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#GETD BEAST MODE ENGAGED 2020 KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R The NAKED rulebook has been re-written. The KTM 1290 SUPER DUKE R is now leaner, meaner and even more menacing than ever before. Sporting an all-new chassis and suspension setup, the flagship LC8 V-Twin 1301 cc boasting brutal forward thrust, blinding acceleration and an advanced electronics package, the NEW BEAST is locked and loaded for battle.

Photo: R. Schedl

DUKED Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations! The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost.


FIRMLY IN THE RUNNING A third win of the 2020 AMA Supercross season as the campaign enters the second phase brings Ken Roczen level on 200 points with Eli Tomac, and a title chase closer than many could have hoped for. This is Roczen’s strongest term yet in 450SX. Will it go down to SLC? Photo by HRC



Grand Prix win No.87 for #84 meant Jeffrey Herlings opened 2020 MXGP with the red plate for just the second time in his four years in the premier class. It wasn’t total domination though as Tim Gajser claimed the second moto in Great Britain and the battle lines start to harden further Photo by Ray Archer


THE FIRST RAIDER There is now a grand total of three riders with Grand Prix winning experience in the 2020 MX2 division. Jago Geerts’ success was a milestone for the rider and his country – the first Belgian victory in the 250s in almost ten years – but the Yamaha man had to fend off five other riders chasing those podium spots. MX2 started deliriously close Photo by Ray Archer


MATTERLEY BASIN · RND 1 OF 20 · MARCH 1st 1st MXGP winner: Jeffrey Herlings, KTM MX2 winner: Jago Geerts, Yamaha


FIRST STARE By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Ray Archer



ike a good old classic matinee, it turned out alright in the end.

The ‘storm’ around viruses, health and international motorsport events seemed to manifest itself in the British climate for the first round of 2020 MXGP. Incessant rain, destructive and cold gale force winds, and eventually, wintery sunshine blasted the popular Matterley Basin site in a period of sixty hours but the upturn in conditions on Sunday saved the Grand Prix. There were inconveniences concerning the infrastructure and wider elements of organisation but the dowsing on Friday and Saturday afternoon had a positive effect on the racing surface; a place where the nerves and uncertainty of the riders led to some unpredictable and entirely watchable fare. Yes, Jeffrey Herlings imposed himself on MXGP once again, but world champion Tim Gajser showed he could be ready to match the intense Dutchman’s levels of performance. New brands, new riders – well done Mitch Evans – old hands, old skills and a stretch of talent deep into the depths of the top twenty riders in the MXGP class is exactly what we want to see. As for MX2, the category has been revitalised with the presence of a clutch of excitable youngsters – the final podium trio of Jago Geerts, Tom Vialle and Mikkel Haarup all under the age of twenty – and a state of the contest that Infront Moto Racing no doubt envisaged when they initially imposed the 23-year limit rule over ten years ago. At one stage five riders were split by four points for the rostrum trophies. There were mistakes, crashes, rash decisions, rookies and a whole lotta learning going on. The fate of round four at Arco di Trento in Italy in five weeks remains to be seen but the rush to Valkenswaard and then to the excellent circuit of Neuquen in Argentina means the thirst for more of the same scenes found in Matterley will be quenched.



Moments after the second moto, Jorge Prado looked disconsolate in the Red Bull KTM awning. “I’m a world champion and I’m not used to 10th place; the last two years have been pretty good,” he said, while being animatedly reminded by father Jesus that he barely has bike-time on the 450 SX-F and just over twoand-a-half months ago he was in a hospital bed with a broken left femur. Considering the Matterley ruts and bumps and sketchy dipping afternoon sun (“I think I struggled to see 80% of the track”) Prado’s Grand Prix debut was nothing short of staggering.

More Danish? Mikkel Haarup emerged from the Marc de Reuver F&H Kawasaki school as the most consistent MX2 racer on the day. 3-3 was a strong showing from an athlete that has caught the eye in fits and spurts in the European categories. Countryman and title favourite Thomas Kjer Olsen exited content from his 5th place in the second moto to brush away the rust of a docile winter period and concerns over a pre-season wrist problem.


Dashing Debut. As he showed in Argentina 2019, Mitch Evans is fond of leaping out of the first gatedrop. With Tim Gajser in 2nd place and the Australian in 5th, HRC were the second-best team and brand to Red Bull KTM on the day, as Evans carried surprising pre-season race competitiveness straight onto the stage that counts. The youngster was not over-awed or seemingly pressurised and – like a young Andrew McFarlane at the start of the century – could be the ‘ointed’ fly in 2020.

True to his outlandish and fun character, Alberto Forato was the buzzing threat in MX2. The nineteen year old Italian – a full-time rookie to MX2 in 2020 – had been training during the winter with an FC450 and with a delayed schedule due to a broken right leg. His 6th overall with less than two weeks on the Maddii Husqvarna 250 and with a physique that is just ‘all wrong’ for the quarter-litre machine hints at his talent and mentality. Watch out for this one.

Please make no attempt to imitate the illustrated riding scenes, always wear protective clothing and observe the applicable provisions of the road traffic regulations! The illustrated vehicles may vary in selected details from the production models and some illustrations feature optional equipment available at additional cost. Photo: R. Schedl


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ICE, ICE BABY As well as trying to supervise and encourage his riders, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna IceOne Team Manager Antti Pyrhonen was just as busy having to show and explain the squad’s striking new truck at Matterley Basin. The bikes and crew for both Pauls Jonass and Arminas Jasikonis were housed in a suspended glass box that protected them against the elements and removed any concern for the strong English winds battering an awning structure. The clinical and efficient variation on a paddock set-up was one of the main curiosities and draws away from the track at Matterley. Pyrhonen was quick to stress that the unit’s practicality outweighed any of the new aesthetic.

“It was a busy time to get it ready,” he reveals. “We started quite late last autumn and got close to the deadline. I would say it is 80% now but we have between rounds two and three to finalise everything.”

“I was trying to find a way to keep the infrastructure level the same or even at a higher level but to win man-hours,” the Fin remarked. “The current MXGP programme is so global and so long that we needed to find a more effective way to win time, and time at the workshop instead of the whole crew sometimes being at the circuit on a Wednesday to build-up for Thursday. Now we need just one truck driver to make the set-up hydraulically in twenty-thirty minutes. I calculated that we win forty-five days this way, which we can invest back in the workshop.”

The truck carried a spotless, showroom aspect…and remained so in spite of the English mudder. “I’m not worried,” Pyrhonen smiled on the thought of the white interiors taking on another shade. “It is still motocross and we need to accept it’ll get dirty. I’m happy, the mechanics and crew also, as well as our partners. Of course, it is a new unit and with anything new you have to check out the technical issues. It will take a couple of GPs before everything is working perfectly.”

Pyrhonen collaborated with a Dutch-German firm to chisel the interiors of the air-conditioned workspace, with the bikes entering and exiting through a small step ramp at the front.

