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Caden Braswell: A bright spark for the future


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Caden Braswell: A bright spark for the future

Posted in People, Racing

Caden Braswell is the 2018 FIM 85cc Junior Motocross World Champion. A 14-year-old with a bright future, Braswell hails from Shalimar in Florida, USA and is an emerging talent that has progressed through the ranks since he began racing at the age of six.

Following in the footsteps of his father, who also raced, Braswell started riding at five years old and began racing a year later. He went on to the compete in the Mini Os, and then at the famed Loretta Lynn´s – the proving ground for many young American motocross racers, and Braswell qualified at his first attempt.


Caden Braswell (USA) KTM 85 SX © Marc Jones Photography

Fast forward to 2018 and Braswell was selected to compete for Team USA at the FIM Junior Motocross World Championship, which was held in Horsham, Australia. Braswell scored third and first aboard his KTM 85 SX and with it the youngster took the overall honors to be crowned the FIM 85cc Junior Motocross World Champion. Belgian racer Liam Everts won the opening moto in convincing style aboard his KTM 85 SX, while unfortunately crashing out of moto two, and the overall podium was made up of KTM racers with Dutch rider Kay de Wolf in second position and fellow countryman Kay Karssemakers in third. KTM riders Marek Vitezslav and Logan Best won a moto each in the FIM 65cc Junior Motocross World Cup, making it a weekend where KTM racers shone around the hardpack Horsham track.

“It was awesome,” said Braswell when talking about the experience of racing in Australia. “I had a blast and I really got to know the other teammates and their families. It was unlike anything I’ve ever done. Such a cool experience. The team spirit was high and it felt great to represent Team USA,” continued the junior.

“In the first moto I grabbed the holeshot and I was out front, but then my knee brace locked up so I fell back until I was able to fix the issue. I charged back up to third, which was okay.”

“For the second moto I got a horrible start. Mike (who went with Braswell to the event) said I was about 25th or so around the first turn. I’m not sure, but I felt like I was last (laughs).”

“I knew I had to go, so I put my head down and just started pushing. When I saw the chequered flag, I wasn’t sure if I had won. I pulled off the track and everyone came running over yelling that I won! It was incredible. Nothing could beat that feeling.”


Caden Braswell (USA) © Marc Jones Photography

Braswell was in Australia without his parents, but was supported by Mike Burkeen who was there at the event with the young gun. The Junior World Championships are held over one weekend in a similar format to a MXGP World Championship round, and the outcome is determined by two motos. It’s an intense, but useful experience for young riders to compete against the very best in the world in their category, and while also performing as a part of a team representing their country. Team USA finished in fourth position.

Talking about his bike, Braswell said: “READY TO RACE is what I think of my KTM. KTM provided me with a bike in Australia that we ran stock. I put my suspension on the bike and raced it. It was super-fast – I pulled a start and won a world title right out of the box. So yea, READY TO RACE is a great way to describe my KTM.”

Caden Braswell (#6, USA) & Team USA KTM 85 SX © Marc Jones Photography

Braswell has big dreams for the future, hoping to replicate his home hero Ryan Dungey, who he says was always fast, smooth, consistent and smart. In Braswell’s words he’d love to “make his mark on the sport and break records”. A lover of hills, breaking bumps and ruts, like those found at his favorite track – Millcreek in the USA – Braswell has certainly made the first major step on his ladder of success.

“I’d like to thank my parents for always supporting me. Sean Michael Gerrits, as he really helped us this year. Mike Burkeen for taking me to Australia since my parents couldn’t be there. Ricky and Mike from the AMA for giving me the opportunity. KTM for providing me a great bike to race while in Australia. OB for the awesome graphics. TLD for keeping me looking good. Alpinestars for killer boots and Oakley for great goggles. FMF for helping make my KTM even faster. Dunlop tires for keeping my bike hooked up with great tires. Factory Connection Suspension for making sure my bike handled flawlessly. Mika Metals for sprockets and bars and great support Nihilo Concepts, Lynks Racing and Team USA. I’d also like to thank the other riders and their parents for the support while we were there. It really was a team effort. One for all and all for one Team USA,” concluded Braswell.


