In any language it seems crazy.
In any language it seems crazy.Lead Photo: Mike Sweeney
It’s no secret that in this sport, as in many, you’re only as good as your last race. Ken Roczen has been on an absolute tear during the closing rounds of this 2016 Supercross season. He even vocalized as much following his race win in East Rutherford this past weekend, stating that he believes he is now peaking.
That could be a good thing as we head into the outdoors but is that really the long game you want to play versus the perennial “gamer” for the whole of every series he competes in, Ryan Dungey? Perhaps it was coming into the Anaheim opener at less than 100% that set Ken back in his preparation but what ever the circumstance, Ken had to know that he was a longshot for this title from the onset because he had to know that his peak would be much later than optimal and he also knew that Ryan Dungey would be his typical elite-self.
It’s not really Ken’s late peak I’m concerned with though. Nope, the title of this little piece is solely in reference to Ken’s strongly rumored migration to a new motorcycle just as he appears to have completely dialed in and become one with his RMZ.
The RMZ gets a lot of flack for being such a dated design but with the way Ken has looked the last handful of rounds, it may as well be a next-generation, alien-conceived turbo-charged, helium-suspended magical unicorn. Seriously, Ken has always held strong to the belief that he cares just as much, if not more, about having fun and enjoying himself in his career. I can tell you without hesitation that these last few rounds, Ken Roczen has looked more fluid and to be having more fun while leading Supercross Mains than I ever remember having aboard two-wheels in my own meager racing past. I used to think that much of Ken’s talk of having fun while battling in the trenches from average starts was just lip service but that apparent facade looks a whole lot different when he is perched atop the highest step of the podium.
This of course brings me back to, just what on earth could Ken be thinking by making this strongly rumored move to Factory Honda. Nothing against Honda but their 2017 bike is going to be all new whereas the Suzuki will see another modest set of tweaks before seeing a fresh design for 2018. Staying on yellow would be a very big leg-up for Ken heading into 2017 on such a dialed bike. From the outside in, it would appear to be all focus on personal strength, not bike development.
Flashback with me to the conclusion of the 2014 450 Motocross series when Ken Roczen secured the Championship over Ryan Dungey as teammates aboard Factory KTM. Ken looked incredible on his way to that title, all the while behind the scenes being less than happy with the bike. He had already signed his RCH deal and I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the fallout during the 2015 year which occurred within that camp regarding Ken’s fathers “whistleblowing” incident. I don’t doubt that that incident, in the end, brought the whole RCH program to a higher level of honesty and strength with regard to the Ken Roczen situation but seeing Ryan Dungey’s dominance aboard the new KTM in 2015 and 2016 made Ken’s decision to jump ship look a little crazy from the outside.
Now again, Ken looking absolutely stellar aboard his RCH Suzuki, looks to be beyond the point of no return with regard to his move to Red and that is really scary in my eyes. We saw how long it has taken Ken to really dial in his Factory Suzuki and now not only does Ken need to find his comfort zone on a new-to-him-bike, it’s a new to Factory Honda race development too! I have no doubt this new Honda will be good but I don’t think anyone can deny that little shred of doubt thinking back to the difference between the (possibly most loved CRF ever) 2008 Honda 450 and the all new 2009 450.
Ken has also made references to his own progress in being able to decipher what a bike is doing and how to explain and rectify the negative traits. Perhaps Ken is just that confident in himself to be able to do the same on the Honda? In that sense, does it require he bring Oscar Weirdeman along with him to Honda? We shall see…
Crazier things have happened.