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Two in the last two for Cooper Webb who has opened a few eyes with a startling opening to his Red Bull KTM career. Miles still to go in AMA Supercross (and with reigning champ Jason Anderson already on the injury list) and the ‘big shots’ still have to show their hand...but the series has a new challenger already Photo by KTM/Cudby


1, 2, 3... Toby Price’s second Dakar victory came against the odds and in defiance of injury but there was no surprise whatsoever that KTM ruled the toughest race in the world for the 18th time in a row and with their three factory riders in all the podium spots Photo by KTM/Marcin Kin


same speed different day

Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki. As WorldSBK finished the last of the 2019 pre-season tests on European soil the series still appears to be in the grip

of the champions, even if Ducati are working hard and those Yamahas are getting quick and quicker. Now to Phillip Island... Photo by GeeBee Images


Giving them a break Jeffrey Herlings’ broken right foot and (so far) lack of a tentative date of a return has flattened the blank pages a bit harder for 2019 MXGP. The Dutchman has given his rivals a headstart and a reprieve and whatever the outcome of his recovery the season now has a different narrative Photo by Ray Archer



oakland-alameda county coliseum ¡ Rnd 4 of 17 ¡ jan 450SX winner: Cooper Webb, KTM 250SX winner: Adam Cianciarulo, Kawasaki

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nuary 26

new orange blur By Steve Matthes. Photos by James Lissimore

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another one cooking for baker Four rounds down in the 2019 Monster Energy Supercross Series and it’s shaping up to be one of the more unpredictable seasons in recent memory. We have our first two-time winner in the 450SX class and it’s…Cooper Webb?! Yeah, the Red Bull KTM rider led all the laps this past weekend in Oakland on his way to his second career win in as many weeks. We had Webb on the most recent Pulpmx Show and he gave us some great stuff. How he had to sort of apologize and explain himself to the other group of riders he trains with under Aldon Baker. Going to Baker’s program is a pre-requisite for most of the factory KTM/Husqvarna riders (if the other riders also approve) and Webb had butted heads with some of the others like Marvin Musquin and Jason Anderson. So that had to be interesting for sure. The other things he said was he wasn’t in the shape that he needed to be in when he joined and also he only practiced at 75% during the week.

Both things needed to be corrected with Baker early and Baker admitted to me that things started off a bit rough with Webb. But breaking it all down to the foundation was what Coop obviously needed to do and it’s paying off. And seriously, at this point: what more proof do we need that Baker’s program works? We have a rider that was a multi-time champion in the 250 class, moved up to the 450 class and although he got some podiums, there were more ‘off’ nights than ‘on’. He’s got the ability, we all see his record but now he goes to a new team where he’s in a structured program with some other very fast riders and he blossoms. I’ve talked to many athletes that have gone and worked with Baker, it’s nothing special as far as workload or magic rocks, it’s just very structured, your

blood levels and heart rates are monitored closely so that your body tells Baker (and you) how it feels. Cycling is a huge part of it both on and off road, and as Webb explained on the show, practice sessions are done at full-speed and simulate race conditions. There’s no secret sauce, no PED’s, nothing except intensity and a big workload. And some smart monitoring by Baker to make everything a challenge amongst the group. The easiest day of the program should be race day is something I’ve heard Baker preach over and over. Whatever KTM/Husqvarna is paying Baker - and I’m sure it’s a lot - it’s a hell of a deal. There are other part of the package for #2. “You can pinpoint one necessary thing that changed it (results), but I definitely think


By Steve Matthes

this bike fits me a lot better. I can ride it more like my 250,” Webb told us. “To me, it’s definitely a lot easier to race, especially over main events when they get rough. Like I said all off-season it’s a lot of different changes, so it’s hard to pinpoint the one thing. But obviously the bike is a huge benefit for sure.” Webb is a smaller guy and the Yamaha 450 (even though the frame is the same as the 250 machine) does seem to work for taller/bigger riders. You watch Webb’s KTM out there and it does look really tiny. The crew have lowered the bike to make it fit Cooper and he doesn’t look like he’s just hanging on anymore, it looks like he can put it anywhere he needs to right now. Baker’s critics (and there are some out there) point to the work he’s done with riders like Jake Weimer and Broc Tickle (before he was suspended for testing positive for a stimulant) and their results as saying that “Baker takes champions and

turns them into champions” meaning he can’t make a Weimer or Tickle become a race winner, and that’s somewhat true. But in motocross talent to ride a dirt bike can’t be replicated or created. You can either steer a bike fast enough to win or you can’t. If you can do it then Baker’s training program will help you pull it all together, prioritize what’s important and what’s not and help you win a lot of races. Ryan Dungey was already a great rider when he joined Baker and he remarked a few times how Baker’s program was actually less than what he did before and how hiring Aldon helped him put all the questions he had about training to rest: Did I do enough? Should I do more? What’s the competition doing? He could be confident that he was doing the right things. All I know is you add the bike and the training program to an already talented rider and Baker can make the difference. We saw it with Ryan Villopoto and Dungey, we’re seeing it now.

I don’t know where this Webb “thing” is going to go. He’s got two in a row, he’s got the red plate in what Webb admitted was a “building year”. Maybe this is it for him and he just has a nice year. Or maybe the kid goes on a run for the ages like, gasp, a young Jeremy McGrath in 1993. No matter what it is, it’s a great story and the hottest free agent in the sport when his contract is up might be Aldon Baker.

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troy lee designs The start of the AMA Supercross season can also feel like the opening night of a fashion show. All the brands take the gaze of the majority of the bike racing world as an opportune moment to showcase their new designs, styles and vision for how dirtbike riding gear and apparel will look over the coming months. The eagle-eyed will also spot some fresh ideas and prototypes on the leading athletes. Troy Lee Designs are at the forefront of this movement and are often one of the prominent players when it comes to the aesthetics of the garments that will eventually filter into the dealers and shops. They do like their Limited Edition collections and we decided to showcase the SE Pro Mirage wares on these pages. The SE Pro is the high level offering: the lightest, most flexible, resistant and breathable kit available. The pants have a racer fit chassis, reliable ratchet system buckle and cowhide leather panels. Thanks to the SE4 helmet it’s possible to almost go head-to-toe. There is also a KTM-livered version of the SE Pro Mirage for a few extra dollars or if you order through the Troy Lee website then you can customise the jersey with a name and number. A really cool option.


a different path COLT NICHOLS Words by Andrea Wilson, Photos by James Lissimore/

“ took me a while to learn the ropes...”



upercross competition is fierce. Expectations are high and the road to get there is fraught. Colt Nichols knows all about that. The 24-year old from Oklahoma had to fight his way back from multiple injuries and found his way through an alternative route to one of the sport’s top 250 teams: Star Racing. He didn’t turn his back on his Supercross dream and now sits in the points lead four rounds into the 2019 250SX West season. Here’s his story. Nichols really isn’t your modern-day a-typical moto kid. He wasn’t home schooled, he wasn’t fast tracked into a factory ride from the factory-supported amateur feeder teams in the U.S. He did however, have a great support group around him in Oklahoma and an unwavering faith that he was going to be a professional Supercross racer.

His dad competed at local level. “I started messing around when I was three years old,” he said. “That’s when my dad got me a bike. It was all through him. He used to race; I saw him doing it when I was just a little guy and I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and I wanted to be just like my dad. So he got me a bike, and the rest is history after that.” Anyone who has paid the slightest attention to the amateur motocross scene in the U.S. knows that like a lot of youth sports, the intensity level of competition continues to grow. “Amateur level is pretty competitive, especially when you start to get up closer to big bikes,” Nichols said. “Everybody is going really fast. All the kids are already training at that point. I was in the period where it was starting to become a real-

“If I could say anything to young kids to try to help then it would probably be about that sacrifice it takes to be at the top level, and try to show up every single time as focused as possible to do the job at hand...” “Ever since I’ve been little this is everything I ever wanted to do,” he says. “I was regular kid. I played sports in high school, like most. I went all the way through to my senior year, then I did the online school thing. I loved playing sports and being involved with school activities and doing all that stuff, but I always knew I was meant to race dirt bikes.” That love for it started young. Like most racers, it was a family thing.

ity for kids to get signed at a young age and to actually start making money. That was, I think, the initial push for me to try to get a little better quicker.” He landed a Team Green ride during his Mini days and his dad decided to seek out an expert, fellow Oklahoma racer – Robbie Reynard. That training was definitely important during his formative years but Nichols had some roadblocks ahead of him. Injuries slowed his forward progress and leading up to the transition from amateur to pro is not a good

colt nichols & reaching sx

time to splutter. In spite of those injuries, Nichols wasn’t about to use that as an excuse as to why he was left out of a factory ride as soon as he became of age to turn Pro. “I didn’t have an awesome amateur career, by any means,” he said. “I won quite a few championships and things like that, but I was never the guy that was winning everything. So, it took me a while to get going and learn the ropes and figure it out on my own.” Nichols didn’t have a place in Supercross as he approached the age and timing to consider being professional but found a place to race. He contested the Arenacross series in 2014 through the Team Green program and when that season was done, he spent the summer racing in the Costa Rican MX1 series. He got his first Supercross opportunity the following year, representing a 250 team based in his home state – Crossland Racing Honda. He then got a ride with the Cycle Trader Yamaha team in 2016 and turned heads. He grabbed his first podium, made it through the campaign with a top-five finish in the championship, which ultimately helped land him a factory ride and his current Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing team. The top drawer ticket didn’t mean it was all smooth sailing however. He had another rough patch – a broken femur in 2017, a broken humorous in 2018, actually, twice the same year. Nichols kept a positive mindset. “That was a tough few years, really,” he said. “It was my first year being on the team [Star Racing] and I had an unfortunate injury, broke my femur before the


colt nichols & reaching sx

West coast series and then got pushed to East coast and only made three rounds and ended up getting hurt again. I came in very underprepared. Almost an identical story of 2017 to 2018. Same thing - got hurt in the off-season. Was supposed to race West. Got pushed to East coast. Only made three rounds and got hurt again. It was a tough little period there coming back from injury and kind of struggling whenever I felt like I should be obviously doing a lot better and at least competing. That was very tough.” That line between being a hero and hitting the dirt gets pretty razor thin, especially at the top level of the sport. It’s not easy to judge. “Hitting the ground is part of our sport, and that’s the part that sucks,” he said. “That’s why I have so much respect for a guy like Ryan Dungey or Chad Reed, guys that have been in the sport for a really long time and seem to always be healthy and show up every single weekend.” With experience comes wisdom. And it seems to have been the extra boost that Nichols needed. “You just have to be so focused and sacrifice so much to really do what you need to do,” he said. “There are times you want to go out and do this or that… even just being on your feet walking around the mall, and you know you’re going to ride the next day so you’re like, ‘well, it’s probably not a good idea. Maybe I shouldn’t.’ Kind of save your legs for the next day. Just some little stuff like that. You just have to be so focused and understand that what you want is going to take all this sacrifice. I think that’s the hardest part for young kids to realize, and even for me. I hadn’t figured it out until recently. I wish I could have figured it out earlier.

Feature If I could say anything to young kids to try to help then it would probably be about that sacrifice it takes to be at the top level, and try to show up every single time as focused as possible to do the job at hand. And try to stay healthy!” Factory rides are few and far between, and talent is abundant. So abundant that the competition for the top saddles in the entry level Supercross 250SX class these days starts well before budding athletes turn Pro. The trend that started when Nichols was younger has now intensified. “To see how it’s evolved is kind of crazy,” Nichols opined. “Now there are some kids that are getting signed to professional deals, and they’re 14 years old. They’re still on minibikes. They haven’t even quite made it to big bikes yet. It’s rapidly, rapidly changing. Everybody always wants the ‘next great thing’. That’s in every sport, not just ours. It’s definitely changing pretty quick.” From Nichols’ experience he sees a few red flags. “In order to compete with those kids getting opportunities parents think they have to pull their kid out of school and homeschool them and travel the world and go to all these training facilities. That’s what they want. I just feel that’s asking for disaster. Then the parents are relying on the kid and it’s already giving him so much pressure at a young age. They’re already looked at like a make-it-or-break-it. They’re so young. I just think that’s tough. I think that’s unfair for the kids.” “I really wish there was a different way to go about the amateur racing scene and get it revised in some way.