Caden Braswell (USA) KTM 85 SX © Marc Jones Photography

Photos: Marc Jones Photography


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      Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions
      Tip 2: check your motorcycle thoroughly
      “Even more important than your personal equipment is, of course, your bike. You need to check that everything is working properly and check all wearing parts. This applies in particular if you’re going to be away for an extended period. If you are in any doubt as to whether any parts are still up to the job, replace them. One key item if you’re going to be riding offroad is tires. Some decent nobbly tires are a must if you’re riding on rough terrain. You might lose a bit in comfort and grip when you’re riding on asphalt, but that’s a small price to pay for the advantages you get once you’re offroad. I would recommend considering the Continental TKC80, the Michelin Anakee Wild or the D606 from Dunlop. So, get good advice on tires from your local dealer. Grip is everything if you’re heading out onto rough terrain with your adventure bike. Another must is hand guards, if they’re not already fitted as standard. The same applies to crash bars. There’s always a chance you’ll take a tumble, and they will help you avoid damage to expensive bodywork. Not only do hand guards protect your fingers from pebbles that are thrown up, they will also increase the chances your handlebars will stay intact after a fall. These are parts that could just make the difference between continuing on your journey or having to stay put with a severely damage bike. What I almost forgot to say is that you should get a shield for the crankcase to prevent a stone strike having fatal consequences for your engine block. As well as tire grip, you need to be sure you can stand securely on your bike. Check whether the rubbers on your footrests will come off. You are usually able to do this on an adventure bike. You need to be sure your boots won’t slip. Another good tip is to check if the handlebars are in the right position. Normally they will be adjusted to an average length, but if you’re slightly below or above average h, it’s worth checking this. You need to be able to ride comfortably in a standing position. If the handlebars are too low, you could consider handlebar risers.”
      KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions
      Tip 3: assume the right posture
      “The important thing when you’re riding offroad is being able to feel what your machine is doing. To achieve this, you usually need to get into a standing position. You should not extend your limbs fully as they act as human suspension components. The knees and elbows need to be able to absorb unevenness in the surface you’re on. They won’t be able to do this if they are ‘locked’ straight. Because you’re standing, you also have more pressure on the foot pegs and that’s the main thing for balance too. The position of your feet on the pegs is also important. The ball of your foot should be doing the work. I still see far too many people riding with clown’s feet. It’s dangerous too, because the risk of getting pulled off your bike is that much greater. In terms of your hands, just keep gentle, relaxed contact with the handlebars. In fact, you only need them to apply the gas, to change gear and to brake. Imagine you’re playing the piano. Don’t hold on for dear life or it’s not going to work. At higher speeds you generally steady your bike with your knees, but when you’re going at creeping speed you need to keep your knees slightly away from the machine. That way you can let the bike move nicely between your legs to keep your balance. To get a proper feel of the effect of standing on the bike, do a bit of a test. By letting your machine break out, you’ll feel the difference instantly. If you sit on the seat, your whole body will make the same movement as the bike. Then take up a standing position: when the rear wheel breaks out it will feel much more controlled. Once you’ve experienced this, it won’t feel so worrying next time it happens and that in turn is good for your self-confidence. And, if there’s one thing that’s important for offroad motorcycling, it’s having confidence in your own abilities.”
      Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions
      Tip 4: steering on unimproved roads
