FASTHOUSE PRESENTS MXA’S MID-WEEK REPORT BY JOHN BASHER

June 17, 2014
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Fasthouse represents a lifestyle that is energized and full of passion for motorcycles and motorcycle racing. The Fasthouse mission is to represent that passion to its fullest; as designers of apparel, racewear and hardware, as promoters and creators of events and parties, and always, as the purveyors of good times. Find out more at www.thefasthouse.com

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

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Even the mighty fall from time to time. Scott Mallonee was in the right place at the right time this past weekend in High Point. Though MXA‘s chief freelance photographer was focusing on Justin Hill, the real action was behind the Pro Circuit rider. That’s Jeremy Martin getting launched off the side of the bike. No matter, because Martin is still the points leader.

MXA MINI-VIEW: KEVIN ROOKSTOOL

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So many times it has been said that so-and-so is one of the nicest guys in the sport, but I pull no punches when I state that privateer Kevin Rookstool is a class act. Maybe it’s because Kevin is from the laid-back state of Oregon. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that he’s been racing long enough to understand that you don’t bite the hand that could potentially feed you. Whatever the case, Kevin Rookstool is good people.

He’s rightfully earned the nickname “Double Threat,” which I have properly coined due to his loaded schedule racing EnduroCross and the AMA Nationals. I caught up with Kevin at the X Games in Austin a few weeks ago to learn more about how he is, in his own words, “Winging it.” 

MXA: You’re racing the EnduroCross series and the AMA Nationals. Why?

Kevin: I like to race my dirt bike, and I only make money with the races that I do. I don’t have receive a salary, so I race to live. Fortunately I have some support, and I’m decent at both types of racing, so why not? I’m working on putting more focus on the Nationals. I’m also focused on EnduroCross, but I don’t have a track to practice on. Typically I show up to an EnduroCross event and race. Every once in a while I pull out some good results. My hope is to score points at the Nationals and also stay healthy.

Is it difficult making the transition between the two disciplines?

It’s definitely a challenge. My EnduroCross bike is set up completely different from my National bike. My Enduro bike has super soft suspension in order to get over all of the obstacles. The outdoor bike is really stiff, and I have to use a different riding style for motocross. Really though, I feel that I can hop on anything and go pretty fast. I’m having a fun time switching between the two.

_1021331Kevin Rookstool raced the 2012 Nationals aboard a privateer Honda. Here he rails around a corner at Red Bud.

You’re on a KTM this year, but you weren’t on orange last year. 

I rode Supercross in 2013 on a Kawasaki KX450F, and in 2012 I raced the outdoors on a Honda CRF450. I broke my leg riding Supercross in February of 2013 and I was out all year long. Now I’m finally getting back into the swing of things. I haven’t raced a National since 2012, so it has been tough. I’m getting my head wrapped around motocross, and I feel like I’m going to be putting in some great results in the next few rounds.

This weekend you’re racing the X Games and also competing at the Thunder Valley National. Why?

The X Games is huge. I came here [Austin] to have a good time. I haven’t done any training for it; the last time I rode EnduroCross was at the Las Vegas opener. I tend to like the faster courses that have a lot of jumps, and the Austin X Games track has that. [Note: Kevin finished third in the LCQ, missing the Finals by one spot]. After the race I’m catching a flight out to Lakewood for the National. [Note: Kevin had an off weekend, going 25-39 in the motos at Thunder Valley.]

Being from Oregon, would you consider Hangtown or Washougal your local track?

I’m right in between Hangtown and Washougal, but I’d consider Washougal my home track. Even so, I only ride that track once or twice a year.

What happened at Hangtown?

I had nothing but electrical problems. I ripped a good start in the first moto–I was right around the top ten, and then on the first lap my bike died. I went back to the pits and swapped out my engine. There were some issues, but I rolled it around the track for 22nd. I wasn’t happy with that result at all, but at least I got some conditioning in. Progression is the name of the game. I want to get inside the top 15 and then inside the top 10 [Note: Kevin went 19-19 for 19th overall at High Point].

Who’s supporting you this year?

My buddy, Lonnie Alexander, with Alexander Exhibit. MotoSport Hillsboro, with special thanks to Scott Russell, helped me with a few KTM’s for the summer. Moose Racing also helps me out, along with Dunlop tires. They keep me on the road.

What do you think about the KTM 450SXF?