Like I said, if people wouldn’t have signed me when I was 13, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. Even when I was 16, I didn’t know what to do with it. So it kind of took me a few years to find my stride and realize what was going on. The landscape is tough right now. But all you can do, if you love dirt bikes and you really enjoy this stuff, you go out and you try your hardest, even if you’re going to school or doing whatever. I’m a testament to that: you can actually still go get it done and sign with a factory team and live out your dream.” Looking ahead, will there be another opportunity for ‘another Colt Nichols’? Nichols definitely hasn’t seen the signs of a shift on the horizon and is quite honest about the fact that what worked for him might not necessarily work for everyone else.

colt nichols & reaching sx

“My path is definitely not the one that is meant for everybody,” he said. “It was meant for me. I just got really lucky. A lot of kids wouldn’t have made it this far going down the path that I had to go.” In spite of the direction that sport has gone in the amateur motocross/supercross scene (and whether or not there’s a way to change it, or which path is the right one to get where you want to be) there’s still something that young racers can take away from Nichols’ case. “I always really believed in my ability and always believed I could get to the point I am now, which is being a points leader and winning races,” he says. “It was never an issue of belief. It was hard because you get up, then get knocked back down, then get up, and get knocked back down. I just tried to stay as positive as I possibly could. I knew that there was a bigger

picture for me. I did not want to stop. I felt like I was meant for this and I was going to do anything I could to achieve that.”


6d This is almost a no-brainer. Californian awardwinning firm 6D have delivered a youth version of their latest ATR-2 off-road helmet and any parent with a youngster discovering (or racing) two-wheels needs to seriously consider their next helmet purchase. The ATR-2Y boasts the same Omni-Directional system as it’s senior brother; a form of engineering that 6D claim is ‘the next level in brain protection’. The ATR-2 was a step forward from the gamechanging ATR-1 thanks to the new outer liner and the changeable inner liner that allowed even more protection against linear and angular acceleration and the kinds of impact that ultimately lead to concussion and more serious ailments. The ATR-2Y has the same refined shell and the upgrades across most of the helmet, such as the reinforced brow rib and cervical protection zone. In addition 6D say it ‘features a removable, washable comfort liner with a genuine DriLex antibacterial fabric, as well as 16 transfer ports and 6 exhaust ports that work in unison with the Air Gap Ventilation System to keep the rider cool.’ There are four Youth shell sizes from Small to XL. You won’t spend a better 450 dollars for the mini rider in the family.


best (airbooted) foot forward. So, a re-write of this Blog was needed. Questions and thoughts about the potential of Jeffrey Herlings to get anywhere near his magnificent 2018 campaign have now been scrubbed. MXGP was, of course, an open book as the Italian championship formally reignited the competitive year and the first ebbs of bench racing last weekend, but the World Champion’s broken foot means the tale of 2019 is now very much a blank page. What does Herlings’ latest ailment mean? First of all there is the severity of the injury. The Dutchman avoided damage to his ankle when he careered towards the side bank of mud at the Albaida circuit in southern Spain and trapped his right limb between the bike and terrain in the crash but it is a complicated area for fractures. In the case of MX2 Kemea Yamaha star Ben Watson the Brit broke the navicular bone in his left foot in Argentina for the second round of 2016 Grand Prix and missed the rest of the season.

Noises from KTM are not of major distress, but this is of course a setback and the full extent of what Herlings will need to do in order to be able to walk and then consider a return to his 450 SX-F have yet to come to light. Secondly Herlings has been here before. A broken right hand two weeks before his MXGP debut in 2017 (combined with a self-admitted questionable attitude to the premier class after another resolute MX2 title in ’16) meant the opening rounds of that championship were some of the hardest and most unerring of his career. Jeffrey righted his mind, kept patient with his hand and recovered to decimate the end of the ’17 calendar, and that fed right into his milestone 2018. So now it is a waiting game. But the news is a formal invitation for his rivals, in particular Tony Cairoli, to hit the beginning of 2019 with relish and to stockpile points from the very first gatedrop.

Herlings will return strong and should eventually reach the same ’18 pomp but this temporarily hobbling will have diminished his unbeatable status. If he can find fitness and banish the kind of insecurity that marked his 2015 MX2 year where a succession of injuries dented his prowess and arguably disturbed his focus then it will be the biggest fight of his career. There were times in 2018 where Herlings only had himself to beat. The fact that the mistakes and the crashes did not come only added to the image of the perfect season. The circulating and conquering #84 really was the sight of an athlete/team/ motorcycle package at the top of the pile. Now, for the second time in a row the 24 year old is negotiating the pain, worry and anxiety of injury sustained on the practice track. Worryingly it means another term where Herlings is paying a visit to the hospital.


By Adam Wheeler

Off the top of my head I can list a dislocated shoulder, four broken collarbones, a broken femur, dislocated hip, mangled little finger and hand and now right foot: that’s some payment for all those record-breaking feat and a style and attacking-approach that leave many fans speechless. Never let it be said that Herlings had it easy. I just hope this latest episode of having to beat disappointment, realign goals and dig-out motivation does not take too much of a toll. He’s too damn good to fade into mid-pack obscurity.

possibly beat Tony Cairoli to another landmark).

If this current period of recovery and rehab stretches on and the prospect of missing one Grand Prix becomes three or his race speed needs four rounds to return instead of two, then I believe Herlings still has targets to shoot for. The guy know how to construct a championship but he is also a competitive animal with a lust for victory that few else in the MXGP pack can match. At the very least 2019 should represent the chance to set-up a potential piece of history if he can breach the magical record 101 win total in 2020 (and


For fans of other riders and the neutral observers of MXGP Herlings’ misfortune is interesting news. Another orange rout would have undoubtedly affected the potential of the ‘show’ (as is the case with any dominant athlete) and it certainly brings other riders – who had their own struggles during Herlings’ annus mirabilis – immediately back into the frame for short term GP wins and long term for the state of the standings.

As OTOR gets going again for another year – our ninth and second as a ‘monthly’ – there will be a few changes coming up in 2019. We should have a new ‘look’ by the time of issue two at the end of February and the website will again be fully stocked with Blogs and some articles that you won’t always find in the magazine (especially post-races when there are some serious talking points debated by our expert contributors).

We’ll be experimenting with Podcasting again in MXGP to have a second and hopefully more professional attempt at the booming medium that is grabbing more and more attention. The emphasis there will be on discussion and opinion and when we get insiders onto the show we’ll endeavour to ask the questions that the fans might want to hear. It will be another busy campaign of travelling, coverage and content right up until the final Supercross dates of 2019. Whether you’re viewing this on your work computer, tablet or mobile phone thanks for dipping into OTOR again. Keep registered to get your email update for new issues and feel free to offer any feedback at info@ontrackoffroad. com









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Words by Adam Wheeler, 2019 Photos by KTM/S. Taglioni

scent of the



tony cairoli & mxgp 2019


n a recent entry on KTM’s official Blog page ( VP of offroad, Robert Jonas, said “never, ever underestimate Tony: that’s my opinion”. KTM know the nine times world champion sufficiently well by now. 2019 will represent the tenth season that Tony Cairoli and KTM have occupied the top of the premier class standings in Grand Prix and while names like Dungey, Roczen and Herlings have caused hearts to flutter in Mattighofen it is the #222 that has delivered results, prestige and been a major part of the company’s lift as the premium and leading manufacturer of dirtbikes.

At Assen for the penultimate round of 2018 and at the triumphant homecoming coronation for Herlings, Cairoli was full of plaudits for his younger teammate and admitted that he lacked the same speed all the way through the moto to effectively compete with his rival. The pair clashed on two occasions but largely existed in a tolerable and powerful vacuum of performance, results and pressure under the KTM awning. Cairoli routinely made the best starts and was in race-winning positions a number of times only to be foiled in the style that he himself had enacted on peers since he moved into the premier class in 2009.

“The message is that I don’t start each year going for second or third place. I go to win, and that is always my goal. I do what is possible to push my limits. I always try to ride safe but if I am able to ride happy and comfortable then for sure the fans will see a really nice season...” The Sicilian will turn 34 in September, less than two weeks after Red Bull KTM teammate Jeffrey Herlings will toasts his 25th birthday. He still has another two terms on his factory contract and has been a protégé, friend and collaborator with Claudio De Carli since his second grand prix year in 2004. His duel with Herlings in 2018 prevented the championship story from being horribly onesided even if it was the best (in terms of riding) and the worst (the first time he had really faced insurmountable opposition and dealt with at least two small niggly injuries) time of his career.

In short 2018 was chastening and educational, and forced Cairoli to look a bit longer into the mirror if he wanted to better his 85 career GP wins (one more than Herlings) and nine titles. Last year was very much about the Cairoli-Herlings axis. Without the other then the 2018 contest could have been very bland indeed (for all his dominance Herlings had to keep plugging away until round 19 of 20 before he sealed the deal). It means that one of the biggest questions about the forthcoming 2019 campaign revolves around TC222.

Feature Even before Herlings’ untimely broken foot there was debate about how (and if) Cairoli could raise his game to deal with his Dutch teammate’s intensity. Herlings beat him both from the front and coming through the pack in 2018, and there were few scenarios in which Cairoli was able to resist or put up much of a defence and even fewer once he wrenched his thumb at round eleven in Indonesia. MX2 world champion and Cairoli’s training partner Jorge Prado commented recently that: “he is getting stronger all the time in places where he struggled last year. We train together every day and we push each other.” At more or less the same time that Herlings was being ferried to the airport with a throbbing foot we had Tony on the phone from Sardinia. Cairoli has never been very revelatory about his methodology and the backbone of his spoils. I remember his wife, Jill Cox, telling me once that nobody really sees or understands how hard he works for his racing. There was some doubt as to whether Cairoli was keeping up this rate or was just getting smarter with age by largely abandoning his Belgian training regime in favour of the proximity of his Roman Malagrotta circuit but the level of his 2018 Grand Prix outing would prove that he’s still very much at the top of the pile. That he is not kicking back as the final years of world championship years loom Firmaxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx into view. In our chat there were a few hints that he has looked around him, as well as internally, for how the Herlings threat can be nullified. Obviously he was unaware of the ‘head start’ that Herlings has provided to the MXGP field but there

were crumbs of what Cairoli has altered for 2019 and how he is very much up to the task of pushing again in the face of adversity and sitting in the unusual situation of not being a clear-cut favourite. “One improvement was just to feel a little bit more comfortable with riding and be able to use the power in a better way on all parts of the track,” he said of the analysis of the KTM 450 SX-F racebike. “We changed some small details of the character of the bike but nothing really big.” What about your personal programme? Was there a need to find an extra gear? Not too much. We kept the same sort of thing we did last year because it was working quite well through the season and until I got my thumb injury in Indonesia. I was happy with the programme so we decided to stick with it…except to try and be a bit more consistent with the race results. You said you needed to be stronger with your entire race speed. So was this an area for work? Yeah, of course. That’s really important and to have the bike set 100% how I like it. So we have been working on the setting and looking at every single thing with suspension and the handling and it has come out really well. So that wasn’t a physical or mental adjustment? It was just a physical thing and nothing really mental. I was happy at the half way point of last season. Only a few small mistakes cost me points, as well as training days because of the injury.

tony cairoli & mxgp 2019

Did you think about a new strategy to handle a strong opponent like Herlings? Like applying pressure or scrapping ontrack? No, not really. I will see how the season starts and how the first few races go and then it will be the time to think about a strategy. At the moment I will start to win and then we will see. Are you ‘up’ for another title duel and all it entails? What’s the message for Tony Cairoli and MXGP fans waiting for the season to begin? The message is that I don’t start each year going for second or third place. I go to win, and that is always my goal. I do what is possible to push my limits. I always try to ride safe but if I am able to ride happy and comfortable then for sure the fans will see a really nice season.

Watson working on weaknesses to make “difficult” next GP step Kemea Yamaha’s Ben Watson is one of a new wave of riders hoping for fresh Grand Prix milestones in 2019. The Brit is Yamaha’s main representative in MX2 after moving up from 15th to 4th in the 2018 campaign; his first with the factory YZ250F. Having achieved his maiden rostrum finish in Russia and been one of the few athletes on Japanese machinery to trouble the hoards of KTM and Husqvarnamounted youngsters, Watson is being eyed for yet more silverware this year after his breakthrough term.

The Englishman may have a sizeable job transitioning from the status of ‘most improved’ to ‘most capable’ but his early acclimatisation to the 2019 YZ250F in the final rounds of the 2018 GP year should mean his testing and technical work is locked-in. “I rode the bike for the last five-six rounds of the championship so I got to know it really well already,” he says. “We have the bike in a good place so the work has been more about my technique and how I feel with the Yamaha and how I can best use it.”

Not only does the 21 year old (2019 and 2020 still to go in the MX2 class before he ages-out) have to bear the expectation that comes with front-running pace and potential but now has to work on the task of converting his podium potential to race-winning pedigree.

The principal obstacle for Watson and peers like Thomas Kjer Olsen, Calvin Vlaanderen, Jed Beaton, Darian Sanayei, Henry Jacobi and teammate Jago Geerts is reigning world champion Jorge Prado. The Spaniard’s starting prowess and lightning speed in the formative stages of races will be tough to match. Watson knows eighteen year old Prado is the target but is adopting a more personal approach.