      “It’s just like skiing. Just because you’ve bought a pair of skis, it doesn’t necessarily mean the next thing you need to do is book a winter sports holiday. Start by learning to ride on rough terrain nearer to home. It’s definitely helpful to go on a course, then you pick everything up that much quicker. Whatever way you approach it, riding offroad needs a different technique to road biking. It’s a good idea to learn the basics first on gravel tracks. Gravel still gives you a reasonably hard surface, but you still need to use all the offroad techniques to stay in control. When you’re riding an adventure bike on gravel, create pressure on the front wheel by standing. Keep your speed low and build up your confidence. Initially, avoid using the front brake altogether and learn to drop your speed using the back brake. It’s not that easy to recover when you lose your front wheel on gravel. Of course, modern bikes have special ABS settings for offroad use that provide extra control. On reasonably hard surfaces you ultimately steer with your body and you think yourself round bends. Look well ahead and make sure you have enough time to anticipate unexpected situations. You need to see your adventure bike as being more like a steamboat, while a true offroader feels more like a speedboat. Its hefty weight means you need to build in a bigger margin. Riding in soft sand demands a completely different technique again, because in this situation you need to make sure you keep the weight off the front as much as possible. You also need to make sure the bike keeps pulling, albeit you don’t want to be giving it full throttle all the time. When the bike is pulling, the front forks will not plunge in. If this does happen, then the front wheel has a tendency to act like a castor. In loose sand try to keep a straight course as much as possible. Keep your weight towards the back and make turns using the rear wheel, once again controlling it using the gas. Weight and application of the throttle are very important for riding on sand. If you’ve never tried it or only have limited experience, I’d definitely recommend doing an offroad course. You need to know what it feels like when it’s working right to be able to ride on sand. If we’re talking about sand, dune riding has to be the ultimate. Be warned, it’s pretty hard-going cruising through dunes on a heavy adventure bike. Having a play in the dunes is great, but I wouldn’t recommend spending a whole day riding in that sort of terrain. But, if you think dune riding is really your thing, then it’s best to get a lightweight offroad machine.”
      Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions
      Tip 5: it can go wrong
      “We touched on hand guards and crash bars earlier. These will help to avoid damage if you take a fall. Another point to be aware of in terms of safety is riding with others. If you’re planning to go offroad, make sure there is at least one other rider with you, and always keep each other in sight. If something does go wrong, at least there’s someone there to help. You don’t want to be waiting hours for the next vehicle to go by because you’re in a sparsely populated region. If your bike is lying on the ground, then you need to have the strength to right it again. Given the right technique, this should be within everyone’s capabilities. A good approach is to push your bottom into the saddle from the side with knees bent. Pull one handlebar toward your body and hold it with one hand. Put your other hand down as low as possible on the other side of your body and grasp the bike. It’s then a question of taking small steps backward until the bike returns to an upright position. Don’t forget, by the way, to put the bike in gear so that it can’t roll away while you’re busy righting it.”
      Eddie de Vries & Eric Verhoef KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions
      There’s one other thing to remember when you’re offroading with an adventure bike: practice makes perfect. Have a go, maybe take a course and get as many kilometers under your belt as possible. You never know, you might be standing at your employer’s door in a few weeks’ time with the all-important news that you’re off on your travels in a couple of months. If that’s you, then we’d like to wish you a fantastic trip!
      Eddie de Vries KTM 1090 ADVENTURE R © Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions
      Photos: Jarno van Osch/Shot Up Productions
    • De Dementor
      Dakar Rally Fast Facts
      With the start of the 2019 Dakar Rally growing closer and closer, we take a look at 10 things you probably didn’t know about the world’s toughest cross-country rally. From the fuel used by the bikes on the long, arduous days to what the riders do when it comes to bathroom breaks when out in the desert …
      KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero
      1. Origin of the rally
      2019 marks the 41st edition of the Dakar Rally and the 11th successive year the event will be held in South America. Of course, the race got its name from its original final destination – Dakar, the capital and largest city of Senegal, West Africa. The race was first held in 1977 and was the brainchild of Frenchman Thierry Sabine who, after getting lost in the Ténéré desert while competing in the Abidjan to Nice rally realized that navigating the wide-open dunes would pose quite a challenge for a rally. 182 vehicles took part in the inaugural Paris-Dakar Rally, just 74 made it to the finish – 40 years on, 335 vehicles made the start of the 2018 event with just over half completing the 14-stage event.
