Photos and Words By Mike Emery | @emeryphoto
Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM's Nathan Alexander
Hometown: Bourneville, Ohio
Years Wrenching: 10
Rider: Blake Baggett
Past Riders: Levi Kilbarger, Darryn Durham, Ryan Morais, Andrew Short
Nathan Alexander's path to becoming a professional mechanic is quite different than others we've heard, and he may have eventually even found a job here at TransWorld Motocross had he kept up shooting and editing video. Growing up in Ohio, he was introduced to motocross through his uncle after the untimely passing of his father when Nathan was only 11 years old. Alexander first started to work on bikes by helping his buddy Nathan Skaggs maintain his privateer race bike, before later attending the Motorcycle Mechanics Institute. After graduation, he looked to find work turning wrenches, but he also enjoyed filming video at the same time and even created content for the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross pre-shows.
The video hustle fizzled out when the opportunity arose to work with the Kilbarger Race Team, wrenching for Levi Kilbarger. It was during that time he would meet the infamous Chad Sanner of Eleven 10 Mods and eventually work with Darryn Durham during his banner outdoor run out of a box van. A call from Brad Hoffman at the Star Racing Yamaha team brought him out West for his first gig with Ryan Morais, and from that point forward his experience snowballed. He gives the most credit of his success to Andrew Short, whom he became a mechanic for when Short rode for Chaparral Honda. Together they formed a bond that lasted through the end of Short's career, which brought him to Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM. "He's always put everything on the line for me," Nate summarized of Short's kindness and generosity for wanting to work with him. After Short retired and Blake Baggett joined the squad, Alexander found himself with a new rider to form that professional bond with and they haven't looked back since. We caught up with Nathan for some details on Blake's Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/WPS/KTM 450SX-F race machine.
Factory KTM: It's almost exactly what Ryan Dungey ran, or what Marvin Musquin runs. They're all on the same suspension; just a clicker change would be the only difference. We're all on the same linkages, everything is shared—all of our suspension guys are in the same room. The engine guys are all in the same room too, and basically it's like having a group of guys that all work together on building the factory bikes. The only team differences are the FMF exhaust, Talon sprockets, Regina chain, Excel rims, and ODI bars and grips.
Suspension: The forks are a WP 52 mm Cone Valve setup, and the shock is WP's Trax shock. WP has employed a new guy, Brandon Klevis, who started with our team recently, and he’s really gelling well. That's what's so unique about our team, Troy Lee Designs' team, Husqvarna's team—they’re all able to go out and take what WP has to offer and add a little bit of their own knowledge and setup. Brandon's been able to make some positive changes with the bike. Blake is the type of rider who likes the front-end a little stiffer than the rear, mostly because of his aggression on braking. He also prefers it linear rather than abrupt—just an overall feeling of comfort.
Brakes: The brakes are factory Brembo setups, front and rear. Blake loves the Brembo brakes because they're progressive rather than being all on or all off. He's really aggressive on the brakes, so these work well for him. The rotors are custom made by Galfer, and they're calling them Tsunami rotors. They have sharp edges in them so they don't glaze the pad; it basically lightly cuts the pad a new surface as he's braking. The pads are OEM KTM brake pads.
Power Delivery And Rollers: The clutch is a complete Hinson setup, and we run Regina chain and sprockets. The chains are all handmade from the road race division; they're raw and uncoated. The chain guide and the skid plates are both made by Akrapovic. We run Talon Ultralite hubs, OEM spokes, and Excel Takasago wheels. Dubya Wheels assembles everything for us, but we do go in and wire all the spokes so if Blake were to ever break a spoke or have a spoke problem during a moto or crash, that keeps them from getting into the disc or chain causing more problems. For the tires, we run Dunlop spec tires.
Cockpit: The seat is an OEM seat—Blake likes his seat really firm, so it's always a fresh seat. It's not light foam or anything, just a standard KTM seat. Seat Concepts does all of our seat covers, and they will build us anything we want. His current seat cover has fuel line inside of the ribs of the seat, and they ran a diamond pleat, which is the most aggressive pleat you can get. We run Xtrig clamps, and he uses their PHDS rubber bar mounts. Depending on the track, he runs different offsets of the clamps. His grips are ODI soft grips, and his handlebars are ODI McGrath bend. He's pretty neutral on controls and runs his clutch lever 220 mm in from the end of the bar and his brake lever 210 mm in.
Electronics: We run launch control, and the three buttons on the handlebars from left to right are stop, launch control, and then the starter button. They are all actually the same looking button. We use LiPo batteries for the starter and also for the fans during the outdoors. We also run larger radiators that are quite a bit taller and wider. We add in a built-in coolant sensor into the neck of the drop of the radiator hose to control the cooling fan.
Blake's Power Preference: There's a difference between what Blake wants and what Blake needs [laughs]. The biggest thing when he started riding the bike was that he wanted the fastest bike, and it became unrideable for him—he'd stand it up everywhere. We had to regroup right before Supercross and go completely backwards to mellow the bike out, then re-learn to ride the bike, and give him power a little bit at a time. There's so much available to us, whether it's mapping, air boots, gearing, and even throttle cams and engine configurations. He doesn't like engine braking and likes it to freewheel more, so we have it set up now where it's more free but actually more mellow than Supercross. He wants to be able to hold it wide open, and when I say wide open, I mean he literally wants to hold it off the throttle stop. I quote Blake: "It's easier to ride when you just hold it wide open. It's less to think about."