Outdoor Testing With The Pros
Getting up to speed for the MX Nationals
Outdoor National Motocross Testing
Words & photos by Shan Moore
With the Supercross series starting to wind down, and now that the 450 title is wrapped up, this is the time that most of the teams have started to do their outdoor testing. Of course, Supercross and motocross, even though they are similar in nature, are somewhat different when it comes to bike setup and suspension and the teams that come into the series the most prepared are the ones that will get off to the best start to the outdoor season.
A good example is 2011, when Ryan Villopoto was locked in a titanic battle for the Supercross title with Chad Reed and Ryan Dungey, which eventually went down to the final round in Vegas. Because of the intensity of the title chase, Villopoto and his Monster Energy Kawasaki team spent very little time preparing for outdoors so they could concentrate on Supercross. The strategy paid off in RV’s first SX title, but he paid for it at the first few rounds of the outdoor series, where if you remember he went 3-3-3-5 in the first four motos before getting his first moto win at High Point.
At the recent Houston round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross series, Motocross.com sat down with a few team managers to talk about what they’ve been doing to get ready for the outdoor series.
JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha team manager Jeremy Albrecht
“Typically we will spend a lot of time doing suspension testing and this week (the week before the Houston SX round), we tested down at MTF with Davi Millsaps,” said Albrecht. “We were going to test with James [Stewart] two weeks ago, but he got hurt so we’re giving him time to heal. So we will be doing two days of testing with James after Easter and then after that we’ll set aside one day a week until the outdoor season to do more testing.”
“Softer suspension is the main difference, obviously, between Supercross setup and outdoors,” added Albrecht. “We’ll also spend some time testing triple clamp offsets, tires and linkages. The engine settings, typically you’ll try to add a bit more on the top end, but low end is still important.
“The new bike is a little different from last year’s bike, although it’s mainly just small stuff, and when we finished out last year’s outdoor series we felt we had a good setup, so I think we have a good starting point to go from, since our bikes were pretty good last year.
“Another thing we did, which helps, is we built our own outdoor track for testing. Mark Barnett built it and it has sprinklers all around it and Coy [Gibbs] built a barn out there, so we have a pretty good setup. It took a lot of work, but Spencer laid it all out on a computer and we went out there with GPS and built it; it was all trees. And we just keep making it better and better. We had this one big berm at the bottom of a hill, but we ended up knocking the berm down to make it harder to get up the hill; just little things like that. The best feature is the sprinkler system; we can really work on the track and keep it rough. We can put the sprinklers on timers and we can water it while we’re gone to a race over the weekend and when we get back on Monday it’s ready to practice on. Before, the dirt would bake while we were gone and you would have to rip it up and water it.”
Ryan Villopoto’s Monster Energy Kawasaki mechanic Michael Williamson
“About this time of year, with the SX season coming to an end, Ryan will start riding on the outdoor track,” said Williamson. “Basically, we try to fit in a day of outdoor riding each week, and we try to give him a few weeks of riding to get back up to speed and then we’ll start getting some feedback from him so we have a direction. Obviously, we’re looking for engine power and better cooling on our own, but we will start getting some input from Ryan coming off of last year’s settings and that will give us an idea of what to work on in the shop. We’ll start on the suspension dynos so when we go to test we will have stuff pre-built for the direction he wanted to go.
“Right now, we’re just getting started testing outdoors and we’re a little but ahead of where we were last year, where the Supercross title went down to the last race. We have a lot better plan and we’re in a good place.
“Another thing that helps is we are riding basically the same bike we finished last year’s outdoor series on. Even after the last race at Pala last year, we made a few improvements while preparing for Motocross of Nations that we haven’t even introduced to AMA racing, so I think we’re definitely in a good spot. The bike was new to us midway through the season last year, and we were able to get a lot of good race-testing done with it at that time, and if we had to go racing with it right now I feel we would be good to go, but by the time Hangtown gets here we’re going to be a whole lot better.”
“As far as changes, it mainly boils down to suspension settings and running coolers to keep the bike from over-heating – maybe some times bigger radiators. But the main change for outdoors is internal suspension stuff. Actually, the engines stay real similar to what we run in Supercross. With the works transmissions, which are stronger and wider, you get a real wide range of power and you can leave it in second gear longer on starts and stuff like that. We’ll test engines a little to find what Ryan is comfortable with, but trust me, Supercross engines are not lacking on top end power. We will definitely play with some throttle bodies and cams and stuff like that.”
Red Bull KTM team manager Roger DeCoster
“We’ve been able to get in a couple of weeks of testing with [Marvin] Musquin and [Ken] Roczen on the 250, but with Ryan [Dungey] hurt, we haven’t started testing on the 450,” said DeCoster. “We’ll wait for Ryan to get back on the bike.”
“The suspension is the main thing we concentrate on,” said DeCoster. “You use less damping on outdoors than on indoors because there is more forward speed and less angle when they come down from jumps. There may be whoops sections, but they aren’t the same as on the indoor tracks. We may look at fork offset and play with that a little, but as far as wheelbase, we don’t have many options. We don’t have as much adjustment when it comes to wheelbase, because you are limited to your gearing and the increment of a master link, but our riders seem to like the adjustment of the chain at the middle to three-quarters of the way to the back with the rear axel.
“As far as the engine, we may let them rev a little more, but there’s not a big difference. We used to change the engines a lot, but now the power is so broad with these bikes that you can pretty much ride the same settings in indoor or outdoor.”
“We don’t look to Europe too much to see what they’re doing because they’re still focusing on the 350 over there. Plus, many times what they like in Europe is quit different from what the riders like over here. The riding style is different and I think the track layouts are a little bit different. So you can’t take much from Europe. But I expect the new 450 to be very good for outdoors, I’m confident in that.”
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