After twenty-something weeks of high-stress racing, it’s good to go to the track and kick back with the crew. That’s exactly what the 2019 Red Bull Straight Rhythm was for, as riders and teams used the standalone special event as their chance to bring the Ratio Rites out of the cabinet for a quick blend of premix and then an evening Red Bull and vodka. By now you’ve seen all of the clips from the half-mile race at the Fairplex in Pomona (if you haven’t hit the blue link above to watch the complete replay or read the race report), so enjoy some sights in the pits with this week’s Kickstart.
Much has been made about KTM’s engines at the RBSR. Although the official class name was “250cc” teams were free to up the displacement beyond a quarter liter, something that KTM took advantage of with their 300cc cylinder and piston. Anyone not on an orange bike openly joked about the power the factory built engines produced and it shows how the Austrian brand is committed to making the most of every racing opportunity. As for the future of two-strokes and KTM, rumor is that all of their premix burners will feature a fuel injection system. Stay tuned.
Old with the new. To keep Ken Roczen as comfortable as possible on the CR250R, Honda added in a more modern version of Showa suspension parts on the front and rear. The fork caps included the easy to use adjusters that have been on Roczen’s CRF450R all season.
There’s a long-running joke that Honda still has tons of CR250R parts hiding in storage at the Torrance warehouse and that must be true, considering the freshly built engines they dropped into the bikes raced by Roczen and Seely. Both powerplants were built in-house by Honda techs and were just as eye-catching now as they were more than a decade ago. If you know your history of Honda, then you know that they tried for decades to make four-strokes competitive with two-strokes and were the first to phase out the production of new model bikes in the early 2000s.
If there was a custom build bike culture like there is cars, then the Moto Whips guys would be on a Chip Foose level. The Husqvarna TC 125 that Chase Marquier was on for the weekend featured a frame that was stripped down to the bare metal and hit with a thick layer of clear coat that exposed the welds for the engine hangers and spars. That, plus coated engine cases, a raw expansion chamber, glistening WP XACT Pro shock reservoir, and simple graphic set made it one of the nicest non-factory bikes in the pits.
Enzo Lopes grabbed the Suzuki RM250 out of the Brea shop for the RBSR. Built in-house by the Suzuki staff, it’s essentially a factory bike with the parts used on the engine, the Showa suspension, triple clamps, and other goodies. We’ve filmed a number of top riders on this bike over the years for the old “Premix” projects, including Broc Tickle at Cahuilla Creek, Jake Weimer on the Suzuki SX track, and Malcolm Stewart at Zaca Station. Search those clips out when you get done reading if you are in need of more two-stroke action after the weekend.
To fit the retro theme of the event, Suzuki dressed the bike in graphics that resembled the look of the RMs during Larry Ward’s time on the factory team in the 1990s. So no, Enzo was not trying to look like James Stewart. No, we don't know where the fork guard is.
With the MXGP season over, Mitchell Harrison made the trip back from Europe to the United States and got a hold of Kawasaki KX125 that has been restored by Spencer Luczak. The bike was dressed to look like the KX125s raced by Ricky Carmichael in the Spitfire/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki era and features an engine built by Proven Moto’s Matt Jory, Showa suspension, key parts from Pro Circuit, and a spot-on graphic set. Check out Luczak’s Instagram (@luczak101) for some behind the scenes shots of the build.
Team Clean. We really liked how into it Cole Seely and his crue were at the RBSR, from the look of the bike (black frame, excellent graphics) to the pit presence with a party and matching all-white attire. If you like the shirts, you can cop one through Bleach Design Werks.
Since Seely is still one of Honda's favorite sons, they made sure one of the factory CR250R engines made its way into the black frame. Unfortunately, jetting issues forced Seely to pull the plug on the race midway through run. Next time...
Which one did it better?
