Cooksey, Straight To The Point: The Answer Is Simple
The 2019 Monster Energy Supercross track at Atlanta didn’t hold up to the night’s racing and it hurt the show. I'm not a fan of sending guys off 90-foot triples with ruts scraping their footpegs. When a track deteriorates, racers start surviving instead of racing. Much like a mud race, it becomes extremely one-lined. There's an obvious solution and I honestly don’t know why it hasn’t been explored. Reduce knobby size!
I've heard many people say 450s are too big for Supercross, and I agree, but good luck getting all six manufactures to put their interests aside and provide a solution. Whether it be going back to two-strokes, reducing engine size or using a universal CDI, solving world hunger would be easier than getting the manufactures to agree on changes. An easier solution is to limit the rear tire knobby height to somewhere between a quarter and a half-inch. This would involve cooperation between Dunlop and Pirelli, the two main tire companies who supply approximately 99% of the tires for Supercross.
Knobs these days have tremendous grip and literally dig a ditch when powered by a 450cc machine. Let me be clear, I'm not blaming the tires for tearing the tracks apart, I'm saying it’s the easiest fix. I asked the Dunlop race support guys if it was possible to restrict the size of knobby available to racers. Their job is to provide racers the best possible feel and traction, so asking them about anything that reduces traction drew some funny looks. I cornered Broc Glover, Dunlop’s Senior Manager of Motorcycle Off-Road, to find out if this was possible and how long it would take to realistically implement.
Broc let me know every tire has a particular production mold and changing the molds would cost upwards of $30,000 per mold. While they could make it happen in a short time, a two to four-year lead time would be more realistic. A knob reduction would have to extend beyond Supercross, local tracks are also torn up in short time. In order for Dunlop and Pirelli to justify the development and production costs, motorcycle manufactures would have to agree to a uniform change throughout all forms of off-road racing. Similar to when four-strokes were introduced, the change has to be unanimous. Initially losing the tractor-like traction would be an adjustment, but both tracks and trails everywhere would sustain less damage. Broc was confident that Dunlop could produce a tire with comparable traction to current tires. Obviously there will be limitations and sand tracks may need slightly taller knobby.
With reduced knobby size, your chest and arms would also likely no longer look like someone used you as a paintball target. This solution, unlike reduced power output, will benefit more skilled riders. Less traction means better technique is required and larger riders are at less of a disadvantage. Excess power is worthless if it can’t be transferred to the ground. The one area Broc explained would be dramatically impacted is the start. Less power to the ground means less speed on the start straight. Is that ever a bad thing? Slower speeds will only benefit racing, if everyone is on the same size knobby nothing will change.
I am well aware how hard it is to get racers to accept anything different, but it won’t matter if everyone is dealing with the same tires. As everyone speculates what chemicals can or can’t be added to the dirt to keep the track from deteriorating, I feel like I’ve been telling the Emperor he actually isn’t wearing clothes for a long time. The idea is a simple and sustainable long-term option. After a year of adjustment, I fully believe tires with less aggressive tread patterns could become the new normal.
Chris Cooksey is life-long motocross enthusiast, racing professionally in arenacross, motocross and supermoto. Chris obtained his degree from Arizona State, majoring in business and communications. After college Chris immersed himself in the business and social media aspects of the industry. Chris enjoys sharing his opinions. Sit back and enjoy the view from his perspective.