Ken Roczen’s PulpMX Show appearance, before your eyes.
Ken Roczen’s PulpMX Show appearance, before your eyes.
PulpMX Show: Congrats on the new deal. Do you have electric start on your bike?
Ken Roczen: I do. Do you know how many times I’m trying to grab the kick starter?
You had it at KTM so you missed it for a couple years but Keefer just said earlier that that is one thing that he wishes every single bike had was electric start.
I agree. It’s a nice little thing to have, but honestly I have to say my Suzuki this year started pretty solid. I could even stall it and then just pull the clutch and kick it and it would take one kick and I’d be up and going. It honestly didn’t bother me too much, but it’s nice to have that option obviously.
The switch to Honda – two years at RCH. You won the 450 national title in a dominating fashion, just kind of like what you did with KTM when you left them to go to RCH. The question I think everybody has is why Honda, why the switch? What appealed to you to going over to Honda?
It was a similar situation. I won a title with KTM and then with RCH but I have just made up my mind from having a bad experience in 2015 and this and that and I just kind of quickly thought, man, I got to change something and this and that. Obviously we pulled through ’16 super great, and I have to give it up to these guys. Like I said before, I was pretty pumped with how everything went down. My bike was super solid, and we were a good team. I made my mind up a long time ago that I was ready for a switch. I think I’m coming in at the right time because the first day with the team, I was texting Oscar and I’m like, what do you think? Are there going to be like 50 people? Is it going to be all weird? Complete opposite. I showed up. Everybody was super relaxed. I rode the bike and everything. It was almost too nice to be true with how things are going right now. I feel like I’m on top of the world. I’m having such a blast with those guys, and the bike is so good. I’m showing up, I have a huge smile on my face, I go ride my bike. It’s awesome, honestly. Like I said, I had just kind of made up my mind and went with Honda. I feel like it’s a good fit. We have a decently longterm deal. I want to be the top rider on the team. For me it was pretty clear that this was my option to go to. I’m super happy with my decision. I know those guys are all stoked, and just the vibe in the team right now is unbelievable. That’s what makes it so much fun. I don’t care about anything else, but me and the team are absolutely great right now.
I got a tweet or something about you went there because they paid the most money. You probably did get a lot of money but you are going to get a lot of money anywhere you go. So then it boils down to bike, team, that kind of stuff. Let’s face it – it wasn’t for the cash, I wouldn’t think.
No, not at all. There’s always people out there that think they know better than everybody else, but it wasn’t for the money at all. I know how hard it is on yourself having a lot of headache with other stuff. There could be a team giving me a crap ton of money and if it’s just not good and there’s too much of a headache… I wouldn’t do that because I have too much passion and too much heart for the sport, and I love riding my bike. I want to have fun and do my thing, and obviously make money but it’s not always about the money, by any means.
What goes through your head when you sign that contract and you sign your name on the dotted line knowing that you haven’t ridden the new bike? Obviously you knew Honda was going to a whole different bike. Were you a little nervous knowing that you haven’t even ridden it yet and you signed the contract?
It’s a thing where obviously you think about it. It’s like, man, they’re coming out with a new bike and this and that, but I do know the resources that Honda has. I was worried, but I wasn’t too worried. It was a little bit of a tough situation because at this point when I signed it was early and I just didn’t think about it a whole lot. I committed, and then obviously before I hopped on the bike for the first time I was more and more comfortable. It came closer and closer to the day where I was going to ride so I was really thinking about it. But I had heard really good things about it, but you never know. I hear it and I’m stoked to hear it but at the same time I’m not like, everybody says it’s amazing, because you never really know how it is unless you hop on the bike. So I was really careful, but at the same time in the last couple years I’ve learned so much. I rode the ’16 bike and right away I picked out a lot of stuff that I would want to change to make it really good. So the last couple years has really helped me out with knowledge and everything. I feel like I can take a bike right now that is not so good and make it pretty good because I know exactly what I’m looking for.
Did you get a chance to ride a stock version of the ’17 or just you went right away to your race setup?
No, the first time I rode I went to their ’16 race bike. I haven’t ridden a stock one.
How important was it to keep Oscar? Early in the negotiations I imagine your agent, Steve Astephen, and Honda were talking. As a former mechanic I’m always interested in this kind of stuff. Did you just say, hey, we got to make Oscar happen? What kind of power did you use to get him over there with you?
Huge deal. He was the man that made a lot of things happen, and the kind of relationship that we have is unbreakable. So from my side it was absolutely clear from the beginning on that I wanted him there. I mentioned it and it seemed like they were all on board and would try their hardest to make it happen. Obviously it’s a little bit of a long ride there to really get it done. Not that I was nervous, but I feel like a lot of people say, “yeah, no problem,” but does it really happen? Obviously everything pulled through and I was really on the edge there for a minute because – I know what those guys are capable of, but we’re both Euros and we laugh more than anything else, me and Oscar. He’s super smart. Once everything was said and done I was super relieved and happy.
Oscar’s a really good dude, great mechanic and much more than just a parts changer. The guys knows suspension inside and out.
The suggestions and stuff and ideas that he has are super important to me. Honestly because of him is why I have the experience that I have now. Obviously like I said, it is taking a risk. I’ve never touched the Honda before so I wanted him with me. I knew if we had work to do he knows exactly what we have to shoot for, obviously together with my comments and this and that. It was important to me, very.
Monster Cup – where we at?
The Ken Roczen of 2017 is here.
You’re not a guy that’s scared to show himself, but just with the testing and everything else.
