlooked with the<br />

whole ‘that’s your job’.<br />

There was a bit of them pushing<br />

me and me pushing back!<br />

The championship was awesome<br />

and I was happy to win<br />

it but as soon as it was over<br />

it was non-stop stuff to deal<br />

with. I like doing my own<br />

thing. The attention is cool<br />

but I like to hang out with my<br />

own friends, my team and go<br />

race. But there is a little more<br />

to it at the level we are at now.<br />

In the past did you find that<br />

people asked you to do stuff<br />

but that converted into people<br />

almost demanding…<br />

100%. There was a lot of<br />

demands and talk of marketing,<br />

selling more bikes and<br />

this-and-that. I understood,<br />

but I needed some more middle<br />

ground and I don’t think<br />

we reached that. <strong>On</strong>ce we got<br />

into the season they saw how<br />

much it had taken a toll on<br />

me. You only learn by trial and<br />

error. Hopefully we can get<br />

into that position again soon<br />

and handle it better.<br />

Fans and followers of supercross<br />

and motocross know<br />

you race a lot but they don’t<br />

always see the hours of travel,<br />

training and promo that<br />

can make for some very short<br />

weeks…<br />

Yeah. I understand we have to<br />

give the fans and the people<br />

in the sport the attention that<br />

they want and I enjoy doing<br />

that. But at some point it does<br />

take a toll and puts out a lot<br />

of energy.<br />



Sometimes on a Friday before<br />

the race you just want to relax<br />

but you can’t. You land, gotta<br />

eat, gotta get to the dealer<br />

signing, do media, get dinner<br />

and get to bed. It’s a full<br />

schedule. It’s not like you are<br />

just hanging out. I don’t think<br />

people see all the other side<br />

of it and sometimes we get<br />

crap for not being outgoing or<br />

something like that but sometimes<br />

we are just worn out. At<br />

the same time I have learned<br />

from this experience in the<br />

last year and as the seasons<br />

go on I’ll be able to manage<br />

it better and have more communication<br />

with my team to<br />

do that.<br />

Do race-winning contenders<br />

in your position need more of<br />

a breather? And I don’t mean<br />

just physically…<br />

Yeah, definitely mentally but<br />

when you get to <strong>No</strong>vember<br />

and December you cannot<br />

really have one because you<br />

need to keep training and<br />

looking ahead to Anaheim 1.<br />

If you cannot do it there then<br />

you are going to feel it! I was<br />

stressed out dealing with that<br />

around the time in 2018 but<br />

you cannot let-up. If you do<br />

that it will affect your results.<br />

<strong>On</strong>e way or another something<br />

has to give. I think my<br />

riding took a bit of a hit. It<br />

was a tough year for me but<br />

valuable in another way and<br />

going into next season I feel<br />

happy and I feel motivated. I<br />

don’t feel the pressure is on

me that much; not that it was<br />

the pressure that got to me…<br />

more all the stuff I had to deal<br />

with. I’m 26 years old and I<br />

feel I still have a few more<br />

chances at making a title run.<br />

That’s my goal right now and<br />

to be best prepared to do that.<br />

The Outdoor season was good<br />

for me and I wasn’t expecting<br />

very much. I just wanted<br />

to enjoy it and bring myself<br />

back-around and I think I accomplished<br />

that.<br />

Do you feel like warning<br />

training-mate Cooper [Webb]<br />

of the mantle of being a<br />

champion?<br />

Yeah, I think he will have to<br />

deal with it. I really like doing<br />

off-season races whereas<br />

he doesn’t. So I think I put a<br />

little too much on my plate<br />

last year. I like to do two offseason<br />

races and I did that<br />

and followed it with the FIM<br />

Awards. Then there was a<br />

load of other stuff. I think his<br />

schedule is lighter so it might<br />

be easier. For me, I know what<br />

I have to do now. I think he<br />

will be good next season and<br />

there are quite a few that will<br />

be good. It’s interesting to see<br />

how it will play out.<br />

Supercross is unreal in terms<br />

of how close it is and how it<br />

will be in ’20. It will take the<br />

whole package to go for the<br />

championship again.<br />

What about you and Bobby?<br />

That relationship is very long<br />

and has been through a lot.<br />

Is it similar to a Dungey/De<br />

Coster thing?<br />

I was going to sign for him<br />

as an amateur but it didn’t<br />

end-up working out and we<br />

waited until I went Pro and<br />

we’ve been through everything<br />

since then! First and foremost<br />

I think the difference between<br />

a ‘Ryan-Roger’ is that it’s<br />

more about a human connection<br />

rather than being about<br />










OVERSEAS.”<br />



results or business. If I have<br />

bad nights then it is not like<br />

he’ll just ask about my riding<br />

or my training or anything<br />

like that, sometimes he’ll just<br />

ask me where I am at with life<br />

in general. He’s been a great<br />

help to me because I’m not<br />

really ‘the norm’. The way I go<br />

about things is maybe not the<br />

way other people would like<br />

me to, in terms of the corporate<br />

world. But the good thing<br />

about Bobby is that he accepts<br />

each person for who they are<br />

and then to achieve the best<br />

they can. I think that’s why<br />

he’s been able to have riders<br />

that maybe haven’t succeeded<br />

in other places enjoy success<br />

on our team. I think you can<br />

see that with Zach [Osborne].<br />

He had a hard time with Geico,<br />

bided his time and look how<br />

he is performing now. Bobby<br />

helped with that and even if it<br />

takes time and our programme<br />

can sometimes seem like we<br />

are ‘winging it’ we’re always<br />

trying hard. As long as the<br />

heart is in it and the effort is<br />

made then we’re happy.<br />

How do you manage life on<br />

two coasts after all these<br />

years?<br />

I’ve had a home in Florida for<br />

five years now. I don’t like

Florida that much but over<br />

time I have learned to embrace<br />

it and be more involved<br />

over there. For me California<br />

is my home and when I retire<br />

I’ll be back there. I’ve become<br />

pretty good at managing the<br />

balance between going back<br />

and forth lately. I think Bobby<br />

will also get a base in Florida<br />

because when we are altogether<br />

there he’s usually on<br />

the other side of the country.<br />

It’s probably also the biggest<br />

difference to a European<br />

MXGP programme because<br />

we have two working bases.<br />

In Europe you can just be in<br />

Lommel! We have to juggle<br />

and it’s a six-hour flight. It<br />

can be a bit wild. Most of my<br />

friends and family and on the<br />

west coast. I grew up in New<br />

Mexico. California is just an<br />

hour flight away.<br />







WHEN I HAD IT’ .”<br />

You mentioned Bobby might<br />

ask you where you are in life<br />

at the moment. So where are<br />

you? Did 2018 set you up?<br />

Did it create even more freedom<br />

away from dirt bikes?<br />

I think, compared to most racers,<br />

I have more of a life away<br />

from motocross and sometimes<br />

it gets tough to juggle<br />

both of them. I have friends<br />

who don’t have anything to do<br />

with moto at all. Sometimes<br />

I would like to hang out with<br />

them…but I also really enjoy<br />

what I do. I try to embrace<br />

both sides. I feel I have a part<br />

of my life that is not just motocross<br />

based. Although I will<br />

say there are people on my<br />

team, and even teammates,<br />

that feel like family to me.<br />

We’re together every weekend<br />

and also ‘in the trenches’<br />

whether it is through those<br />

hot summer days or being<br />

sat there waiting for delayed<br />

flights. [thinks] It can be difficult<br />

to switch off but I have<br />

a group around me that helps<br />

turn off the motocross button<br />

and we enjoy ourselves being<br />

normal, sometimes dorky kids<br />

playing video games or whatever.<br />

I like to keep things as<br />

‘normal’ as possible. If I keep<br />

things fun then progression<br />

professionally is easier and<br />

the motivation is easier to find<br />

and longevity comes with that.<br />

I’d like to race a lot of years. I<br />

know it will be hard to go for<br />

that number one spot for a<br />

long time but I feel like I can<br />

do a top three pace for many<br />

years to come.<br />

The reality is that the window<br />

for ‘title contention’ is<br />

so short for anyone lucky to<br />

make it to that level…<br />

Definitely. And I don’t take<br />

it for granted. When you get<br />

stressed then you can [take<br />

it for granted] but you know<br />

deep-down that in the blink of<br />

an eye it is suddenly two years<br />

later and you are looking back<br />

thinking ‘man, I should have<br />

enjoyed that moment when I<br />

had it’. I’ve learned that but it<br />

still hard. You want to win, you<br />

want to be good but you also<br />

don’t want to be mad every<br />

day because things are not<br />

going your way. You try to find<br />

the balance between joy, being<br />

successful and having that<br />

hunger to win.<br />

<strong>No</strong> danger of you joining that<br />

Carmichael/Villopoto/Dungey<br />

‘27’ club of calling it a day?<br />

Oh no. Sometimes you look at<br />









the numbers and see there has<br />

never been a supercross champion<br />

past the age of 29. I feel<br />

I have a good couple of runs<br />

left in me. I’d like to break that<br />

record and consider being an<br />

older champion. If not then I’ll<br />

take it for what it’s worth and<br />

at the end of the day if you are<br />

on the podium or in the top<br />

five of your sport then that’s<br />

very awesome. I think people<br />

like RV and Dungey had a hard<br />

time because they had to win<br />

all the time. At some point<br />

people add to the pressure<br />

because if they were not winning<br />

then something must be<br />

wrong with them. But they’re<br />

human, you know? I think if<br />

they could have coped or been<br />

ready for those kinds of questions<br />

then they might have had<br />

a longer career. It’s [the pressure<br />

of] being in that group of<br />

‘needing to win’. It’s not like I<br />

de-classify myself from that…<br />

but I am well aware that eventually<br />

I’ll be a bit further back<br />

and still hoping that some race<br />

wins can come. As long as I<br />

can stay in the top three or<br />

be competitive then that’s the<br />

goal. If I can keep that into my<br />

30s then that would be really<br />


Are people getting more<br />

dismissive of motocross again<br />

now compared to supercross?<br />

What’s your view?<br />

It is tough because with our<br />

contracts the heavier side<br />

leans towards supercross. At<br />

the same time you just want<br />

to race and you want to be<br />

competitive and Outdoors is<br />

the original ground, it is oldschool<br />

and where we came<br />

from. It has a culture. I want<br />

to be good at both but sometimes<br />

it’s hard because of<br />

the amount of races. You’ll<br />

get done with the supercross<br />

season and you’ll feel mentally<br />

drained and you’ve got two<br />

weeks to get ready and feel<br />

fully refreshed for an Outdoor<br />

season. To do two solid seasons<br />

in a row is one of the<br />

hardest parts of the job.<br />

<strong>No</strong>t wanting to push you in<br />

a corner or ask for a blithe<br />

quote but would you consider<br />

the idea of MXGP? An<br />

attempt at the world<br />

championship?<br />

I always tell them [Husqvarna]<br />

that I’d be completely open<br />

to it. The logistics side would<br />

have to be a little bit laid-out<br />

for me in terms of having a<br />

home and dealing with the<br />

culture differences. I don’t<br />

mind the change but I’d just<br />

need a proper plan. As far as<br />

racing then I don’t mind at all<br />

and enjoy coming overseas.<br />

I’ve been in Europe for more<br />

than two weeks now and have<br />

a couple more weeks ahead.<br />

I’ve enjoyed it! There are little<br />

bits of home that I miss<br />

– mainly foodwise! – but the<br />

people are really helpful and<br />

Firstly I have two more years<br />

left in the U.S. then we’ll see!<br />

Thoughts on MotoGP?<br />

I’ve been to a couple of Formula<br />

1’s and this feels similar.<br />

I’ve always wanted to go to<br />

the Austin MotoGP but it’s<br />

at a weird time for us in Supercross.<br />

It is amazing and<br />

a different level to dirtbikes.<br />

It’s funny because I’m a fan of<br />

many of these guys and I go to<br />

say hello and find out they’re<br />

a fan of me! It goes back and<br />

forth. This is another level<br />

of racing. It’s cool and fun to<br />

check out.<br />


There is a lot of pressure on<br />

supercross…but I think if you<br />

can be good at motocross<br />

then you are bad-ass and<br />

that’s a cool thing.<br />

[Rockstar Energy Husqvarna]<br />

Ice<strong>On</strong>e have a good thing<br />

around them. I have good<br />

group of sponsors around me<br />

that would help make that<br />

transition easier. I’d be openminded<br />

about it.









