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Supercross to Motocross: Ways that Marvin Musquin shape-shifts his KTM 450 SX-F


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Supercross to Motocross: Ways that Marvin Musquin shape-shifts his KTM 450 SX-F

The 2019 AMA Pro National Motocross series is firmly underway in the USA and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin provides some insight on the technical switch from ‘indoors’ to ‘outdoors’ with his KTM 450 SX-F.


Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Hangtown (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Marvin Musquin, one of the elite athletes in the hectic calendar of Supercross and Motocross dirtbike competition in the USA, is sitting atop his KTM 450 SX-F conducting a TV interview. It is media day at one of the final dates of the rapid-fire 17-rounds-in-18-weeks AMA Supercross campaign. Musquin looks very much at home on the technology he has helped develop and race at the forefront of the highest level of SX/MX for ten years now in Red Bull KTM colors.

At the end of the Supercross season the Frenchman and the rest of the paddock were already thinking of the upcoming Motocross championship that will fill the summer months for twelve further weekends of intense position-swapping.

“It is always a search,” the 29-year-old says (TV duties completed) of the period of adjustment and setup needed to change from the Supercross incarnation of the KTM 450 SX-F to Motocross. “I mean, we always have a base from the previous year and that’s where we start. The plan is to have one day a week riding Motocross towards the end of the Supercross calendar so we are set for Outdoors.”

“We obviously race and ride a lot with the ‘Supercross’ bike which means firmer suspension,” he adds. “That’s the main thing. We are really used to those settings … so when we jump to the Outdoors bike it takes a while to familiarize, especially with the speed of riding a Motocross track.”


Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Hangtown (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

For AMA-centered athletes much of the calendar year revolves around Supercross. The championship itself runs from January to May and, once Motocross is then finished, testing for the following year commences by the end of the summer. The Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas in Mid-October is almost the equivalent of a ‘pre-season race’ and the whole training, testing and riding prep period builds up to Anaheim 1 and the launch of another term.

Despite the priority for the spectacular stadium-based series, many of the top riders have felt the physics of a Motocross bike since their formative years. “It is like an old pair of shoes?” Marvin grins. “Ha! You could say that! When you jump on it and you check the sag with the guys and the thing moves and you’re not even riding then you know you’re not on a Supercross bike anymore!”

Asked for the main area of variation when it comes to his KTM 450 SX-F then Musquin’s reply is immediate. “The suspension is quite a bit softer. It is a complete change. I don’t believe there is much different about the internals but we always have a few things to try. We can also play with the offset of the bike – with the front end – we can make the bike a bit longer if we want to.”

While Grand Prix benefits from prototype rules the AMA uses firmer regulations locking the race bikes to their production bases. “Compared to MXGP and the world championship we cannot really change the frame,” #25 explains. “We can only play with length and offset, stuff like that.”

“The Motocross and Supercross bikes are not two different animals,” he adds. “They still feel like the same bike but the suspension moves a lot easier in Motocross because it is softer and freer to absorb the bumps. In Supercross we jump so much and you want the suspension to absorb those pockets you land in, and when you hit the whoops. For the power when you are wide open with the bike in Supercross then it feels very similar to what you’ll have in Motocross.”


KTM 450 SX-F Hangtown (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Supercross will normally involve a 30-40 second lap time. In Motocross this is more than doubled. Doubles, triples, rhythm lanes and whoops are exchanged for ruts, bumps and waves, higher speed and more ground time. Finding appropriate tracks to mimic what riders will encounter in the AMA Nationals is also an issue for dialing in those crucial last few clicks.

“In Motocross you always look for comfort with the suspension, but you don’t want to go too soft so that at speed you are bottoming the rear through braking bumps; that can be very dangerous, and it can bite you pretty hard,” Musquin reveals. “We try to practice on decent and rough tracks, but I feel [it’s only] when you arrive to the race that you appreciate how rough it can get. In Europe you know you can go to a place like Lommel [Belgium and one of the toughest sand tracks in the world] on a Wednesday and you’ll find a rough track! Down in California we try to go to a place like Glen Helen – which at the end of the day is bumpy – but it is not as soft and rutty and rough as tracks in the Nationals. In Florida we have tracks that are way more sandy and deeper and we try to ‘build’ some bumps with the dozers to get nearer those race conditions.”


Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Pala (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

So, Musquin has orientated the handling of the KTM 450 SX-F for Motocross … but that’s not all. “You don’t want a Supercross engine on outdoors tracks!” he stresses. “It is pretty aggressive, and you want longer gearing for Motocross, so then you are changing maps, cams and gearing: there is a big difference there.”