“From 2017 to ‘18 I made a really big step and I think it will be incredibly difficult to make the same kind of leap again,” he admitted. “So I haven’t changed too much with my training programme when it comes to the physical side and preparation but I have been working on my weaknesses; things that I saw were popping up as the races went on and were stopping me from being more at the front and being able to fight for something more than third place.” Watson is collaborating with renowned trainer Jacky Vimond for a second season and knows he needs to address his hesitancy to attack harder and faster in the opening laps of the motos. “Absolutely,” he concurred. “This was one of the main areas. And I have to get myself to the point where I can go balls-out on a watered track or a track I haven’t seen or ridden for a few hours. I don’t know exactly what was stopping me last year but it is something I’m working on: that feeling of being able to go flat-out right away coming more naturally.”

“We haven’t really talked about tactics to beat just one rider,” he confesses. “At the moment it is still about what I can do and how I can give my best. I feel as I improve then this is something that will come.” “Prado is strong where I was weak in 2018: normally in the first few laps he has made the start and was disappearing away from me,” he says. “I need to get out of the gate and go with him and then it becomes about physical fitness and who is stronger in the mind.” Watson is in the second and final year of his Yamaha contract but is already rumoured to be in the manufacturer’s plans for 2020.

mxgp 2019

Photo by Ray Archer

mxgp 2019

Photos by KTM/S. Taglioni

Prado talks #1, being better in 2019, the KTM 250 SX-F and turning 18 MX2 World Champion Jorge Prado reached the ripe age of eighteen two weeks ago but is already talking like a seasoned Grand Prix pro as he vies to become KTM’s third double title winner since the inception of the MX2 class in 2004. Prado is working under the tutelage and guidance of Tony Cairoli, Claudio De Carli and his staff in the Red Bull KTM team for the second year in a row and for his third as an official KTM athlete. Even though his championship campaign involved impressive consistency (17 podiums and 12 wins), rapier starts and uncatchable speed in the opening laps of motos, Prado insists he is still ‘in progress’. “I’m working hard to improve and make the right steps. I’m training hard again and the big difference is this time I don’t have to handle an injury so I can be better prepared,” he says in reference to the elbow fracture that forced a two month hiatus from the KTM last winter. ‘2018 was tough at the start and hopefully I can be more careful up until the start of the world championship.” “To be better in every way; that’s the job,” he added. “I can get faster and I can be stronger, especially physically. Then it is about working on the small things. I made mistakes last year…” Prado has only just become old enough to vote and hold a driver’s licence (“basically the day after I had the licence I started on the road from Rome to Sardinia!”) but is now charged with leading KTM’s effort in a category they have dominated and with the class-leading 250 SX-F technology.

“KTM are always looking for a better bike,” he commented on the development programme for 2019 and a task that Technical Co-Ordinator Dirk Gruebel admitted would be “difficult to make big steps”. “Last year it was already on a high level so to improve is tricky but the factory and the team are working hard,” Prado concurred. “I basically used the same suspension all through last season, and the power of the bike was good but there are small details to be able to improve more.” Prado lifted his FIM gold medal at the final round of 2018 in Imola. He admitted that the week after the Italian race and around the ’18 Motocross of Nations was “crazy” but the thoughts of 2019 swiftly enabled the fuss and distraction of realising a lifetime dream to subside. The rider from Galicia will not run the coveted #1 in 2019. Amazingly he doesn’t feel worthy of the plate. “I’m going to stick with the #61 because I think I don’t quite deserve the #1,” he candidly admitted. “I think the Big ‘1’ is for the very best in motocross and that’s not me; it’s for the guy in the next category, the highest category. One day when, if, I can manage it in MXGP then I’ll change! I don’t have any official merchandise yet so it is not a big problem for me to have another number…but even so many people now know me with the 61.”

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Seewer adjusting to life as a Yamaha factory rider Jeremy Seewer was the MXGP Rookie of the Year in 2018 thanks to an 8th place finish in his maiden attempt at the premier class, and the former MX2 world championship runner-up is now contemplating the hardest season of his career on the works Monster Energy Yamaha next to Romain Febvre. While the 24 year old will be able to shift his knowledge of the YZ450F across from his Wilvo Yamaha set-up from 2018, the transfer to Michele Rinaldi’s factory set-up represents a third different team in three years for the Swiss who has previously spent his youth and entire career in Suzuki yellow. Seewer takes the saddle of the outgoing Jeremy Van Horebeek; the Belgian notched

five years with the Italian crew. Van Horebeek was part of a small and special elite that achieved remarkable success with the team at the very first attempt: Josh Coppins, David Philippaerts, Van Horebeek and Febvre all finished their initial season as world champion, runner-up or as a solid title contender. Seewer will be aware of the trend. Although remaining part of Yamaha Motor Europe’s racing structure means relatively little upheaval (certainly compared to his protracted departure from the dissolved Suzuki team at the end of 2017 and the late confirmation with Wilvo) Seewer was able to exclusively explain that the change does require vast readjustment.

mxgp 2019

It began with an official test and trip to Japan at the tail end of 2018. “It’s the same…but not the same,” he said. “What I really noticed coming back to a factory team is the level of experience. Wilvo was a great team and I cannot say a bad word about them but you could feel that it was very young and just starting. Now I’m back in a team where the mechanics have 20-30 years of experience and they know a lot about the bike as well. They try to help me in any direction to make it better; it’s like I was used to with Suzuki and Sylvain Geboers in the past.” “It is very positive but at the same time it is another team change so it means another mechanic and set of people,” he added.

“For example, I have the same suspension but a different suspension guy so it is a bit like starting from zero. It will take a bit of time as usual but I got a really warm welcome, especially with the testing in Japan last year and Yamaha are really pushing at the moment.” Rumours surround the future of Yamaha’s factory team with Wilvo potentially bringing the operation closer to Yamaha Motor Europe’s Dutch base despite the squad boasting only two years of existence in the MXGP class (but they delivered Yamaha’s sole GP win since the second half of 2016 thanks to Shaun Simpson’s success in Indonesia in 2017). Wilvo will have the talents of Gautier Paulin and Arnaud Tonus this season but the direction of Yamaha’s MXGP effort beyond 2019 is still being organised around the table.

Jonass exercising patience for MXGP Husky debut 2017 MX2 World Champion Pauls Jonass will have to wait in anticipation of his MXGP debut this year as he negotiates the rehabilitation process of ACL surgery to his right knee, performed last September.

Photo by Ray Archer

The 22 year old Latvian forms part of an all-new and young line-up for the factory Rockstar Energy IceOne Husqvarna team alongside Arminas Jasikonis but has only just started to ride his new FC450. “Things have actually been quite complicated since the surgery and I didn’t expect that it would take so long and would be so difficult…but we are on the right way and I feel much better,” Jonass said recently. “ACL surgery means you need time to get strength and stability back in the knee and it’s a hard process,” he added. “At the last check-up with the doctor and physio they were really satisfied with how it’s going. In terms of strength I’m

doing well; I just need to work on co-ordination and stability and a have a little bit more time for the ligament.” Jonass is hoping to accelerate his biketime in February, which leaves little room for serious preparation ahead of the opening Grand Prix of nineteen in 2019 at Neuquen in Argentina on March 3rd. It is unknown whether Latvia’s sole motocross world champion will make the South American date or might have to consider round two in Great Britain or the next event in the Netherlands. “It was a serious injury so if I start riding too soon and twist it then I’ll damage it again,” he explained of the ailment that caused him to relinquish his MX2

crown ahead of the final date at Imola last September. “I don’t want to rush it. Since the start of the year I have been going flat-out with my physical training. I can cycle and I have been focussing on my physical condition. Hopefully I can be at the races as soon as possible. I don’t want to have any expectations at the moment because if it [a slated return] doesn’t happen for some reason then I’ll be really disappointed. I’m going weekby-week and hopefully in a month I’ll be back on the bike.”

Simpson back at home with KTM and part of potent orange MXGP hoard Grand Prix winner Shaun Simpson will form part of an impressive line-up for the Austrian manufacturer in 2019 MXGP with riders like Max Anstie, Glenn Coldenhoff, Jordi Tixier, Ivo Monticelli and Max Nagl also running the 450 SX-F in the premier class. For the Scot (31 in March and soon to be a father for the first time) the chance to ride with new British team RFX KTM means a return to the machinery and circumstances (British Championship competition) with which the Scot claimed two national titles and two MXGP wins in 2014 and 2015. The veteran is hoping his re-alliance with KTM and WP Suspension will also help banish some of the memories of two injury-hit seasons with Wilvo Yamaha. “I don’t know what it is with the KTM but it just seems to fit me, fit my style and the way I ride,” he said in between testing and riding sessions at the RedSand circuit last week. “I don’t know if the steel frame is a factor but I feel at home. I’ve been able to skip a few steps with set-up purely because I knew what I was running a couple of years ago so we started there. I know how the bike will react and it means I can get bike time done without stressing too much.” “The KTM hasn’t changed all that much from when I last rode it,” he adds. “It looks a bit different, aesthetically, and the engine has had a lot of work. As a standard package I would say it is pretty bloody good.” Simpson has thrived being back in orange and although he leads a freshman Grand Prix effort with RFX

(the team will field two younger riders in EMX European competition) he is back in a familiar environment that once allowed his renowned consistency to draw the #24 up to fourth place in the world in 2015. “The team has a lot of ‘moving parts’. We are bringing funds in from a lot of different areas and there are a lot of people to keep happy but I know it’s all centred around me so it is not a big stress. I have the parts I want on the bike and now we just need to find that extra step with the engine.” Simpson won the 2015 Grands Prix of Belgium and Netherlands and the 2017 round in Indonesia. He finished 7th and 4th in MXGP in 2014 and 2015 and is looking to re-establish his credentials as a top five rider capable of surprising the GP elite. Being back on the SX-F is key to this potential. “I’m looking to turn a few heads and come out of the gate solid and strong but not get too excited,” he assessed. “I’m definitely in for the long haul this year and to make the races count. We’re going for consistency and good strong rides. In terms of comfort on the bike I feel that consistency will be my friend this year. Sometimes on the Yamaha I was riding a bit ‘on edge’ and it showed in the injuries I had; I had freak crashes and it was biting me badly.” Simpson is one of four British riders in MXGP for 2019.

mxgp 2019

Photo by Ray Archer


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3 reasons w repsol honda laun sIt up and

Words by Adam Wheeler, Photos by CormacGP/Repsol Honda/HRC

Unveiling of the DoubleDigit crew

why the 2019 nch made us d take notice



here was a hustle and bustle about the gathering at the Repsol HQ ‘complex’ located a mere wheel spark from the train lines running into Madrid’s Atocha station last week. For the first time since 2013 the might of HRC presented a modified rider line-up to the largely native and swollen gaggle of media and guests. Not only was the sight of MotoGP World Champion Marc Marquez and the only rider aside from Casey Stoner to win the coveted title this decade, Jorge Lorenzo, appearing together for the first time in HRC colours enough of a draw but the Spanish petroleum giant was also celebrating a quarter of a century with their logo and distinctive look gracing the side of Honda’s premium race motorcycle. Add star names like Mick Doohan (the first #1 to be toasted as part of the HRC/Repsol alliance) and Alex Crivillé (Spain’s first premier class champion in 1999) and this was the sizzling ticket of the MotoGP pre-season. Injury and novelty meant there was slightly more for media to get their teeth into aside from the tasty mini burgers that flew around on hospitality trays once the main ceremony (centralised on a bizarre video in which Marquez, Lorenzo, Doohan

and Criville were spliced ontrack together) had finished. The 2019 RCV colours barely registered interest compared to the state of Marquez’s shoulder, Lorenzo’s surprising dirt track injury and how the wrecked duo would tackle the beginning of an imminent campaign where Honda would be precariously positioned for only two pre-season tests. Later, MotoGP splashed a spread of the Repsol Honda designs from over the years

on their official Instagram account and it was surprising, if a little un-revelatory, just how little the look and style has varied. The orange, and dark blue Honda speed graphics along the seat were firmly in place. From the bikes’ position under the lights and on the stage it was even tough to tell the ’93’ and ‘99’ numbers apart. Not quite a new face then… but certainly welcoming

vIeWS FRoM The ‘19 RePSoL hondA LAunCh

one; Madrid opened a different chapter for the team thanks to Lorenzo. Here are three themes we picked up from a brief visit to the Spanish capital

1) don’t say ‘dream’ “I don’t like it. We’ll see [if it is] by the end of the season…” with that throwaway comment Marc Marquez dispensed with the grating ‘dream team’ tag that had been immediately attached to the 2019 incarnation of the squad since Jorge Lorenzo’s shock announcement at Mugello last summer. The truth is that Marquez/ Lorenzo/HRC is quite possibly the strongest unit assembled in the modern era of MotoGP; perhaps only the duo of Eddie Lawson and Wayne Rainey come close in the stats and

Marquez admitted that he’d endured one of the “most boring winters of my life” with 24-7 physio after his left shoulder operation. The Catalan had less to comment on 2019 bike set-up with Lorenzo’s adjustment to his third crew and technology in three years a slightly hotter topic. “It’s still soon,” JL moderated. “At Jerez [the second and last winter test of 2018] it was 80% and I could go fast. I liked the bike from the first day; an agile bike that enters the turn well.” The 31 year old was quick to credit the environment he’d found also, “and I love the team because they have welcomed me with a lot of affection.” There are ultimately several reasons (and it might be a moot point) but ‘JL’ is no longer a Ducati rider due to a

A RADICAL SUGGESTION MIGHT BE THAT MARQUEZ HAS TO ALTER HIS PHILOSOPHY TO MOTOGP, THIS WILL REALLY SHIFT THE TILLER... pedigree stakes. And the bike? The third HRC rider – LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow – may routinely describe why the RCV is so hard to race but there is little doubt that the motorcycle improved in 2018 and was not quite the stubborn front-ended brute that made Marquez one of the ‘crashiest’ athletes in the pack in 2017.

lack of belief from the Italian management in his capacity to deliver results. Lorenzo seemed to hint that the ‘love’ was already in place with Honda. He was also aware of the opportunity he has been presented. The move to Ducati delivered a new challenge and a fat contract.