IceOne have been considering this ‘portable workshop’ for a number of years. Compared to their old two-truck structure that was overlyspacious the new layout is pretty tight for two riders and hospitality. “It is way-more compact and we need to find a new way to work but we are capable because overseas we have workbays around ten-by-five metres for two riders: we can do our job there so why not here?” Pyrhonen insists.

IceOne will eventually load more equipment and the bikes themselves inside for on-theroad travel to Grands Prix and will use a separate hospitality facility for home events. Opinions aside, the team have certainly lifted the bar.


OLD DOGS, NEW TRICKS? SIMPSON AND STRIJBOS MAKE THEIR PRESENCE FELT For the third time in his career, former world championship runner-up Kevin Strijbos has defaulted to Suzuki RM-Z450 technology to find a new gear. At last summer’s Motocross of Nations, the 35 year old Belgian heavily hinted that his time in Grand Prix was ending, and furrowed his brow at the suggestions running his own operation. Then, a chance of support from an old ally arose. “Going by myself wasn’t an option,” he smiles now at the memory. “I was trying to find a team and had an opportunity with Johannes Bikes for the ADAC [German Championship] but I also wanted the GPs. It wasn’t possible with them but the privateer route remained open so I spoke with Hens [his principal sponsor] and he was good about it and wanted to try.” Keen to ride Suzukis once more – the brand with which it all started as a sixteen year old in 2001 and with whom he claimed his two vice-championships as well as an MXoN race win in 2014 – Strijbos contacted his old team manager and the previous guardian of the Suzuki factory team, Sylvain Geboers. “I spoke with Sylvain and 2020 was still a year where we couldn’t have factory support from

Suzuki so we went private and I bought bikes through a German dealer,” Strijbos said. “Sylvain was a big help with sponsors like Akrapovic and it came together. I have a bit of a name but, with Sylvain, it was an even bigger help. We even rented a small space in the old workshop in Lommel and when we could rent the bus from Paul Sannen it came as a good option and was better than our idea of going with a Sprinter van.” Although Strijbos struggled with a physical problem and could not make the points at Matterley his team took a bold stride towards potentially a second career in the sport for the Belgian…when he finally does decide to retire. “I hope it is going to workout. I know I won’t be world champion anymore but I still do all of my work at that level,” he said. “Maybe it is a step towards the future. This will probably be my last year – again! – so I was thinking it would be nice to finish where I started all those years ago.” The old Suzuki bus – home to Mickael Pichon’s double title-winning RM-250s back in 2001-2002 - was a pleasant and sad

reminder of the disappearance of the famous Japanese brand. With Strijbos and Geboers back in yellow however there is a small crack of light in the door that the company could return to MXGP. “Who knows? That’s my idea,” #22 admitted. “It would be nice to do something with them if they decide to come back, and also be involved with a role like a test rider. But there is nothing on the table, and I think many other teams would be willing to ‘go factory’ with them when they come back. We’re private for now and the only thing we can do is dream about it.” For now, Strijbos is balancing riding, racing and managing. “I had a lot of sleepless nights and I think Shaun will say the same. For sure you don’t need a lot of money to really go racing but, while I knew it was going to be a lot of work, I think I underestimated it. There was a lot of organisation, back-andforth, emails: a lot of time. I’m really happy that Hens stepped in as the main sponsor for the whole set-up. It has been good so far. The results are not there yet but we’ll see.’ In the adjacent row at Matterley, SS24 KTM MXGP had a smaller, more modest set-up but the grey awnings were permanently full of Shaun Simpson’s helpers, friends and well-wishers. For one of the most grounded motocross families in the sport the whole operation carried a throwback vibe. Simpson has reunited with father Willie for preparation of the KTM 450 SX-F, and the humility of the package hid the competitiveness that the 31 year old Scot still has. Two incidents in the first moto meant he had to work from last to 18th but he tussled for 11th place in the second race. “I’ll take that as a positive from the hundreds from the weekend like the help from sponsors, family, friends, the compliments on the set-up, reaction from the fans and working with the bike to find solutions in a competitive scenario,” he said. “Honestly, I’m buzzing. I want to go home tonight and work even harder tomorrow.”

“I might be a bit behind the other guys at the moment but I’ve been making sacrifices as we’ve built this team. Even today I couldn’t watch the MX2 race because I was fitting a few tyres with my Dad! Those things will calm down but it is all so worth it for me at the moment.” “There will be races where riders have one good moto and one bad and I just need to keep consistent,” he added. “It would be nice to pressure the top five now-and-then but if I can keeping chapping-on inside the top group and keep making 20-odd points a weekend then that will bring me up. The more I do it, the stronger and fitter I am going to get with the front guys.” Simpson popularity was evident from a length autograph queue on Sunday and from where the multiple British Champion did not move for almost an hour. The Scot still holds the distinction of being the last privateer to win a premier class grand prix, back in Holland in 2013, and the familiar role of the underdog means he could be a regular roost sprayer amongst the factory guys throughout 2020.

SHINY NEW THINGS Following the cue from MotoGP and WorldSBK where each premier class champion has a distinctive trophy, MXGP unveiled the new piece of silverware (actually aluminium and carbon) that will be placed in the care of the 2020 title winner. The base contains the name of every 250cc and MX1/MXGP world champ. In MotoGP the champion’s ‘tower’ grows a little larger with the addition of a new plate every year. The MXGP form is slightly more traditional but, obviously, features a remarkable collection of names. The sculpture was designed by Catalan Marc Garcia who worked with Dorna Sports to create the other pieces.


There were several dark parts on the HRC CRF450Rs of Tim Gajser and Mitch Evans at Matterley Basin and details of the full prototype motorcycles remained just as obfuscated. The only official word emanating from the Honda camp was that the bike is ‘new’. From observations at a distance Honda seem to have created an even more compact technical package, a new frame concept (shorter swingarm?) and reverted back to one exhaust. Honda did admit that Gajser’s race bike did not carry any preproduction parts: the #243 was a full prototype. When (unsuccessfully) pressed for specifics, Gajser commented: “I cannot really talk about the parts…but I immediately felt good on the bike from when I first sat on it in November. It helps for any kind of condition. I’m feeling comfortable.”




TITULAR TITULAR A WINTER WORD TO THE WISE... I sat behind the table of MXGP’s live Studio Show with presenters Paul Malin and Lisa Leyland on Saturday morning at Matterley Basin and tried my best to cast some thoughts and predictions for both the MXGP and MX2 classes for 2020. I felt like I was rambling. I mean, close your eyes and jab a finger on the page for the quarter-litre category, while the KTM dominance of 2018 followed by the injurymire of 2019 in MXGP meant it was equally hard to ruminate on what might happen there. It also felt fruitless to forecast the weather (being English this is always an easy and common topic of conversation). Early in the weekend there was plenty of eye-rolling ‘told you so’ judgement over the milestone appointment of the British Grand Prix as the opening fixture of the FIM World Championship; the first to dare the European winter climate for the first round since 2012.

