When we caught up with Brent Duffe, Justin Brayton’s mechanic, on Thursday afternoon he was in the middle transforming a stock Honda CRF450R into a race-ready machine.

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We’ve touched down in Switzerland for the 2017 Geneva SX that will take place this weekend at the Palexpo building just outside of the city. The event promoters are keeping up the tradition of bringing a few high-profile racers based in the United States to Europe, and this year’s roster includes multi-time King of Geneva overall winner Justin Brayton. The SmarTop/MotoConcepts/Honda rider is fresh off his second consecutive Australian Supercross championship and after a brief stopover in North Carolina, Brayton seems ready for the weekend.

Instead of shipping a complete race-ready motorcycle across the Atlantic Ocean, Brayton and his mechanic Brent Duffe decided that they would rather bring the necessary items that will turn a borrowed bike into something suitable for the Supercross style track. Duffe was delivered an all-new 2018 Honda CRF450R to the paddock and when we caught up with him on Thursday afternoon, the bike was basically down to the frame with an assortment of parts waiting to be installed. This is a common practice for overseas offseason events, as the promoters will work with local dealers or branches of the motorcycle brand to keep a rider on top-notch equipment.

So how did they get all of the necessary parts, including wheels, suspension, tools, and a race engine across the Atlantic Ocean? Careful planning and plenty of experience. At this point, Duffe and Brayton have raced together just as much overseas as they have in the United States, so they have a few tricks to the process. On Friday afternoon, we had a chance to chat about the process…

Very few of the stock components are of use to Brayton and Duffe, so they were taken off of the bike and placed to the side. On Saturday evening after the last race, Duffe will remove all of the race parts and re-install the stock pieces.

“We haven’t had a chance to test a 2018 Honda CRF450R yet, so we brought everything for a 2017. I started working on the bike here at 2:30 in the afternoon on Thursday, tore it down all the way to the frame and had it back together in five hours. I didn’t have anyone to help me this year, but last year I had Jason Montoya (Malcolm Stewart’s mechanic) to help me with the build and tear down. It’s a big process.”

“We have four total gear bags. One of them is his, but I brought three bags just for parts, plus wheels and suspension. To get wheels over here was a bit of a challenge because they are complete front and rear wheels with the tires installed, so I wouldn’t have to do it here when it’s cold, plus a spare tire. I put them together and saran wrapped them together as tightly as I could, then checked it at the airport. It must have looked a little suspicious because they got stuck in London with our suspension. Luckily it all showed up last night.”

A full race engine from SmarTop/MotoConcepts/Honda was shipped to Switzerland in a tightly packed and secured cooler. 

“Suspension typically gets stuck in customs because of the gas and oils, plus they are in gun cases. Customs think that you’re bringing firearms around the world, so they always open them to see what you have. At least they didn’t take our shock out, because some airports are known to pull them out and then they go missing forever. That’s thousands of dollars just gone.”

Instead of working with questionable quality tools, Duffe packed his Snap-On work set worth thousands of dollars into a suitcase and brought them to Europe.

“I’ve got a few thousand dollars worth of Snap-On tools in a fifteen dollar Wal-Mart toolbox. I’m able to put the tools in there with a bunch of microfiber towels, which keeps everything together and tight. I check all of that inside a suitcase. Before I have put it all in a backpack but things go everywhere and get scratched. This is our third time in Geneva, plus all of the other overseas races that we have done, so I have the travel routine with tools down pretty well.”

“I have two ECUs with us; one that we programmed to work here and the one from the practice bike in North Carolina. The one that was mapped for Geneva is perfect, so there hasn’t been a need for the other one. At this race we run just local pump gas, nothing special.”

Luckily for Brayton and Duffe, every piece of the bike showed up, including the engine, suspension, and wheels. This is not always the case, as we know of racers that have had irreplaceable parts seized by customs officers at airports.

“The mufflers were wrapped in bubble wrap and I put them in Justin’s gear bag, that way they didn’t get damaged by all of the other heavy parts in travel. I didn’t want to break those on the way here.”

“Justin rode on Tuesday so when he was done with the practice bike I took the top clamp, handlebars, and front brake assembly directly off of the bike in one piece so that when we got here he would have a familiar feeling with a different bike. I brought the subframe and the seat from the practice bike, too, that way when he is sitting on it feels like the bike he came off of in the US. It’s different engine and ECU, plus we are at altitude so it might feel different on power, but comfort-wise it should all feel the same.”

To make sure Brayton felt comfortable aboard the brand-new bike, Duffe pulled the complete front assembly off of a US practice bike and bolted them into place on the new machine.