“You don’t want to be going through the gearbox when you are coming out of the turn,” he adds. “I like my bike to run longer in second or third. It makes a big difference and affects the feel and the shock. You get to a certain speed sometimes where you have to close the gas a little bit so the suspension is not moving too much or getting kicked.”


Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Pala (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Of KTM’s current roster Musquin is the rider with most knowledge of SX-F machinery, having climbed on the 250 midway through 2009 on the way to his first MX2 world title (Tony Cairoli and Jeffrey Herlings joined Red Bull KTM’s MXGP team for the 2010 season). It gives him a unique perspective on the factory bikes and the optimum configuration for Grand Prix, Supercross and the demands of the Nationals. “Ten years: they have changed!” he says. “Especially the suspension with WP. I rode the 250 in 2009 with the PDS shock … but at Lommel that bike was unbelievable! I won both motos on my 250 and people could not believe it. I had such a good feeling on sand tracks with the PDS. It would be fun to go to Lommel and compare the bikes now and see what exactly I liked about it. I’m so used to the 2018-2019 models.”

Musquin is a race winner both indoors and out. A title contender in both championships as well. A rider known for his amiability as much for his versatility and technical prowess. If he’s made to choose between Supercross and Motocross for a last ever race he breaks into a big smile. “Argh! Very tough question. For feeling of the bike then I’d say Motocross but the feeling in general of just riding would be Supercross because I love the jumps and stuff … but it’s tough! You have the ruts in Motocross and if you have a sick track with great dirt then … arghh! I would pick a giant Supercross track with good dirt and ruts and jumps!”