In 2019 Matterley, again shaped by Steve Dixon and his crew, rolled the dice for a late March slot (then the first European stop after the inauguration of the championship in Argentina) and won. Now, three weeks earlier on the calendar, they were playing with higher stakes but still in the safer window of organisational and operational costs some 30% cheaper than a summertime berth. On Friday it looked grim. The rain was blowing sideways, this-way and that-way. Track creator and designer (and former national-level racer) Johnny Douglas Hamilton is a man with acute knowledge of how soil needs to be prepared and maintained for Grand Prix level and had packed the English terrain hard to com-

bat the worst of the deluge. The wind started to pick up and on Saturday morning the paddock was greeted with the shocking sight of the SkyBox VIP structure that also houses the podium and the start gate waiting zone and back drop as a mangled-and-tangled sculpture of iron-y chaos. Matterley was flooded, the parking areas were unbreachable and infrastructure had been wrecked. Saturday also saw the temperatures drop and the only sustained period of heavy rain arrive to decimate the sole MXGP practice and qualification slot on the altered GP timetable. As hard-hat wearing workers and small cranes picked the metallic bones of the collapsed SkyBox to pieces (apparently Infront Moto Racing have enough

CREATED THANKS TO BY ADAM WHEELER BY ADAM WHEELER material to build a substitute version for the Grand Prix of the Netherlands this coming weekend) they could have already been dissecting the corpse of the British GP. By Saturday evening it was quite easy to scoff at the idea that sunny skies were on the way… but they duly arrived. And not a moment too soon. So did the fans to create a respectable turnout. The best thing about the 2020 British Grand Prix was how it managed to endure, and finally provide an exceptional stage for racing. The workers were in a constant state of activity to keep the fixture at an acceptable standard and the worst of the weather bizarrely contributed to the technicality of the Matterley layout. Sure, it was muddy, chilly, windy, produced two brief showers (one of those with hailstones), dangerously dipping sunshine for the riders and one of the most vivid rainbows I can remem-

ber, but the action was enjoyable, admirable and memorable. It was far more receptive than the 2017 Motocross of Nations in October of that year that was both wet and downcast. This was Matterley’s tenth grand prix, and it was both heart-warming and a little worrying to see Steve Dixon’s sincere social media message to British fans on Saturday evening to heed the positive metrological report for Sunday and to get down and support the occasion. The course of the three days proved that the circuit can handle some extreme conditions, and that can embolden the Winchester venue’s credentials to slot into any phase of future calendars. This flexibility is an asset and increases Matterley’s worthiness as an essential motocross grand prix stop; higher than its already lofty popularity among the riders anyway.

There are still elements to improve: parking access needs a firmer ‘plan b’ in case of muddied-up grass entry points (more mats?) and the Welcome Office ‘container’ is totally unworthy of a world championship meeting, let alone the first one of the year but Matterley stood tall into the wind and the clouds last weekend and showed fans – maybe the many that dealt with far worse at the Hawkstone Park International three weeks previously – that it’s a spectacle worth attending whatever the date. The question naturally remains: wouldn’t it be better to see and enjoy those grassy English slopes with a better chance of leaving hats, scarves and second jackets at home? I also think Infront will divert to their normal MO of commencing MXGP in warmer climes in 2021 (perhaps the middle east once more) but the British Grand Prix has certainly gained more credence.



KTM motocrossers wishing to look totally in-sync with their SX motorcycle can take profit from a number of quality official collaborations with specialists such as Alpinestars and Scott Sports. When it comes to gear then the 2020 Gravity-FX comes in Black, White and Replica colourways. Like other options on the market the Gravity-FX makes good use of various materials and fibres in a sporty, pre-shaped construction to ensure the best weight, resistance, ventilation and moisture-wicking performance. Check-in at any KTM dealer to try the garments or place an order.









By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Ray Archer



onfidence boosting or confidence shredding? There is a lot for elite level racers to deal with at the first instalment of a championship. Nevermind the nerves, the rustiness, the extra attention from team members, sponsors, fans, media and the scrutiny of the public eye; a rider also has to put a line through the first date on the calendar and either forget about it quickly or withdraw every positive trace possible and use it for the next fixture. Of course, each rider has his or her own narrative. Some are returning from injury, some have a new team or motorcycle, some are expected to win out of the gate, others are already feeling the pressure to secure their ride for the following season. A weekend like Matterley Basin can be a swirl of emotion and anxiety and repercussions. How do athletes deal with their initial thrust into the campaign? How much validity do they attach to the outcome? We asked around… Thomas Kjer Olsen, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna MX2 Factory Racing: It’s a difficult question but the first round is about excitement of getting the season going and seeing where everybody is. You think the result there is important...

It is good to come out and show your speed, but the races come fast and some days you have it and some days you don’t. Jeremy Seewer, Monster Energy Yamaha: You don’t need to win it: everybody knows that. But you also want to show what you have. You just want to finish the weekend in a way that is positive for you. If you’ve had a great winter and you are 100% ready for the grand prix but finish 15th then it is deflating. But if you are top five or on the podium then you have a good feeling. The first two-three rounds are always a bit special. It feels like a long time since you have raced…but time flies nowadays. Pauls Jonass Rockstar Energy Husqvarna MXGP Factory Racing: It is easy to get overexcited and make mistakes. The fans are watching the first one with way-more expectation than the third or fourth race. So, you want to show some good potential but also take calm. Not easy! Jeffrey Herlings, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Anything in the top five is good for the championship. The series is too long now: twenty races. If you miss one then it hurts way-more than getting a fifth.



Shaun Simpson, SS24 KTM MXGP: There is not too much riding on the GP but it’s still one of the twenty. You have to take the gloves off and get right in there. There are a lot of factory racers but they are only human so you have to make sure your bike is prepped, eat some roost if you have to and get amongst them. Glenn Coldenhoff, Standing Construct GasGas Factory Racing: The guys always say ‘you cannot win it but you can lose it’ at the first one but you know what? When you’re at the race – any race – everyone goes flat out. And that’s what I’ll do as well. I have been building towards that through the winter and I want to perform well. I’ll give what I have and try to make sure my starts contribute. Simpson: It is important to get off the blocks at some stage. In the very first practice session of the year if you are lapping in the top five then the pressure just drops away and you can think ‘ah, the speed’s there!’. If you are 14-15 then you are thinking ‘there is time to be made here, we need to up our game, how’s the bike?’ That’s when the pressure can start creeping-up but experience tells me not to get too excited, to get through the Quali race and then the points come on Sunday because the conditions, the track and the prep can all be different. Saturday and Sunday at a GP tend to vary so much.