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With the 2019 Motocross des Nations looming this coming<br />

weekend in Holland, I have no idea if Team USA is going to end<br />

their record ‘winless’ streak (since their first win in 1981) of<br />

seven years.<br />

Let’s be real here, it’s going to<br />

be really tough to beat the Dutch<br />

on their home soil with their<br />

preferred ‘soil’ underneath them.<br />

I mean, last year they came so<br />

close to winning at Redbud with<br />

just four scores out of the five<br />

needed!<br />

There will be lots of pressure on<br />

the Dutch for sure and you never<br />

know how that can affect people<br />

but they’re the heavy favorites<br />

and for all the right reasons.<br />

Seeing them win their first ever<br />

MXDN at Assen and the first<br />

Dutch Nations since Lierop in<br />

2004 would be a pretty cool story<br />

for sure.<br />

But as far as the USA is concerned,<br />

the team this year has<br />

been all-in, all the time and that’s<br />

a pretty cool thing to see for<br />

American motocross fans. Last<br />

year, IN THE USA, couldn’t have<br />

gone any worse and was rock<br />

bottom for the fans over here.<br />

For 2019 there wasn’t the massive<br />

change to the structure and<br />

management of Team USA like I<br />

thought their might be but there<br />

was a change of the process,<br />

a re-thinking of the team and<br />

maybe, just maybe, they can pull<br />

off a huge upset. Like, say, the<br />

1981 team in Lommel perhaps?<br />

The dysfunction from the team<br />

has been removed in the fact that<br />

Kawasaki, whose management<br />

are not fans of current Team USA<br />

manager Roger DeCoster, removed<br />

themselves from the running<br />

by keeping the two national<br />

champions at home. Last year<br />

the green guys used their own radios<br />

and communicated amongst<br />

themselves rather than the rest of<br />

the team. The Honda guys have<br />

also not always played nice with<br />

DeCoster who has rankled some<br />

feathers with the OEM’s going<br />

back to the last Ryan Dungey<br />

450SX title for KTM. So by default,<br />

in 2019 Team USA has a<br />

lot more “team” in it than in past<br />

years with Rockstar Husqvarna’s<br />

Jason Anderson, Zach Osborne<br />

being on the same squad. They<br />

work closely with DeCoster and<br />

the KTM guys so that’s a good<br />

thing. Star Yamaha that work<br />

with Nations debutant, Justin<br />

Cooper, will be team players as<br />

they don’t compete with Roger,<br />

KTM and Husqvarna week in and<br />

week out.<br />

So team unity will be better, the<br />

red, white and blue team will also<br />

pit all together or at least real<br />

close for the first time in a long<br />

time. <strong>No</strong> matter what the color,<br />

Team USA used to all pit together<br />

but has gotten away from that in<br />

recent editions - another thing<br />

that rankled some Team USA<br />

members over the years.<br />

The second thing that’s positive<br />

is the fact that Anderson and<br />

Osborne headed over to Europe<br />

early to train and ride in the sand

By Steve Matthes<br />

as well as, most importantly,<br />

test. Talk to any member of Team<br />

USA in 2011 in Lommel and<br />

they’ll tell you that jetting in midweek<br />

and trying to get the bike<br />

to work on the sand wasn’t ideal.<br />

Lots of confusion with the American<br />

riders that just don’t ever<br />

really ride the sand that much.<br />

The Rockstar Energy Ice<strong>On</strong>e<br />

Husqvarna team has opened its<br />

doors to Osborne and Anderson<br />

and provided tracks, support<br />

and help with settings for the<br />

last three weeks. Anderson has<br />

seemed to embrace it with a<br />

series of Vlogs from his personal<br />

film guys that’s pretty entertaining<br />

and Osborne, well he’s all in<br />

and has been since before he<br />

was named to the team. This going<br />

early stuff and sacrificing his<br />

off-season time was something<br />

he was accepting eagerly.<br />

Cooper got there a bit later but<br />

still earlier than any member of<br />

Team USA the last decade and<br />

he’s hooked up with the two<br />

Husqvarna guys for some sand<br />

training.<br />

“It’s been a great experience<br />

for all involved but I have to say<br />

it wouldn’t have been possible<br />

without the huge effort from<br />

Husqvarna and Ice <strong>On</strong>e. Having<br />

those guys and the bikes completely<br />

sorted with the most high<br />

level workshop in the sport has<br />

been a big asset for us,” Osborne<br />

told me over text. “We both adjusted<br />

quickly to the time change<br />

and the lifestyle and got straight<br />

to work. The riding has been better<br />

than I actually expected and I<br />

think as a team we are in a really<br />

good place. <strong>No</strong> matter the result,<br />

we have put in every bit of work<br />

that we could and left no stone<br />

unturned to have the best result<br />

possible.”<br />

Yep, Team USA is indeed turning<br />

it up to eleven to try and get<br />

back to the top in the Olympics<br />

of Motocross. You really gotta<br />

love this effort by the guys if<br />

you’re a Team USA supporter<br />

and win or lose, you have to<br />

respect what all three, and the<br />

crew members, have done here.<br />

Will it be enough? Who knows<br />

but this has been really cool to<br />

see. If they do pull off the<br />

miracle win like the boys in 1981<br />

then the blueprint for future USA<br />

teams has been set right?


www.ktm.com<br />

ktm<br />

KTM launched their SX-E 5 with some fanfare<br />

this week and deservedly so. The bike<br />

will not hit KTM dealers until next month<br />

(the last quarter of 2019) but there has<br />

been a high degree of anticipation about<br />

this model considering the path of development<br />

and the ramifications for introducing<br />

new kids and riders to off-roading. The SX-E<br />

5 is aimed at three-ten year olds with ‘comparable<br />

power output to the KTM 50 SX’<br />

and ‘six power modes allowing a complete<br />

beginner to step on with ease, whilst the<br />

full power mode is exciting and challenging<br />

for the fastest junior’. The chassis can be<br />

adjusted to cope with the child’s changing<br />

height. The SX-E 5 has been given the same<br />

R&D importance as any other SX model<br />

and the WP Suspension means this is a key<br />

part of the wide KTM MX range.<br />

“It offers a premium chassis, like those on<br />

all of our SX models, but also a lot in terms<br />

of rideability thanks to the electric motor,<br />

as it’s easy to ride, but at the same time it<br />

can be super-fast without making noise,”<br />

says KTM’s Senior Product Manager for<br />

<strong>Off</strong>road Joachim Sauer. “We tested the bike<br />

with such a wide range of riders; the complete<br />

beginner can ride on a track almost<br />

straight away, yet a national level rider can<br />

have comparable lap times to that of the<br />

combustion bike, which is something special.”<br />

Click on www.ktm.com for<br />

information on pricing and where to find a<br />

nearest dealer.