I like it a lot. My biggest problem is in trying to get the suspension dialed in. I’ve been struggling to get it set up to where I really like it. I’m in the ballpark, but it’s not up to par with the guys I should be competing with. The engine is really good. I don’t have a deal with KTM. I could ride any bike I want, but I’m racing a KTM because it’s a good bike. It’s fast and it works well when you get the suspension dialed in.

EnduroCross has changed considerably. A few years ago the courses were slower and there weren’t as many jumps. 

We’re definitely catching some air off sketchy objects [laughter]. I prefer jumps. The rocks are becoming super technical. The racing is getting faster, but it’s not losing its technical side. It’s a pain in the butt to get around a course cleanly and quickly every lap. You have to be courageous to hit weird objects. There’s a lot of going over the bars [laughter]. I see that a lot of racers are starting to have their own courses. They’re training for EnduroCross. It’s cool that some guys are making money just to race EnduroCross. The sport is fun, and the racers are laid back.

EnduroCross bike setup has changed, as well. A lot of riders are commenting on how their suspension is getting stiffer.

It’s definitely stiffer, but there has to be plushness as well. You can’t race EnduroCross with a Supercross setup, because then you won’t be able to get through the technical stuff. It’s hard to come by a good setup for EnduroCross, because no one really knows what to do aside from the few guys that are always testing.

How do you tune your body for the heat and humidity of Austin, then hop on a plane for Colorado and race a National the next day?

I’m winging it! That’s my life story. I just drink a heck of a lot of water and try to stay hydrated. Hydration and rest are the two things that keep me alive.

What’s your preference, motocross or EnduroCross?

Motocross, but also Supercross. I’m actually going to race Supercross this next year, so I’ll do all three. I’ll be busy! I don’t want to have any breaks. I want to keep the dream alive. Hopefully I can find some help so that I can earn money instead of spending it all.

MXA VIDEO: LISTEN TO OUR 2003 HONDA CR125 PROJECT BIKE SING

2014 NATIONALS: WEIGHING IN

Photos by Scott Mallonee

People have been chirping that the 2014 AMA Nationals are just beginning, but that’s not actually true. Now that round four at High Point has been completed there’s only eight rounds left. Yes, that’s still a lot of racing (32 motos, to be exact), but the title contenders have been established (two of them making their presence known this past weekend in Pennsylvania). Who are they?

450 Class

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Ken Roczen…The rookie has been in control of the points lead since Hangtown, amassing a 16-point advantage over Ryan Dungey. In seven out of eight motos K-Roc has scored more points than Dungey. Kenny is starting off the Nationals the way he kicked off his rookie 450 Supercross series–with a bang. Can he stand the test of time and keep putting in brilliant rides as the grind continues? Yes.

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Ryan Dungey…Ryan will need to work on dropping his lap times in the opening laps. Superior in fitness and late-race speed, Dungey’s weakness is his inability to keep pace with Roczen and James Stewart in the early part of the moto. Ryan Villopoto always employed the blitzkrieg strategy, which was to holeshot, put the hammer down for five laps, and then keep a solid pace as the race wore on. Ken Roczen is doing the same thing to Dungey. Although the points lead is still close, that gap will only grow if Dungey can’t keep pace in the early laps, because Roczen isn’t dropping anchor at the end of the moto.

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James Stewart…The past National Champion didn’t start off well, attributing his woes to bike setup, but in the past five motos he’s gone gangbusters. During that time he has outscored Roczen by a point. That’s not much, but Stewart has won three out of the last four motos. Consistency hasn’t been James’ strong point in recent years, but if he can keep stringing together moto wins he has an excellent chance at leading the title chase before too long. The only problem that Stewart has is the depth of the 450 field. It’s obvious that Roczen, Dungey, Trey Canard and he are head and shoulders above everyone else. Don’t believe me? There’s a 35-point gap between Canard and Brett Metcalfe, who sits fifth in points.

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Trey Canard…Although not quite up to speed to win through the Thunder Valley round, Canard had a brilliant second moto at High Point. Trey finished less than a second behind James Stewart. Equally impressive is that he kept Ken Roczen in his rearview mirror. Canard has to overcome a 33 point deficit, but he’s no stranger to adversity. If anyone can do it, it’s Trey Canard.