Now he has another challenge and arguably one where the spotlight is a touch brighter. “Here is…‘another level’,” he remarked. “I’ve been in other teams with a lot of wins but this carries more expectation. On a technical level in Valencia there were a lot of people in the box, talking about the parts on the bike. All that experience will allow me to extract the potential of the bike. There is pressure but it is not the same as coming into GP and needing results as a 15-16 year old otherwise you go home. I just want to pay back the confidence they have shown me.” For once Marc Marquez had to - figuratively - stand a little off stage-centre. Tetsuhiro Kuwata, HRC’s General Manager of Race Operations, underlined that the factory team “is always looking for excellence” and credited Lorenzo’s choice and arrival. “The fact that he accepted this challenge proves he is a champion with high hopes.” #93 was wearing his race leathers for just the second time (the previous day he’d done the official HRC photos in the same city) and seemed to favour his shoulder now and again during the forty minute affair. Marquez may be six-year veteran of the Repsol Honda formalities but this was the first time he was

Feature effectively sharing top billing since 2013. As ever, he knew the right words and genuinely seemed to appreciate his role in the 25 year story of the two powerhouse companies surrounding him. “It’s a privilege to be part of this family; to have seen those colours as a kid from the sofa. 25 years go I was a baby and only just born!” he said. “I’m proud to be part of this story and next to these champions and add a few titles.” “I had an offer to be in MotoGP for 2012 but wanted to wait for Repsol Honda,” he then revealed of his 2013 move and the start of an almost unbeatable union. “People ask me if I’ll leave and I say ‘why? I’m with the best team’.” Doohan claimed one of the key ingredients in HRC’s prowess was the synergy between the chess-piece movers. “The partnership between the two [Repsol & Honda] has been better than anyone else and that’s because they let everyone get on with what they need to do,” he explained. “They let the riders be the riders. I think the momentum is building.” It was exciting to see Lorenzo perched in his Honda Alpinestars leathers.

There is something more edgy and potent about his inclusion in the team compared to the endless presence of Dani Pedrosa since 2006. Speaking briefly of his compatriot, Lorenzo said it felt “strange” to be taking Pedrosa’s place but “I think we understand his situation after years of sacrifice”. The Honda-Lorenzo combination could meander into the underwhelming stint that the rider’s hero – Max Biaggi – weathered for a single year in 2005...but it really doesn’t feel like that will happen. #99 could really give the squad and the championship a hard and fantastically unpredictable shake-up.

2) (not) Just a flesh wound Lorenzo sported a sizeable cast less than twenty-four hours after scaphoid surgery, Marquez looked fit but stiff and even Doohan joked that he was struggling to breathe in his old race suit. “It’s not the best situation,” Team Manager Alberto Puig reflected on the general lack of bike fitness of his riders “but it’s much better if it happens now than in the middle of the season. We will take it as it is, and our priority is that the riders are fit on March 10 when the championship begins.”

Puig confirmed that German Stefan Bradl will take on HRC testing orders (and no doubt waiting around for the Sepang showers to clear) in Lorenzo’s absence for the outing in Malaysia next week. “We will follow the body and the riders’ condition,” Puig said. “[For] the bike, of course we have a process and it’s being developed. We will keep trying and Honda will keep doing the things they know they have to do.” Lorenzo talked of making the second test in Losail and being “90-95% at the Qatar race”. He also commented that the dirt track spill (“a very stupid crash”) was also partly caused by his weakened left wrist as a consequence of the injury from the massive ‘off’ in Thailand last October. “You find situations that you cannot change,” he lamented of the damage to the scaphoid. “It’s a complicated bone and one of the worst you can break. Luckily in 2019 there are advanced procedures.” Exactly how much strength and feeling the Majorcan will recover will only be known once he’s back on the RCV. Doohan was keeping optimistic: “depending on how his wrist heals I imagine he should be challenging pretty much straight away for a podium, I should think…”

views from the ‘19 repsol honda launch

Fitness and treatment were clearly themes buzzing around the riders’ heads. Marquez cited his goal for the season was “to avoid injury”; the comment providing some small insight as to the interruptive and serious nature of his shoulder problem. Short term he was in the same boat at Lorenzo. “My target is try to be 100% or as close as possible in Qatar GP,” he said. “The surgery has been more aggressive and more difficult than we expected. It was for four hours because it was more complicated than even the doctors expected. They said a minimum will be 3-4 months, but I’m working quite hard. We are already one month and a half

[along] and the shoulder is going in a good way so this is the most important. How it will be in Sepang I don’t know. Every day I feel some improvement.” Underneath the optimistic comments there appeared to be concern (or maybe careful estimation) that Marc will have to feel his way into 2019. His typical approach of using Friday and Saturdays at Grand Prix to explore limits with the Michelins may have to be tempered so as to not risk wrenching the shoulder even more. A radical suggestion might be that Marquez has to alter his philosophy to MotoGP racing, and this will really shift the tiller.

3) Setting the kindling Perhaps more than any other team, Repsol Honda will have the fans watching the body language and gestures in the pit box. It’s a consequence of two highly successful, demanding and elite athletes existing and striving in a small space and how the air will mix and occasionally bump off into thunderous storms in a teacup. Lorenzo has previous experience of the scenario having taken the plunge to enter Valentino Rossi’s Yamaha set-up in 2008 and fared very well.

Feature “This situation is quite similar to the one when I started in MotoGP in 2008 because at that time Valentino was in the peak of his career,” he explained. “He didn’t win in 2006 and 2007 but he was fighting for the world title and he knew the bike a lot so it is more or less the same situation that I have now.” Marquez was always very complimentary about Dani Pedrosa but there was the feeling that he was aware his dynamism, youth and abundant and consistent speed gave him the advantage over #26. Lorenzo is a new kind of threat, one that is very close to home. “When Dani was in the box it was a completely different riding style and Honda had enough potential to have two different ways to improve the bike,” he reasoned on the subject of how Lorenzo’s renowned corner speed could change the equilibrium of the technical work. “But in the end when you are riding fast all riders are asking [for] the same and the most important thing is that me, Jorge, Cal, we have more-or-less the same problems on the same areas. So this is the way to work with all the team and try to improve for 2019.” Lorenzo has been critical of Marquez’s aggression (most pointedly at Aragon last summer) but he knows what he’s up against. “I’d say he is phenomenal, and I have a lot of things to learn from him. So I come into the team with a lot of happiness and proudness [sic] but also a lot of humility to little-by-little try and understand everything and try to get results. Let’s see how it goes.”

views from the ‘19 repsol honda launch

There is a clear parallel to MXGP and the placement of Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings in Red Bull KTM. Although there is more of an age gap the Austrians and management still had to handle the two biggest champions in the sport. How the chemistry could work between Marquez and Lorenzo was a subject directed at Tetsuhiro Kuwata. “I have no doubt that we can manage both riders and the team,” the Japanese assured with a poker face. “Both riders are very professional riders and they know the expectations. We will try to improve the machine, the team, everything. This is a challenge and Honda likes a challenge so it is maybe tough but this makes us stronger than in the past.” Mick Doohan rarely faced an ‘equal’ once his Honda carried Repsol branding but Crivillé was arguably his trickiest opponent. “I think it is healthy to have a strong teammate,” he opined. “Somebody of the calibre of Marc Marquez and Jorge Lorenzo are not really too worried about their teammate. Sure, they want to be in front but they have to beat everybody. I think if you start focussing on any competitor then you lose what the objective is, and that’s to win… You need to work on yourself [and] your team to get a step ahead of competition.” “When the guy beside you has access to the same machine and equipment it means you have to work a little bit harder to make

sure you stay on the front foot,” he added. “It will be interesting.” Marquez’s attempts to heal some of the rift with Valentino Rossi could indicate that he is a individual that does not like confrontation or ill-feeling. His long-established tight posse inside Repsol Honda has a ‘bigger brother’ vibe and it would be hard work for Puig and HRC to have to deal with the kind of atmosphere that once saw Yamaha having to erect a wall between Rossi and Lorenzo (initially for tyre differences but the divide then remained). Lorenzo is famed for his perfectionism and preference for a small inner circle but is also no aggressor. He is more distant than antagonistic. This might just work. Unless those Repsol fairings start to bear a few scrapes. “[Marc’s] had five world titles in six seasons so he’s an amazing rider and I feel for his competitors,” teases Doohan. “Who is going to stop him? Lorenzo is of the calibre to do that but until we see them side-by-side – and that’s one of the great things about this year’s team – then there will be no more excuses.” Side-by-side indeed. The next nineteen rounds in nine months will divulge more.

motogp BLOG

Five head-to-heads to keep an eye The end of January, a new season looms large on the horizon - and with it, a variety of possible sub-plots that have already been in the making this winter. We cast an eye over potential battles and rivalries that promise to light up the 19-round calendar that lies ahead. A Marquez-Dovizioso repeat Noted, the vast majority of team presentations are littered with optimism. But Ducati’s opulent ‘do’ at Philip Morris International HQ in Switzerland wasn’t just an opportunity to witness the tobacco giant’s bewildering new approach to marketing. There was a chance to listen in on Andrea Dovizioso’s thoughts on the year ahead. “I feel better than last year,” said the 32-year old. “[With] More confidence.” Looking ahead, it’s hard to disagree. In the season’s second half, he outscored a rampant Marc Marquez by 157 points to 156. The Desmosedici’s base now works well everywhere. Gigi Dall’Igna’s unique innovations were in evidence at Jerez, with altered seat units and radical linkage system. New team-mate Danilo Petrucci is prepared to work according to the needs of Ducati’s lead rider.

And for the first time since 2014, Marquez enters the season facing physical uncertainty. A healing left shoulder could yet disrupt an approach so dependent on total aggression. Dovizioso has enjoyed two years challenging. Now 2019 offers a best chance at claiming the overall crown. Battle for superiority in HRC’s ‘Dream Team’ A ‘dream team’ operating within Repsol colours is no new thing. Marquez has labelled his own band of dedicated disciples just that as he powered a way to five of the past six championships. But Jorge Lorenzo’s arrival has strengthened the belief that internal friction could complicate the reigning champion’s approach. Beyond the fact that the grid’s two most talented riders, with a combined 138 race wins and 267 podiums between

them, operate from the same garage, there comes a matter of personality. Marquez and Lorenzo have had their moments in the past. Two of Lorenzo’s most recent public outbursts came after innocuous incidents (Misano, 2016 and Aragon ’17). And the Majorcan’s demanding presence can rub some up the wrong way. When did we last see the considered figure of Dovizioso throwing the pettiest of barbs across the garage, for example? This hasn’t been billed as a potential SennaProst rivalry without reason. Yamaha to get it right? History has a habit of repeating itself. To which anyone overseeing Yamaha’s recent fortunes could attest. There was a whiff of déjà vu last November. At a post-season outing at Jerez the tune called by factory runners Maverick Viñales and Valentino

e on

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By Neil Morrison

Rossi wasn’t entirely harmonious. On Yamaha’s updated engine, aimed at ironing out the failures of its predecessor, the Catalan delivered a resounding verdict: “this bike can win the title.” Rossi, on the other hand, aired caution. “At the moment it’s a fourth place bike … if someone ahead retires!” Fundamentally, they are in agreement as to where is most in need of improvement. Both, for example, agreed on the engine direction needed for next year. Yet it’s whether Viñales can maintain this recent momentum, making his voice heard over his more experienced companion, and ignore Rossi’s attempts at disrupting his flow that represents the biggest challenge of his career to date. If Yamaha finally gets it right, sparks will fly.