By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer








By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer/KTM


Tim Gajser had a ‘Jeffrey<br />

Herlings-free’ championship<br />

year in 2019 but he<br />

still had to take on the might<br />

of Red Bull KTM and one half<br />

of an axis that had obliterated<br />

MXGP the previous term. The<br />

Slovenian faced-off against<br />

Tony Cairoli in two gripping<br />

and close Grands Prix in Italy<br />

and Portugal and profited<br />

from some very rare slips by<br />

the nine times world champion<br />

and one of the very best<br />

motocrossers of the modern<br />

era.<br />

Gajser is now a three-time<br />

title winner and managed the<br />

feat before his 23rd birthday.<br />

He is very much the flagship<br />

for HRC in MXGP and the poor<br />

luck with injuries for Brian<br />

Bogers means that #243 has<br />

largely carried the red banner<br />

by himself for two years.<br />

When he claimed the 2016<br />

crown against an ailing Cairoli<br />

(dealing with neck and shoulder<br />

nerve damage), a partially<br />

absent Romain Febvre and a<br />

Kawasaki ‘rookie’ in the shape<br />

of Clement Desalle, Gajser<br />

brought a new energy and<br />

youthful verve to the premier<br />

class. It was a level of performance<br />

and speed that Jeffrey<br />

Herlings hoisted onto his<br />

shoulder and threw into the<br />

air towards the end of 2017<br />

and even more emphatically<br />

last year. Gasjer was fantastic<br />

in 2016 but there were some<br />

that felt he existed on the<br />

edge of his Honda saddle: just<br />

one kicker away from disaster.<br />

His luck ran out in 2017 with<br />

several big crashes carrying<br />

consequences and 2018 was<br />

ruined from the outset with a<br />

horrific prang at the Mantova<br />

Starcross International (a concussion<br />

and broken jaw was<br />

the physical cost, the mental<br />

repercussions lasted longer).<br />

2019 saw the likeable and<br />

strangely vulnerable racer mix<br />

two powerful attributes: the<br />

preparation and zeal to match<br />

Herlings’ might and a milder<br />

– more mature - approach<br />

necessary for a nineteen<br />

round campaign that was later<br />

clipped to eighteen dates.<br />

Sitting down for a conversation<br />

at the Grand Prix of<br />

Imola where he’d confirm his<br />

‘gold medal’ status thanks to<br />

a massive points lead (Cairoli<br />

had long departed the<br />

competition with a dislocated<br />

shoulder) Tim is cheerful and<br />

thoughtful company. He opens<br />

up hesitantly, especially about<br />

his Dad and the evolution of<br />

their oppressing and close relationship,<br />

but the honesty is<br />

refreshing, almost innocent.<br />

Impressively for an athlete<br />

who is still so young – he<br />

could have contested MX2 this<br />

season – Gajser has made<br />

huge strides in 2019. Importantly<br />

and crucially this bodes<br />

well for 2020 when Red Bull<br />

KTM will be armed with three


riders of such potency and<br />

power that even the smallest<br />

or most viable of threats will<br />

be welcomed.<br />








Did you reach a new peak this<br />

year or was your level the<br />

same as the crushing season<br />

of 2016? It seemed that your<br />

racecraft was a bit more consistent<br />

and considered…<br />

Well, it’s three years on, so for<br />

sure I have more experience<br />

but I think in my head and<br />

with what I have been through<br />

in the last two seasons - with<br />

all the injuries and not riding<br />

well - I was able to learn and<br />

not repeat mistakes. I did a<br />

couple of changes during the<br />

winter with my preparation…<br />

and my Dad…I think the decision<br />

was the right one. I’m<br />

feeling happy.<br />

The relationship with your<br />

Dad: has that changed from<br />

him being more like a trainer<br />

and coach to something more<br />

paternal?<br />

Yeah, let’s say it like that.<br />

Since I started riding and<br />

even up to last year he was<br />

completely involved in everything<br />

I did with training on the<br />

bike, testing. Everything. Last<br />

winter we had a little meeting<br />

and I explained to him what<br />

I wanted. I knew that I had to<br />

change something because I<br />

wasn’t happy any more. We<br />

spoke nicely and we decided<br />

we’d have to make a bit of<br />

distance between us. He came<br />

to two GPs this season I think<br />

and it was just me, my girlfriend<br />

and my brother: who is


also my practice mechanic.<br />

When I was practicing then it<br />

was just me and my brother<br />

and he came along a couple<br />

of times. He’d opened a bar<br />

by the sea – quite far in Croatia<br />

- so was busy with that. He<br />

came to work on the practice<br />

track a little bit and would offer<br />

a couple of pieces of advice<br />

but that was it.<br />

Was it strange not having that<br />

presence?<br />

Yes, at first I didn’t really<br />

know what to expect from my<br />

race weekends. I was a bit<br />

scared to make that change.<br />

I’d never been to a race without<br />

him – actually there was<br />

one: in 2017 in France at the<br />

final round he had hurt his<br />

ribs and could not travel. That<br />

was the first time ever. 2018<br />

was normal so this year was a<br />

big difference. He’d helped a<br />

lot with advice about the track<br />

and other things…but then it<br />

was also too much. There has<br />

to be a balance between when<br />

he’d tell me something and<br />

telling me too much. Know<br />

what I mean? It was the biggest<br />

change in my career so<br />

far. It worked out, because I<br />

feel more comfortable and a<br />

little bit more relaxed at the<br />


It’s clearly worked but was<br />

there moments when you had<br />

doubts? Or did you find that<br />

support you needed in the<br />

team?<br />

Definitely. I have such an<br />

amazing team. They are always<br />

behind me, even when<br />

I have a bad race or two bad<br />

seasons and I didn’t feel<br />

myself, there was always support<br />

and help. We had a good<br />

winter and set the bike really<br />

well. During the races now we<br />

don’t change so much. Some<br />

races – like Valkenswaard or<br />

Kegums where the ground is<br />

changing from year to year<br />

and the sand feels like it is<br />

becoming more hard-packed<br />

and the bumps evolve differently<br />

– I struggled a bit to<br />

set-up the bike but we’d done<br />

so much testing that if something<br />

didn’t work then we had<br />

another plan. We always found<br />

something where I felt quite<br />

comfortable.<br />

Romain Febvre had a torrid<br />

season in 2017 after making<br />

a miss-step with winter testing.<br />

If anything your championship<br />

this year shows how<br />

well it can work if you get it<br />

right…<br />

Yes and we did small things<br />

like changing the dates so we<br />

did our testing a bit earlier.<br />

In the past I’d take a break<br />

after the season and we’d test<br />

in mid-<strong>No</strong>vember and, looking<br />

back, I perhaps was not<br />

the best prepared. It means<br />

that some parts on the bike<br />

are not acting or reacting the<br />

same as when you are on top<br />

form and race fit.<br />

For two years you were also<br />

hurt around that time-<br />

Exactly. So the past winter we<br />

did it earlier, straight after the<br />

last GP so I could easily do<br />

30-35 minute motos. It helped<br />

me to develop the bike. When<br />

I came to Argentina fully fit<br />

and ready I had a familiar<br />

feeling with the bike already.<br />

In the past I was unable to go<br />

fast in mid-<strong>No</strong>vember and to<br />

really make those GP-speed<br />

35 minute motos.<br />

Have you become a better<br />

test rider? HRC must have<br />

many questions…<br />

The winter was also the first<br />

test without my Dad and<br />

I think my focus was even<br />

bigger. In the past I’d have a<br />

feeling or idea but he’d always<br />

see something from the outside<br />

and have his opinion, like<br />

the bike would be more nervous<br />

in one corner or kicking in<br />

another place. Without him I<br />

focussed really hard on every<br />

kind of test and every kind of<br />

part and I paid more attention.<br />

We’d do more comparative<br />

stuff if I was unsure and<br />

the whole team was there so<br />

I could call on all the experience<br />

of people like Massimo,<br />

Marcus, Nico and Giacomo to<br />

help me. We found that set-up<br />

together.<br />

Tell me about the effects of<br />

injury. In 2017 there were a<br />

couple of crashes and you<br />

even started the season sick.<br />

Then 2018 was ruined by that<br />

massive pre-season accident<br />

at Mantova. Was there a<br />

sense of relief that 2019 gave<br />

a clear run?<br />

Definitely. When you have<br />

a great winter and you are<br />

free from injury then you can<br />

also build your confidence.<br />

You can bring everything you<br />

have done in that time to<br />

the races. When are entering<br />

the season unfit then the<br />

confidence and the mentality<br />

is not in the right place.<br />













You don’t think correctly. You<br />

are not afraid but you don’t<br />

believe in yourself. In 2017<br />

we had a great start and took<br />

the red plate after the third<br />

round but then the struggle<br />

started with the crashes and<br />

the injuries and I missed two<br />

rounds. Tough, tough year.<br />

I prepared and hoped again<br />

for 2018 and kinda had what<br />

I wanted before Mantova.<br />

We had identified two preseason<br />

races and now, looking<br />

back, that was a mistake.<br />

You should make more races<br />

before the GPs start because<br />

competition helps with confidence<br />

and building a rhythm,<br />

making starts and being with<br />

others on the track because<br />

during the winter you just ride<br />

by yourself. That crash ended<br />

my season before it started. It<br />

was huge. I was still remembering<br />

it half way through<br />

2018: I looked down when I<br />

was in the air and didn’t know<br />

how it would turn out. I woke<br />

up in the hospital. I couldn’t<br />

talk. It was a very emotional<br />

time. I was not angry but I<br />

was disappointed I could not<br />

race in Argentina because it<br />

was only two weeks before the<br />

first GP.<br />

What was harder to deal<br />

with: 2017 and the championship<br />

slowly slipping away or<br />

’18 when your chances were<br />

wrecked from the outset?<br />

They were both pretty tough!<br />

Maybe 2018 was worse because<br />

I didn’t even start the<br />

season. In ’17 missing a GP<br />

is very difficult because you<br />

know the points gap is just<br />

getting bigger and bigger and<br />

the championship is not finished<br />

but the prize has gone.<br />

2018 was tougher mentally. I<br />

would say two months after<br />

the crash I was very close<br />

to being 100% on the physical<br />

side but mentally I didn’t<br />

believe in myself. I was thinking<br />

too much about crashes<br />

and what could go wrong. I<br />

think by the second half of<br />

the season I was trying hard<br />

to put that to one side and<br />

focus just on the riding and<br />

getting a good feeling. I was<br />

trying to enjoy myself again<br />

and got better to the point<br />

that I was back on the podium.<br />

I was second behind<br />

Jeffrey at the last GP at Imola<br />

but the gap was still too big.<br />

I was confident though and I<br />

knew during the winter – with<br />

a little bit of a different preparation<br />

– that we could close<br />

that down.<br />

Did you take confidence this<br />

year by going toe-to-toe with<br />

Tony Cairoli and beating him?<br />

Capitalising when he made<br />

mistakes?<br />

Yes, for sure. I already had a<br />

good feeling about the year<br />

when we riding pre-season<br />

in Sardinia because I was<br />

enjoying myself so much<br />

on the bike and the Italian<br />

races went well. I thought ‘we<br />

are on the way’. In the first<br />

races Tony and I were always

close together and we’d gap<br />

the next rider by something<br />

like thirty seconds. I knew he<br />

was well prepared and he’d<br />

be really fast all year. I tried<br />

to push and keep pressure<br />

on him all the time and that<br />

was the strategy but we rode<br />

a similar pace so it was hard<br />

to do. If I was in front then I<br />

could not gap him and he’d<br />

see where he was faster and<br />

use that. He’d watch my lines,<br />

and then I’d let him past to<br />

have a look at his and he<br />

wouldn’t be able to gap me. It<br />

was like that in Arco and also<br />

Portugal.<br />

I imagine your preference is<br />

to win by 20 seconds but do<br />

those battles represent ‘good<br />

days’? Is that part of why you<br />

do this?<br />

For sure. It was a case of ‘who<br />

will crack under pressure?’<br />

I was going into those races<br />

with the mentality that if I<br />

was leading then I would let<br />

him pass. I would try to follow<br />

and – knowing my preparation<br />

was good – attack in the<br />

last five minutes and as late<br />

as possible so he could not<br />

get me back. If I look back<br />

now it seems strange because<br />

the normal mode is to pass<br />

and try to go, but we were<br />

both at a good level. We were<br />

both setting the fastest times<br />

on the last laps. It was really<br />

good.<br />

What happened at Mantova<br />

this spring? You crashed<br />

multiple times and it was the<br />

only race where you missed<br />

the podium right up until the<br />

end of the season…<br />

Tough one. Maybe I put too<br />

much pressure on myself<br />

coming from Arco and winning<br />

both motos after some<br />

great racing. We’d had a big<br />

break in the calendar as well<br />

with five weeks off that kinda<br />

broke the rhythm of the season<br />

and I’d never had that<br />