      Antoine Meo (FRA) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©
      2. Mousses and tires
      All of the KTM Factory Racing bikes run Michelin tires and mousses during the FIM Cross-Country Rallies World Championship and at the Dakar itself. For the 2019 race, which will cover a lot of soft sand, the team will run the desert mousse and tire combination that has proved so successful in competition. The mousse itself is a foam insert that takes the place of an inner-tube, inside the tire. It’s puncture-proof and can withstand a lot of abuse from even the roughest, rocky stages.
      KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero
      3. Fuel and regulations
      Unlike other motorsport events where a control fuel is used, petrol at the Dakar is not regulated by the organizers. The team will always try to use the highest quality fuel available to them and will aim for a minimum of 98 octane for maximum performance. During the race riders will stop at refueling points, which are placed so that there is never more than 250 km between stops. Suggested petrol stations are listed on the road book too, should competitors need further fueling. Receiving petrol from fans or locals is not allowed however, although if a rider is forced to do this it normally means he’s having a seriously bad day and protests are rarely made in this case.
      Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero
      4. Riders’ tools and maintenance
      Part of KTM’s pre-Dakar rider training program involves working on the bikes. Riders are shown how to fix the problems they may face while out in the desert. Although they can’t carry a huge array of parts and tools, generally riders carry sets of brake pads, spare clutch and brake levers, a fuel injector and the tools required to replace these items, and to carry out basic maintenance on the bike and fuel tanks. Two of the biggest issues faced in cross-country rallying is damage caused by a crash or when the bike is flooded, when crossing a river for example. Damage can easily happen to the navigation tower in an accident and when a rider loses their instruments, they have no option but to either wait for another team member to guide them home or to follow the tracks in the sand ahead of them from other riders. If the bike is flooded, riders have to first remove water from the exhaust system and then from the engine itself by removing the spark plug and turning the engine over on the starter. If water gets into the gearbox or fuel system the rider’s problems become much, much worse.
      Toby Price (AUS) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©
      5. Getting some sleep
      The Dakar Rally is tough. Even at a slightly shorter length of 10 stages the 2019 event, held exclusively in the Peruvian desert, will pose a huge challenge to all riders. The physicality of riding through the open desert will be matched by the mental strain of navigating the route – the four days in Peru easily proved to be the toughest of the 2018 race. After spending hours in the saddle, riders have little chance to rest due to the time required to go through the following day’s road book and rider briefing, from the organizers. On average, even the factory team riders only get six hours of sleep per night before each grueling day. Riders in the Malle-Moto class who have to work on their own machines each night before they can even think about getting some rest, often survive on only three-hours sleep before setting off again once more. It takes incredible mental strength just to make it to the start line each day, let alone complete the rally.
      Matthias Walkner (AUT) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©
      6. Food and nutrition
      Skill and speed on a bike alone are not enough to get you through the Dakar Rally. The KTM Factory Racing riders work closely throughout the year with nutritionists and trainers to maintain the level of fitness and health required to compete at the very top level of offroad motorcycle sport. The team will aim to be at the absolute peak of their condition when the rally kicks off in early January. Of course, the nature of the sport means that this is not always possible – injuries sustained during the season can pose problems when racing for days on end in the desert. Illness and sickness can also arise when riders are physically tired or exposed to unfamiliar conditions.
      Making up an important part of the KTM squad are a chef and a doctor, both of which stay with the team for the duration of the rally. The chef provides the balanced diet required to sustain the riders over such a long and arduous event, the doctor is on hand to maintain their physical condition. Even a small injury sustained in a crash early on can have a huge effect come the end of the rally. Bruises, sprains and general muscle fatigue can be countered with the correct medication and physiotherapy. In the same way that the bikes undergo maintenance at the end of each regular stage, the riders too need a certain amount of tuning.
