Josh Strang capped off the 2018 season with a championship title in the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro series along with an impressive performance at the International Six Days Enduro World Enduro in Chile, where he and his Aussie teammates came away with the top spot in the World Trophy Team division. After spending the last few years riding for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing team, Strang signed a deal with Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/Kawasaki for 2019 and at the first race of the season, the opening round of the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series in South Carolina, Strang won the second day of the two-day event and finished second overall behind Kailub Russell. Dirt Rider spoke to Strang at the recent Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro in South Carolina.
How has the adjustment to your new bike, the Kawasaki KX450, been?
So pretty much after the Six Days, after the first of December, I got to ride the new Kawasaki. It’s good. I was happy with it straight away. I’ve just been trying to ride as much as I can. We’ve had a couple weeks where it’s been raining a lot. Not so much the cold weather this year—it’s just been too wet. But I’ve been able to train and ride a fair bit, so I’ve been feeling fairly good, but you never know until we come to a race.
You had a pretty good debut at the Sprint Enduro in South Carolina. How would you sum it up?
The weekend started off a little steady. You never know, just nerves. There were fast guys last year, but this year, this weekend especially… I’m not sure if everyone is doing the whole series, but to have Kailub Russell, Thad Duvall, Josh Toth, and all those boys here racing, there’s a lot more pressure to do well. The racing is more intense. Saturday I think I may have put a little bit more pressure on myself. Then just dialing the bike in. First race on the new bike, just changing some small things, getting used to everything, how everyone runs, and everything. Saturday wasn’t too bad. The last couple tests were good for me. Then Sunday it was a lot better.
Did you make any changes on the bike from Saturday to Sunday?
Just a few clicker changes. That’s it. That’s mainly to adjust to the conditions here. We’ll probably go back for the next round. The cross test got kind of whoopy and rough. The woods test was actually really weird; once you got out of the pines, it went to like a clay base almost. I think a lot of people were struggling this weekend with that. We just made changes to adjust to the conditions. Other than that, it was minor.
How’s it been going from a European bike back to a Japanese bike?
It’s good. It was really good, actually. When I got on the bike, honestly it was a little bit harder to get used to than I originally had thought from when I rode it the very first time. But once I got used to it, I was right at home. I felt more comfortable on it straight away than I have in the past.
What’s the biggest difference in the feel between an Austrian and a Japanese bike?
I can’t pinpoint it. For me, it’s just comfortable and easier to ride. It might have something to do with the fact I spent 15 years on a Japanese bike before I got onto the European bike. I think that may have something to do with it. Just something that you’re used to. Just like riding a bicycle. Once you get used to something, when you go back to it it’s easy. I think I just remembered how they work. For me it works a lot better. I’m a lot happier now.”
You really came on strong at the end of last year and at Six Days. Is that just a function of getting over your injuries? Or did you do anything different? Maybe you got inspired a little more or something?
No, still doing the same work and everything. I just think things started clicking off a little better. Last year, the summer went a little better for me as far as riding goes and results-wise, and having good results at the Sprint Enduros over the summer helped. The last couple of GNCCs I did fairly well. The Six Days race was good. I was disappointed with my individual result at Six Days. Our team result was really good, but individually I would have liked to have been a little higher up. I hadn’t ridden those conditions all year, so I think my bike setup was off a little bit. [Daniel] Milner, [Daniel] Sanders, and Taylor Robert, they rode that kind of dirt all year. Taylor rides it every day. For me, as a team to win [the Six Days] is unbelievable. If there was an individual race, I was disappointed [in myself].