before. I had a lot of expectation<br />

and people were telling<br />

me that I would win the GP<br />

again after I’d done it in ’16.<br />

There were some bad things<br />

that had happened at home<br />

as well because our house<br />

had been broken into from<br />

Saturday to Sunday and I<br />

didn’t sleep so much. It was<br />

definitely a hard weekend,<br />

and - added to all of that –<br />

the track conditions changed<br />

completely from Saturday to<br />

Sunday. The start was the key<br />

and if you were in front then<br />

you were OK.<br />

The slow-mo video of your<br />

first corner crash was scary…<br />

I know! I didn’t feel so bad<br />

when I actually crashed but<br />

when I saw that video later I<br />

realised how sketchy it had<br />

been [laughs]. It was scary.<br />



Outwardly you always seem<br />

the same – friendly, open<br />

– it’s hard to tell if you are<br />

struggling and you also don’t<br />

go too crazy when you win.<br />

It is frustrating when people<br />

cannot always understand<br />

how hard the job can be and<br />

how much pressure there is<br />

going for a championship and<br />

fronting a team like HRC?<br />

For fans or people involved<br />

in the sport that only see you<br />

on race day winning or losing<br />

or whatever, it can be difficult<br />

to understand just how much<br />

sacrifice and effort goes into<br />

the race day. Actually, Sunday<br />

is the easiest day of the<br />

week. Every day you are pushing<br />

hard or training hard and<br />

watching every little thing you<br />

do. When I get to a Thursday<br />

I cannot wait to get to a race.<br />

<strong>On</strong> Friday I can breathe a little<br />

bit, Saturday I ride and Sunday<br />

I race-<br />

What about the pressure involved?<br />

Sure there is pressure…but<br />

otherwise you wake up at 7<br />

and do everything to ensure<br />

you are ready for the weekend.<br />

Everybody does this.<br />

Every pro athlete as well no<br />

matter what sport. We’re<br />

only human, not robots and<br />

it can be hard to keep supermotivated.<br />

When things are<br />

not going in the right direction<br />

then the motivation can follow<br />

[down]…but the important<br />

thing is that you don’t lose it<br />

altogether. Even if there is just<br />

a little bit then that’s crucial.<br />

At the low times when you<br />

look around then the people<br />

that are there can really help.<br />

I always have Spela next to<br />

me and she always finds the<br />

words that I need at any moment.<br />

When I was completely<br />

on the ground and watching<br />

the races from the sofa in<br />

2017 and 2018 I felt like crying.<br />

You mentioned enjoying the<br />

bike: has the current<br />

CRF450R been the best race<br />

machine you’ve had with<br />

Honda?<br />

Let’s say yes. The set-up is<br />

not too radical, even from<br />

what I had in 2016 where we<br />

again didn’t change much.<br />

<strong>No</strong>t even a click at some GPs<br />

and it is very similar this year.<br />

The starts seem to have improved<br />

and this is where KTM<br />

have been so strong…<br />

Yes and that was one thing<br />

where we were struggling<br />

with in the past years. KTM<br />

were always top three or taking<br />

holeshots but we worked<br />

hard with the engineers and<br />

the Japanese to look at everything:<br />

the clutch, the discs<br />

and the small details. What<br />

was important is that we<br />

found a set-up where we could<br />

start well consistently. People<br />

always talk about good starts<br />

and that is simply because<br />

you can immediately go at the<br />

pace of the leaders. If you are<br />

down in tenth then you need<br />

to scrap and take more risks<br />

to get to the front. It’s easier<br />

to crash in those circumstances.<br />

So it’s the most important<br />

part…and also the only moment<br />

where you can pass<br />

everybody in four seconds!<br />

People said that Herlings<br />

raised the bar in MXGP.<br />

Did you think you’d have to<br />

change much to catch him<br />

and match that level?<br />

Last year – every year – he<br />

was really fast and if I look at<br />

my 2018 then at the beginning<br />

I was two-three steps<br />

behind him and by the end<br />

I was closer. The weakness<br />

for me last year was the last<br />

fifteen minutes and that’s why<br />

I worked hard in the gym to<br />

be stronger. I was definitely<br />

focussed to meet his level –<br />

and maybe do even better<br />

– this year. During the winter<br />

you never really know where<br />

you are because you don’t<br />

have the chance to compare.<br />

You only get all the information<br />

at the first Grand Prix. For<br />

sure it is dangerous if you get<br />

it wrong and that’s why every<br />

year the ‘line’ is getting higher<br />

and higher because everybody<br />

is pushing harder. It’s not<br />

always about how much you<br />

work but the effectiveness of<br />

it and it depends on the personality.<br />

We are all different<br />

and if you took ten riders and<br />

gave them all the same programme<br />

maybe only one will<br />

feel good at the races. It takes<br />

time and experience to find<br />

and know the right plan.<br />


Photo: R. Schedl<br />

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www.foxracing.com<br />

fox racing<br />

Fox have updated their potent Legion<br />

line that was initially targeted towards<br />

the Enduro rider but the resistance<br />

and performance of the products from<br />

iconic brands such as Cordura, Polartec<br />

and D3O mean a robust and unavoidable<br />

option for off-road riders in<br />

general. When Senior Category Manager<br />

for Fox MX, Jeff Sagud, says “we created<br />

the new Legion line by identifying<br />

the rider’s needs in the most demanding<br />

environments. Whether you’re on a<br />

multi-day off road adventure, or riding<br />

your favorite single-track trail, the new<br />

Legion line is designed to keep you<br />

comfortable and protected off-road”<br />

this is not merely sales talk. We tested<br />

the original Legion wares three years<br />

ago and were impressed by the use of<br />

Cordura and the strength (and design)<br />

of the kit. From jackets with TruSeal<br />

and TruMotion to a new pant and jersey<br />

combo Legion is a comprehensive and<br />

technology-lined portfolio that requires<br />

more investigation. Fox have also<br />

amplified the collection for a women’s<br />

range in 2020.

M<br />


THE<br />


BRUSH<br />

HOLDER<br />




By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Troy Lee Designs


Senior Designer Maki Ushiroyama<br />

has been holding the palette, mixing<br />

it himself or splashing colours<br />

and ideas for Troy Lee Designs for almost<br />

thirty years and three quarters of the<br />

famous art-and-product company’s lifetime.<br />

He has been responsible for some of the<br />

company’s best, most memorable and<br />

most talked-about visuals in motocross/<br />

supercross and continues to find inspiration<br />

on the same canvas to this very day.<br />







In the depths of the TLD workshop/museum/workshop/function<br />

space ‘hub’ in<br />

Corona – the heart of motocross country<br />

in California – Ushiroyama has a well<br />

established base of operations; a working<br />

space just across from Troy Lee’s office<br />

from which he has constructed a ‘tower’<br />

in the MX and motorcycling industry for<br />

thinking outside of the box and never<br />

fearing the outlandish.<br />

Talking with Maki involves a breezy conversation<br />

about creativity and challenge.<br />

We’re curious as to how he can continue<br />

to keep TLD at the top of the apparel and<br />

helmet business when it comes to aesthetics,<br />

and especially since the company’s<br />

wares never cease to advance: their<br />

MIPS-equipped helmets are excellent<br />

products while the latest limited edition<br />

apparel lines in collaboration with Adidas<br />

promised an unbeatable forward step for<br />

riding gear performance.<br />

Taking a break from the pencil, mouse<br />

and headphones we asked Maki for some<br />


In all your time at TLD is it far to say the<br />

practical and functional role of the products<br />

like the helmets, protection and<br />

race gear have caught up to the appeal<br />

of the design and the artistic view?<br />

Yeah. Since we’ve had a racing team<br />

riders were always commenting on the<br />

weight of the gear generally with helmets,<br />

chest protectors, neck braces and<br />

the whole thing together generates quite<br />

a bit of weight. So we started researching<br />

to know how we can shave it. Of course<br />

in the price range we had to make sure<br />

we were offering the customer durability<br />

as well. If you are chasing the elite level<br />

racer though and some of the world fastest<br />

guys then they don’t care if the gear<br />

lasts past thirty minutes! Supercross can<br />

be fifteen minutes. We started doing a<br />

lot of investigation into fabrics and we<br />



had a guru that showed us a lot of material<br />

and construction technique that we<br />

didn’t know anything about. We’d relied<br />

on the vendor’s advice before when it<br />

comes to triple and double stitching,<br />

folding it this way or that way and using<br />

this fabric: that was as far as it went for<br />

strengths and durability. So it made a big<br />

difference using another designer, Silvio,<br />

with that knowledge and who pointed<br />

out there is a lot that the moto industry<br />

doesn’t know about fabrics yet. We<br />

started experimenting and that’s when<br />

the safety and also functionality part really<br />

increased. For helmets we’ve been<br />

doing our own studies. We use MIPS but<br />

we’ve looked into it ourselves. Then we<br />

thought ‘how can we do that with apparel<br />

as well?’<br />






TO CHANGE...”<br />

Did that mean any compromise for design<br />

and the artistic side? Maybe even<br />

down to a budget point of view…<br />

That’s where the ‘good designer’ or ‘bad<br />

designer’ kicks in because a good one<br />

will know there is a limit to what a certain<br />

fabric can do aesthetically. Sometimes<br />

it can be as simple as a colour<br />

block or even just a colour to get the<br />

‘wow’ factor and bring in the newness.<br />

Troy Lee Designs is a graphic-driven<br />

product company, that’s what we are<br />

known for, and I want to push a lot of<br />

graphic into the product but at the same<br />

time I am also the one that is eliminating<br />

graphics. A lot of the time the mentality<br />

can be ‘more is more’ but I have a ‘less<br />

is more’ mentality too: stripping back<br />

graphics to get to the core design. I think<br />

Troy started getting it; an empty space<br />

to him is scary. He has to fill it in some<br />

way. To me it can also be beautiful and<br />

can compliment something else. It is all<br />

about the balance. To me, a single colour<br />

can still be a graphic! When it is supersimple<br />

it can blend in. It kinda becomes<br />

like a wall.<br />

I remember the video when you<br />

launched the famous ‘polka dot’ livery.<br />

It seems like the latest TLD stuff is a little<br />

more conservative?<br />

It [the polka dot] definitely shocked a<br />

few people and turned some heads. And<br />

a lot of people hated it! The industry<br />

wasn’t ready and – although I don’t want<br />

to pat my own shoulder – I did something<br />

to wake everybody up. It was time<br />

to change. When I showed Troy for the<br />

first time he ‘got’ it; he knew that everybody<br />

would hate us. I said “are you<br />

ready? Because I believe in it” so we<br />

went with it: TLD style. It kinda sold OK.<br />

It’s not like we sold millions of sets but it<br />

was another to cover the costs.<br />

What the relationship like with Troy?<br />

Can you go to him with a crazy idea or<br />

will he just dismiss it?<br />

It’s been about collaboration. Always.<br />

He’ll show me his ideas and sometimes<br />

they click and sometimes they don’t. Actually<br />

a lot of times they don’t. He has a<br />

particular way of doing things and what<br />

he thinks is cool: and I have mine.

Do you ever bump heads?<br />

Oh, all the time! We disagree on pretty<br />

much everything to begin with! Although<br />

when we click then that’s unbeatable and<br />

we don’t care what people or sales guys<br />

think. I’m totally fine with that.<br />

Is that another good reason to have<br />

stayed here so long? If you were at<br />

another company and had some more<br />

corporate responsibility then maybe<br />

your visions could get closed down or<br />

watered down…<br />

Yeah, I’d have more ‘layers’ to convince<br />

but I’m the only guy here designing motocross<br />

apparel and it has been a long<br />

time. I have a couple of guys doing the<br />

helmet graphics. I still do a lot of helmets<br />

too. Troy is an artist. He can know what<br />

he wants but sometimes doesn’t know<br />

how to execute it, so he needed people<br />

like me to make sure that his visions<br />

become a reality. I like that messy art approach<br />

and I don’t want to lose it but we<br />

must also be careful about what we are<br />

offering. In certain years we have been<br />

very clean looking but if I have a ‘busy’<br />

type of year with a lot of art in there<br />

then things get lost and ideas have to be<br />

pocketed for the following collection.<br />


Are you principally an artist or more of a<br />

designer then?<br />

I’m a product designer with a graphic<br />

designer mind. It’s like I design the form<br />

of an F1 car but I am also responsible for<br />

the livery as well and both are equally<br />

important. Functionality without style<br />

means that people will think something<br />

is ugly. A terrible graphic will ruin the<br />

first part of the product. So you have to<br />

marry both together. A lot of people say<br />

‘oh, Maki is great with a graphic’. <strong>No</strong>,<br />

no…I’m an overall designer.


