WE RIDE MITCHELL FALK’S BWR ENGINES HONDA CRF250
By Josh Mosiman
Some people wait for opportunity to knock, while others create their own opportunities. As a Supercross privateer, Carlen Gardner didn’t have the newest equipment or the name recognition of his competition. To be financially successful as a Professional motocross racer, you either need to be as fast as Eli Tomac or as likable as Travis Pastrana. Guys with the speed of Eli Tomac can afford to alienate fans, because they’ll still get sponsors who want to be associated with a winner. And racers as good-natured and friendly as Travis Pastrana get sponsors because they are likable and comfortable on camera. Who’s more famous? Travis has 3.9 million followers on Instagram; Ken Roczen has 1.4 million followers, and Eli Tomac has 833,000. Instagram followers don’t define you as a racer, but they are beneficial when it comes to promoting sponsors.
As a close friend of Carlen Gardner, I never thought I would see Carlen racing for and managing his own professional Supercross team. Different personality types excel in different situations, and when starting out as a Pro, self-promotion wasn’t a strong point for Carlen. But, he’s not alone. In my Pro experience, I’ve learned that most racers don’t understand the importance of creating relationships within the industry and marketing themselves to sponsors, nor do they understand what sponsors want from them. Clue: it isn’t just to take their money. They hope the racer will sell their products.
BRIAN HAD NO INTENTION OF STARTING HIS OWN BUSINESS, BUT HE BEGAN BY WORKING ON HIS OWN BIKE, AND FRIENDS PAID HIM TO MAKE THEIR BIKES LIKE HIS. IT WASN’T LONG UNTIL BRIAN STARTED BWR ENGINES.
Like every young racer, Carlen just wanted to race his motorcycle and get paid for it. With the unending support of his dad, Carlen made it to the AMA Pro ranks. But once he got there, he wanted to keep growing and lighten the load on his Dad in the process. Before turning Pro, Chris Riesenberg from Race Tech introduced Carlen Gardner to Brian White of BWR Engines. Chris knew that Carlen and Brian White would work well together because they were cut from the same cloth. They are both dedicated, frugal with their resources, and driven to keep the dream alive. Chris thought it was a partnership made in sponsorship heaven. And that is how the BWR Engines Honda team came into being.
BWR Engines was born out of Brian White’s love for motorcycles. He couldn’t afford to have someone else work on his race bike, so he learned how to do it himself. While in high school, he worked at a local dealership for school credit until he graduated and then was hired full-time. Originally, Brian had no intention of starting his own business, but he began by working on his own bike, and friends paid him to make their bikes like his. It wasn’t long until Brian started BWR Engines.The BWR Honda team began with Brian and his brother Kyle racing the AMA Arenacross series. Brian worked full-time to grow his engine and suspension business while supporting more riders with his team. The next step was to make the jump to being an AMA Supercross team.
Brian White and Carlen Gardner first met in 2016 when Brian offered Carlen a chance to race for the BWR team at Red Bud, Millville and the Ironman Nationals. Carlen had raced the opening National rounds on a KTM 450SXF, but BWR only had a left-over 2013 Honda CRF450. Brian got the bike sorted out, and at Red Bud Carlen qualified sixth fastest—one spot in front of Ken Roczen. The factory guys weren’t excited to see a privateer bike up there in the mix, but it was a really cool way for Carlen and Brian to start their relationship.
Carlen and Brian wanted to keep working together for the 2017–2018 Supercross season, but BWR lost K1 Speed as its title sponsor and struggled to find funding. Carlen and BWR both wanted to go racing, so they combined their remaining resources and sponsors. During the 2018 season, they talked about building a better team, but Brian knew that he didn’t have enough time to be the engine builder, suspension tuner, race mechanic and team manager. Luckily, Carlen stepped up to the plate and filled the dual role of team manager and team rider at the same time.
Before the start of the 2019 Supercross season, they found a used factory-style semi, and the BWR Honda team gelled when the rig showed up at Anaheim 1 with a full Supercross team. Carlen brought on Robbie Wageman for the 250 West, Scott Meshey for the 250 East and Tyler Enticknap and Carlen for the 450 class. The BWR team competed in all 17 rounds of the 2019 Supercross Championship. Carlen qualified for 10 450 Main Events and placed 21st in 450 Supercross points to earn AMA National number 69. Even though the team came together at the last minute, the 2019 season was a great year for BWR. Brian and Carlen took what they learned into the 2020 season.
The BWR/L-TEC/SSI Decals/Fly Racing Honda team isn’t a big-budget operation. Brian White is the truck driver, engine builder, suspension tuner and mechanic. Carlen Gardner is the racer, team manager and marketing guy. The only other full-time employee on the team is mechanic Spencer Holstine. While Brian handles the mechanical end of things, Carlen is in charge of providing support, working out rider contracts, finding sponsors, ordering parts and dealing with the team riders. It is a non-stop job, and Carlen told MXA that his race days are usually the most relaxing days of the week, because he can just focus on racing and doesn’t have to worry about all of the other logistics of managing a Supercross team.