Rene Hofer, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: It can be a big confidence boost. I won the opening round of the EMX125 championship in 2018 and I remember it was a big thing and fed into the next races but I don’t think you have to have that good result at the first race. If it doesn’t happen there then it doesn’t mean it won’t happen for the rest of the season. That’s not the reality. Simpson: The confidence ‘thing’ comes eventually. If it is three rounds into the season then you just have to bide your time and keep positive but you have to make sure you are doing your homework during the week. If you are off the pace then you need to do something about it. Jed Beaton, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna MX2 Factory Racing: It is a confidence thing. If you go into the first race expecting to win and you don’t then you end up disappointed. If you go in expecting a fifth place and you take third then your confidence grows.


It’s like a personal mind game. I guess it’s not the same for everyone but if you are happy with the result you get then you can grow, if not then it doesn’t help. Is it hard to put a position-expectation on the first one? Sure, but at the same time you have to go there happy to compete and come away with some decent points. I know he was hurt but if you look at Coldenhoff last year then he was eighteenth or something at the first race and ended up third in the championship. In a way you cannot get too stressed

with what happens at the first round. You’ve got to handle it as well as you can and I think any top ten result is quite a good way to start because you can build on it, especially if you have the plan to build up through the season. Romain Febvre, Monster Energy Kawasaki: Confidence comes with a good result and that doesn’t matter if it’s the first race or half way through the season. If the first one does not go that well then you know you have time to work on your speed and go back


to the plan and analyse for the next weeks. It’s not really important to be fully 100% at the first race. Thomas Covington, Gebben Van Venrooy Yamaha: It helps with a bit of confidence. For me I think I’ll still be getting back into the swing of things in the first three races because I obviously didn’t race that much last year. I’ll be getting used to be behind the gate again, the schedule and racecraft. I’ll be keeping calm and trying not to put too much pressure on myself because I’m not 100% yet.

Simpson: The first GP tells you all you need to know because you are starting against thirty other guys with fully tuned race bikes and that’s not always the case in Internationals or British Championship races. When you are at that GP and you know the bike is on-point then it comes down to fitness and mental strength and hopefully you can ‘turn it on’ to get some good results. Tom Vialle, Red Bull KTM Factory Racing: Twenty races. Forty motos, and so much can happen. I think it is important to make good starts and ride well in the first races to set-up the season - and your feeling - but it is not the time to take

stupid risks for say one position. For the first three GPs consistency is vital. Simpson: I’d say Tom is right and he’s probably had that drummed into him by his Dad or someone like Joel Smets; young guys tend not to think like that! Others too. Romain Febvre will probably do it in the first practice! Some people are not wired up that way. It is interesting to see the different mentalities when you come to the GPs because it is such a long season. Jonass: I disagree with that. If you see an opportunity then it doesn’t matter if it is the first GP or the tenth [you go for it]. Later in the season there

FEATURE is also some significance for the championship and whether passing one guy is important or not. I’d say you maybe take more risks at the beginning! Seewer: The first round is special because nobody knows where they ‘are’. By rounds five-six you can look around and know the riders you are with and their current capabilities. It is super-difficult to judge people. After a while you learn and know how to react. The first round is super-intensive. Febvre: You don’t know which riders are just coming back from injury, which ones might be hiding a small injury or some sort of worry. Mainly I don’t care much about the others. I did think about it before but my injury and bad leg from 2019 means I’m only worried about what I can do. The best will always win. Jonass: I won the first six races in a row in 2018. Doing that makes you confident but you can also be over-confident. Strangely there can be a downside to it. You have to balance it out: take the good start but don’t go too crazy over it. We know anything can happen but you want to start on the right note. You have to remind yourself that they don’t give double points or anything at the first one. It is important to stay on two wheels and even more so to stay healthy.





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By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Ray Archer & JP Acevedo



Do the works KTMs hit the minimum MXGP weight limit of 99kg (with operational fluids)? No, to be honest we are far away from it. The bikes are faster, the guys get faster, the jumps get bigger and a couple of years ago we had trouble with wheels and that’s where it starts: you reinforce stuff, reinforce trains and other components. In the sand races the tank capacity needs to be bigger and certain riders, like Jeffrey, use more fuel compared to Tony. It all adds up. If we could find two kilos then it would be nice because then we’d be near the limit again. At the moment we are around 102kg. Using other material is limited by the rules: we cannot use titanium in the wheels axles, for example. All the small parts like nuts, bolts, fasteners are titanium already. We could still trim further but you are only talking about a few grams.


ince 2010 factory KTMs have claimed seven premier class FIM Motocross World Championships; five with the 350 SX-F and two with the 450 (the bike was also used to win four AMA 450 SX supercross crowns in the same period). Just how different is the motorcycle that Tony Cairoli, Jeffrey Herlings and Jorge Prado steer in Grand Prix compared to the production version found gleaming on a dealer showroom floor? We decided to ask Team Technical Co-ordinator Dirk Gruebel for the lesser known details...

It’s widely accepted that horsepower is not the most essential thing for a 450 now but has the output varied over the years? I think we still have more power than the riders find useful. We need to make the bikes ridable and tame the power to the riders’ needs. Nobody is really riding with the maximum power we can offer. There are not many racing series where you are trying to dumb-down speed… It’s not that we don’t want power…but grip is limited in motocross and the more you put in, the more wheelspin you create and you cannot really have traction control; I mean we have a form of TC but we cannot have wheel sensors so it is difficult to get the power to the ground. We work more with power delivery than max horsepower.


What’s your opinion on the holeshot and geometry devices used in MotoGP and how such a high-tech sport is using rudimentary theories developed in MX and mountain-bike? Ten years back we also played around a lot with geometry. We experimented with the holeshot devices, like they have now, but since MXGP has used the metal grid flooring it has been a lot better. Still, after the net you hit the dirt and you need power on the ground. Everything is a bit more limited here compared to asphalt where you have way-more options where you always have more or less the same grip.

If Cairoli or Herlings don’t want more speed or horsepower from their factory bike for the next season then what are they asking for during the off-season and tests? Well, some guys ask for heaps of torque. Tony and Jorge are short-shifters and also Jeffrey is coming more towards that way; before he was more of a revver but he’s using more torque. So you want to be able to shift early with maximum torque for the power transfer to the ground. Some guys want the power really responsive when they are coming out of a turn and others like a little bit of a delay. It is very specific from rider to rider and we try to dial it in.


Cairoli and Herlings have both been on KTMs for so many years, so you must know what they like, what they want and it must be difficult to make incremental changes compared to a rider that is new to the team and the technology… It is difficult for him {Herlings] because he’s quite conservative, so for anything new you almost need to convince him, let’s say, with a better part by showing an improved laptime. His first feeling is always reliant on what he knows and he has had, especially when he was winning like in 2018: he doesn’t want to touch anything on that bike. He was so fast, and that was it. Basta! But there are always little improvements we can offer and you need to get it dialled-in for them. We eventually get to a point where he will ride the new stuff. Some guys will just jump on it and be happy and others need to feel their way.