So have you ever been in a situation<br />

when you have a good product but cannot<br />

get the right graphic to do it justice?<br />

Or vice versa?<br />

Yes! We have had those moments. But<br />

we also have quite a lot of variety in the<br />

line. I think I know the products enough<br />

to be able to say ‘this graphic goes here,<br />

that graphic goes there’.<br />

Has a blank document ever scared you?<br />

Coming up with designs is never an issue.<br />

I have almost way-too many ideas<br />

that I want to show to the world. I have<br />

ten+ years of sketchbooks full of stuff.<br />

The last three-four years is always closeby<br />

[in a book]. It will be in my backpack.<br />

I’m still sketching, like the good old days.<br />

<strong>No</strong> iPad! I should use one though. I’m<br />

not denying new technology because it<br />

makes life so much easier. For instance<br />

an iPhone is a wonderful tool. I can get<br />

all the information I need right away and<br />

that’s what design is about, having those<br />

first touches close to hand. I still need<br />

to connect my head, heart and hand<br />

though! It cannot just be ‘head to hand’.<br />

There has to be a bit of heart and soul<br />

in the stuff that comes out. That’s why<br />

sketching just works. I cannot go straight<br />

to a computer or a screen. It is small<br />

things, small doddles: many ideas where<br />

you just connect the dots. Sometimes<br />

you get lucky, sometimes you don’t and<br />

sometimes you can get too far ahead: it<br />

might be an idea that is already ten years<br />

old but it’s still not ready for the market.<br />

I can be late too. I might have a great<br />

idea but someone has already done it. I<br />

might have made something look a bit<br />

different but it was not exciting enough.<br />

Is the sketchbook like your ‘vault’?<br />

Where else do you draw inspiration<br />

from?<br />

Many visual places like Instagram, Pinterest<br />

but also just going out and watching<br />

people and shopping malls, museums<br />

and art: daily stuff. I’ll even go somewhere<br />

like the opticians and think ‘oh,<br />

those graphics are quite cool’. It’s easy to<br />

get inspired.<br />

It must also be tiring to always be so observational…<br />

It can be! My wife will say “can you just<br />

shut it off?!” But I do forget, so I have to<br />

keep recording it, whether that’s with a<br />

snapshot or something else. Every couple<br />

of months I have to download the<br />

contents of my phone and organise it.<br />

[About] half of the stuff I’d had similar<br />

ideas before but the other half is very<br />

new and I don’t know what to do with<br />

it! If I think something is cool then it is<br />

already brewing, and in my heart I am<br />

ready to use it. The new stuff is also<br />

exciting and I think ‘how can I link the<br />

ideas?’ or ‘how will one link or bounce to<br />

the other?’ I can present both ideas and<br />

explain my inspiration and nobody will<br />

‘get’ what it is. They end-up confused.<br />

Do you have a system or a process? Do<br />

you have slow days? Or hard deadlines?<br />

We are all driven by the deadline right?!<br />

Those ‘oh s**t’ moments can also bring<br />

up some ideas. I think the older I get it<br />

then it is not necessary to rely on that<br />

pressure sometimes. You just train your<br />

brain for ‘go time’. That period can also<br />

be relaxed too. It depends on what it is.<br />

‘Alone times’ are productive whereas a<br />

bunch of meetings can see designers<br />

just doodling. I’m not quite ready for the<br />

multitask thing. I kinda need to be in the<br />

zone and when that happens everything<br />

seems to disappear, even the music<br />

stops in the headphones and the cup<br />

of coffee on the desk gets cold. I think I









need that. Without it then I don’t think I<br />

can come up with the ideas.<br />

Are there any basic rules for motocross<br />

gear? Things like rider’s position on the<br />

bike? You might have a good graphic but<br />

then sit in the stands at Anaheim and<br />

not be able to see it…<br />

Erm, rules? Mainly just to make our<br />

gear look like ‘ours’: the TLD signature.<br />

If our gear and graphic is presented<br />

without the logo can people still identify<br />

our look? Sometimes it is graphics,<br />

sometimes colours, sometimes shape.<br />

Of course we are living in a ‘make the<br />

logo bigger’ world! Somehow people still<br />

love the big logos. I’m the first person<br />

to want to remove logos and just let the<br />

graphic speak – which I have started to<br />

do here and there – but every time I do<br />

that then I have to be aware that people<br />

are also buying as a branding/bonding<br />

loyalty thing. I understand that. So it’s a<br />

balance again. If I use giant TLD logos<br />

on the sleeves then maybe only small<br />

ones on the chest. A soccer jersey is a<br />

good sports tool – a patch can represent<br />

a team right? So how do we do that for<br />

the moto industry? Instead of having<br />

logos on the chest, arms, elbows, legs,<br />

knees, thighs, butt and zipper area: how<br />

many do you want?! Customers already<br />

know the brand they have bought. I want<br />

to break that rule. It’s a second priority<br />

though. The first is: did I come up with<br />

an idea that nobody has? If we have a


second year of gear and it has the same<br />

feel or vibe as the one before then I definitely<br />

reject it. Unfortunately I’m the only<br />

one here doing that! The sales guys want<br />

something comfortable so they can sell it<br />

all day long - so we have something that<br />

looks like TLD but also the other stuff<br />

- but I try not to go there. My job is to<br />

try and bring something original. Doing<br />

something timeless is always my design<br />

street.<br />

Is there any pressure that comes with<br />

that though? Especially for a company<br />

with a name like TLD and the long archive<br />

of your work and the firm’s output?<br />

Yeah, people have expectations of us<br />

but then I’d also ask them: what is Troy<br />

Lee Designs to you? Everyone will have<br />

a different idea. Some will say it is all<br />

about wild and wacky and neon colours:<br />

so that’s colour right? The next guy will<br />

be “you’re all about the flames and eyeballs”:<br />

so that’s graphic. Others will be<br />

“it’s all about the flat black, the chrome<br />

and the hot rod” so that’s the concept.<br />

Some might say “the sporty, field-based<br />

stuff” so that’s a fourth element. What<br />

do you want?! People want the next thing<br />

and that’s my job. I have to make a new<br />

flavour.<br />

OK, so talk about something that was<br />

great but didn’t sell-<br />

Oh! All the time.<br />

And something that you thought ‘that<br />

was a really cool piece of work’…<br />

Well, a good rider makes everything look<br />

good. Even the ugly designs where you<br />

think ‘how or why did people buy that?!’<br />

But that shows you cannot pick and<br />

choose what is ugly or not because it<br />

depends on personal taste. Mine changes<br />

all the time, almost every week! Sometimes<br />

a thing that seemed ugly to me ten<br />

years ago suddenly has new virtues. So<br />

it’s hard to really pick good and bad. A<br />

lot of people ask me “what’s your favourite<br />

design?” and the answer is always<br />

easy: the one I came up with today!<br />

Sorry… that’s not much of an answer.<br />

Talk about the collaboration with Adidas.<br />

That must have introduced some new<br />

design constraints…or maybe possibilities…?<br />

That was a fantastic project. It started<br />

with an introduction and eventually collaboration.<br />

A representative from Adidas<br />

came up to us and said “hi, I work<br />

in the Future Department” and we said<br />

“what does that mean?” and he was part<br />

of the advance team that is working on<br />

projects five-ten years ahead. They were<br />

keen to have some of Troy’s artistry on<br />

some of their products and we thought

‘that’s cool!’ First of they gave us a small<br />

range of shoes and asked us for the TLD<br />

‘touch’ as we’d done with helmets. We<br />

did a bunch and they loved it and that<br />

triggered all the next steps. They are like<br />

us, working behind a screen and looking<br />

for inspiration and I wondered if I could<br />

get rid of the ‘three stripes’: that was my<br />

challenge. I did many, many things and<br />

we just rolled on together for more stuff.<br />

<strong>On</strong>e day I was asking about new fabrics<br />

and making new steps and it was another<br />

direction in which the Adidas/TLD collaboration<br />

could move. They did a study<br />

for us. I remember them saying “this is a<br />

new fabric, by the way its hundred dollars<br />

a yard!” It was a bit advanced for the<br />

market but they made a prototype mockup<br />

and a video to show all the stretch. If<br />

Adidas were going to make a motocross<br />

pant then that’s how it would be. We were<br />

shown a presentation and we were blown<br />

away. It looked great on the mannequin<br />

but we needed to get it into the real test<br />

and race condition so that’s when we<br />

used our race team – Shane McElrath<br />

at the time and Jessy Nelson – and they<br />

wore it and thought it was amazing but at<br />

the same time we knew right away where<br />

it needed improvement. So that was five<br />

years ago and we just weren’t ready to<br />

make and produce it: it was so ‘out there’<br />

– Adidas and TLD! In the end, about<br />

three years ago, we saw that our competition<br />

was starting to come up with similar<br />

things so it was the moment to push<br />

hard. It was our fault that we weren’t able<br />

to make it first. We knew the Adidas pant<br />

would be good so three years ago we<br />

went for it and a year ago the first pant<br />

came onto the market. That was three<br />

years of development on and off.<br />

What about the actual look of it?<br />

They give us a little more freedom but<br />

the true story is that we couldn’t put<br />

much of a graphic because of the nature<br />

of the fabric. We tried, and we are<br />



working on the next generation where we<br />

will be able to. It was an Adidas project,<br />

idea and knowledge that went into the<br />

patterns, fit and fabrics and the way the<br />

construction is cut-in. There is a lot of<br />

multi-functional stretch. It is very calculated<br />

and if that is the main marketing<br />

story then maybe we don’t need a graphic<br />

but I see what you are saying because<br />

people might have expecting more of a<br />

‘wow’ thing from TLD and Adidas but in<br />

the end it was quite simple. I heard that<br />

many times.<br />

It’s still a big deal for motocross and<br />

the industry: a major sport-performance<br />

brand putting their eggs into TLD and<br />

dirt bikes. There’s expectation that<br />

comes with that but also it’s a massive<br />

opportunity…<br />

That’s right and we have a wonderful<br />

relationship. There is mutual help in<br />

many ways. It’s not just TLD stuff with<br />

an Adidas logo slapped on. It’s not like<br />

that. The gear was born from Adidas and<br />

manufactured by TLD. The shoes were<br />

a different canvas and I loved it but I’m<br />

sure half of the designs I came up with<br />

they have done before in some degree<br />

with colours and flavours. But for them<br />

they had millions of variations of colours<br />

– more than you can think of – and that<br />

education process help us and our creativity,<br />

especially because TLD is known<br />

for having several layers on helmets to<br />

get that right colour. It is not as simple<br />

as saying “oh, there’s a red metallic”<br />

there is a lot more: the kind of silver being<br />

used, the candy colour that makes<br />

the red jump and then which kind of red!<br />

There are so many possibilities, which<br />

I learned from helmets and could apply<br />

to the shoes and even the gear. We even<br />

surprised the manufacturers sometimes<br />

by saying they have to use a particular<br />

colour first to achieve the end effect.<br />

Lastly how do you view TLD, your work<br />

and the position on the landscape?<br />

Interesting question. I don’t think I have<br />

made it to the top yet. But what is the<br />

top to you? Or to me? When I design and<br />

finish the concept then I am the ‘king<br />

of the world’! I’ll think ‘this is the best<br />

design I could come up with’ but then I’ll<br />

look at it again in the next days and think<br />

‘oh man, that’s s**t!’ It’s like writing a<br />

love letter in the night and you read it the<br />

next morning and you’re like ‘what was I<br />

thinking?!’ Same thing! But I will go back<br />

and make sure it will be the best design<br />

I can do at that time and be confident in<br />

it enough to present it, whether it’s to a<br />

customer, the sales department or Troy.<br />

At least I will have put 100% into it. If it<br />

doesn’t sell then tough s*t! I’ll do it again<br />

and keep trying, keep trying. So, I don’t<br />

feel like I have ‘won the championship<br />

yet’ but I keep going and I keep enjoying<br />




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


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for other items such as new multi-tool with<br />

