When Broc Tickle’s move to Red Bull KTM for 2018 was announced, expectations for the 28-year-old racer were instantly increased. In addition to a radically redeveloped 450 SX-F, Tickle’s move to the factory team meant that he’d be trained by Aldon Baker and have access to a program that Ryan Dungey used to three consecutive Supercross championships. How has Tickle fared so far? A look at the results does not show a sudden spike in improvement, but compared to years past, Tickle has finished better. Interested to hear how the sweeping changes had affected his lifestyle, we joined Tickle for lunch and turned on the recorder for an extended interview that’s transcribed in full below.
All things considered, this has been a good year. You just pointed out that if you compare your results from last year to this year, this is an improvement, but it's not a huge surge. You were riding well at Indianapolis and then came together with Dean. Overall, how do you feel at this point?
I'm really happy with where I'm at now. I feel like I had a lot of expectations coming into the season due to every change that I had. Overall, I'm happy. The results year over year are better, so that makes me feel better. Each week I try to make improvements and put myself in a position that'll let me ride to my potential. I feel like I'm getting closer to where I should be. We have a few more rounds and after Indianapolis, I have more confidence just because I proved to myself that I can run the speed of the leaders.
What was it about Indianapolis that went so well?
I think I was really focusing on myself. Maybe at a couple of other races I hadn't found that complete groove and focus that I needed, but at Indy, it was coming easily. I felt like I could have run that pace for an hour if I needed to. I was being creative and that's one thing that I'm good at, moving around on the track and whatnot. But when I'm uncomfortable I get stuck in a rut and it disrupts my pace. At Indy, I was moving around and things were coming easily. I'm focused now on each week and made it mandatory now that I'm there 100-percent on Saturday.
The Dean thing was unfortunate and you were understandably pissed. But you're cool now and it's a guy that you see every day at Aldon's place in Florida.
I look at it this way: I crashed on my own. I passed him and crashed on my own and put myself in that position. There were only four laps left or something and it was frustrating for myself. But ultimately the best way that I can look at it is to be positive and think I put myself in that position but remember I was riding the best I ever had and take what I can from it. I have more opportunities to put myself in that position to get a podium. At Indianapolis, it was coming easily and I was feeding off of it. In the middle of the race, when I got around Dean and Brayton, there were two or three laps when I was the fastest on the track. I know have it in me and I have all of the tools, I just have to show up on Saturday and do it.
Looking at your results historically, you always come alive around this point in the year. What is it about that time of year?
I wish I had a solid answer for that one. History shows that's how I work. My goal coming into Anaheim One was to not have that happen, but it happened again. I strung together a couple of fifth places together before we got to the halfway point and that's sometimes odd. There have been flashes of what I'm capable of during the week and I just need to do what I'm doing to ride to my potential.
Those first few races, I think you had to be let down by the results and there was a lot of criticism coming your way. How do you block that out? Or do you use it as extra motivation?
I never read or look at anything, to be honest. My goal coming into the year was to finish in the top-five in the first race and in the Heat Race I jumped off of the track while I was winning. That kind of set the tone for me and it brought me backward. I think if that race had gone differently, I think it could have changed the beginning of my year. Looking at the results from the first races and with the guys that are injured now, I got eighth in the first race and I started it in eighteenth. So I passed a lot of guys that are injured now. Looking forward, the goal is to be in the position in the Main Event to ride to my potential.
What is it about this year that has so many guys getting injured? Is it just that type of year when it happens, do you feel guys are pushing harder, or that the tracks are more challenging?
I think it's a combination of everything. Everyone is pushing themselves and one slip makes a big difference. At Anaheim One there were fifteen factory-supported guys on the track. I think I have played it safe, maybe a bit too much, but at the rate it's going it's putting me in a good position at the end of the year. It's not super close between us, but a top-five in the championship is within reach.
With the new Triple Crown races, you got caught up in some chaos at Anaheim Two and Atlanta. What do you think about the format?
I have a bitter taste in my mouth, but I need to have a positive outlook on them until we get done with Minneapolis. My finishes in them have been terrible. At Atlanta I jumped into Peick and Webb, then I crashed in the second corner in the second moto and did the same thing in the third moto. So, both Triple Crowns have not been the best but heading into the last one, I need to make it happen there and stay away from the chaos.