When was the last major change to the 450 SX-F? It was the 2019 bike with the new concept. It came from ’16 bike model that we rode in ’15-’16-’17 and then in ’18 we promoted the ’19 bike that was a different frame idea and the swingarm was new as well. It felt different for the guys. It is not completely different – it still feels like a KTM - but varied from the previous model.

Electronics: are you satisfied with the potential for development? 100% there is more out there…but then they need to loosen the rules. It will also be a milestone in terms of costs because you will need specialists for launch control and traction control and the whole data acquisition will explode. We are at a step with the sport where it is not cheap but then on the other side it is not super-expensive. Moving to the next level means more manpower and budget. Honestly, I don’t know how much more you will get out of it. What scares me also is the racing environment: it’s dirty, raining sometimes and these bikes are washed multiple times during a weekend and you are almost asking for trouble. This doesn’t happen with a MotoGP bike; imagine if you had to wash it every weekend with a pressure washer! It’ll cause havoc.



KTMs have been prolific in both classes in the last ten years but people still look at HRC and their resources as pioneers for new technology. How do you feel about that? Well, you can see the HRC facility and what they can do. I don’t know how many people they employ there but we are talking about a couple of thousand and in KTM motorsports we are a couple of hundred across all the disciplines from rally to enduro, motocross, road racing and so on. They have so much experience in racing, they even went to Formula One so they have a lot of specialist knowledge in-house and they have that reputation of bringing the highest technology and pushing forward. We could perhaps improve [to match them] but we would need time. I think motocross is still pretty mechanical because it is restricted. If they [the FIM] came up with ride-by-wire then that means traction control and if that was open tomorrow then they [HRC] might be ahead of us because they have that experience from MotoGP and so on. But we are also ‘on it’. We are learning and improving. Racing never stands still. Like I said, motocross is mechanical and if you set-up your bike good for your rider and the suspension works and he is happy with the frame behaviour then I still think you are at the top of the game.


Kawasaki said their 2019 race bike was about 90% different to the stock KX450F. Is it a similar ratio for the KTMs? Yeah, I’d say pretty much the same. I mean, it seems very much like a stock KTM when you first look at it but a lot of parts are different. We need them because of the extra stress on the bike and to equip it for a rider lapping twenty-five seconds faster than the average guy. You cannot stick with the normal material. You need to choose the best on the market for the engine, in the suspension and so-on.

What about the evolution of suspension? There are always small steps. You find improvements, from bending behaviours to overcoatings and piston designs, volumes and so-on: it is endless. Some guys cope with changes right away and others don’t. We try to make everybody happy and with a setting that they like. WP had a good idea in the past with the air shock, which worked brilliantly but didn’t get tested enough and was thrown into racing pretty quickly. In my opinion it still has potential and the plug was pulled too quickly. It definitely needed more testing and with perhaps slower riders before bringing it up to the big guys that are at a different speed.


By Adam Wheeler. Photos by Ray Archer





he 22 year old from Tasmania is huddled in a big Rockstar Energy Husqvarna jacket and perched on the side of a jump, looking at the riders ahead of him assembling in the start gate. His serious expression somewhere inside the hood is almost dark. The cause could be the driving rain and cold at Assen that is liberally coating the 2019 Motocross of Nations but instead it’s likely that Jed Beaton is watching other riders represent Australia when he should have been a shoe-in at the end of his first season as an MX2 factory athlete. That Beaton is spectating and not racing at Assen is due to a difficult and injuryladen 2019 for what was his second term in the MX2 class. Breakthrough recognition came with F&H Kawasaki in the first phase of 2018, to the point where Husqvarna moved quickly. “We were talking with the factory about the right signing and I was pushing for Jed because he showed good consistency on the Kawi in his first year and he had a podium finish,” explains current Husqvarna Team Manager Rasmus Jorgensen. “It seemed like the whole package was there and we could help him with a better bike and to make a step. He was a hot topic in the paddock and every MX2 team wanted him. At that point it was important for us to give it a go and make it happen and then he had that accident at Matterley Basin the same weekend as having signed the paper with us.” Beaton’s crash at the ‘18 British Grand Prix and two broken legs locked the brakes on his progression. He recovered but then nervously and hurriedly dealt with the opportunity at Husqvarna in 2019.



More injury followed and his bystanding at Assen was just one reminder that he had to be wiser and calmer for the first of two remaining attempts at the MX2 class in 2020 and 2021 before he agesout. “People don’t understand what he went through, he had a series of problems and I think he eventually realised it was his

own fault because he wanted too much too soon,” Jorgensen says. “I think it is something we see in Australian riders; where they are tough and also tough on themselves and push so hard. He crashed and hurt himself and had setbacks with people hitting him. 2019 was just a black year.”

FEATURE Beaton is smiling now. Sitting in a restaurant in the UK prior to the Hawkstone Park International and just days away from the launch of 2020 MXGP he is talking about the value of lessons learnt. His teammate, Thomas Kjer Olsen, has finished in the top-three of the MX2 championship standings for the last years and arguably is lifting the heavier end of the team package, but Beaton is fit and refreshed after a period in which Jorgensen sent the youngster back to Australia to recuperate and take stock. A winter of prep in Belgium means he is poised to try and realise his billing. “I learnt last year that sometimes you maybe need to take an extra week or two to get back to a good physical state,” he admits. “Maybe in the past I tried too much, too early and it jeopardised my results and hindered the injury more or extended the recovery time. It was my fault for wanting to keep pushing.” Beaton is something of a mystery in 2020. His showing at Matterley Basin (4th overall) indicates that he is back to immediate podium contention, but can he finally grasp Grand Prix victory? Can he assist or even challenge Olsen? His career stutter in 2018-2019 does not totally cloud his profile as a world championship race front-runner, although what he could achieve in the next six months is anybody’s guess.


“I think that is quite a good thing for me,” he ponders. “Even with the injuries the results were not too bad…but I was always riding in pain and stuff, so I did not get to show my true potential. Obviously, I missed the last couple of rounds of 2019 so my name just ‘slid off the list’. I think I’m kinda an underdog coming into the year and I haven’t seen my name mentioned too much by the media! I think that can be a good...because there is not so much pressure, and I don’t put too much on myself this season: I know I have done the work and what I needed to do.”

“A combination of being injured that long and that pressure was pretty bad. He made a lot of mistakes and he knows about them. I’d talk to him and could see he was listening…but I could also feel that he just wanted it so much that it didn’t really matter what everyone was telling him. From the moment you get hurt it is like a bad circle of things; usually small injuries don’t come along if you take your time to recover and be healthy again.” There was a physical and a mental struggle. “I had a two year deal but at the midpoint of


Seemingly, Beaton has endured a tough education. 2019 yielded broken vertebrae and a concussion. As much as he was frustrated by the serial setbacks, he also created some extra work for the Belgian-based team who had to slow their athlete in more than one sense. “He put so much pressure on himself when he came into the team because it was a big step and he’d always dreamt of being part of a factory set-up,” reveals Jorgensen.