Marvin Musquin (FRA) KTM 450 SX-F Pala (USA) 2019 © Simon Cudby

Photos: Simon Cudby


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      You spent three seasons in Moto2 before pushing up to MotoGP. At a place like Red Bull Ring do you really get an appreciation for the speed difference between the classes and the motorcycles?
      “It feels different…but because you have such a long time from one year to the next you already start building up your mental reference based on the speed of the MotoGP bike. I had half a year to get used to it before we raced there in 2019. It is a bit scary because coming into the track you know that the bike is going to be fast and you have to handle the braking points very strongly. You need to be very precise. It’s doesn’t completely scare you…but it does make you wonder.”
      Oliveira negotiates the recognizable Red Bull Ring curbs in 2019
      PC @PhilipPlatzerDoes the speed of MotoGP faze you anymore? Or is it just part of the job now?
      “More so when I first tried the bike. It still amazes me to watch MotoGP outside of the track. I think – because we ride the bike many times and we take everything to the limit – then [riding] is not as fascinating as watching it! Sometimes you still get impressed by the acceleration of the bike when you are onboard but, in general, I think it’s more interesting to watch trackside: you get a real appreciation for the speed, what we are doing and how we stop the bikes in such a short time; that is pretty amazing.”
      There’s a big difference in speed from Moto2 to MotoGP – here Oliveira is pictured accelerating out of a turn at the Red Bull Ring in 2018 on a Moto2 machine. PC @GoldAndGooseSo, it’s a situation where you are slowing down something that seems so fast…?
      “Exactly. It is all perspective. We are all sat ‘inside’ the bike and with a very narrow point of view. We’re only looking forward and all we really see is asphalt and other bikes that are more or less going the same speed as you. You don’t really have too much of the speed factor of passing a stationary object. I used to go to the end of the pitlane when MotoGP sessions were starting and I’d think ‘wow! How is this guy braking for the next corner when the front wheel is still in the air! How do they manage that?!’ It was amazing to watch from the outside. I’m not saying that it’s not awesome to ride the bike itself…but the wow factor is not the same as watching it from the fence.”
      Oliveira races past the picturesque backdrop of the Red Bull Ring in the first of the two Austrian races
      PC @PolarityPhotoIs your ‘world’ just a series of markers and rear wheels and distance?
      “I think it is like driving on the highway: you have a car next to you and in front of you and that becomes the reference, you know? Apply that but three-four times faster! At least that’s how your brain operates.”
      Does the level of speed reach a point where you don’t notice if you are going much faster?
      “Speed, for us, is not something you can tell too much with feeling. Once we are on the straight then we are tucked in and out of the wind. When it comes to sitting up and braking then the feeling you have from very high speed is that you are not going to stop! The first half-a-second when you roll-off and grab the brake and head into the corner, in that short moment your brain is like ‘Argh! Maybe I’m not going to stop’ but then, obviously, you get used to having that sensation. I think your brain just gets used to processing images and handling that speed. Braking from 320 or from 280 is a very small margin. You cannot tell the difference.”
      KTM racer and recent race winner Brad Binder finished fourth in the first of the Austrian double-header and is congratulated by KTM AG CEO Stefan Pierer. PC @PolarityPhotoWhat about tackling the limits at a place like Red Bull Ring?
      “Red Bull Ring with the fans is something really special. Riding for KTM you feel that way. Also, you feel like you are riding around a very old layout but with the modern-day needs of a racetrack. Everything is beautifully done: the tarmac is really smooth, hardly any bumps. It’s a privilege to ride a MotoGP bike there.”
      The buzz of the KTM fans will be missing this year but it’s still an important home GP for the Austrian manufacturer.
      PC @PhilipPlatzerYou can still be a part of the Grand Prix der Steiermark on August 23rd thanks to the KTM Fan Package. Click here to see the details and hurry while stocks last.
      To find out about KTM’s special 2021 ticket offer, The Ultimate Orange MotoGP Experience, please click here.
      Fans can stay READY TO RACE with the KTM Fan Package – available from authorized KTM dealers
      PC @KTM
    • De Dementor
      Posted in Racing A major milestone in KTM’s racing history has been reached. KTM can now class themselves as MotoGP race winners thanks to Brad Binder’s incredible victory in Brno, Czech Republic. Binder has smashed expectations and stamped himself firmly in the history books – this achievement is the Austrian manufacturer’s first win in the premier class, South Africa’s first MotoGP victory, and Binder took the top step of the podium in only his third race aboard the KTM RC16. Incredible, isn’t it?
      Brad Binder flies to his and KTM’s first ever MotoGP victory in Brno, Czech Republic.
      PC @PolarityPhotoIt was a 21 lap thriller of a race and it should definitely be noted that the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider, who won a Moto3TM title in 2016 and was second overall in Moto2 TM last season, is the first rookie to win a MotoGP race since 2013 – that rider was Marc Marquez, who is widely classed as the current benchmark and multi-time MotoGP champion. Binder’s victorious race was a calculated ride from seventh on the grid, and the 24-year-old navigated his way to the front of the field aboard his KTM RC16 before stretching out a comfortable advantage for his maiden win.
      Binder worked his way to the front of the field from seventh on the grid.
      PC @PolarityPhotoAfter the race Brad said: “Honestly, right now, I’m lost for words. I’ve dreamt of this since I was a little boy and today it came true. It is amazing to win my first GP [in MotoGP]. Thank you to everybody who supported me, and the whole team; they put an insane motorcycle beneath me today! I didn’t know if we could win but I knew we would have a go. It was the craziest ten laps of my life at the end. I was being as soft as I could. It was incredible. Unbelievable.”
      It’s a huge team effort – KTM takes a first MotoGP victory in its fourth year in the series.
      PC @PolarityPhotoHaving come through the ranks with KTM from the Red Bull KTM MotoGP TM Rookies Cup, Moto3, Moto2 and finally MotoGP, Binder achieves KTM’s vision of providing a pathway for riders right up to the top tier of racing, the pinnacle of two-wheeled motorsport. Teammate Pol Espargaró was unfortunate on the day not to be fighting for the win as he fell during a battle for third place; it should be noted here that the Spaniard has been pivotal in KTM’s MotoGP project and the KTM RC16’s development, having been involved from early on in the program. It’s KTM’s fourth year in the series, and with the help of test riders Mika Kallio and Dani Pedrosa, the Austrian manufacturer has certainly stepped up another level in 2020. But it’s unlikely anybody would have believed Binder would win so soon in his premier class career – in celebration let’s take a look at some of the images from BRAD’S BIG DAY!
      Brad Binder and the KTM RC16 at Brno, Czech Republic.
      PC @PolarityPhotoAfter hitting the front with nine laps to go, Binder stretched out a comfortable advantage.
      PC @PolarityPhotoAn emotional and historic moment for the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing team as Binder takes KTM’s first ever MotoGP victory.
      PC @PolarityPhotoBinder climbs onto the MotoGP podium for the first time.
      PC @PolarityPhotoBinder took a first premier class victory in only his third ever MotoGP race.
      PC @PolarityPhotoBinder scored victories in Moto2 to take runner-up in the series in 2019.
      PC @GoldAndGooseBinder won the Moto3 championship with the Red Bull KTM Ajo team in 2016.
      PC @KTMKTM’s next MotoGP outing is at the manufacturer’s ‘home race’ at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg, Austria where the teams will be looking to put on a show for all the fans at home. To show your support why not consider a KTM Fan Package so you can #STAYREADYTORACE from wherever you’ll be watching from! Visit your authorized dealer for more information or click here.