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THE<br />

By Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer<br />




Watching Dr Chris Leatt<br />

explain the reasoning<br />

and virtues of neck<br />

protection to an audience of<br />

riders, team members and<br />

curious paddock personnel<br />

during a presentation at the<br />

Grand Prix of Belgium was a<br />

dynamic reinvigoration of a<br />

key concept of safety and protection<br />

that first made such<br />

an impact on motocross and<br />

off-road more than ten years<br />

ago. Neck protection is now in<br />

the phase where it has to be<br />

refreshed or re-explained to a<br />

new generation and the South<br />

African creator of the device<br />

was the ideal person to do<br />

that.<br />

Leatt talks passionately about<br />

the role the neck brace can<br />

play in the reduction of neck<br />

injury and even broken collarbones<br />

(yes, you read that<br />

right) and the exposition at<br />

Lommel would actually be a<br />

precursor to a similar talk with<br />

the FIM a few days later in<br />

Geneva and the first key steps<br />

towards establishing a belated<br />

standardisation protocol.<br />

The specialist has since been<br />

at the forefront of a wider collective<br />

effort at his company.<br />

Leatt, the firm, have invested<br />

and recouped on their innovations<br />

and turned their<br />

attentions to helmets, knee<br />

braces, body armour, apparel<br />

and other products where<br />

they have spotted a flaw or a<br />

shortcoming from their peers<br />

on the market. They have now<br />

focussed this approach on<br />

motocross boots in another<br />

alternative vision soon to grab<br />

the attention of motorcyclists.<br />

In between a series of interviews<br />

and duties at Lommel<br />

we pinned Chris down for a<br />

twenty-minute conversation on<br />

the role Leatt are playing with<br />

their work and some of the<br />

difficulties they’ve had to face.<br />

What’s your personal involvement<br />

in the business these<br />

days because Leatt has grown<br />

and diversified so much…<br />

I think it is important to play<br />

to your strengths and mine<br />

is not running a business!<br />

It doesn’t ‘get me up’ in the<br />

morning. I’m an ideas person.<br />

I like starting things and I’m<br />

not terribly good at running<br />

things. There are people better<br />

suited to that. We have a<br />

fantastic CEO in Sean Macdonald<br />

who is a CA [Chartered<br />

Accountant] by trade. We have<br />

a very flat management structure<br />

and a fantastic team. I<br />

can remember back in the day<br />

it was like a family; people<br />

would play games and leagues<br />

at lunchtime and go riding<br />

after work. We’ve maintained<br />

that. We’ve tried to find the<br />

best people for the job and<br />

that can fit into that culture.<br />

I’m still chairman of the board<br />

and I take those responsibilities<br />

seriously and then I’m in<br />

charge of R&D. That’s what I<br />

really enjoy doing: looking at<br />

the market and not necessarily<br />

the status quo, things that<br />

will challenge the norm and<br />

ways that can make the best<br />

product possible. I think that’s<br />

viewable in some of the new<br />

stuff we have been working<br />

on.<br />

There are only so many hours<br />

in the day and so much energy<br />

or attention you can exert,<br />

so did you ever find that a<br />

project like the GPX helmet<br />

was swallowing 90% of your<br />

time and other ideas suffer?<br />

Some of these projects take<br />

so long. By their very nature<br />

there is a hive of activity and<br />

then you make a prototype<br />

and it goes out for testing.<br />

You make more<br />

steps and listen to<br />

what the market<br />

says and<br />

the impact<br />

testing<br />

and then you<br />

adjust again. So there are lots<br />

of periods where you are<br />

very busy and some where<br />

you are not so busy.<br />

When you are running<br />

a lot of projects simultaneously<br />

you<br />

find a gap and<br />

work where<br />

you can.<br />

Some you<br />

have to<br />

prioritise<br />

as well.<br />

Some<br />

get put<br />

on the

ackburner. Having said<br />

that – and going back to<br />

the team – we have great<br />

biomechanical engineers<br />

and designers and as a<br />

whole they work well together.<br />

I myself cannot run<br />

simulations because I am<br />

not a biomechanical engineer;<br />

they’ll set up all the<br />

test protocols after we have<br />

discussed what we<br />

wanted to achieve<br />

and what<br />

injury<br />




limits and thresholds we are<br />

testing for and then that goes<br />

to a technician in the lab who<br />

does all of that. We might do<br />

repetitive testing 100,000<br />

times on a component but in<br />

terms of prototyping we may<br />

have a pneumatic leg that can<br />

test a knee brace and it will<br />

run for 24-48 hours straight,<br />

while we are looking at the<br />

results we’re also keeping an<br />

eye on other projects.<br />

Have the lab and facilities in<br />

Cape Town undergone any<br />

expansion in the last couple<br />

of years?<br />

We’ve just got a new helmet<br />

drop rig and had developed<br />

a new rotational acceleration<br />

rig. What with the new upcoming<br />

FIM standard – of which<br />

we are part of the working<br />

group – we decided to forkout<br />

for the same rig that will<br />

be used in the standardised<br />

testing. <strong>No</strong>w the discussion<br />

is about which anvil to use,<br />

which impact velocity and all<br />

these things but being part of<br />

the working team means we<br />

are close to what is going on.<br />

We don’t do that much neck<br />

brace pendulum testing as<br />

before because our database<br />

is so large. We’re looking at all<br />

the different tests and methodologies<br />

that are happening<br />

around the world at this time.<br />

As we develop a new product<br />

we develop the specific test<br />

for it, which means the test<br />

equipment changes from time<br />

to time.<br />

What’s the scene like for neck<br />

braces at the moment? You<br />

invented the market for that…<br />

So we’ve sold about 800,000<br />

to-date and – I might stand<br />

corrected on this – but I believe<br />

we have 70-80% of the<br />

market. It’s our flagship product.<br />

But can you also talk about<br />

the helmet because that is a<br />

major-<br />

Investment?!<br />

I was going to say task<br />

because the market for this<br />

product and things like<br />

apparel is massive with so<br />

many competitors…<br />

Our apparel has done extremely<br />

well and we are very<br />

delighted and with our body<br />

armour and chest protectors:

we have taken serious market<br />

share away from the big<br />

players. We’re really proud of<br />

what we have done. There is<br />

a concertina study made in<br />

the U.S. which shows what<br />

riders are wearing and what<br />

they will buy next so we follow<br />

that and look at our market<br />

share. We’re really happy and<br />

of course we are in bicycle<br />

as well and that is growing<br />

quicker than the motorcycle<br />

market. In terms of helmets:<br />

that is an enormous project.<br />

They say it takes at least five<br />

years to develop a helmet and<br />

we’d have never done it before.<br />

It’s been three and a half<br />

years and it’s a busy time. We<br />

have learned a lot and you can<br />

produce the best helmet technically<br />

and if the fit isn’t quite<br />

right then you get hammered.<br />

You might think your styling is<br />

right and the market doesn’t<br />

think so. When you have a<br />

neck brace and nobody else<br />

makes one and you are known<br />

for being the gold standard<br />

then it’s easier! When you<br />

start making helmets then you<br />

are playing with the big boys.<br />

The irony is that it can be a<br />

headache…<br />

It can be a headache! Hopefully<br />

not with our helmet on!<br />

It seems that the aesthetics<br />

of the helmet and the overall<br />

design is something in which<br />

you have made big gains in<br />

the last year or so…<br />

We had to go from ‘tech’ to<br />

‘cool’. You can have the best<br />

products but if they don’t<br />

look the part then people just<br />

won’t wear them. So we had<br />

to make a conscious decision<br />

and we are growing up. We<br />

are still a young company and<br />

we were wet behind the ears.<br />

Growing up means you have<br />

to take market, industry and<br />

fashion trends seriously and<br />

get in that matrix. Hopefully<br />

we can still push boundaries<br />

but within the scope of what<br />

the industry expects. The<br />

other challenge for us is that<br />

we are used to innovating a<br />

product and releasing it when<br />

it was finished. You cannot do<br />

that with helmets and apparel.<br />

You have orientate around the<br />

release dates of the others, or<br />

what the distributors require<br />

or you won’t hit the market at<br />

the right time. You’ll miss the<br />

peak sales periods. If you miss<br />

it by a day then you’ve missed<br />

it by a year.<br />

Are you allowed to be frustrated<br />

by that as a Doctor and<br />

innovator? A product with a<br />

lower safety spec might be<br />

the most popular purely because<br />

of a look…<br />

You have to have your feet<br />

firmly in reality. You have<br />

to play the game in certain<br />

boundaries but also keep trying<br />

to push the envelope. Even<br />

with our apparel we try to put<br />

3D design and choose the<br />

right materials and to make it<br />

the best fitting gear possible<br />

while at the same time still<br />

try to make it cool. It’s never a<br />

dull moment.<br />

The helmet and the knee<br />

brace: it has been interesting<br />

to watch Leatt create an identity<br />

where they have tried to<br />

find holes or flaws with products<br />

on the market and do<br />

something better. It’s a good<br />

selling point.<br />

It is. I think our starting point<br />

is not to necessarily look at<br />

what everyone else is doing.<br />

If we decide to make a helmet<br />

then how do we make the best<br />

one possible: that’s the first<br />

mark. If we want to make a<br />

knee brace then what is one of<br />

the main customer preferences?<br />

In my mind if you are riding<br />

a motocross bike then you<br />

want to be able to be able to<br />

grip the bike as much as possible<br />

so let’s not put a hinge<br />

in the middle. That’s quite an<br />

engineering challenge so how<br />

do we do that? The DNA of<br />

Leatt is to work on the intrinsic<br />

problem and come up with<br />

the best solution possible. We<br />

recently launched our goggles<br />

and for us it was a milestone<br />

moment because it was supported<br />

by the first proper<br />

marketing campaign we ever<br />

did and it bore fruit. So we are<br />

moving and evolving.<br />

Isn’t it tough to keep developing<br />

products that have a<br />

distinct angle or reason-forbeing?<br />

Yes and no. This is a debate<br />

we often have. You go to your<br />



patent attorney and say ‘I’d<br />

like to patent something’.<br />

Then you have to look at the<br />

prior art and then - however<br />

innovative or clever you<br />

thought your idea was - you<br />

find out that someone has<br />

done it somewhere. It might<br />

not be for the application that<br />

you have in mind but it is still<br />

known on the market place.<br />

People say advances in technology<br />

is like a snowball and<br />

it gets bigger and bigger but<br />

in our industry it is getting<br />

difficult to come up with constructive<br />

technology. I think<br />

our role is to come up with<br />

products and make them as<br />

efficient as they can possibly<br />

be. We started in motocross<br />

circles and now we are in<br />

cycling and I still think there<br />

are enough products out there<br />

that could use some improvement.<br />

I don’t foresee there will<br />

be a decrease in innovation in<br />

the next decade. Maybe not as<br />

many disruptive ideas but still<br />

some innovation.<br />

What about shoulder protection?<br />

It’s an area of the body<br />

that always takes such a hit<br />

and the 2019 MXGP title was<br />

partially decided by one of<br />

the riders suffering that kind<br />

of injury…<br />

Shoulder injuries are hugely<br />

common, especially collarbones,<br />

and we have talked<br />

about how neck braces actually<br />

helps prevent collarbone<br />

injuries. We have a number<br />

of athletes and one of my old<br />

consultants in orthopaedics<br />

when I was doing an orthopaedic<br />

rotation said to me<br />

“I’ve got a netball team in<br />

South Africa and there are<br />

so many dislocations…” The<br />

problem is that surgery often<br />

means the end of a season.<br />

So he wondered if there was<br />

any way an operation could<br />

be pushed until after a season<br />

and the player could keep on<br />

competing. So we looked at<br />

the pathophysiology of shoulder<br />

injuries and why people<br />

have them and what’s the<br />

mechanism causation; like<br />

we did with the neck brace in<br />

fact. And we found that 85%<br />

- depending on whether you<br />

are looking at something like<br />

rugby or downhill mountain<br />

bike or motocross – are anterior<br />

inferior displacement: in<br />

other words the shoulder gets<br />

hit from behind but slightly<br />

above and it forces the top of<br />

the humerus bone downwards<br />

and forwards. If you look at<br />

all the shoulder braces on<br />

the market they all strap the<br />

shoulder down and forwards.<br />

It’s the opposite of what you<br />

need to do: you need to go up<br />

and back. So we designed a<br />

strapping system with lots of<br />

different iterations until we got<br />

something comfortable and<br />

usable and it reengages the<br />

shoulder joint in place. The<br />

interesting thing with people<br />

who have had a dislocated<br />

shoulder is that they usually<br />

tell you that their shoulder<br />

is unstable. With this protection<br />

we gathered comments<br />

that the feeling had decreased<br />

and they were playing basketball<br />

and riding bicycles even<br />

though they’d had a dislocation.<br />

They were able to push<br />

back the operation. It is not a<br />

huge product for us but it is<br />

fantastic because it works so<br />

well.<br />

Is it amazing to you that<br />

somebody hasn’t already<br />

made that discovery for<br />

motorsport specifically?<br />

Every time I look at a problem<br />

I am amazed by the solutions<br />

out there, and people are<br />

still missing the boat or the<br />

picture. They are not looking<br />

at research or studying the<br />

problem properly. Also if it<br />

has actually been done somewhere<br />

before then what were<br />

the subsequent issues? With<br />

biomechanics you have to be<br />

incredibly careful that you<br />

don’t induce another injury<br />

when you are trying to avoid<br />

the primary one.