Knowing Pramac’s Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia have eyes on the seat for 2020, speculation regarding his position will be rife should he begin the year quietly. He acknowledged as much recently: “Jack and Pecco want my bike, it’s not a secret!” Miller’s aim will be much the same: prove himself a consistent podium contender. Equipped with Ducati’s GP19, he’ll likely have the machinery to do it. “I believe if we can do a really good job next year we should be in line for a factory seat somewhere,” said the Australian last November. “Here at Ducati. If not, we’ll see where the cards fall.” Then add Bagnaia into the equation, just 0.1s off Miller’s best time in only his second MotoGP test. This has the potential to escalate.

The fight for ducati’s second seat The only factory rider on the grid not in possession of a twoyear deal, Petrucci knows he must make good on previous promise if he wishes to maintain his current status.

Bagnaia, Mir to lead the battle of the rookies Were it not for the wealth, the fame and the fact their days consist of riding the world’s fastest motorcycles, you’d almost feel sympathy for a rookie entering the MotoGP fold.

Marquez raised the expectations bar considerably in 2013 by winning the title first time out. Four years on and Johann Zarco went as far as leading the first lap of the first race. So to Bagnaia, Mir, Oliveira and Quartararo: no pressure. Granted, the premier class is closer than it’s ever been. But for Bagnaia to be so competitive at his two tests to date (0.6s off Viñales at Valencia, 0.4s back at Jerez) indicates he will be challenging for top sixes before too long. Yet with contemporaries as strong as these, winning the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title will be no easy thing. Not least as Joan Mir has appeared so at home on Suzuki’s ever-improving MotoGP machine from the start (he passed through Jerez’s fearsome double right T11-12 with elbow down on the first morning of November’s test). Team manager Davide Brivio expects Mir’s progress to be on a par with Alex Rins’ debut year in 2017. If, so he’ll be alongside Bagnaia on the fringes of the top six.


the year of the rookie...

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There are always reasons to look forward to a new MotoGP season but 2019 looks like being more interesting than ever. There is plenty to pique our interest but the thing that probably excites me most is seeing just how good the crop of rookies coming into the class this year can be. Recent years have been pretty remarkable: 2017 had Johann Zarco, Alex Rins, and Jonas Folger; 2015 had Maverick Viñales and Jack Miller; 2013 had Marc Márquez, Andrea Iannone, and Bradley Smith. But the 2019 rookies promise to be phenomenal. Between them, Francesco (or ‘Pecco’) Bagnaia, Joan Mir, Miguel Oliveira, and Fabio Quartararo have a grand total of 34 Grand Prix victories, 81 podiums, and two Grand Prix titles. Of the three, only Quartararo doesn’t have double-digit wins in the junior classes, and all four are extremely highly rated among team managers and engineers. So who are they, and what can we expect of them?

A product of Valentino Rossi’s VR46 Riders Academy, Pecco Bagnaia was the most hotly pursued of the newcomers. There were MotoGP team managers trying to sign him in 2017, and when Jonas Folger withdrew for the 2018 season, Hervé Poncharal had brief talks with the Italian about replacing him. But it was Ducati who locked Bagnaia up first, when they signed him to a MotoGP contract for 2019 just before their 2018 launch. Why the rush? It was clear that the Italian was special in his final year in Moto3. Racing a Mahindra, he won two races and got four more podiums, vastly outperforming the bike’s potential. Though he failed to get a win in his first year in Moto2, he more than made up for it by claiming eight races and the title in 2018. The 22-year-old adapted quickly to the Pramac Ducati GP18 at the Valencia and Jerez tests, ending a third of a second off the lead at Jerez, and a tenth off

his teammate Jack Miller on the GP19. Bagnaia is the favourite to win Rookie of the Year, and is already in the frame for the second factory Ducati ride if Danilo Petrucci can’t hang on to it. Joan Mir is Spain’s counterpoint to Pecco Bagnaia. Mir’s rise through the ranks has been even more meteoric than the Italian, coming within a whisker of equalling Valentino Rossi’s record for a single season in the lowest class on his way to the 2017 Moto3 title. His lone year in Moto2 netted him four podiums, though more had been expected. The disarray in the Marc VDS team, the aftermath of the rift between team manager and team owner, was a constant distraction. But speak to people who have worked with him, and they will remark on his intelligence, his focus, the speed and willingness with which he learns. Both Honda and Suzuki vied for his signature, but the seat alongside Alex Rins is probably the better option for him.

By David Emmett

At 24, Miguel Oliveira is the old man of the bunch. After being shuffled from team to team, he immediately made an impact once he signed up with Aki Ajo. He came close to snatching the 2015 Moto3 title from the grasp of Danny Kent, and after he moved up to Moto2, was the only rider to consistently take the fight to Bagnaia. The intelligence he is universally praised for is exemplified by the fact that he has managed to study to be a dentist at the same time as competing professionally in Grand Prix. His perseverance with the KTM Moto2 machine earned him a seat with the KTM’s new satellite team partner Tech3. Unfortunately for Oliveira, the KTM RC16 MotoGP bike is still a long way from being competitive. Luckily for KTM, Oliveira’s intelligence and thorough approach is exactly what is needed to help make the bike better. Fabio Quartararo is the youngest of the bunch, still just 19 years of age. The young Frenchman – though he might as well be Spanish, having spent most

of his childhood there – is either an enigma, or a salutary lesson in getting too much, too young. He was so good in the FIM CEV Moto3 championship that Dorna made a new rule allowing the winner of the Junior World Championship to race in Grand Prix, even if they are below the minimum age of 16. But after a few strong results early on, injury cut his first season short, and lingered into his second campaign in the class with an ill-fated move to the Leopard team. A difficult first year in Moto2 with Pons saw him switch to Speed Up for 2018, his second year, and show flashes of the brilliance that originally earned early passage into the GP paddock in 2015. With careful mentoring and in the right environment, Quartararo could be the surprise package of 2019. In the Sepang Racing Team, under the tutelage of Wilco Zeelenberg and rider coach Torleif Hartelman, he should find just that.

Valentine Guillod

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norton There is a tangible sense of excitement and anticipation building around the resurrection of this brand and the output coming from the small British factory floors but Norton’s clothing range is already established and stores can be found in the UK, Spain, Germany, Portugal, France, Netherlands and Belgium. The garments are appealing, well-designed and well-made. And there’s loads of choice. We own a jacket and a couple of t-shirts and can vouch for the quality. It’s a good time to make the most of early 2019 sales so have a look at the website (the stores themselves are usually decked-out with some tricky motorcycles and cool interiors, well worth a visit).


that Generational thanG...

More than Euro largest MC stor

Leading up to the 2019 season a bright light is illuminating the subject of age in MotoGP following the addition of new faces. The Moto2 and Moto3 classes have become a breeding ground for the future and this year we are witnessing several rookies diving into the deep end much like Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Maverick Vinales and Casey Stoner once did. This chapter has long since marked the true beginning of a motorcycle racers career and the pinnacle of a young man’s dream (I use ‘young man’ as we are yet to be blessed with a female in the MotoGP category). Yes, times a-changing in the premier class and the force of a fresh generation is pushing on. Nurturing budding talent has become one of the most crucial elements within motor racing. Why? Better to build rather than buy. There is a much better chance of snaring the next potential champion at a younger age and a longer contract (that will still be cheaper for teams and brands) and this is the philosophy in many sports, perhaps at it’s most cutthroat in football.

The time and investment in talent has a limit though and can be precarious. For every current MotoGP rider there are several lower class riders who are preparing themselves for that very same job and role. Their duty every time they get on their motorbike is to find a way to stand out and be the best. It is a constant rotation between being great or someone will be greater. Unfortunately that doesn’t end if you finally reach the next step as there is still that sizeable pool open for teams to examine at any time. In the past we have witnessed fresh boyish faces standing amongst the men. Anywhere between five to ten years older than themselves, each year having gained experience and knowledge to add to their sporting ‘package’. They have gained a position to play with the big boys but now they have to defend it against victors, champions and overall natural flair. And again maybe start to look over their shoulders. Some rookies strike gold and fit in

naturally like Marc Marquez and Casey Stoner. Others have a more challenging journey ahead. Scott Redding was twenty-one at the time when he took the leap and joined forces with GO & FUN Gresini Racing. A five year career in MotoGP saw him jumping between four different crews but was unable to extend his stay in Grand Prix at the end of 2018. The Valencia GP marked his last hoorah in the elite category but a new chapter for Andrea Iannone who would fill his old boots. After a positive partnership with Ducati, Iannone was left to find his feet in 2017. Team Suzuki Ecstar would prove to be his saviour but he only showed his mettle in 2018. Iannone was unable to achieve consistent results despite his immeasurable talent and was replaced by a young man eight years his junior. Joan Mir was picked to substitute someone with six years experience in the top category and prior partnerships

ope’s re

By Sienna Wedes

with top teams. For Redding, lack of results was his achilles heel and Iannone, purely age and attitude. Team Suzuki Ecstar started making gambles in 2015, joining forces with twenty year old Maverick Vinales. This theme persevered through to 2016 with twenty two year old Alex Rins and still to this day with Mir. They have openly focused not only on their evolution in the modern era but on utilising the youthful cohort to gamble on the next generation. Their positive energy around younger talent is proving to be a successful methodology over time. Closely following at the ripe age of twenty, Australian Jack Miller bravely leapfrogged Moto2 straight into MotoGP. Three different teams in three years and race performances that have not matched his qualifying results naturally ring alarm bells. Each little hiccup is slowly feeding the shark infested waters and those ready to take a bite at his saddle. A complex never-ending cycle in the MotoGP world. 2019 is a pivotal year in proving Miller’s worth after inheriting ex-teammate Danilo Petrucci’s works Desmosedici.

Nineteen year old Fabio Quartararo will be partnering twenty four year old Franco Morbidelli in the new Petronas Sepang Racing Team. Although there are other factors riders like Dani Pedrosa (33 years old), Alvaro Bautista (34 years old) and Bradley Smith (28 years old) did not fit the ‘age’ bill for the new project. It simply became one of the priorities for the Malaysians. As of 2019, four riders aged twenty-four and under have replaced four riders aged twenty-six and above. The new generation is slowly making its way through the crowd, similar to that of the 2006 season where various renowned athletes were moved aside: Max Biaggi (34 years old), Troy Bayliss (36 years old), Alex Barros (35 years old) and Franco Battaini (33 years old). Incoming were Pedrosa (20 years old), Chris Vermeulen (23 years old), Casey Stoner (20 years old) and Randy de Puniet (25 years old). Decisions made by teams can be made abruptly and without emotion.

Over the years the average age has decreased. Between 2018 and 2019 the median has dissolved from twenty eight to twenty six years of age with the influx of fresh blood. Valentino Rossi was only twenty-three when he entered the MotoGP class as the newbie. The nine times World Champion himself has clearly shown faith in youth by creating the VR46 Academy. This year’s academy graduate Francesco Bagnaia (22 years old) is one of the recent additions to the top class and follows Morbidelli as a Moto2 World Champion to scale the final rung. The singular most important thing for the veterans is their experience. Not a trait to be taken lightly whether in a race scenario or a multi-million euro piece of equipment/development programme. For the fresh faces the pressure is immense and careers end purely because that is the way the life cycle goes. There are so many eager souls trying to prove themselves that essentially no one is really safe but there’s a little bit of intoxicating madness in knowing that there is a door that is always open.


ktm KTM Adventure bike riders might want to move quickly to confirm one of just 150 places on the 2019 KTM Adventure Rally in Bosnia this June and the chance to experience a high-class and unforgettable ‘sortie’. The trip (for riders of all abilities and with 640, 690, 790, 950, 990, 1050, 1090, 1190 & 1290 Adventures) takes place from June 1720 and sets off from the Bosnian ski village of Bjelasnica. It is the third edition that KTM are running of this type of event and where special guests will join the troupe. The excursion costs 745 euros and the price includes three days of guided riding, GPS aided, fuel, a set of off-road tyres, lunch, dinner, evening entertainment and other goodies like KTM products and workshops to improve riding. There will also be technical support and a media service. KTM whet the appetite by emphatically describing the route as: ‘amazing winding tarmac roads, endless dirt tracks and challenging trails amidst impressive scenery of beautiful mountains, deep canyons, high plains, ice cold mountain lakes and crystalclear rivers.’ Travel to and from the meeting point for the Rally is down to the rider but KTM will be opening an exclusive and closed Facebook group for riders to share their plans and routes. It’s a convenient and appealing option for a gaggle of buddies looking for a simple but effective adventure rally experience. Put a reminder in your calendar/agenda for the end of February when the online registration period opens. Click on any of the images to see and then bookmark the website.