It’s one thing to make your bike and gear look like an old rider, but to race in the real threads takes it to a new level. Parker Mashburn’s KTM 250 was built to look like Nathan Ramsey’s early 2000s Red Bull KTM, while Mashburn had an actual set of old MSR gear of Ramsey’s from the era, complete with an iron-on printed jersey and the custom butt patch. Nate Dawg would have approved of the gold chain hanging, too. Mashburn bested Ryan Villopoto in round one, but was eliminated by Brandon Hartranft in round two.
The SoBe logo on Adam Enticknap's Suzuki RM250 really capped off the build. The 722 had all the details sorted out with the tapered handlebars that had a red bar pad, a seat cover that looked like the One Industries wraps back in the day, and even a similar logo to what Motul looked like back in 2001, but seriously, the decision to put a SoBe logo on the bike when they've been out of the sport for years was just bitchin'. Without that, it would have been missing something.
Team Honda HRC could have gone the easy way and built the CR250R to look like McGrath’s iconic 1996 setup, but instead they went for the 1994 style. We have to give credit to Throttle Jockey for their attention to detail on the graphics, because the print used colors to look like the white plastic tank and the red radiator shrouds, plus the era-appropriate logos for key sponsors.
We couldn’t help but notice how nice Ronnie Mac’s Screamin’ Eagle looked on the stand. With the help of Merge Racing, Mac stripped the CR250R down to nothing and rebuilt it back up to race-ready standards. Well, as race-ready as an early era aluminum frame Honda could be.
The Mac might be wild, but he knows a good marketing opportunity when he sees it. Remember last year’s Ronnie Mac edition Beer Goggles? For 2019, Ronnie reimagined the 100% logo with his personal 69 on the strap. How long til we see these on excited PBR guzzling fans?
We really like that Tyler Bowers didn’t try to dress up his KX500 and make it a modern bike. Sure, it has all the necessary things like an expertly built engine, a custom fabricated tank, a frame that’s been beefed up to support his speed, and sano fasteners, but the look is the 1990s with pinks, blues, greens, and a graphic kit that looks like every sponsor logo was put in place from an individual sticker sheet, not a pre-printed piece with wild lines and designs.
It’s impressive to see how sharp Ryan Morais is on a bike. I mean, you would be too if you rode as much as Mo’ does for KTM, but he only lines up for one race and year and holds his own against the field. Morais was eliminated in the first round by Ryan Sipes.
Do you remember the stigma that followed KTM in the early 2000s, when the bikes had linkage-less rear-ends and powerful, but hard to manage engines. Thinking about that, it’s funny to see the way the now powerful team looked back on the old days with Ryan Morais’ ride at RBSR. Any of you thinking about swapping the front fender on your bike for a silver one?
Most of you had Ken Roczen picked for the win, yeah? We thought that he had spent a lot of time in the saddle of the CR, but to our surprise, Roczen told us that he had a very limited amount of laps on it. Things seemed a little tense on Saturday afternoon as the temperamental nature of the two-stroke caused jetting issues and Honda had the bike in pieces quite a few times to dial it in. Mitch Payton was one of the first on the scene to help sort out the problems and would head to the back part of the Fairplex to help them during the “speed runs.” That said, it’s impressive to see how Ken got past the issue to take the win.
It was funny to see a gear brand take old designs from a competitor and reimagine them the way Answer did with 2002 Thor gear for Ryan Villopoto. So no, don’t expect this to be sold anytime soon. As for RV, a mistake trying one of the big jump combinations during Friday practice and slammed his chest into the handlebars, which kept him from being 100-percent on Saturday. Does his early elimination make more sense now?
Three MCs and an O’Show. It was so cool to see everyone get into the spirit of the event with their gear combinations, but this needs to happen only once a year or so. If it was done too much, say multiple times in one season every year, it’d lose a lot of the luster.