What’s your view on airbags?<br />

Is it something that can enter<br />

off-road and bicycles or is it<br />

something that is too impractical?<br />

So there is a device called a<br />

Hovding which is sold in Holland<br />

for street cyclists and<br />

at a point it will deploy and<br />

cover the head and neck and<br />

it has really good head-andneck<br />

force results. It’s a great<br />

product. If you look at MotoGP<br />

and airbags then they are getting<br />

better, better and better<br />

in terms of the algorithms.<br />

There are a couple of key<br />

problems: how do you deploy<br />

at the right time? And there<br />

have been huge advances in<br />

the algorithms to help with<br />

that. We are not privy to the<br />

data and the actual end result<br />

and the clinical worth of an<br />

airbag and what it does so<br />

there are a few reservations.<br />

We have discussed airbags ad<br />

nauseam. We have also tested<br />

them and airbag jackets and<br />

we are still convinced that it is<br />

not the right solution for Leatt.<br />

We believe that a hard shell<br />

in the right place, at the right<br />

time - all the time - is the best<br />

solution. Why? If you have a<br />

piece of safety equipment it<br />

absolutely has to be there or<br />

deploy at the right time or<br />

you risk causing an accident.<br />

If you look at body size and<br />

shape between deployed and<br />

non-deployed then it is considerably<br />

different. Our major<br />

concern after doing some<br />

research and impact testing is<br />

that the way the body impacts<br />

the ground changes: air does<br />

not absorb energy. It becomes<br />

a rigid structure and it protects<br />

the occupant but if stays<br />

that way for more than the<br />

primary impact then it needs<br />

to dissipate air over a period<br />

of time. If you look at a car<br />

airbag then as soon as you go<br />

into it then it starts dissipating<br />

energy immediately. Initially<br />

when they started testing<br />

them in cars – and Volvo did<br />

this – they were a lot of fatalities<br />

particularly from children<br />

from hitting airbags that<br />

did not dampen the force or<br />

because the size of the occupant<br />

and the airbag were<br />

mismatched. If you consider<br />

a MotoGP rider who crashes<br />

at high speed and slides down<br />

the track with the airbag<br />

deployed then his ‘shape’ has<br />

changed. If he starts tumbling<br />

instead of sliding then you<br />

have other injuries. In a motocross<br />

environment it would go<br />

off and can you imagine getting<br />

back up and trying to get<br />

on the bike with a deployed<br />

airbag? Will it actually protect<br />

you when you hit the ground?<br />

Will it cause more injury and<br />

how will you quickly deal with<br />

the inflated airbag? I think for<br />

these types of sporting applications<br />

then it is not practical.<br />

For someone riding on the<br />

street then I think the products<br />

test really well but I don’t<br />

think you can take that technology<br />

and apply it to all sorts<br />

of situations.<br />

Lastly, you spent time and<br />

effort developing a road<br />

racing brace that never came<br />

to fruition. Is the road neck<br />

brace something that’s dead<br />

in the water?<br />

I think street is a very different<br />

market and naïve enthusiasm<br />

in the beginning meant that<br />

we tried to solve all problems<br />

with the same solution. I also<br />

think that you have to pick<br />

your battles. If a problem is<br />

very difficult to solve then<br />

your solution might not be the<br />

best one. In off-road racing<br />

there is no doubt that Leatt<br />

provides the right solution.<br />

But if you look at the instances<br />

of head and neck injuries<br />

at high speed sports then<br />

normally it is reduced because<br />

you slide. Probably the worst<br />

thing you can do is fall off a<br />

horse – at a height at relatively<br />

low speed because your<br />

whole force and weight follows<br />

the head into the ground<br />

and your torso weight-loads<br />

the neck. You don’t slide out<br />

of the way, you just load the<br />

neck. The same in motocross:<br />

you hit sand and you just stop.<br />

<strong>On</strong> the street you can slide<br />

more and that’s why the neck<br />

injury rate is much lower. I’d<br />

really like to see what impact<br />

the airbags have had in MotoGP.<br />

I’m not sure we’ll ever<br />

see that data but it would be<br />

fascinating.<br />







www.ride100percent.com<br />

100%<br />

The first of two hits to come out of 100% for<br />

2020, and before dipping into the cool-looking<br />

casualwear we’re looking at the American<br />

company’s glove offerings. We use 100%<br />

gloves for mountain-biking as well as general<br />

use on the motorcycle in and around the<br />

city. The combination of the stretchy, comfy<br />

fit, and appealing design is the attraction.<br />

For 2020 100% say they bring ‘a variety of<br />

new graphics and designs across the staple<br />

100% glove chassis. The Airmatic, Ridefit<br />

and i<strong>Track</strong> all bring a fresh look, while maintaining<br />

the fit, feel and function that 100%<br />

customers are accustom to.<br />

Returning to the glove range will be the<br />

newly-released Ridecamp, the fan-favorite<br />

Brisker, the D3O enhanced Cognito and the<br />

Hydromatic line of waterproof gloves with<br />

options for cold and warm temperature demands.’<br />

Check out some of the images here<br />

and click on photos to head straight to the<br />



www.alpinestars.com<br />


alpinestars<br />

Alpinestars unveiled the fruits of a special project at the<br />

MotoGP GP Octo di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini.<br />

Founder Gabriele Mazzarolo was joined by President of<br />

the OTB Group, Renzo Russo, to talk about the association<br />

with renowned fashion brand Diesel. The collaboration<br />

led to creation of a special motorcycling-influenced range<br />

that includes three men’s jackets and one for women,<br />

leather pants and a smattering of t-shirts and sweatshirts,<br />

shoes and a cap. The exclusive collection will be on<br />

display at flagship Diesel high street shops and is notable<br />

for the heavy ‘biker theme’ with sponsor-type livery<br />

and colouring. “I love Alpinestars and I’m a very big fan<br />

of motorcycle gear,” said Russo exclusively. “Diesel, if you<br />

see our archive and our history, we have a lot of this kind<br />

of mentality and design. <strong>On</strong>e day I thought it would be<br />

super-nice if I could do something ‘real’, so I called Gabriele<br />

with my idea and he immediately said ‘yes’”.<br />

“We have known each other for a long time and Renzo<br />

rides motorcycles as well,” said Mazzarolo. “Alpinestars<br />

has always focussed on something very technical and we<br />

have over hundred people working on safety equipment<br />

and electronics but style is also a very important part of<br />

our activity. Working with Renzo and his team at Diesel<br />

was a perfect combination to bring the feeling of motorcycling<br />

to a bigger audience.”<br />

“We have put this collection only in the best Diesel stores<br />

in the world because we want to give a good image and<br />

not just have it everywhere,” Russo adds. “It is a limited<br />

edition and the young generation love this selective gear:<br />

they are buying it and selling it on and making money!<br />

Limited edition is great. It’s so exclusive that it helps build<br />

the brand, build the status.”

SBK<br />

BLOG<br />


More than Europe’s<br />

largest MC store<br />

It would seem that part of the ‘sport’ of WorldSBK in the final<br />

weeks of the current season is actually putting together<br />

the puzzle for the forthcoming season.<br />

There have been some announcements<br />

on rider signings but whilst<br />

most other series have declared<br />

their calendars for 2020, the<br />

WorldSBK schedule is still a mystery.<br />

We know that the first race will<br />

take place in Phillip Island as usual,<br />

at the end of February, but after<br />

that it is anyone’s guess.<br />

The Buriram race will be consigned<br />

to the history books given that MotoGP<br />

has moved to an earlier slot<br />

but options for a replacement seem<br />

limited. There had been a suggestion<br />

that a return to Sepang was on<br />

the cards, it may still be, but my<br />

understanding is that the previous<br />

WorldSBK events were so poorly<br />

attended that the circuit have no<br />

interest in hosting another one. All<br />

indications point to another European<br />

race being added to maintain<br />

a 13 date schedule but I can’t<br />

imagine anywhere other than Jerez<br />

being an attractive option climate<br />

wise for racing in March.<br />

There have been press reports that<br />

the series will return to Oscherleben<br />

in Germany but ‘when’ is the<br />

big question. Slotting it in in the<br />

middle of March I don’t think would<br />

be ideal from a weather perspective.<br />

It would inevitably have a<br />

detrimental effect on the crowd<br />

figure and when you are trying to<br />

re-establish the event, a slot between<br />

June and September would<br />

be preferred. That, however, is the<br />

most congested part of the calendar<br />

at the moment so something<br />

else would need to be shuffled.<br />

When the Superbike championship<br />

last visited the German circuit it<br />

was at the end of May/beginning of<br />

June, but that itself was a shift from<br />

an early September slot. The World<br />

Endurance championship currently<br />

has the 8 hours of Oschersleben<br />

in June so a March or September<br />

opening might be the only choice.<br />

I would still like to see a race in<br />

August to fill in the summer gap.<br />

The MotoAmerica championship<br />

has released their calendar for<br />

2020 with the usual early July date<br />

for Laguna Seca. However, there<br />

is a big TBC next to the entry on<br />

their website and I have heard<br />

from some of the photographers<br />

and journalists I work with in the<br />

US that the circuit and County<br />

of Monterey are playing hardball<br />

again. The last I heard was that it<br />

would not happen but then that<br />

MA calendar was announced, so<br />

I would put it back in the ‘maybe’<br />

folder. I have already had a look for<br />

accommodation and with a two star<br />

motel charging $200 per night I<br />

guess someone is hanging their hat<br />

on that date.<br />

Personally I would really like to see<br />

a race in Japan to fill that early part<br />

of the season. I really enjoy travelling<br />

to Japan and with the current<br />

level of manufacturer support in<br />

the championship form Kawasaki,<br />

Yamaha and Honda I really think a<br />

Japanese race could be viable.