The Draw

Words by Adam Wheeler, Photos by Ray Archer

Talking with Ryan Quickfall about creativity, bikes, inspiration and surviving as an artist in 2019



ans of flat track or cool biker brands or publications like Sideburn will instantly recognise the distinctive art and illustrations of Ryan Quickfall AKA ‘Ryan Roadkill’. The 35 year old from Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK has carved a niche for appealing and quirky Pop Art that has attracted growing interest inside the motorcycle industry. His work can be found on the side of flat track fuel tanks, wall prints, event posters, helmets, garments for people like Roland Sands and Deus Ex Machina and even brick walls in London’s trendy Shoreditch district. Operating out of his studio in England’s northeast Quickfall services clients and interest on a worldwide scale. His website contains a decent spread of his output (as well as

What’s a typical day’s workload? And is it always about bikes? It’s split between commercial and personal artwork. With the commercial side the client will come to me with the project and their wishes drive the look and aesthetic of the piece. The personal side is still driven by motorcycles, the culture and everything built around that but I’m much freer with what I do. For example it might be less about the motorcycle and more about the characters. I think I will continue to work with brands on a commercial level but then also split it down the middle with my artwork. They both inform each other. But you can get bogged down with client work every day so it’s good to have a bit of freedom because it can inspire and motivate you for the other stuff.

“You need to be a businessman and also be businessminded as well as be creative, and normally I don’t think those two necessarily go hand-in-hand. You also have to find time to have new ideas, keep moving forward...” almost 17k followers on Instagram) and how and why he has become so popular: the art veers between gothicky cartoon extreme to desirable race-based sketches and illustrations. Wanting to know more about how bikes steer and energise his work and mind, we decided to deprive Ryan of his pencils and tablet for a good thirty minutes…

Why a motorcycle? I don’t necessarily know how I landed in the motorcycle scene but motorcycles have been part of my life since I was a kid. I got my bike licence as soon as I could and I’ve been riding a long time now. I think anyone who is a motorcyclist will understand that it tends to inform so much else of what you do and your life around you. For me it informed my creativity. I think my first ‘in’ to the scene was working with Gary Inman from Sideburn magazine. He reached out to me around six years ago when he was asked to put together a book about artists in

ryan roadkill & bike art

the motorcycle industry. He asked me to send some work over for that and it snowballed from there I guess. As the workload increased did you find it conversely ate into the riding time? I love to ride but, you’re right, work commitments and deadlines eat into that. I like riding flat track, as well as the community and the whole scene in the UK that has built up around it. There is a really strong scene here but I don’t get on track as often as I’d like. There is also the risk of injury…it’s a double-edged sword I guess. With bikes you are conscious of drawing similar things every day but, like I said, the personal illustration work can mean a bit of an escape and it doesn’t have to depict a motorcycle. How would you characterise your style? When I look back at old portfolios from when I was at college then I guess the roots and the base of where I am now started back then. The work is so random, but you start out trying new things and by looking at other people’s work. The best way to develop your own style is to look at other people’s work and through the process of replicating pieces then you discover parts that you like and you’d change. If you do that for long enough then you build up your own style. That strong black line work I have now is very heavily influenced from things like Pop Art and from reading comics when I was a kid. I mean, the easiest way to make a mark on paper is to get a black pen or pen and ink! And then be bold. I think it subconsciously makes me put a frame on my work…but consciously I try to build it into everything. After a while your style becomes recognisable.

Feature It is essential you have your own ‘mark’? The way to do things? The content can change but the way you progress…I think it is better to have a solid and recognisable style. Always have that stamp that you want to put on your work. You want people to know that a piece comes from you, even if it is something completely random. I get a lot of emails people from people and young illustrators asking me ‘what should I do?’ and ‘how did you start?’ and the answer is that you have to produce the work. You have to keep at it and keep working. Before you know it then you’ll have your own style. You might not consciously pick up something but if you constantly plug away then it will come. Where does the creativity come from? What makes you pick up that pencil? Just being involved with motorcycles generally helps and having friends with bikes. I share a studio with a lad called Tom who is in the same industry and we talk about bikes, races we might be going to or friends who are building bikes. Being around the right people, creative people like fabricators and photographers, is a big help. Of course I read magazines and I just think

ryan roadkill & bike art

motorcycle culture is widespread and it’s contagious. Once you are hooked then it informs everything around you. Being around bikes is enough for me, I find. Is it sometimes tricky to depict bike racing on paper? It always has to be moving and be dynamic… Yeah, if I have a race event poster to do then I know I’ll have to portray a sense of excitement through the illustration. I have to show speed and bar-to-bar. If you look at old comics then similar scenes have these drawings that are really over-emphasised and you have to show that bike dropping into a corner or sideways if it is for something like flat track. A lot of the time it has to look over-exaggerated and chaotic.

Are Briefs from clients usually very tight or do you get a free rein? It is probably 50-50. People do come with specific Briefs but it does depend. If you are doing a broad spread of designs for an apparel range for a company then they might come with a very loose mood-or-idea board and will say what they like while asking me to put my twist on it. The other end of the spectrum are clients that are very particular about what they want and those generally are a lot harder to work on because the client has an idea in their head and it’s your job to flesh that idea out and visualise what they want to express. You have to try your best to pull that idea out. The jobs where the client says ‘just do your thing’ become more frequent the more well known you and your work become. They know what you are going to produce. It’s ideal.


“My painting and personal work tend not to have much in the way of deadlines, so that’s all by-hand and I’ll sketch an idea, apply it to a canvas and then paint it. Timescales and tools determine how you’ll do a job...”

cause it is in front of people straightaway. If you can build up a good following then you can sell product. Having said that you shouldn’t rely solely on Instagram because there are other ways of promoting yourself. As part of a bigger spectrum of promotion it’s a great tool.

Is there one job or artwork that sticks out in your mind? A big challenge that turned out to be immensely rewarding was a piece of wall art I did outside of a shop in London, Shoreditch, called Rebels Alliance. They basically gave me the whole wall space to work on in an area that is popular for street art. I was a little bit apprehensive but I knew this kind of opportunity would not come along every day. It coincided with a show of my work inside the shop. The wall was massive. We projected the image on and stopped cars parking in the way and I knocked the line-work in quickly one night and then the next morning I started on it. It was in quite a prominent place and I was spraying and concentrating on the wall but I’d turn around and see a hundred people behind me all with their phones out! That was a real career highlight. It was there for a year and a half and I know the guys in the shop down there were touching up the painting if someone

A milestone moment…? I never, ever think ‘I’ve made it…’ if you do then I believe you’ll fail quite quickly. I know I cannot sit still and I want to move my career in different directions. I know I can always do better and push the illustration harder. I’m always critical of my work and think I could have done better. I think that’s common for most creative people. I was impressed when Roland Sands first got in touch and wanted me to put ten designs together for their clothing range. I can’t remember the year…but I do remember ‘that’s pretty cool’.

had tagged on it. It was up for a good while and I’m planning on doing another one soon actually, which is quite cool. It was a project that was completely different for me at the time. What about the assistance of the digital age and has something like Instagram been invaluable for ‘spreading the word’? It feels like you never really know what will happen…but I feel like I have been able to make a career from Instagram, and I don’t know where I would be if I didn’t have that! It was a huge launchpad for me and as frustrating as it is these days - and as much as I’d like to give it up - I don’t think you can. It’s different now than what it was five years ago. How? It’s more saturated and you have to try harder to standout. I have to give Instagram its credit because for artists it is an amazing platform. It has probably never been easier for an artist to sell his or her work be-

ryan roadkill & bike art

What’s your production process? Is it ink and paper or tablet based? I definitely use computers and a Wacom tablet to speed up the process. Magazine work can have a very short turnaround time. It’s not my preferred method but if I need to get something done in a couple of days then I’ll whack out a design on the tablet and digitally produce it from start to finish. The way I do like to work - and I do this 70% of

the time - is to pencil-out a sketch for a client, get the goahead, refine the sketch and tweak some bits. I’ll then take it to a Light Box and brush the blackwork in ink. I’ll ink it by hand and then scan it. I’ll then digitally colour it from that point on. Digital comes into the process all the time purely because a lot of the stuff I do gets screen printed, so to set the layers up is much easier. If the opportunity arose where I can do an illustration by

Feature hand from start to finish then that’s my preferred course. My painting and personal work tend not to have much in the way of deadlines, so that’s all by-hand and I’ll sketch an idea, apply it to a canvas and then paint it. Timescales and tools for the jobs determine how you’ll do a job. What’s the best canvas…? Bikes themselves? Helmets? With bikes there are obviously more shades and contours to think about and I have two-three bikes to paint this year so we’ll see how it goes. They are flat trackers so it essentially means the tank and a section of the seat unit whereas a road bike or something with a fairing is a much bigger canvas to work with. Each job has it’s own bonuses and sticking points. I’d love to paint a road bike actually because a flat track bike means you have to think carefully about what will be displayed and how people and cameras will see it when its going into a corner. Riders will cover a lot of the tank anyway. The process of painting them is not radically different for me. I’ve done helmets in the past and there’s quite a lot of surface area. If you took a shell and spread it on the table then it would be pretty big. Again, only so much of it gets seen from different angles.

Another thing I’ve started to do is buy big oil cans, squash them flat and then paint them. Again it’s still the same process as painting a bike and I’d use the same enamel and spray paint. How is life as an artist and one predominantly based in the motorcycle industry in 2019? You cannot be just an artist: unless you have a really good agent that takes care of the whole commercial side. You need to be a businessman and also be business-minded as well as be creative, and normally I don’t think those two necessarily go hand-inhand. You have to try and market yourself, handle sales, email requests and clients. And also find time to have new ideas that keep you moving forward. There is always someone else biting at your heels. I’m sure that is the same for many different career paths. I’m really lucky that I have an agent in London – for just over a year now - that brings commercial illustration jobs. They help pull in work that is not just motorcycle related and it is nice to have it as a top-up. It’s nice to know someone is out there finding commissions and believing in you.

It is also very satisfying to put your work out there and have people contacting you directly to buy it: you’ve created it, produced it, marketed it, packed it and sold it. That hands-on process from start to finish is really rewarding.


rYan roaDkill at a sketCh What bikes in the garage? At the moment I have a Survivor Customs Rotax flat track Thunderbike. Which I race in the DTRA championship; I say ‘race’ but it’s more pottering around! A couple of your favourite racers and why… I used to really like Loris Capirossi. He was great to watch and a bit of a character. For me most riders who are competitive on track are absolutely worthy of support. To stand out and get behind them they don’t have to be winning championships, but to be characters on and off track. To name a few more I would say Mick Doohan, Colin Edwards, obviously Valentino Rossi and Kenny Roberts. Also a real good guy from here and now racing in the USA is Oliver Brindley!! A Bucket List racing event? Peoria TT or any of the big fast AFT Mile tracks.


leatt Leatt do not know how to slow down with their ideas and evolution for motorcycle safety products and the addition of the ‘Z Frame Knee Brace’ to their line of protection for the notoriously tricky and vulnerable joint raises an eyebrow or two. The Z-Frame emphasises a closer feel to the bike and has hyper-extension limitations of 5, 10, 15 and 20 degree help to limit ACL damage. There is a slim rugged gear hinge (and the whole composite chassis is CE certified so will cope with the knocks and abuse a track will throw at it) and a specific aim to blend function and performance. The Z Frame sits confidently next to the ‘X’ and ‘C’ models in the brace range as Leatt stretch their minds and R&D data when it comes to the best structures to assist knee injury and suit the needs of the rider, whether budding Pro motocrosser or occasional Enduro dabbler. The choice of model will really come down to fit and design preference. With their pedigree in life-saving neck protection then it is a brand you can trust. Expect to pay 300 euros or 270 pounds for the Z Frame pair.


when it comes to the crunch... “What’s the difference between short circuit racers and road racers?” It’s a question I’ve often been asked and long wondered myself. A couple of weekends ago I got a rare opportunity to make a direct comparison, albeit on artificial turf, rather than asphalt, in a charity soccer match between the two sets of riders at the Crusaders’ football ground in Belfast. Football skills aside, if the difference between the two sets of riders was purely mental, maybe this alternative sporting challenge would provide a good gauge. The traditional ‘Road Racers’ versus ‘Circuit Racers’ match is played annually in aid of the Children’s Cancer Unit at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, but this year it held extra significance following the death of one of the fixture’s regular players William Dunlop, whose family would share the proceeds. When leading British Superbike rider Glenn Irwin (star man for the Circuit Racers) sent a tweet out appealing for extra players,

I thought, “well, I have done a couple of track days!” and dug out my football boots. I figured it would be a nice, friendly kickabout – a sociable off-season gathering and a good chance for a catch-up with some of the riders I will be working with in the BSB paddock and Isle of Man TT in 2019.

with each one of his opponents. I smiled and nodded with each handshake, offering a “How’s it going?” or a “Good luck” – and was met unilaterally by the cold stare of antipathetic abandon that only a man prepared to tackle the Tandragee 100 in iffy conditions on a 250cc two-stroke could muster.

What I didn’t expect was a brutal grudge match, a clash of racing cultures and an agricultural approach to the beautiful game that had me limping all the way back to George Best City Airport. I should have known better, of course. Every motorcycle racer I have ever met boasts an almost psychopathic determination to win at absolutely everything they do. When they come together, the big question is: who wants to win the most?