’19 I was kinda worried that I would lose it, results-wise,” Beaton admits. “I mean, the guys never brought it up but, like you have seen in previous years, other riders that haven’t performed have been shifted to another team or something like that. So, I was a bit worried at one point but they obviously believed in me and saw my potential for another chance. I’m really thankful for that and every time I am on the bike I’ll be giving 120% no matter what.”

FEATURE “Was he hard work? Yes, for sure,” Jorgensen says. “He is a great guy to hang out with, but he is very head-strong. You are not going to change riders and who they are – and I wouldn’t want to - but I was worried with how he was approaching injuries and the pressure he put on himself so early. It was difficult to slow him down because he was so committed and determined but kept making mistakes. We spoke about it a lot and he was open about it. I said to him: ‘2019 was a year with a lot of downs but by the end of your career it might be the season where you learned the most.’” “I sent him home before the end of the season,” the Dane adds. “There was no point in him staying in Europe to recover. Once he came back, he was different. He stayed with his family and tried to take his mind off racing and told me he didn’t know how much he really needed it.” “When I went back, I concentrated on the body first before the bike and it feels nice to ride without pain again,” Beaton comments on the episode. “I didn’t realise what shape I was in until I went home and got that rest.” It’s almost a cliché now that non-European riders pack-in that extra zeal to push and achieve fast.

They seem to have extra purpose. “Obviously I’m on the other side of the world and I don’t move all that way to give nothing less than 100% all the time. What’s the point otherwise?” Beaton reasons. “Everything my family sacrificed for me – having nothing for themselves and putting everything into me and my brother for our racing – and just to make it over to Europe and being in the third year…it gives me so much motivation. I still haven’t accomplished what I set out to.” The mentality explains the approach, and while that dedication has worked for some, names like Ben Townley, Josh Coppins, Chad Reed, Tyla Rattray come to mind, it hasn’t for others, and Beaton naturally doesn’t want to fade away into a roster of Australians that didn’t quite carve their name into Grand Prix. The 23-age limit on MX2 means a ticking clock, and with a busy rider market for MXGP saddles then real, genuine chances to succeed are so few and so precious. “You easily forget in this sport,” Jorgensen explains. “A rider will be there on the podium and everybody will be interested in getting him and then the weekend after they have a bad result and then they are forgotten again. Jed is a good example and I’m proud to say that

myself and the team never, ever gave up on him. 2019 was a year where we were like ‘OK, we are giving you all the support and the tools…but you are the one making the decisions on the track and you have to tell us how you are feeling and not lie about being in pain’. Most teams would get to a point where they think ‘this is not working’ but we never got there and always believed in him. People forget that he was consistently in the top five in 2018…now he has had a good winter and is looking strong. He has to complete this year and build up to his last in MX2.” Settling in Lommel is another step towards a productive base of work. “That wasn’t the case for the first two-three years,” Beaton says. “When you came back from a race you could not really chill out and think ‘I’m home’. In a sense where I was staying before was like home because you had cooked meals and the people treated you like family…but you didn’t have your own space. Anyway, I have that now. Going back to Australia feels a bit like a holiday and the chance to see family and friends. I see this [Europe] as my job and my life for now. My girlfriend has just moved over as well which makes it a whole lot easier.”




Then there is the link with Olsen. The tall Dane is the team’s ‘Atlas’ for 2020 but the pair bond and collaborate. At Matterley Basin they cross each other in the awning and there is some healthy backand-forth banter. “Jed is such a workhorse,” Olsen says. “We are on exactly the same programme. Thomas Covington and I used to do motos together but we were not on the same agenda. Jed doesn’t care if he’s tired or not, he’ll just go for it. It is great to see, and to have a training partner like that who never backs down in the motos. We can really push each other and it makes a good vibe. Nobody gives up and I really like that.” “They both joke around…but it also about how they use each other on the practice tracks,” reveals Jorgensen. “They are open to listening to each other. The worst part about losing TC was the chemistry between the riders and I said to the mechanics


that it would be difficult to find that again, but it is definitely along those lines.” Professionally the expectation on Olsen gives Beaton a little more breathing room as the wingman. “I think it is more beneficial for me,” Beaton nods. “All of the paddock and the team have big expectations for Thomas. I like to keep quiet and to myself, but at the same time if I ride well then I know I can ‘be there’. I think the pressure is right there for him. But I have a plan for 2020 – based on what I learnt last year – that I really want to stick to. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself and build for the whole season. As a rider you put a lot of pressure on yourself anyway…but it helps not to be in that high expectation environment that Thomas has.” With double MX2 World Champion Jorge Prado taking his daunting holeshots into MXGP, there is an openness about the category perhaps only felt in 2017 and certainly not since 2011 before the start of the ‘Herlings-era’. “Everyone is still human and that means they are beatable but at the same time there is an ‘unknown’ about it,” assesses Beaton with sincere conviction. “There are a couple of young guys that will be out to make a name for

themselves and a few from EMX. Thomas has been in the class for a while and there are a few experienced ones. At the moment anyone can win. It will be so important to be consistent and injury-free because we’ll see different winners. It’s about being smart, knowing limitations and all of that.” It’s hardly inspiring or ‘sexy,’ but consistency is now one of the golden commodities in the world championship, just as much as raw speed or technique. “You need to be better than your competitors on your worse days and it has been shown again and again,” Jorgensen states. “Thomas has been 3rd, 3rd and 2nd and he is by far the most underated rider in the top five. His stats are incredible from his first appearance in MX2. Straightaway he was top-five and now he has 21 podiums. The media is talking more about other guys, but Thomas doesn’t mind because he is doing his job and he has been trying all that he can every single year and that is all I can ask from my guys. I believe a lot in Jed and I have seen some great things this winter. If we can improve our starts – because our guys are quite a bit heavier than our competitors – and be top five out of the gate then I believe we have the strongest MX2 line-up.”

And for that green and yellow flag? The chance to lead an Australian team with the likes of the flowering Mitch Evans? Beaton is the one with the paddle, and focussed on not missing out on the boat. “It’s really cool to have a ‘foundation’ of Australians over here again,” he says. For Jorgensen Beaton is finally in a position to achieve glory in the short and long term. “Someone like Hunter Lawrence showed glimpses of brilliance, great speed and natural abilities but he never won a GP and was never consistent throughout a whole season,” he opines. “To me it is more important to be in it for the big picture. I think Jed will cause some surprises with great results…but he hasn’t finished a GP season yet and this must be the first goal.”