Yeah, but there’s no better practice than racing.
Your RM-Z was a great bike. You won a championship with it. You dominated the outdoors. Give us some examples of what you like about this Honda compared to your Suzuki. What do you think it does better?
The balance of the bike is pretty amazing. I hop on it and obviously I could ride my Suzuki really, really good but I always felt like it was a little weird. I was super sensitive to the rear being high or low and it would get out of balance really quick, whereas I feel like the Honda is super balanced. It turns really nice. The whole geometry of the frame is pretty amazing. You know how I am with my comments about bikes. I’m not afraid to say when something sucks, unfortunately, but I was blown away the first time I hopped on the bike by how good it was, literally. I didn’t know what to expect, and then I hopped on it. Seriously I had a huge smile on my face, which was kind of amazing. You know in the last couple of years and stuff you switch bikes and things don’t really go your way and you’re like, dang it, what are we going to do? I was blown away and I was happy when I rode it. Now honestly I show up to the track and I have such a blast riding my bike. When I do a mistake or something and I have a bad lap time, I know that it was me and not the bike hindering me from going fast.
I’ve always said this about your switch to RCH, and now your switch back: I’m sorry JGR and I’m sorry RCH, but there’s no better resource than an OEM, a factory. They can literally call the dude who designed the frame. They can literally call the dude who designed the motor. Nothing against those teams, but I feel like the OEMs have the technology and the ability. There’s smart people everywhere – don’t get me wrong, but there’s nothing like an OEM.
Totally. That’s what I mean by the vibe that we had when I started testing with them a couple weeks ago. It was so much fun. All the Japanese there, they were so relaxed and they’re so smart with everything. We were trying little things that made a huge difference. They really take in my feedback that I’m giving them. I try to go into as much detail as possible. That’s kind of the fun part to see a change happening and go out and really feel it out. That’s been so freaking fun. I feel like I’m coming in right at the right time with all the people. A couple years ago I think things were a little bit more difficult, but as of right now the way it is, I feel like we have great chances of championships. Obviously that is my goal and the team’s goal, but never mind the team’s goal because I’m the one racing and I want to win championships and races.
How hard was that phone call to Cary or Ricky about, “I’m out?” I guess it probably wasn’t real fun to make.
We’re super easy. That’s why those guys have been amazing. I’m taking to Cary still to this point. I’m going up to Santa Barbara again and I’m sure I’m going to his house and hang out and stuff. We have more than just a business relationship, and still with Ricky. We’re always bull crapping around and laughing and stuff. There’s something more than just the business part of it.
First time you rode the bike, what was your first impression?
I’ve never touched a Honda, so I hopped on it and I was riding outdoor. My very first day I was riding in an outdoor track. I hopped on there. It’s just kind of crazy. You kind of take it all in the first few laps, or let’s say the first day even because the bike responds different, the bike sounds different. The first thing I noticed is the 450 feels like a 250. The motor, the whole chassis and everything and the weight distribution or whatever. The whole balance of the whole thing was working so well together in all departments. I was blown away by it. It just handled good and it felt light. It was good.
Just the Monster Cup for you? Nothing else planned racing-wise until A1?
I would love to do the Des Nations and I would love to do that Germany race that is there next weekend, but we don’t even have all the parts yet and this and that. We’re still testing. To do those kind of races, things need to be planned ahead quite far and be ready for it. As of right now it’s just too quick.
The amount of heat you must have got for the SMX cup. They probably called you every day.
It wasn’t too bad. We’ve been in contact with those people, but fans-wise it was more at the des Nations. Until I actually made a statement I got a lot of heat from it, but people forget that it’s not about what I want sometimes. You just can’t sometimes. It’s also since the bike was so new you don’t know what’s good yet, what parts are good, what settings are good and this and that. It’s not like you can just hop on a bike and have the best of everything. Like I said, we didn’t even have that many parts or that many bikes yet up until now.
What are your thoughts on des Nations? Obviously Max KO’d himself right away so that was it for the German team, but overall what are your thoughts about it? Did you watch it?
I only watched one moto and that was the last moto.
Will you ever roll a finish line very slow in your lifetime again?
I feel really bad because I’ve had a bunch of people ask me about it. In my personal opinion there is no reason why Jason should have rolled that finish line whatsoever, especially as slow as he did. There are people still racing. It’s not that he was just rolling it and kind of carried on, he rolled it, was going walking speed and swerved to the left. It was a bad deal – bad timing, bad everything. I wouldn’t have rolled it. I would never do that.
But what a ride, to beat Jeffrey.
Totally, and his foot was broken.
Is Nagl okay?
I don’t know. I didn’t read the text but I saw on a website that there was an injury update I believe, but I did not read it. As of what I heard right after des Nations supposedly he was fine, no broken bones, but obviously in pain and stuff. So I don’t really know. I don’t think there’s anything too crazy.
Is Blake coming back and going to help you train? Is he going to be up in Santa Barbara with you?
Yeah, he’s Team 94, man. Obviously he’s been up in Utah and I’ve been around and taking some time off and this and that, but as soon as our training camp starts he’ll be there. He’ll be in Florida. He’ll be in California.
Will you be in Cali most off-season or will you go back to Florida before Cali starts?
No, I’ll definitely go back to Florida the whole month of December.
You’ll just get set up at Castillo, test, everything else and then go back?
I do my whole boot camp up there. I go through that whole process. The one thing I do not miss, the track conditions here in California. It was bad. It’s a bad deal. It’s hot, it’s windy, it’s terrible.