I hear guys say that they don't like them because of the intensity of three starts and everything else. But from my perspective, I would rather be on the track with twenty-one other guys that are at the same skill level, instead of being in a Heat Race and closing in someone that isn't as fast and maybe doesn't have the situational awareness. What is it that racers don't like about the Triple Crown?
I don't like it because my results haven't been the best [Laughs]. I think it's really important in the first one to get a good start because it's the shortest one. The last one is more like a normal Main Event, it's about twenty laps.
This was a massive year for you because everything changed, from your bike to your training program to all of your gear sponsors. How was it to make such sweeping changes at this point in your career?
It was an opportunity that I couldn't turn down. I was able to put everything in one place and run with it. I think I learned that I can't drop everything that you've learned, just what you know works for you. I think that's what I struggled with the most in the offseason. It's just different. I blocked out what I knew worked for me in the past and I think that was bad for me. At the first few races, I decided that I work better when I'm laid back because I was putting too much pressure on myself and was not being myself. After resetting that I was back in a better place.
There's always a concern with a guy that goes to Aldon's that because it's so notoriously strict. How was it for you in the beginning? You've seen it from different perspectives in the past, like when Ken trained with him while you two were at RCH.
There is something about Aldon that is special. Just his presence is positive and that alone is good for the program. I would say that it is a lot of work and mentally it is hard to be there at all times. I have done just as much work or more in years past, but with this program and the accountability of it, you're taken to another level. It's a good thing for people to learn because the accountability of it is huge. What I've learned from it is to always show up and be the best that you can be. There were days in years past when I didn't feel like riding and pushing it, so I'd just go through the motions and do the motos. But that doesn't cut it.
With the investment that KTM and Husqvarna have put into the program, from the facility and the tracks and now the gym, how nice is it to have everything in one place? You never have to waste time and go to different places.
It's so easy to get your work done. We wake up and know our program, so we go to the track and do our deal, then go home. I enjoy being back in California for the short time that I am, but there the riding part is awesome and we can get everything done together.
There's no denying the tension that's developed between Jason and Marvin. How is it for you to be in the middle of that? You're friends with both guys.
Jason doesn't ride with us during the week. That's something that he decided he wanted to do and Aldon let him. There's something about it that's working because he's winning the championship at the moment. But from my side, I like riding with Zach and Marvin. There have been days when I ride with Jason to change things up. It just depends on the day. If it rains or whatever, we'll all ride the same track, but just at different times. There have been days where I'll do motos with Jason, but most of the time it's with Marvin and Zach.
You're on a one-year deal with the team and there have been times in the past when Roger didn't see a need to keep working with a rider. But I think now teams see they have to invest more time into a guy because they can't just expect a guy to change everything he knows and immediately come out swinging. Also, there was a misconception that you were hired to be the new Ryan Dungey.
I think it was ridiculous for people to think that. I get it a little bit, but it's a lot to ask out of someone. I've gotten podiums but it's not been consistent. There's no magic solution to go from where I was to winning. It comes down to doing the work and building the confidence.
What is one of Roger's strengths as Team Manager that people don't see?
He's an old-school type of guy and he understands the bike a lot more than what people perceive. That's one thing that I rely on when I'm unsure of something with the bike. With me being in Florida, I've been able to test with him a couple of times, but it's not been like it was when I was at RCH spending days of the week with the guys, which might have been overkill. I was able to get picky when I was at RCH because those guys were on call, so when I struggled with bike setup this year, I would learn to ride through it. In Florida, I have my practice bike mechanic, so while we can make some decisions, it's not the same as having a suspension tech there a few days a week.
You're getting to the age when guys want to wind down their careers. But now you're finding a groove and have the support of the team. What is the plan from here?
I feel like I'm in the best place that I've been in and I have a handle on everything going on around me. I've matured in a good way to keep going. With Justin Brayton winning Daytona at 34, it was an eye-opener for everyone in the sport. It was awesome to have that happen. I want to keep racing until I'm not competitive and who knows when that will be. But Brayton winning was awesome for someone like me, who is 28 because people think I should be at the tail end of my career.