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MERCEDES-BENZ STADIUM · RND 9 OF 17 · FEBRUARY 29 450SX winner: Ken Roczen, Honda 250SX winner: Chase Sexton, Honda


ROCZEN TIES IT By Steve Matthes. Photos by Simon Cudby/Kawasaki/HRC



SUPERCROSS: THE GAME Milestone launched the third generation of their official Supercross title in the first week of February to coincide with the opening phases of the current AMA season, and in this sense it’s a shame that the latest title still has the teams, riders and liveries from 2019. Looking past that aspect there are a few updates that make it still an essential purchase for gamers. The ability to join official teams, the online-and-offline track creator, compound riding, female racers, better dedicated servers and a ‘Racer Director’ function increase the fun factor. The game still looks fantastic. It’s available on PC/Xbox/PS4 and Nintendo Switch



LONG LIVE THE TINKERER... Don’t look now but the sport of supercross has been slowly changing over the years from riders being able to make up any differences in machine by simply twisting the throttle harder, to riders asking the technicians in the trucks to help make up the differences. I was in a team rig a couple of weeks ago where the data engineer had both riders’ practice efforts overlaid and the crew chiefs were analysing the information. They were looking at the speed, the RPM and throttle positions of the bikes and the crew chief of the slower rider was remarking how much faster his teammate was going in a certain turn. So, they talked about making sure that the slower rider knew he could trust the machine in that turn and gas it a bit more. A few weeks before that I was in a truck and watching a rider’s lap on video with him while Ken Roczen was overlaid on top and they ran their laps side by side. The rider remarked how much lower Roczen was than him in a

turn and just then the “virtual” Kenny pulled ahead in the video. His lower line in the berm and exit speed made the difference right there. Next practice the rider knew what to do and where to go to match Roczen, one of the best riders in the world. There are a couple of examples of how technology has fed into supercross. With the advent of electronic fuel injection on the four-strokes, the teams – not necessarily just the rider - are finding ways to affect the outcomes of the race. The days of going out and jetting your carburettor are long gone folks. “I think you can get a little carried away with it,” Honda’s Trey Canard told me the other day. “To me, the data thing is really good but it’s

like, what are you going to do with the data? So, it can get a little overwhelming. I think you can confuse yourself but I think if you’re using it properly it can be really good.” Canard, a former factory rider for years, now tests for Honda and has raced (and won) in both eras with EFI and carbs. Monster Energy Kawasaki has Theo Lockwood working on data with riders Eli Tomac and Adam Cianciarulo and he, like so many data guys in the pits, comes from a road racing background. “I think maybe the key is having enough information from testing to be able to translate that into something else. You can’t just use it (data) once a week or once a year or just at the races and expect

CREATED THANKS TO BY ADAM WHEELER BY STEVE MATTHES yourself to be able to understand what’s going on with the motorcycle,” he says. “I think you have to understand what’s going on with the motorcycle and then maybe you can apply some of those ideas or some of those things

to load ignition maps for just the start which now come stock on production bikes. Things are indeed getting to be next level.


“I think it is, but I still think you still need kind of that gut instinct. You can see a lot of times that maybe something like a Dartfish (the video shadow program) or LitPro or something, maybe it doesn’t always translate, but it’s so helpful,” Canard says. “Earlier in my career I’d be like, this guy’s doing this, this guy’s doing that, and it’s so much faster. Nowadays I’m almost scared to say anything. Until you really see it and really know then you can really kind of solidify it. To me, the carburation, the ECU, that stuff’s just gotten completely next level, in a really good way.”

that you’ve seen testing or practicing or whatever, to the races and you can give them some help; some useful information to the rider to help them with the bike.” What Lockwood and others can do is pretty cool. You can overlay the track with all the turns in front of you and tweak the system to deliver more or less fuel in certain turns when you need to clear obstacles for example. There’s also the ability

Is this good for the sport though?

According to Lockwood, a man that Chad Reed calls “the best data guy in the sport” there are things in motocross that you can’t control every lap and therefore you have to interpret the data the right way. Which takes time. “I would say the last year and a half, two years, it’s probably been one of those things that it’s been interesting to look at. There are a few little things that you might be able to find. You might be able to come up with some suggestions. In the last year and a half that I feel like we’ve made some pretty big strides in being able to interpret it. Being able to make a difference and being able to quantify stuff for the rider.” Ryan Villopoto was a racer who was really into data acquisition and wanted to know what the bike was doing, while Canard told me he was a bit of a mix of 50/50 when he raced.


There’s got to be some adjustment for a rider, some buy-in and some trust in his data guy to make everything work in one direction. “Obviously once they get over the idea of whether it’s telling the truth or not, I think then it becomes something that they can check themselves on. They can say, ‘I feel like it’s doing this or that’,” says Lockwood. “Then maybe I, or Oscar [AC’s crew chief], would go: “yeah, it looks like it’s doing that, or no, it’s not coming from where you think it’s coming from. It’s coming from some other place. Maybe you need to try this or maybe we need to try something. Maybe we need to work on it.’ I think to be honest the most useful thing about it is the chassis part. The engine side…it’s pretty much set. The chassis side is where the gains are going to be made, and where we can help the most, I think.”

All of this is enough to make a normal fan’s head spin and when you watch other forms of racing like MotoGP or Formula 1, you can see just how important the data is in winning races. Me, I’m a bit of old school where I love our sport and all the things that a rider can do to overcome a deficiency in his machine, in his riding or whatever. I’d rather not see supercross turn into a ‘whoever has the best data guy wins’ like some of those other sports. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem like we’re there…yet. “In our case here, we’re not to that level yet,” Lockwood says “I think road racing continues to evolve and they continue to have these pretty amazing and interesting ideas and they’re able to implement them, whereas in supercross we’re not able to implement those type of ideas because our bike isn’t as sophisticated as a road race bike.”

At least not yet.


ALPINESTARS As part of their 2020 Spring collection Alpinestars have released the Supervented version of their premium Tech 10 boot. Claiming it is the most technical motocross boot ever, the Supervented has been designed for maximum airflow and efficient heat exchange thanks to ‘two inlet ports on the front, a ventilated shinplate and perforated padding and extensive mesh sections’. That’s not all. Alpinestars have worked extensively on this new Tech 10 and the inner ‘bootie’ has a higher 3D mesh inner sole which uses air channels for ventilation and achieves a cushioning effect for great comfort. The sole of the boot itself comes with a fresh ‘honeycomb’ layout for better footpeg grip. We own and use Tech 10s and – provided you find the right fit – there isn’t a more comfy and safer boot on the market. There is a whole host of specs and details on how the Tech 10 is built and functions, so check out the website for the full run-down. With this new Supervented edition riders will be sorted for the summer months


PROTAPER As we’ve mentioned before, ProTaper are not solely the domain of pioneering handlebar innovations. The American aftermarket specialists produce some sturdy and light drive chain accessories such as the Race Spec (RS) rear sprocket made from heat-treated aluminium. It comes in five colours – seen here – and ProTaper claim they ‘achieve optimum load distribution, unsprung weight savings, and tooth endurance. The result is a durable, featherweight and feature-packed sprocket unequalled in the market.’ Expect to pay 70 dollars. The Race Spec front sprocket (26 dollars) is made from steel and comes in a myriad of dimensions. ‘Computer engineering ensures precise fitment, optimal weight savings, and perfect balance. The result is minimal chain drag, maximum horsepower, and uncompromising strength,’ ProTaper say. Then there are the chains and at least five types in the Gold series and two in the Pro series. The 129 dollar ‘O-Ring’ uses ‘a newly developed manufacturing technique never-before seen in the off-road market, ProTaper Pro Series chains seamlessly integrate innovative cold-forged pin collars into the outer chain plates. This exclusive design allows the outer chain plates to be slimmed, reducing weight, while maintaining an ultra-high tensile strength.’ Ordering details and numbers can be found directly from the website.