The BWR crew is a small team with a small budget, and everyone from the riders to the mechanics to family members all wear more than one hat. They all pitch in to set up and tear down the rig. The 2020 BWR Supercross-only team consists of former TLD KTM rider Mitchell Falk and Carlen’s younger brother Bryson racing the 250 West, while Brice Klippel and Wilson Fleming race in the 250 East. Unfortunately, Carlen broke his foot and had to have surgery on it, but he recovered in time to race the final seven rounds in Salt Lake City.
After spending his entire amateur career as a factory KTM rider and then turning Pro with the Troy Lee Designs KTM team, Mitchell Falk had a rough go in his debut season. Falk raced the last couple of Nationals in 2018 and then raced Supercross and motocross for Troy Lee Designs in 2019, but injuries had him missing most of the year. Coming into 2020, Mitchell was looking for a ride, and the BWR team was excited to take him on.
AFTER SPENDING HIS ENTIRE AMATEUR CAREER AS A FACTORY KTM RIDER AND THEN TURNING PRO WITH THE TROY LEE DESIGNS KTM TEAM, MITCHELL FALK HAD A ROUGH GO IN HIS DEBUT SEASON. COMING INTO 2020, MITCHELL WAS LOOKING FOR A RIDE, AND THE BWR TEAM WAS EXCITED TO TAKE HIM ON.
Remember that small budget? The BWR team doesn’t get support from Honda, so instead of buying brand-new 2020 models, they search for used 2018 or 2019 bikes that are in good condition and buy them for a fraction of the price. Brian White spends hours making them perfect and then adds Acerbis plastic, Bolt Hardware, Rekluse TorqDrive clutches, Mika Metals handlebars, Ride Engineering triple clamps, DT1 Filters, CP Carrillo rods and pistons, Works Connection parts, Moto Seat seats, Hoosier tires, Lucas Oil, Evans waterless coolant, Nuetech TuBliss systems, Slime Products, Renegade fuels, Pro Circuit exhausts, Dirt Tricks sprockets, SSI Decals and, of course, BWR engines and Race Tech suspension.
What’s most amazing about the BWR team is that they found a bevy of outside sponsors. Carlen stressed how each sponsor’s support really keeps the team going. When we asked about L-TEC, Carlen mentioned that alongside himself and Brian White, the Leo Tidwell Excavating Corporation (L-TEC) is part owner of the team. L-TEC owns the semi that the BWR team takes to the races. The other sponsors who help the team are Lazer Star Lights, Shamrock Property Management and ERAS Construction. Lazer Star makes light bars for off-road and agricultural vehicles, while ERAS Construction builds custom homes. Lazer Star, ERAS, and L-TEC all are all based out of Carlen’s hometown of Paso Robles, California, which makes the partnership even better.
We tried to get the details about what’s inside of the BWR engine, but Brian didn’t want to give up his CRF250 secrets. He’s been working on Hondas for years now, and the CRF250 is his bread and butter. He explained that he runs mostly OEM parts inside of the engine with some proprietary machining and alterations. Brian rants and raves about Rekluse’s TorqDrive clutch. The extra four plates and fibers that come with the Rekluse TorqDrive bring the clutch up from an eight-plate to a 12-plate system, and it offers better oiling for a smooth engagement. Brian says his riders can feel a night-and-day difference in the whoops, because the clutch doesn’t slip when the rear wheel hammers each whoop while skimming the top of them. They also said that their riders are surprised by how hard the clutch grabs off the starting gate when they try it for the first time. The BWR team uses Ride Engineering triple clamps, and they’ve tested different offsets to complement the suspension setup. Carlen mentioned that he likes the 21mm offset on his CRF450s, but Mitchell Falk runs the 22mm setting.
I got to test Mitchell Falk’s BWR Engines/L-TEC/ SSI Decals/Fly Racing Honda CRF250 on SoCal’s State Fair Supercross track, and it was a lot of fun. The suspension was stiff, but I appreciated it on the steep jumps and in the whoops. Like all Hondas, the bike needed to be revved out to get into the power; but once I started revving, it just kept going, and I was very impressed with it. The thing that stood out to me was how the bike handled in the whoops. I raced Supercross in 2018 on a Husqvarna FC250, and I had never tried a Japanese bike in Supercross. I really liked how it handled. The BWR CRF250 inspired confidence in the whoops. With the Rekluse TorqDrive clutch, Nuetech Tu-Bliss system in the wheel, soft Hoosier tires and Race Tech suspension, I found great traction and stability in the whoops. The guys explained that with the TuBliss system they’re able to run a lower tire pressure without worrying about flats. Therefore, the tire flexes and grabs more traction. With the Hoosier’s extra-soft race spec tires and the Rekluse clutch, I quickly gained confidence around the track.
THE GUYS EXPLAINED THAT WITH THE TUBLISS SYSTEM, THEY’RE ABLE
TO RUN A LOWER TIRE PRESSURE WITHOUT WORRYING ABOUT FLATS. WITH THIS, THE REAR TIRE FLEXES AND GRABS MORE TRACTION.
I have always been impressed with Carlen Gardner’s journey from privateer to Supercross team manager, but after riding Mitchell Falk’s race bike, spending time with Brian and Carlen at the track and learning more about all of the effort that goes into building a competitive bike and getting the team from race to race, I was even more proud of my friend.