The other thing that struck me was the physical stature of the Road Racers compared to my teammates: much thicker set than the Circuit Racers – still athletic, but heavier, broader. No need to lose those two extra kilos of muscle when you need to hold a Superbike steady for six laps around the bumpy roads of Enniskillen. No need for the diet protein shakes that were present in the Circuit Racers’ changing room – worth a good 0.2 seconds around the Silverstone National Circuit - nor the moisturisers or the hair gel (okay, I admit, the moisturiser was mine) for the cameras. Road racers aren’t in the sport to look cool.

The warning signs were there from as early as the pre-match pleasantries. The two teams formed a long line to great the crowd and then crossed in single file, each player shaking hands

By Matthew Roberts

They’re not in it for the fame or the fortune. They are literally in it to win it. As a result, their look is a little unkempt, a little wild. But that was nothing compared to their tackling. The first yellow card was flashed within two minutes of the first whistle, following a late lunge by young, up-and-coming Irish roads man Darryl Anderson on factory Honda BSB star Andrew Irwin, brother to Glenn. It is difficult to get a yellow card so quickly in a professional football match, let alone a ‘friendly’, but Andrew - one of the most notoriously aggressive riders on the British Superbike grid – had found himself on the end of the kind of move that saw him wipe three riders out in turn one at Snetterton last season. Moments later came my first touch of the ball, a little loose for my liking on the hard, unforgiving artificial surface, and James Kelly – a former Tandragee lap record holder and keen Gaelic football player - was onto me.

Within seconds Paul Robinson – a gnarly little 125cc legend of the Ulster Grand Prix and North West 200 - came piling in too. An elbow in the ribs, a boot around the top of the shin and the ball was gone – I still don’t know where, it didn’t seem to matter. I hunched over in front of the grandstand to catch my breath, and could sense the partisan Road Racer majority in a crowd of hundreds baying for the blood of this particular penpushing imposter of an Englishman. Moments later Keith Gillespie, the former Manchester United winger and Northern Irish national team legend, appearing as honorary captain for the Circuit Racers, was brutally sawed down in full flight by Dean Campbell, a race winner at the Cookstown 100 and - fittingly - a carpenter by trade. Gillespie was livid. He’d opened up a deep gash on his knee sustained the previous weekend in another ostensibly ‘friendly’ international competition shown live on Sky Sports (the one that saw Ireland’s Jason McAteer sent off for kicking England’s Michael Owen up the arse).

Campbell doesn’t give a shit about football, or Keith Gillespie’s reputation, or indeed Keith Gillespie’s knee. But he clearly gives a massive shit about winning. But thanks to the guile of Gillespie, combined with the calculated runs of Chrissy Rouse - a nimble British Superstock race winner with a maths degree - and the dextrous Nikki Coates up front, the Circuit Racers edged into a 2-0 lead. Aided by the willing runs of Glenn Irwin, an elaborate tactician from the wide left position, and the technically adept Superstock rider Jordan Gilbert in midfield, it seemed the incisive approach of the Circuit Racers was going to be too much for the Road Racers to cope with. However, as we emerged from the dressing rooms for the second half, a stiff westerly wind turned the rain sideways off the Irish sea, and into the faces of the Circuit Racers. The track technicians seemed to drop a cylinder whilst the Road Racers found some extra revs and ripped the throttle that little bit harder.


With the wind at their backs and an indomitable spirit within, they pumped relentless long balls over the top of a disjointed, dispirited and defeated Circuit Racers’ defence, gaining endless joy from the willing forward runs of Davey Todd, the ‘Star of Tomorrow’ at last year’s TT.

So, is that all that makes them different? Probably not. But in the words of William Dunlop’s brother Michael, they are certainly prepared to go “that wee bit extra.”

Barrel-chested BSB stalwart Shaun Winfield’s industrious attempts to punt the ball back into the wind from centre-half grew more and more futile as the gaps appeared around him and the pacey Todd took full advantage, setting up a flurry of late goals for Robinson and, ultimately, a winner from Kelly. The deflated Circuit Racers, it seemed, simply didn’t have the body fat percentage to weather the storm. With such a narrow winning margin in a match when footballing ability had precious little to do with the outcome, it is fair to say that the Road Racers had the mental edge on the day.

Photo by Steve english


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Some rules are made to be broken. We’re not saying you should break the law – but we are saying that the laws of physics are merely guidelines. The KTM 690 SMC R challenges the status quo by writing its own rule book. Experience this all-new, rule-bending, big-bore outlaw and start your own chapter. Photo: R. Schedl

2019 Worldsbk test


joininG the fast lane...

More than Europe’s largest MC store

I am writing this from the departures lounge of Seville Airport in the middle of a whirlwind of work and travel. After a very relaxed period over Christmas time, including a sneaky wee holiday with Clan GeeBee, 2019 has burst into life and I am currently bouncing around southern Europe in between photoshoots. It’s pre-season time when everyone in the WorldSBK paddock has a mad panic to get the final winter tests completed, bikes and engines prepared, fairings painted in new liveries; riders have new leathers and helmet designs to sort, all before the first week in February when everything gets put in crates and gets sent, lock stock and barrel, to Australia for the first round. We are just less than a month away from the first race of the season and no one seems fully prepared, least of all me. I think I have written about this before but each year it never changes. I get finished up in November with the last jobs and purposefully take time away from work to recharge the batteries,

mooch about the house and generally relax with my family. The new season seems so far away in the future: it must be like coming onto that back straight at Buriram. It stretches so far in the distance you can’t even imagine there is a corner at the end of it. Then, BOOM, a hairpin arrives, or in this case a bunch of photoshoots all stacked up on top of each other. I started last Monday in Jerez and have been shooting everyday, via Seville and onto Portimao. I am now on my way to Sardinia for what is a new venture for me, a three day shoot with a manufacturer and their world championship motocross teams. Whist it’s been mega busy over the last days it has been really productive and, along with Jamie Morris, we have achieved a hell of a lot. Back to the WorldSBK tests, it was pretty much the whole SBK field on track, with the exception of the new HRC Honda team.

Unfortunately the team hasn’t been able to get all the paperwork in place to register a European base. WorldSBK rules don’t allow teams to test out of their home continent, in this case Asia, so the Honda squad wasn’t able to test at Jerez or Portimao. It was a real shame not to have them there and I can only feel they will start the campaign on the back foot. The first we will see them will be in a few weeks at a two outing at Phillip Island, days before the first race weekend. It was good to see the new BMW team on track under the management of Shaun Muir Racing. Tom Sykes arrived really relaxed and looking forward to the test. I had hoped to catch them at their first shakedown at Almeria in December but the team were trying to stay under the radar as it was very much that, a shakedown. Added to that, Mrs GeeBee wanted to keep me ON the radar at home.

By Graeme Brown

Not everything had been ready for a full spec race machine in Almeria so it was a case of setting up riding positions, mechanics getting used to spannering the bikes and so on. Now with everything prepared the bike looked pretty trick when it rolled out of pitlane on Tuesday morning at Jerez. One thing I noticed however, was that they were running Nissin brakes. Nissin were only present in the paddock in recent years with the Ten Kate Hondas. Everyone else ran Brembo. Sykes apparently was really reluctant to use the Nissin product and was insisting on having Brembos. However, the deal was done long before Sykes put pen to paper and Nissin have gone all-in with BMW and SMR having their Racing Service on hand at both the Jerez and Portimao tests. There were other little noticeable changes up and down the paddock. The Barni Racing team, which is widely seen as an offshoot of the Ducati factory team and have taken Michael Ruben Rinaldi under their wing, are running Showa suspension. Showa

have been a very big part of the success at Kawasaki over recent years and I was really interested to see their product on the Ducati. I couldn’t nail anyone down to find out the exact reason. Could it be that Ducati want to run it on their satellite team to get a handle on the performance of the Kawasaki? The current rules make it possible for anyone to buy the same equipment as the factory teams so it would make sense to see what the competition is using. In personnel terms it was interesting to spot Phil Marron in the Puccetti garage working as crew chief to Toprak Razgatlioglu. Phil has been a long term crew chief and friend of Eugene Laverty. I wonder how the relationship will develop but the Turk was pretty quick at both tests. Jonathan Rea continues to be top of the pile, setting the fastest times in both Jerez and Portimao, and he is resolutely determined to stay there. I had to visit him at home in Northern Ireland a couple of weeks ago. As I was coming off the ferry from Scotland he messaged me to say

he was at the gym but to come up and by the time I get there he should be finished. When I arrived he was just starting the final exercise, pushing a sled with metal runners, laden with weights, up and down the car park in 10, 20 and 30 metre shuttles, for the following 20 minutes. By the end he looked drained. He has been doing that most days since December in order to stay fit and strong. One man who has been hot on his heels at the tests is Alex Lowes. Alex and his brother Sam have pitched up at Valencia circuit and been training there since the start of the year. They have their own pit box and each day have been doing gym sessions, finished off by repeated efforts running up and down the hill along the back straight. Anyone who has been there knows how steep that is. We all follow our heros on social media and we see pictures of them riding motocross or supermoto, trials riding in the mountains or pedaling a push bike in some sunny location. What we don’t see is the hard graft of turning themselves inside out on a


daily basis to reach peak fitness and hopefully gain an advantage over their rivals. We spoke about it amongst the soft media types in Portimao and agreed that top level professional athletes have something special that the rest of us don’t have. It’s not just the given talent they have for their chosen sport but it’s an ability to hurt themselves, endure physical pain, to make themselves stronger and fitter. Then there is the downside of motorcycle racing that we don’t see. I did a photoshoot with Supersport rider Jules Cluzel in Portimao. He is currently walking with the aid of a crutch after surgery on his ankle to break it and reset it. It turns out he broke it in a crash three years ago and it never set properly. He has been in constant pain ever since, all day, every day, and yet he still manages to race a motorbike and win at the highest level. It got too much for him last year and after his crash in Qatar he decided it was time to get it properly repaired, as much for his long term quality of life as well as his performance.

Like most I guess, I never knew any of that and I was stunned. What a herculean effort to keep racing at that level and it is just another example of that little extra piece of the jigsaw that these guys have that makes them amongst the best. I am not going to complain about being cold or wet ever again, doing one of the best jobs in the world. I even feel a little bit embarrassed at this point to moan that I am a bit tired!

2019 Worldsbk test

Drinking at Last Chance saloon? He’s experienced and has excelled at so many levels of racing but this winter Eugene Laverty was staring at a career ‘wall’. The popular 32 year old now dislodged a brick to grasp a plum opportunity in WorldSBK with a Ducati V4 R. Can the Irishman finally match the talent with the results once more? Words & Photos by Steve English



he butterfly effect is defined by how small events have widespread implications. It could be debated that a particular conclusion will be reached no matter the circumstances, but in motorcycle racing those small details can have massive repercussions on a rider’s fortunes. Eugene Laverty almost found how destructive the choices, moves and minor issues can actually be. At the end of the 2018 season the Irishman was facing the prospect of a year on the sidelines, but instead one call answered all his prayers, in the form of a Ducati V4 R.

With the GoEleven squad switching to the Italian machine, Laverty finds himself in a seat with race winning potential once again. “Riders always know that they can be left without a ride,” assessed Laverty. “I don’t have a big enough ego not to feel vulnerable to that, and I realised pretty quickly that there was a chance that there wouldn’t be many seats available. Since I started winning races in World Supersport in 2009 I’ve always had options

drinking in the last chance saloon?

any risk of being on the sofa for a year. This year things were different because options just kept dwindling. When I got injured in Thailand it was probably the worst time that it could have happened. We started the year really strong and then after the injury I had to rebuild, but that was when it was contract time for riders and that hurt my options. I can’t complain though. I’m back in WorldSBK for 2019, riding again. We’ve seen that in the end some riders went to BSB, and some were left without a seat.” With employment prospects shrinking in the WorldSBK paddock, the rider market was flooded. For Laverty it seemed that staying at Shaun Muir Racing was his primary route; but with the team switching to BMW and the German manufacturer bringing with them a hefty sponsorship budget having a German on the bike was always likely. With Markus Reiterberger in place, Laverty was suddenly in a shootout for other bike. Going up against Tom Sykes left him on the outside looking in. The former WorldSBK champion may have been outclassed by Jonathan Rea in their four years as teammates, but six Superpole’s in 2018 certainly showed that he still has the speed. on the table. This winter was very different for me. Looking back to 2013 - when I was pushed out of Aprilia - there was some uncertainty about where I’d ride, but I had options on the table.” “At that stage of my career I was winning races and did the double at the final round of the year in Jerez. I had choices. Should I go to MotoGP and be a midfield runner, or should I try and win races on the Suzuki in WorldSBK? That was a choice for me and there wasn’t really

“This year rides were disappearing,” commented Laverty. “Kawasaki signed Leon from BSB and Kiyonari came in at Honda, so that was two seats filled and with Ten Kate pulling out, suddenly that was another two rides gone. It was a tough period. At one time, things were looking good for me to stay with my current team, SMR.” “Then when that fell through it was a case of thinking, ‘what’s going on here?’