By Roland Brown. Photos by BMW/Harley Davidson/KTM



ust in case there’s any doubt that adventure bikes rule the two-wheeled jungle, the imminent arrival of Harley-Davidson’s Pan America will surely end all debate. Big, brutally styled and set for production later this year, the 1250cc V-twin is Harley’s self-proclaimed answer to the Jeep – and a perfect illustration of “if you can’t beat them, join them” thinking. Large, orange-painted V-twins with bumpy tyres have traditionally been produced at Mattighofen in Austria, not Milwaukee. But KTM’s Adventure models contributed to the firm recently overtaking the American one in total sales. And it seems the adventure bike’s dominance over other large-capacity sectors, in most mature markets outside the States, is now so complete that even Harley can’t resist entering the fray. The rise of adventure bikes in recent decades has been relentless. It seems almost unbelievable that in 1980, when BMW introduced the R80G/S whose blend of Gelände (off-road) and Strasse (street) began the trend, the German firm was not only planning to abandon the boxer engine layout but considering quitting motorcycle production altogether. Instead the 798cc, 37bhp G/S was a surprise hit, soon boosted by BMW factory success in the Paris-Dakar Rally. It was updated numerous times until by 2004 it had become the 100bhp

COMMENT R1200GS, a fast and comfortable all-rounder with improbable off-road ability. The same year’s Long Way Round TV series, in which Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman trekked its R1150GS predecessors from London to New York via Asia, inspired countless imitators and fanned the adventure flames. The big boxer’s sales since then have been phenomenal, with both the standard GS and its larger-tanked, longer-legged Adventure sibling frequently occupying the top two positions in 500cc-plus charts. Last year’s introduction of the R1250GS maintained BMW’s stranglehold: GS boxers accounted for over 59,000 of the firm’s 175,000 sales in 2019. That has not stopped other firms attacking with an evergrowing variety of bikes ranging from KTM’s Adventure and Super Adventure V-twins, via


Ducati’s Multistradas, Suzuki’s V-Strom and Triumph’s Tiger triples to Yamaha’s Super Ténéré parallel twin. Several sub-sectors have emerged. The original Multistrada 1200 fuelled a roadbiased adventure sports sector that includes BMW’s S1000XR; Honda’s Crosstourer and Kawasaki’s big Versys are adventure tourers with minimal off-road ability or intent. Moto Guzzi’s V85 TT and BMW’s R nineT Urban G/S add a retro element. Scramblers from Ducati, Triumph and others go further with classic-inspired naked style and character, and are arguably not adventure bikes at all. The distinction is key to the adventure bike’s rise. Years ago “big trail bikes”, including the R80G/S, had minimal wind protection and long, bouncy suspension. Now top adventure bikes have fairings, quickly-adjustable screens and electronically tuneable or semiactive suspension, so are as happy negotiating potholed city streets as cruising two-up at 90mph; as thrilling cranking through smooth bends as yomping along a forest trail. They’re as sensible as any rider could wish for, yet their rugged, go-anywhere image is authentic, at least when fitted with suitable tyres – as countless tales of circling the globe via Russia’s Road of Bones confirm. No wonder that versatility has convinced today’s ageing motorcycling population to abandon sports bikes and migrate from traditional sports-tourers like Honda’s VFR750F and VF1200F; 130mph-plus roadsters built for long days in the saddle. Modern adventure bikes tick those boxes and offer more, even if most owners would rather join an off-road riding school than risk their own expensive machine on dirt. And while the adventure market’s fierce competition drives constant improvement,

sports-tourers including the current VFR800F are ignored and rarely updated. Even roadsters as up-to-date as BMW’s R1250RS and KTM’s 1290 Super Duke GT don’t generate comparable enthusiasm. Large-capacity adventure bikes have their drawbacks, it’s true; notably height, weight and expense. The proliferation of models with capacities of over 1200cc, outputs of over 130bhp and price tags to match has sparked a new breed of middleweights, and a sharp divergence of approach. On one hand, bikes including BMW’s F850GS, Ducati’s Multistrada 950, KTM’s 790 Adventure, Honda’s Africa Twin and Triumph’s Tiger 900 provide most of the larger models’ performance and technology – including TFT screens, multiple modes and electronic safety features – with some reduction in weight and cost. On the other, Yamaha’s Ténéré 700 and Royal Enfield’s much more down-to-earth Himalayan have become popular by offering more basic versatility at a significantly lower price.

COMMENT That success is likely to inspire rival firms to develop simple adventure middleweights, to join the likes of Honda’s CB500X and Benelli’s TRK502X. We’re already seeing a flurry of activity in smaller capacity classes, with models including BMW’s G310GS and KTM’s 390 Adventure, produced in Asia for global consumption. How long the adventure bike’s reign lasts is anyone’s guess, but motorcyclists’ enthusiasm for riding to fascinating, far-flung places should ensure it’s a while. Soon we’ll have the option of Harley’s Pan American to add its unique V-twin character to the mix. How the Pan – “equal parts camp-fire, wanderlust and grit”, apparently – performs remains to be seen. But with sales of cruisers and tourers falling, perhaps the two-wheeled Jeep can help pull Harley out of the mire.



Tom Vialle 2020. By Ray Archer


‘On-track Off-road’ is a free, monthly 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 MXGP, the AMA Motocross and Supercross series’, MotoGP, WorldSBK as well as the latest bike tests. ‘On-track Off-road’ will be published online at on the last Wednesday of the month. 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 James Lissimore AMA SX Photographer Cormac Ryan-Meenan MotoGP Photographer Rob Gray MotoGP Photographer David Emmett MotoGP Blogger Neil Morrison MotoGP Blogger & Feature writer Graeme Brown WSB Blogger and Photographer Roland Brown Tester/Columnist Núria Garcia Cover Design Gabi Álvarez Web developer Hosting FireThumb7 - PHOTO CREDITS Ray Archer, various brands, Simon Cudby, JP Acevedo Cover shot: Jeffrey Herlings, British MXGP winner by Ray Archer

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On-Track Off-Road 2020 MXGP Special  

The MXGP Special edition brings immediate coverage and features from the opening round of the 2020 FIM Motocross World Championship. Here ar...

On-Track Off-Road 2020 MXGP Special  

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Profile for otormag