Photos and Words by Mike Emery
The new season of racing is fast approaching, and the number 74 Cycle Trader/Rock River/Yamaha rider by the name of Bradley Taft is going to be a rookie in the field come Anaheim 1. With plenty of amateur accolades to his name, Bradley hopes to jump into the pro Supercross ranks and earn success quickly through hard work and a solid team around him. We chatted with him just after he finished motos at the Yamaha test track this Tuesday…
So I just rolled up to the Yamaha test track to a full group of you guys laying down a long moto. Team training in full effect today?
Yeah, team Swanny [Gareth Swanepoel] basically!
Yeah, so you have Cooper Webb out there, the Star Racing guys, and you are a Cycle Trader Yamaha guy. Swanny has a full crew! How has your transition to full Supercross been?
It's been good, I mean the first couple of weeks I rode Supercross I kind of struggled a little bit. I was riding well, but just had some crashes. Supercross is so mental, you have to get in a rhythm and you can't mess anything up. If you make the slightest error, it's usually not good. So I had a couple crashes at the beginning, but it's been going good the past month two months. I've been getting some solid days, and I just like it. It's so different from outdoors, a good change of pace.
So being a rookie, were you like "Ok I crashed a few times, I got those out of my system!" You kind of have to pay your dues in a way when it comes to this sport!
Yeah, I think for me it's something weird. Like last year I started training for the Monster Energy Cup in the amateur class and it was the same thing – I was riding really good but I would just make the slightest mistake and I would end up crashing. So, I think it's when you first start riding it it's so different from outdoors. Outdoors, you just go ride and don't have to think about a while lot. With Supercross it just takes a while to get into that groove and get into that rhythm. Now that I've been riding it for a little bit longer I've been doing well. It's been good!
One big change that was just announced is timed main events. You haven't ever raced a 250 main so it won't be a change for you, but the races will certainly be longer in most cases. How has it been training for that?
Yeah, it's definitely going to be more laps. What we did just now was a 15 minute plus one lap moto, and I don't know how many laps it was but I can tell you it was definitely more than 15! Then we did the heat race, because the heat races are timed too now and they're 5 minutes plus one lap, and that ended up being 8 laps for a heat race. It obviously doesn't make a whole lot of difference for me because I've never even done 15, so it's kind of good for me because it's not really changing for me. Some races it could be shorter, like Anaheim One last year was like a 1:02 lap time. So it could be less laps, and it also could be more laps.
So west coast, right?
Yep, I'll be racing west coast.
Anaheim One…that has to be exciting for you. Is that not every motocross kid's dream?
Yeah, I mean I try not to think about it like that a whole lot. I just try and basically treat it like any other race. It's definitely a dream I've always had, so for me to go and do it and be on a good bike – it should be good!
You're definitely going to have a moment or two when you look around and soak it in.
Oh, I'm sure! It was like that at Monster Cup – I didn't really think it was that big of a deal and then when I went and raced the amateur all stars class I was like, "This is the closest it gets to racing Supercross." Like, I wasn't really super nervous. It was cooler than it was nerve-racking.
You're surrounded by a lot of talent right now, Cooper Webb and the Star Yamaha team to be specific. It has to help comparing yourself to where the other guys are at, right?
That's what's good about it; I know Plessinger has been…flying. He's probably going to be winning races. So it's nice to be able to come riding every day and know where I am compared to him, so I can then I set my goals off that. If I know I'm way off of Aaron, I know around what place I'll kind of be. Also what helps too is that Swanny is really good at keeping logs of lap times and all that, and just going off statistics from last year at all the races – it just kind of helps to figure out where I might be. It's a big help to have these guys around and Aaron is definitely going to be one of the top guys and probably winning races, so if I'm barely off of him I can be a podium guy for sure.
That's a big help for your mental side. The Cycle Trader/Rock River/Yamaha team has gained huge momentum over the past few years. It has to be a good feeling knowing you're on good equipment like that, with a solid log of base settings to choose from.
Yeah, obviously our race bikes are great. The motors are factory Yamaha, and then we have Enzo A-Kit suspension and stuff like that. They had their base settings, but I kind of went on my own and my first setup was based off what I had last year at Monster Energy Cup. We've obviously made huge changes to that! When I first started riding I didn't have a whole lot of experience on Supercross so my stuff was just way too soft. Now we've gotten it pretty good and I'm testing it again on Friday. We've got good equipment and they know what they're doing so it's not really a guessing game when we come to A1.
That must be cool to look back and say "Wow, my settings were so bad because I've gotten so much better."
Yeah, that's exactly how it is. When I first started riding Supercross the stuff felt good! I even told Swanny that it feels good, and he would say "Trust me, when you start going faster it's going to be soft." and I'm like "Dude, I don't think I can go any faster on this track!" [Laughs] Then literally like three weeks later I'm going like 2 seconds a lap faster than I was and said, "Man, this stuff is too soft!" It's also good to have Swanny because he helps me test – he's just a good person to have around.
Put things into perspective for the reader, you guys are on the grind right now. You just finished pounding laps but are heading to the gym right after this. Talk about the workload, what's the hardest part?
We just have a lot going on. Right now we just do more of everything, like in the gym we do more weight, we do more cycling, just more during the off-season. Then it's been hard for me because I've also been moving and stuff! So I haven't really gotten a day off. I just got finished with that moto and I'm like…done! And now I have to go to the gym! [Laughs]
Gnarly! So you're cross training by picking up beds and dressers too!
Luckily I had people to help me, but yeah I was moving a bunch of stuff and I'm shot right now. And luckily Wednesday's we don't ride so it's kind of a mellow day tomorrow, we just do the gym and cycle.
Well, hopefully it all pays off on January 7th.
Follow Bradley on Instagram: @btaft74