Ryan Morais explains what life is like testing for KTM
PHOTOS by Mike Emery | @emeryphoto
Retirement for racers doesn’t always mean stepping away from dirt bikes entirely, but the position Ryan Morais finds himself in these days is one that has him excited about life. The former professional has found himself in a race team position with Red Bull KTM, as well as testing the brand’s motorcycles. Recently, Morais was out racing the 2017 Red Bull Straight Rhythm aboard a 250 two-stroke, and we were curious to know what the latest was with him. Luckily, the always-friendly rider was able to catch up with us.
You rode the KTM 250 SX here at the 2017 Red Bull Straight Rhythm. When is the last time you were on a two-stroke?
Probably 2004 would have been the last year I was on a two-stroke.
In some ways, these bikes have made improvements with suspension and chassis, but in many ways, they haven’t changed much. What are your thoughts on riding the bike?
The bike is running really good, it’s a standard 2018 250 SX. Honestly, the thing is pretty good. KTM continues to develop their two-strokes a little bit and keep them as current as they can. Overall, it’s a really good bike. I threw a pipe and silencer on it, along with some Supercross suspension, and I’m not doing anything else. It’s super fun, it definitely puts a smile on your face when you ride them.
Over the last few years since your retirement from racing, life has changed for you a few times now. What have you been up to?
I’ve been over at the Red Bull KTM team for four years now. I’m the team coordinator over there and the race team test rider. I also do some production testing with Mike Sleeter and that whole crew. I’ve got my hands in a little bit of everything, which is nice because not every day is the same. I enjoy that part. Everyone at KTM is awesome to work with and they’re super cool about me doing something like this event. If I say, ‘Hey I think I want to race the two-stroke,’ they’re like, ‘Yeah! Go for it!’ It’s really fun and they’re super cool about that stuff and family things. It’s nice with the crazy schedule we have, they’re good about letting us take a day out of the week during the race season to spend time with family. It’s a great company to be part of and I really enjoy it, and I still get to ride some great bikes.
There are some rumors out there suggesting that Ryan Dungey refers to you as his secret weapon for testing. Any comment on that?
Ryan and I built a really good relationship over the few years that I’ve been there. We worked together really good and he put a lot of trust in me to develop bikes. It was really fun to work with someone like that and for him to go out and get the results that he did for us. It was amazing and it made us enjoy going back and putting in the work during the week when your rider goes out and wins like that. Now Marvin Musquin is sliding into those shoes and I’m looking forward to this year with him and Broc Tickle. I think Broc is also going to surprise some people. I just continue to help the team when I can with what I can.
As far as the testing goes, what is the thing that you enjoy testing the most?
For some reason, Supercross comes to me a little easier. I can not ride for a month, then go straight to the Supercross track for testing that day and I can get a couple times in and be decent. I really enjoy riding it. I enjoy riding outdoors too, but for me, I’m not a big fan of that high-speed stuff anymore. I enjoy testing all around and especially when we make gains on the bike. Knowing that you made it better when you leave the track is an accomplishment with how good these bikes already are. If you can make gains then we’re doing a good job, and the whole crew is really dedicated to that. We work hard to develop these things the best that we can and I think it’s shown over the last few years.
So when the bikes are already so good, and you have the KTM, which is a well-thought-of bike, how do you pinpoint and identify the thing that would make it better for a consumer?
It’s always tough. There are the two different shoes you have to fill between the race-team stuff and production testing. With production testing, we have to think, “Okay, maybe I like that, but the general public is going to like this direction better.’ It’s a compromise and usually, we have a few people ride with us also. If we find something that we all like collectively than it’s good, but if it’s swinging one way for some people and one way for another, obviously it’s not going to work. I would say that’s the difficult side to developing both sides of the motorcycle, you have to know where you need to go with the development.
For the racing side of the development, how does that process look? Do you try to test for a specific rider or do you test the bike in a more general sense?
It all depends on the goal for that day. Obviously, there’s a point with the bike where we’re just developing or trying to get the bike better and it’s just a general goal. If a rider has a problem and they’re back East and can’t come out to California soon, then that’s when we go to the test track and I try to understand what they’re saying and test in a certain direction where we think it feels better in that spot. Then you hope you made the right adjustment [laughs].
Do you see yourself staying in this role for quite a while?
Yeah, I think so. I really enjoy it and the company is great. I still love racing, I love to go to the races and be a part of it. It’s great seeing the teams hard work and our riders bringing us results. It’s always a double-edged sword going to all of this stuff because my son is six and my daughter is turning four, so it’s difficult being away from my family. This is all I know and it’s what I love, and I’m super thankful for the position I have with racing. It’s not often that a racer gets to fall into a spot like this in our sport, especially at a factory team. I have a smile on my face every day I wake up knowing that I work with a great group of people.