      Luciano Benvides (ARG) KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero
      7. Altitude
      Although not so much of a factor in 2019, riding at altitude can cause huge issues for both the rider and their bike. Luckily, with a h of around 2,500 meters above sea level, the highest stage in the forthcoming event will not challenge the competitors anywhere like the 2018 event. It is estimated that the stages held at close to 5,000 meters reduced the power of the KTM 450 RALLY bikes by up to 30%. The effect on the riders themselves was perhaps even worse. Already tired from the days leading up to the mountain stages, riders found the route through Bolivia exhausting. The lack of oxygen at such an altitude robs the muscles of strength and makes it extremely difficult to concentrate – two things that are most definitely required when averaging 90 km/h through fast, rocky terrain. Again, overall fitness is very important for the riders with many spending the winter break training at altitude in preparation for the rally.
      Laia Sanz (ESP) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©
      8. Bathroom breaks
      It’s a fact of life and affects everyone, but when faced with hours on a rally bike while trying to maintain the highest average speed through a featureless desert, using a nice clean, well-appointed bathroom is not always possible. The choice of how to handle this issue ultimately comes down to the rider and each one will approach it differently. Often the biggest worry when expending a lot of energy on the specials is more a case of dehydration. Temperatures on the Argentinian stages last year topped 40 degrees around the town of Fiambalá, if a rider has an accident and loses the water from their hydration system it can pose a real problem if they are still a long way from the next checkpoint. Illness is another factor and can easily force a retirement from the event. Unfortunately, if faced with a case of vomiting or diarrhea while contesting an event, the rider has no choice but to go on route. As unpleasant as this sounds, it can still mean the difference between securing a good result at the climax of the event or suffering a DNF. A good shower however, is definitely necessary at the end of each day!
      Sam Sunderland (GBR) KTM 450 RALLY Dakar 2018 ©
      9. KTM’s support rider
      For 2019, Mario Patrao will ride for the first time as a fully-fledged factory rider within the KTM team. It’s not his first Dakar or the first time riding as support rider, but it is the first time the experienced 42-year-old will be officially classed as riding within the team. An accomplished rally competitor, Mario is the most decorated Portuguese offroad rider with over 25 national titles to his name. His highest Dakar finish was 13th in 2016 where he also won the marathon class. Due to take part in the 2018 event, a bad case of appendicitis caused Patrao to miss the race after having to undergo surgery just days before the start. Although aiming for a top-10 finish at Dakar 2019, his role as support rider within the KTM Factory Racing Team means he may be called upon to assist a rider ahead of him should they run into trouble. If a rider fighting for the win should suffer a technical issue or have a crash that damages their machine, Mario can stop and assist them to get them back on track as swiftly and efficiently as possible. His help could be the difference between a rider winning the event or being forced to retire.
      Mario Patrao (POR) KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero
      10. 17 consecutive wins
      Nowhere else in top-level motorsport is there a domination such as KTM’s over the bike class at the Dakar Rally. Matthias Walkner’s win at the 2018 event was the 17th consecutive victory for the brand and the team are just as keen to make it 18 in a row when the rally comes to a close in Lima, Peru on January 17th. Imagine your local football team winning the league for 17 years solid or a single manufacturer dominating Formula One for so long. Starting from the late Fabrizio Meoni’s win on his KTM LC4 660 R back in 2001, the Austrian brand has won every single Dakar Rally since. Even when the event switched to South America in 2009, KTM kept on winning – 10 of the victories went to the legendary pairing of Cyril Despres and Marc Coma who between them won every single rally from 2005 to 2015. Through changes to the continent, different countries and even a reduction in the bike capacity, KTM has remained on top. This is purely down to the team working as one to produce an unstoppable force in what is truly the world’s toughest motorcycle event.
      Red Bull KTM Factory Racing Team KTM 450 RALLY 2019 © Sebas Romero
      Photos: Sebas Romero |