What’s going with KTM (and its kid brother, Husqvarna)? Is it my imagination or are these guys winning, or in the top three in almost every major off-road motorcycle championship going these days? I mean Cairoli, Herlings, Paulin, Jonass, Olsen, Covington, Dungey, Musquin, Anderson, Osborne and don’t even get me started with GNCC, Endurocross, Dakar and so on. It appears this brand is not-so-quietly taking over two-wheel racing on dirt surfaces. So, here’s the age-old question: is it the bikes or the riders, because there sure seems to be a lot of orange and white out front? I remember a funny story a guy once told me about one of these orange bikes breaking in half after landing a triple. Imagine that. They have come a very long way in a relatively short few years. When are they going to expand into ATV's, or maybe cars, pianos, guitars, lawn mowers, generators, watercraft, power tools and the list goes on?
Curious In Colorado
Breaking in half, ha … imagine that. When KTM really started pushing hard in the U.S. just over 10 years ago they said they wanted to create an orange village here. It looks more like an orange metropolis now, and they added some white for good measure. But the fact that motorcycles are their only product (not cars, generators, pianos, fork lifts, boat motors, etc.) is a major reason why their improvement curve has been so steep. They come out with an FE model mid-season so they effectively release a new bike twice a year. And their efficient size allows them to be flexible and create numerous models to fit different segments. With the best bikes in the sport, particularly at the professional level, come the world’s best racers. Most riders would give up some salary if it meant they could be on the best bike. So, at this point they have the sport by the short and curlies and it’s up to the Japanese manufacturers to catch up. How much money are the Japanese OEMs willing to spend to get back on top? Time will tell. Regardless, I wouldn’t expect KTM to jump into those other markets; their focus has been one of their biggest strengths.
I know you like your 125's so maybe you can add some perspective to this concept.
Back in the early days of the 4-Stroke "movement" there was a National Fall series that got some pretty decent riders. What do you think of doing the same thing but now with 125's? I believe most everyone (other than the manufacturers that don't make a 125) believes that our sport would benefit by having the availability of cheaper entry level bikes. A 125cc series, which could be split into East/West, would help showcase the capabilities of the bikes while further promoting the growth of the sport.
I do like me some one dingers, Stanley, no question about that. I remember the fall series and it was definitely a catalyst for four-stroke development back then. Kelly Smith reigned supreme and if you stalled your bike your weekend was pretty much over because it took until the end of the day to get it fired back up. There are a few races around the country like the 125 Dream Race in Washougal, the 32:1 Classic in Montana and the Racer X Maine Event in the Northeast last weekend that are bringing the increasing number of two-stroke fans together to share a fun and economically sensible weekend of racing. And the FMF 125 Triple Crown that ran at halftime of the Nationals this year was a huge hit, in case you weren’t at one of those rounds. The gates were filled quickly and interest was very high from promoters all over the country. That said, don’t be shocked to see that series expand east and, much as you suggested, break into an East/West thing with a finale in Indiana. Nothing is concrete yet, but I’m already working on getting my bike ready … and it’s going to be a missile. I recommend talking to your local race promoter about starting some 125 classes at your local events and watch the class start growing. You’ll be shocked when you realize how much fun you have riding one of those things again.
Years ago you wrote a well thought out Racer X article about how the top running speed of a human was something like 25 MPH and, coincidently, a human's exoskeleton can withstand falls up to about the same speed before things start breaking. Knee and neck braces, helmets and all protective gear can only extend that range so much (Can't find the article now). Every time I watch Endurocross I see amazing, close action, lots of slips/falls and uncertainty and almost NO injuries.
Growing up racing in the ‘80's a lot of tracks we raced at didn’t have many sections where you got over 40 MPH and those sections were mostly wide open straights.
Watch the amazing Chicken/Bradshaw SX battles...It's amazing how slow they were going.
Is it time to "slow" the racing down with different track configurations?
Yours in racing
Scott "Keep it under 30MPH" Stewart
Great points … except that humans have endoskeletons, not exoskeletons. I hope that was your bad and not mine or my anatomy and physiology professor is going to kick my ass. All that aside, there is certainly a correlation between the speed and height riders are going these days and the severity and regularity of their injuries. The thing I don’t like is that tracks seem to have gotten less technical, making them easier to circulate at higher speeds. When you factor in how much faster the bikes have gotten in the past 10 years it amplifies the problem; at some supercross races there are riders jumping through entire rhythm sections in a couple leaps. And in motocross the riders are working with much more horsepower and torque so speeds are way up there as well.
The human body is incredibly durable but everything has its limits. If you go back and watch racing in the 1980s or watch EnduroCross now you’ll see that speed doesn’t really affect the closeness or excitement of the racing. You know what does? Having all your star riders on the sidelines with injuries halfway through the series. Hopefully the track builders are paying attention.