By Graeme Brown<br />

The only question would be which<br />

circuit to use. There will have reservations<br />

about using Suzuka given<br />

Dorna previously deigned it unsafe<br />

for MotoGP, although it is homologated<br />

by the FIM for the 8Hrs endurance<br />

race. Sugo was never well<br />

attended when I was there and you<br />

have to ask; are HRC committed<br />

enough to the series at the moment<br />

to offer up a date at Motegi for<br />

WorldSBK. I fear my wishes will ever<br />

be fulfilled but there is now harm<br />

in having a dream. It worked for<br />

Soichiro.<br />

<strong>On</strong>e piece of the HRC puzzle has<br />

finally been confirmed with Alvaro<br />

Bautista taking a seat on the 2020<br />

Fireblade. It was one of a few poorly<br />

guarded secrets and maybe now the<br />

others will start to come into the<br />

public domain. Whilst it has been<br />

all the talk for a few weeks I am<br />

still surprised that he has chosen to<br />

move. I can only imagine that HRC<br />

have opened their cheque book far<br />

enough to tempt him away from<br />

Ducati, who are beyond desparate<br />

to win the championship again, with<br />

some reports suggesting he has<br />

been offered close to €1m as a base<br />

salary, more than double what was<br />

allegedly on offer at Ducati.<br />

Ducati came into the 2019 season<br />

with an unknown package in Bautista<br />

and the Panigale V4R but promptly<br />

blew everyone away in the first half<br />

of the season. The wheels have<br />

however, well and truly fallen off the<br />

wagon and I now can’t see beyond<br />

Jonathan Rea re-writing the history<br />

books again with five championship<br />

wins in a row.<br />

Who will join Bautista at Honda is<br />

still to be announced but the smart<br />

money is on Takumi Takahashi. With<br />

Johann Zarco ending his relationship<br />

with KTM in MotoGP though there<br />

may still be some heat in the embers<br />

of the rumour that was stoked way<br />

back at the beginning of summer.<br />

I would expect this coming weekend<br />

in Magny Cours to be a busy one,<br />

either lots of rumour and intrigue or<br />

announcements to fill in some of the<br />

blanks. Another worst kept secret<br />

is still to be made official; Toprak<br />

Ragatlioglu joining Michael VD Mark<br />

at Yamaha, but that may not be<br />

released until all the seats in the<br />

Yamaha teams are confirmed. In the<br />

twitter chat that followed the HRC<br />

announcement both Razgatlioglu<br />

and Loris Baz replied to<br />

comments with a ‘what about me?’<br />

I expect Baz to stay at Ten Kate but<br />

he should have a teammate for next<br />

year and then there are the two<br />

seats at GRT. <strong>On</strong> the outside there is<br />

still much work to be done at Yamaha,<br />

as there would appear to be at<br />

Kawasaki.<br />

Having announced that they will<br />

retain Jordi Torres for 2020 Pedercini<br />

this week confirmed that he will<br />

be joined by Lorenzo Savadori. The<br />

Orelac team of Leandro Mercado on<br />

the other hand have more or less<br />

said farewell as team owner Jose<br />

Calero is stated as being unwilling<br />

to bankroll their participation<br />

in WorldSBK any further and with<br />

Puccetti Racing having lost their star<br />

man there is still the potential for<br />

some shuffling in the green corner.<br />

Chat still persists that Alex Lowes<br />

will be taking over from Leon Haslam<br />

with JR’s current team-mate<br />

moving to Puccetti, or indeed back<br />

to BSB. The Kawasaki UK teams<br />

in BSB have just gone through a<br />

transformation with Haslam’s former<br />

title winning JG Speedfit team losing<br />

their support for the Superbike class<br />

to FS3 Racing. His best bet would<br />

therefore seem to be to either stay<br />

where he is or take the seat at<br />


SBK<br />

BLOG<br />

<strong>On</strong>e interesting little insight came<br />

to light (to me anyway) at the last<br />

race when Dorna issued the details<br />

of the engines used per rider this<br />

season. Each rider has an allocation<br />

of seven engines and Alvaro<br />

Bautista currently has six engines<br />

‘in use’. That means he only has<br />

one fresh engine left to use for<br />

the season. I remember from days<br />

gone by that the service intervals<br />

on the likes of a 996 or 1099 were<br />

really short and there were stories<br />

that the Ducati engines were<br />

so stressed to get the maximum<br />

performance that they had to be<br />

changed at the end of each day.<br />

With my conspiracy theory hat on I<br />

wondered if Ducati had started the<br />

season with the wick turned up on<br />

their engines to get the maximum<br />

performance out of them, whilst<br />

at the same time a few crossed<br />

fingers to hope they will last. That,<br />

however, may not be possible any<br />

more given that all engines have<br />

their maximum revs restricted<br />

but it is an issue nonetheless why<br />

Bautista has used so many engines<br />

whilst Rea, by way of contrast,<br />

has three unsealed and one<br />

completely unallocated engine still<br />

in his locker. We now come to the<br />

final three races of the year with<br />

circuits that have long straights,<br />

Magny Cours, Villacum and Losail<br />

so it will be interesting to see how<br />

the Ducati fares.<br />

We are in the home stretch of 2019<br />

now and the coming weekend will<br />

see JR have his first chance of<br />

clinching the title. Magny Cours is<br />

a favourite destination for him to<br />

do so but the opportunity won’t<br />

arise until Sunday. I expect it to<br />

run until Argentina but then again I<br />

didn’t expect Bautista to crash out<br />

of the lead in Jerez or Misano. I am<br />

now ready for anything.


www.husqvarna-motorcycles.com<br />

husqvarna<br />

Husqvarna have really upped their game with<br />

the line of casual wear and functional<br />

clothing for 2020. The company have maintained<br />

the tone of smart and simplistic<br />

thanks to subtle branding and attractive<br />

colours such as blue and grey. As ever,<br />

quality materials and construction are the<br />

hallmarks of the collection and the latest<br />

goods do not disappoint for the price/offering<br />

ratio. Check out the Remote Parka:<br />

a forceful protection against the elements<br />

made of polyester but with 2-way stretch material,<br />

an inner bag, concealed pockets and<br />

tapered seams. The Remote Pants are an<br />

ideal compliment and are made of Duratec,<br />

4-way stretch and a pre-formed knee.<br />

The construction mixes polyamide, polyester<br />

and elastane. The Remote Hybrid Jacket is a<br />

breathable but water repellent, wind resistant<br />

hooded top with raglan sleeves, side pockets<br />

and a PRIMALOFT Silver insulation. The ORI-<br />

GIN sweater is made of cotton with a natural<br />

touch and a 3D embossed logo. The ORIGIN<br />

polo is a moisture management product with<br />

cotton and polyester, odour management and<br />

is fast-drying but with a natural touch. There<br />

is much more choice on the Husqvarna<br />

website and from garments with a similar<br />

neutral appearance or more sport-related<br />

stuff for Husky fans or riders. We’ll feature<br />

some more in a coming issue.



TO A NEW<br />

TWIN<br />

Words by Roland Brown<br />

Photos by Phil Masters


Triumph’s new Speed Twin has a tough<br />

act to follow. The original bike of that<br />

name revolutionised the motorcycle<br />

industry on its launch back in 1937, inspiring<br />

a new era of British dominance with its<br />

500cc parallel-twin engine, which suddenly<br />

made rival singles seem lumpy and dull.<br />

More than eight decades later this latest<br />

Speed Twin can’t hope to make a comparable<br />

impact, in a market containing multi-cylinder<br />

machines of almost every imaginable<br />

layout. But there’s a reason why Triumph is<br />

now bringing back the famous name: this<br />

bike introduces a new level of performance<br />

to the firm’s retro-roadster family.<br />


There’s nothing revolutionary about this<br />

Speed Twin. Its format of 1200cc liquidcooled,<br />

eight-valve parallel-twin engine and<br />

steel-framed, twin-shock chassis is shared<br />

with several of Triumph’s other modern<br />

classics, and dates back to the Hinckley<br />

firm’s reborn, 790cc Bonneville of almost<br />

20 years ago.<br />

But this latest lump is livelier even than the<br />

current Thruxton café-racer’s similar-sized<br />

unit, thanks to a magnesium cam cover and<br />

new, lightened components including the<br />

crankshaft and clutch. The maximum output<br />

of 96bhp is modest for a 1200cc unit<br />

but the hefty peak torque figure is delivered<br />

below 5000rpm, and the reduced internal<br />

mass makes for quick pick-up.<br />

Triumph also trimmed weight from the<br />

Thruxton chassis, giving the tubular steel<br />

frame a new aluminium lower section, and<br />

specifying new aluminium wheels and a<br />

lightweight sealed battery. The Speed gets<br />

slightly more relaxed geometry and a longer<br />

wheelbase for added stability, plus higher<br />

handlebars and more forward-set footrests<br />

for a less racy riding position.<br />

This is a compact and stylish bike, not overly<br />

retro despite its twin rear shocks. Its shapely<br />

fuel tank holds just 14.5 litres; its seat is a<br />

mere 807mm off the ground. It has plenty<br />

of neat details including Monza fuel cap and<br />

brushed aluminium mudguards. Its fairly<br />

sophisticated electronics set-up incorporates<br />

three engine modes and switchable traction<br />

control.<br />

The Speed Twin ‘look’ hits the spot – especially<br />

with the test bike’s fashionable brown<br />

quilted accessory bench seat fitted – but it’s<br />

the riding that really impresses. Its engine’s<br />

performance is a huge part of that. After riding<br />

other Bonneville family models you’d expect<br />

sweet fuelling, a broad spread of grunt,<br />

and a pleasingly smooth yet characterful<br />

parallel-twin feel and exhaust note.

TEST<br />









TEST<br />

The Speed ticks those boxes, and adds a<br />

mightier low-rev punch that makes the bike<br />

thrillingly lively and involving. Pull away,<br />

click the six-speed box into second and<br />

open the throttle, and the Triumph leaps forward<br />

with exhilarating eagerness, then just<br />

keeps on charging as you lean forward into<br />

the growing breeze and keep changing up.<br />

By 90mph it’s still accelerating with plenty<br />

to come before a top speed of about<br />

130mph. And the short-geared Triumph is in<br />

its element at a slower yet still brisk backroads<br />

pace, thundering out of turns with<br />

enough force to excite but without the sometimes<br />

brain-frazzling ferocity of a supernaked.<br />

A more relaxed ride is enjoyable too. The<br />

Speed cruises long-leggedly, and its milewide<br />

torque band ensures it’s always happy<br />

to snap forward into an overtake with a lazy<br />

roll of throttle. The exhaust crackle on the<br />

overrun adds to the entertainment, especially<br />

with the test bike’s accessory silencers<br />

fitted.<br />

Chassis performance is excellent, despite<br />

the Speed’s relatively basic suspension<br />

specification of KYB front forks and the<br />

same Japanese firm’s shocks, whose preload<br />

is the only option for adjustment. There may<br />

be little scope for fine-tuning, but Triumph’s<br />

development engineers are among the best<br />

in the business and the bike steers with<br />

confidence-inspiring ease and neutrality.<br />

Practicality is never going to be a highlight<br />

of a naked retro-bike, but the Speed is<br />

very useable, helped by a riding position<br />

that mostly feels like a good compromise<br />

between Thruxton urban wrist pain and a<br />

more upright position’s open-roads windblast.<br />

The bar-end mirrors work well until<br />

you’re threading through traffic; the twin<br />

clocks are attractive if busy. The alternative<br />

riding modes are easily activated, if hardly<br />

essential on such a rider-friendly machine.<br />

There’s an argument that the return of this<br />

famous old name demanded a more aggressive<br />

bike with top-class suspension,<br />

radial brake calipers and cutting-edge<br />

electronics.<br />

But arguably the original Speed Twin’s<br />

greatest achievement was that it sold in<br />

huge numbers. Keeping its namesake’s<br />

spec simple has enabled a competitive<br />

price (starting at £10,700 in the UK) that<br />

can only add to its popularity.<br />

More Speed Twin performance will doubtless<br />

come in the near future, with an uprated<br />

S or R model. In the meantime Triumph’s<br />

stylish, quick, sweet-handling and<br />

most of all fun-to-ride parallel twin is pretty<br />

damn brilliant just as it is.<br />

At 196kg it’s light, and those trim 17-inch<br />

wheels and relatively slim, 160-section rear<br />

tyre help make it flickable whether you’re<br />

banking into a back-road bend or negotiating<br />

traffic in town. A pair of four-piston<br />

Brembo front calipers ensures plenty of<br />

stopping power, and Pirelli’s Diablo Rosso III<br />

tyres make the most of the generous ground<br />




MXGP of China: photo by Ray Archer

ON<br />

TRACK<br />

OFF<br />

ROAD<br />

‘<strong>On</strong>-track <strong>Off</strong>-road’ is a free, monthly publication for the screen focussed on<br />

bringing the latest perspectives on events, blogs and some of the very finest<br />

photography from the three worlds of MXGP, the AMA Motocross and Supercross<br />

series’, MotoGP, WorldSBK as well as the latest bike tests.<br />

‘<strong>On</strong>-track <strong>Off</strong>-road’ will be published online at www.ontrackoffroad.com on<br />

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