250 Class

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Jeremy Martin…The Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha rider blew away the field in the opening five motos of the season, scoring perfect points and building a huge lead. Since that time he has gone 6-2-6 in moto scores. It shouldn’t be considered a slump, more so a dose of reality. As amazing as it would have been for Martin to go undefeated this summer, it was about as likely as snowfall in St. Lucia. Jeremy has a 29-point lead. At this point his greatest competition is within himself.

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Cooper Webb…Like teammate Martin, Webb started the 250 Nationals in excellent fashion. Scoring five straight second place finishes, the wheels have since come off the rails a bit. Cooper is a title contender. He’ll need to start winning motos if he wants to serve attention to Martin, Blake Baggett, Christophe Pourcel and Justin Bogle.

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Blake Baggett…Uh oh! Has the 2012 AMA 250 National Champion found his mojo once again? Baggett is starting to catch fire, which could be disastrous for Jeremy Martin. Even despite failing to score points in the second moto at Hangtown Blake Baggett is still third in points. Winning three straight motos has helped BB’s cause.

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Christophe Pourcel…The Frenchman has often been the quickest in practice, but not the fastest when the gate drops. It’s a bit disappointing that he has yet to win a moto, but like a good song, Pourcel probably plans to hit the high notes midway through the series. By then will it be too late? If he could score better results in the first motos (a total of 52 points) and match his second moto scores (a total of 76 points) then he’d be in much better shape.

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Justin Bogle…I shouldn’t be surprised that Justin Bogle is holding strong in the 250 National chase. He just won the 250 East title and has tons of speed. It’s that I expected Jason Anderson, Marvin Musquin and Cole Seely to be ahead of Bogle. That’s not the case. Justin is showing what he’s capable of outdoors, evidenced by his multiple podium moto finishes. Bogle is the real deal.

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2015 KTM 450SXF PHOTO SHOOT

KTM_450SXF_Still_2015It’s hard to believe that the 2015 bikes are already starting to come out, but new bikes are what we live for.

KTM strikes first for 2015, unveiling their updated 450SXF. The MXA wrecking crew got their hands on the orange dynamo this past weekend and began testing. By now you’re aware of the changes for 2015 (if you’re not then simply click here).

Daryl Ecklund and I made the trek to Competitive Edge and shot action of the 2015 KTM 450SXF (note the cool new ’15 Troy Lee Designs gear that Daryl is wearing). Look for a video coming soon, along with our full-blown, leave-no-stone-unturned test of the 2015 KTM 450SXF soon. Enjoy these pictures for now. Think of them as an appetizer.

_HAN4779KTM’s design department keeps kickin’ out the jams. The 2015 graphics are lightyears beyond the butterscotch bikes of the olden days

_HAN4782KTM takes the sound rules seriously and their relatively simple muffler design manages to meet the standards of both the FIM and AMA.

_HAN4791When the 2015 Japanese bikes hit the showrooms, the majority of them will have new oversize rotors—you can thank KTM for raising the bar so high with their Brembo unit that the others had to respond.

_HAN4789If KTM’s competitors want to keep up with the orange brand, they still need to invest in hydraulic clutches, electric starters, no tool airboxes, quick-release fuel lines, billet hubs, and, just perhaps, chromoly frames.

_HAN4767The 2015 KTMs will come with all-new 4CS forks, replacing the previous WP bladder forks. Also note the black anodized Excel rims.

_HAN4762The electric starter is hidden behind the cylinder and just above the hydraulic clutch’s slave unit.

_HAN4809We know for a fact that you can’t do this on the East Coast. Not that you can’t fly like a bird—just that you can’t do a fly-by on a giant desert Yucca.

_HAN5026MXA’s Daryl Ecklund was the test rider assigned to day one of 2015 KTM 450SXF testing—but he is just the first of many as we put the bike through its paces before the MXA test comes out in late July.

_HAN5095When the day started that pile of straw was a fully intact haybale. Some how, it got blowed up.

VIDEO: WATCH THE CANARD/ROCZEN/DUNGEY TRAIN ROLL THROUGH HIGH POINT

#MXATALKSINSTAGRAM

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Josh Hansen gets upside-down at X Games Austin.

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James Stewart and his Dad get caught in the water while playing lawn hockey.

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Ken Roczen shows off his red roost.

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Adam Cianciarulo rocks a Road Bike Action magazine kit while training for his return in Florida. Very cool.

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That’s one way to use grip glue.

VIDEO: BUTRON GOES BOTTOM UP IN ITALY

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