Feature Everything was looking on course to stay with SMR during the summer but once things start getting delayed it becomes less secure for you. I still thought everything looked like it was going to go ahead but at the last minute things changed.” “That’s why as riders you have to understand; you’re just a number. You can’t take any offence from it. I understand that Tom is a world champion. He’s been winning races in recent years. So they chose him. That’s all there was to it. But I’m thankful I ended up getting something because the only problem for me with what happened was how late in the day it was. That’s all it was, and it left me in a difficult position.” Out of that adversity Laverty has been able to find himself on a bike that should be a contender. The brand new Ducati V4 R is a MotoGP-derived machine. His experience of their Grand Prix motorcycle also gives Laverty plenty of confidence that the WorldSBK version shares more than a factory workshop and genesis; it shares the same gene pool.

it tough for the rest of us to fight with them. Braking is really strong with this bike and we know that Chaz was always able to brake better than the Kawasaki, so those are the two key areas this bike could be very strong in.” Now it will be up to the 13 times WorldSBK race winner to prove that he still has the ability, desire and confidence to fight at the front. His return to the productionbased championship has been below expectations with two podiums as scant reward. He knows that now is the time to deliver. With Jonathan Rea having dominated for four years, Laverty is realistic about how difficult it will be to beat him. Confidence is a fickle thing. It takes a long time to come and only an instant to drop away. It’s often said that a rider needs to believe they’re the best to be the best. For Laverty however, he knows that to beat the best - and Rea is statistically the greatest rider in WorldSBK history - he knows that first Rea has to realise he’s in for a fight.

“This bike has some major strengths. The two biggest factors are how linear the engine is. It feels more like the MotoGP engine I used a few years ago...” “This bike has some major strengths. The two biggest factors are how linear the engine is. It feels more like the MotoGP engine I used a few years ago, and that really helps whenever you’re using fixed gearbox ratios and you’re running at minimum RPM in a corner. I’ve got an engine that pulls right through the reins. I think Kawasaki have had that over the last few years, and that’s made

“I think that for everyone in this championship to beat Johnny at the minute, you’ve got to have a better bike than he has. He’s had four years with the same bike and the same team, he’s on the crest of a wave. He’s not starting a new season; he’s continuing what he’s done for four seasons. I think that with this Ducati we may well have a bike to do that though. We need to get the bike

drinking in the last chance saloon?

working well and then get on top of the Kawasaki. If we can do that right from the start then the championship is wide open.” “Confidence is a strange thing, and when I went to MotoGP I lost some of mine. I listened to too much of the bullshit about what people around me were telling me. I almost started believing that maybe there is something special with those riders. That was a mistake and I should have focused on myself because that would get into my head a little bit, and that’s not good for anybody.” “Since coming back to WorldSBK and getting on a good bike I’ve had my confidence come back. At my first WorldSBK test I could compare my data on the Aprilia to 2013, I could see from the first test how badly I was braking compared to the past. I needed to get my finger out again and work at regaining strength in my riding style. I want to get back to winning races. I’m a better rider now than I was in 2013 when I was winning. It’s about the bike, the team and everything around you. There were some things that I was doing well but there was nothing I was doing better than what I do now. I’ve improved in every area. So it was a matter of getting the rest of the pieces of the puzzle. “When I was with Aprilia it was their full factory team. Everything was in place, and they gave me a chance to bloom. I need to get that going again. I know that this could be the last chance saloon. I’ve signed a one-year contract here at GoEleven. I think a lot of riders are in a similar position, so it’s important for me to hit the ground running, get those results and put myself in the shop window to get back to a factory team.”


drinking in the last chance saloon?

Deadlines spur activity in every walk of life and Laverty is sure to find that in 2019 his deadline will have moved up. He doesn’t want to be caught on the backfoot again in the next turn of the rider swaparound. Going to GoEleven is a move that certainly has risks attached. The team - who ran Roman Ramos in recent years - have to prove themselves as capable of being front-runners and Laverty needs to prove to the paddock that he’s still the rider he was five years ago. Whilst his data tells him that he’s moved forward as a rider, it’s possible that WorldSBK has also moved on since then. The first race of the 2019 season will be the fifth anniversary of Laverty’s last win in the class. A lot has changed for the Irishman since then but now he finally has the bike underneath him again to prove that he’s still contender. It’s put up or shut up time, and being the sole focus of his team for this pivotal season is something that he’s embracing. “It’s been good to be a single rider in a team. I’ve never had that before, but with a brand new bike it’s good for everyone in the team to be focusing their attention in the middle of the garage. Some might feel more pressure as a single rider but I don’t because I only focus on myself. I’ve never really looked outside of that. It puts all the emphasis on me. Sometimes - especially in testing - a teammate can pull a lap out of his ass; the old data comes out in the overlay and is trying to tell you to do different things. So I quite like it that I’m able to do my own thing.” “The data that I have is from the factory guys, a MotoGP podium guy like Bautista and Chaz who’s won a lot of races, that’s

the data I want to see. We’re working on our own thing though, and if I request their data I can get it.” “I’ve ridden with so many top riders as teammates: Melandri, Biaggi, Guintoli, so I know what to look for in data. There’s no point in looking at a screen full of colourful lines and not knowing what you’re seeing. It can be deceiving because sometimes you can look at it and see a rider doing the corner better, but now with my experience I know to almost tell the engineers, ‘no, ignore that. He’s doing that, but he won’t be able to do that after six laps...’ So now I know what to look for and that makes a big difference.”


ducati Ducati and Italian watchmakers Locman have teamed up for a second run of timepieces. The combination has produced a collection for 2019 that ‘consists of four models, each with a different mechanism, with prices ranging from 299 euros to 598: the quartz Solo Tempo (Time Only), the quartz twin-gauge Chronograph (with 24-hour time and chrono minutes), the three-gauge Chronograph (with continuous watch seconds, chrono hours and chrono minutes) and the Meccanico Automatico Solo Tempo (Mechanical Self-Winding Time Only).’ The cases are made of stainless steel with the distinctive Ducati shield as part of the design. The look of the face is taken from ‘Ducati instrumentation and racing’ while the straps vary from soft silicone or natural padded leather. Locman might not be a well-known brand outside of Italy (and thus the units might be tougher to track down internationally) but the style of these products is actually pretty good: elegant and simple without any of the over-the-top and often gaudy appearances of similar bike related watches (such as the Tissot MotoGP lines or even other models in Ducati’s own portfolio).


pack the half BMW’s jugular shot for the Middleweight Adventure crown: f850gs Words by Roland Brown, Photos by Mark Manning

It looks as though 2019 will be the year of the middleweight adventure bike. KTM’s 790 Adventure and Yamaha’s equally eagerly awaited Ténéré 700 were stars of last autumn’s shows. Largecapacity adventure bikes are great, the thinking goes, but who needs all that horsepower, size and expense when a middleweight can provide exciting performance and comparable sophistication for much less money? Those two newcomers might be highlighting the trend, but in some ways they’ll already be playing catch-up. BMW’s F850GS, very much from the same market sector, has been in showrooms for several months already. The F850GS was launched midway through last year, comprehensively updating the F800GS that had been an adventure class mainstay for over a decade. At the heart of the update is a new parallel twin engine, with capacity increased

from 798 to 853cc, increasing maximum output by ten per cent to 94bhp. The bottom-end is redesigned with a new firing order, and there are twin balancer shafts to kill vibration. (Continuing BMW’s confusing tradition, there’s also a new F750GS model, replacing the F700, with identical 853cc capacity and lower, 76bhp output.) In styling terms the F850GS has a beaky look that brings it visually closer to the R1200GS boxer. Its steel frame and other chassis parts are new; the fuel tank is conventionally located rather than at the rear. The drive chain is now on the left and the exhaust on the right, partly to facilitate manoeuvring the bike off-road. (Most riders push from the left, where the hot exhaust was.) The extra capacity gives the GS some welcome extra acceleration, and it’s impressively flexible as well as quick. It’s strong at higher revs too, and feels smooth, especially as the top three gears are slightly taller.

bmw f850gs

But inevitably it can’t match the R1200GS for low-rev grunt, and doesn’t have the big boxer’s distinctive character either. It is however impressively economical, averaging close to 60mpg to give a range of 170plus miles from the 15-litre tank. (There’s also an F850GS ‘Adventure’, with 23-litre tank plus hand-guards and taller, adjustable screen.) Whether the fairly thin and not outstandingly comfortable seat encourages such mileage without a break is another matter. Disappointingly, the F850GS doesn’t approach the Adventure model’s level of wind protection, largely due to its low, narrow screen, which does little apart from generating some noisy turbulence. A taller option is available, and there are also higher and lower options for the seat, which also can’t be adjusted, and at 860mm is typically adventure-bike tall as standard. With that standard seat the F850GS is respectably roomy and it handles well on road, feeling reasonably light and agile despite weighing 229kg with fuel, and having a 21inch front wheel. The wide handlebar gives plenty of leverage to get the bike flicking through bends, steering is accurate and there’s plenty of stopping power from the Brembo front brake calipers. Suspension is well controlled despite giving very generous travel; there’s also a semiactive option that links with riding mode. As standard the modes are simply Road and softer Rain. Paying extra for the Pro upgrade adds Dynamic, with sharper throttle response, plus off-road-friendly Enduro and Enduro Pro (which disables rear ABS to allow skids). The options are good to have, though the engine’s rider-friendly character means that even the sharper throttle response is very manageable. You couldn’t describe the F-bike as compact or particularly light, but it’s respectably manoeuvrable, and usefully less heavy and more agile than the R1200GS.

bmw f850gs

“Whether off-road or on, the F850GS is a sensibly updated parallel twin that is quick, versatile and capable of tackling everything that a larger-capacity adventure bike can do. It also has the benefit of relatively low price ....�

bmw f850gs

That helps make it plenty of fun off-road, where the fairly high handlebar, slim seat and serrated footpegs all come in useful when you’re standing up. Whether off-road or on, the F850GS is a sensibly updated parallel twin that is quick, versatile and capable of tackling everything that a larger-capacity adventure bike can do. It also has the benefit of relatively low price (£9875 in the UK), at least in its basic specification. Not that most buyers will choose the base model. Many will pay extra for the F850GS Sport (£10,755), which includes heated grips, quick-shifter and cornering ABS. And plenty of bikes will be kitted out with options including Dynamic ESA semi-active suspension, cruise control, keyless ignition and centre-stand. One reason for the current rise of mid-capacity adventure bikes is that this latest breed can incorporate those electronic and other features, which large-capacity models have had for years. Perhaps the main drawback, in the case of the F850GS, is that doing so brings its price close to the basic cost of the mighty R1200GS, with its extra dollop of power and character (and, yes, weight). Most riders looking for a GS will doubtless fall for the familiar charm of the huge-selling boxer, but BMW’s comprehensively uprated parallel twin is well worthy of consideration. As one of the advance guard of adventure super-middleweights, it has set the bar temptingly high. Those new arrivals from KTM and Yamaha are going to have to be mighty good to beat it.

bmw f850gs

back page Oakland SX By James Lissimore

on track off road

‘On-track Off-road’ is a free, bi-weekly publication for the screen focussed on bringing the latest perspectives on events, blogs and some of the very finest photography from the three worlds of the FIM Motocross World Championship, the AMA Motocross and Supercross series’ and MotoGP. ‘On-track Off-road’ will be published online at every other Tuesday. To receive an email notification that a new issue available with a brief description of each edition’s contents simply enter an address in the box provided on the homepage. All email addresses will be kept strictly confidential and only used for purposes connected with OTOR. Adam Wheeler Editor and MXGP/MotoGP correspondent Ray Archer Photographer Steve Matthes AMA MX and SX correspondent Cormac Ryan-Meenan MotoGP Photographer David Emmett MotoGP Blogger Neil Morrison MotoGP Blogger & Feature writer Sienna Wedes MotoGP Blogger Graeme Brown WSB Blogger and Photographer Roland Brown Tester Núria Garcia Cover Design Gabi Álvarez Web developer Hosting FireThumb7 - Thanks to PHOTO CREDITS Ray Archer, CormacGP/Polarity Photo, GeeBee Images, S. Taglioni, Yamaha James Lissimore, Mark Manning Cover shot: Adam Cianciarulo by James Lissimore

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On-Track Off-Road issue 183  

The first 2019 issue of a monthly motorcycle sport magazine with some of the best interviews, features and Blogs from the heart of MotoGP, M...

On-Track Off-Road issue 183  

The first 2019 issue of a monthly motorcycle sport magazine with some of the best interviews, features and Blogs from the heart of MotoGP, M...

Profile for otormag