Hughes-Fonseca or Leib-Lagenfelder? This pairing were together for most of Saturday, from the afternoon qualifying runs to the first bracket of the night, which Leib one. Lagenfelder is a teenager from Germany that raced at the MXON just a few days before and had a hard slam during Saturday’s practice. With all that said, it was impressive to see him make the cut for the roster.
What we said about KTM on that Morais photo? Yeah, double that amount of amazement when you think back to Jeremy McGrath’s ill-fated run with the team in 2003 to Cooper Webb’s championship this past year. Had you told anyone leaving MC’s retirement speech at A1 2003 that in 16 years the brand would take a rider that struggled at factory Yamaha to a SX title, you’d have been considered crazy. But this is moto...
Because a Red Bull helmet is always badass.
Lunatics, the both of them. Only two guys are brave enough to pilot a 500cc bike on a Supercross track and of course they were paired together for a special showdown intermission event. Bowers told us that it was tricky to find the sweet spot of the 500’s powerband, but when it was there, he had to hold on and hit his marks. As for Travis, it’s awesome to see him come out of nowhere every once in a while and hold his own against the current generation of riders. Seriously, backflipping the wall jump might have been faster than scrubbing and he rocketed into the next section much faster than Bowers.
Thoughts on the Evel Knievel kit? The concept is a bit out there, especially since Evel wasn’t a racer, but the white fabric with red and blue V front looked damn good and small details like the cursive “Brandon Hartranft” on the helmet. Considering the legacy that Evel has left on the sport, they could sell a ton of stuff. Would the vet class racers buy gear with that much white?
Don’t think we just showed up to snap pictures and snag 805s from Jessy Nelson’s cooler. No, we had some skin in the game with our rider Alex Ray in the 250 class. Aboard a Suzuki RM250 that he found on Facebook Marketplace and restored with the help of Jay Clark, A-Ray held his own to qualify twelfth and faced Cooper Webb in the first round of elimination. It might have been an early exit, but he looked good on the two-stroke. Give our Kickstart podcast a listen, because it sounds like Alex has a two-stroke obsession now.
Did you watch swap’s video about Josh Hansen’s CR250R? It’s one of Carey Hart’s old bikes that was complete with grab holes when he bought it from the FMX icon. With some help from the two-stroke gurus at Bill’s Pipes, Hansen had the Honda running flawlessly and used it to clear jump combinations that gave other riders reason to pause. Still a racer at heart, Hansen was visibly frustrated with the third place finish but was all smiles with his friends and family at the podium.
The attention to detail that was put into AJ Catanzaro’s KTM to make it look like Travis Pastrana’s 2001 Suzuki was impressive. Really look at it! The yellow plastic, the same font on the numbers, hand guards, and a coated shock reservoir that looks like the Showa stuff RG3 used to tune makes it stand out. As for AJ’s gear, he went all-out with a custom-painted lid that looked just like the replica Shoei and gear that was printed to match the iconic No Fear threads.
No, Jerry Robin didn’t make the cut for the 125 class but his bike looked excellent. Note the way the frame was powder coated to match the 2004 Red Bull KTM, the fork legs were the same as the old bike, and even the graphics had carbon fiber print where the carbon fiber airbox was.
Robin had his 6D painted to match the Thor lid that Langston ran during the 2004 season.
Josh Hansen's Honda CR250R
Jessy Nelson's KTM 150 SX, which was piloted by Carlen Gardner.
Jason Anderson's setup was in the running for best looking bike. Unfortunately, it sounds like the engine didn't run as good and after a few hiccups on Friday evening, Anderson pulled the plug on racing. Fret not, El Hombre has plenty more racing on his calendar, from the Monster Energy Cup to the Aus-X Open.
The real TP199 and a bootleg K-Dub. On that note, we're out on Kickstart.
Michael Antonovich has a wealth of experience with over 10 years of moto-journalism under his belt. A lifelong racing enthusiast and rider, Anton is the Editor of Swapmoto Live and lives to be at the race track.