Photos by Donn Maeda | @swapmoto
HEP Motorsports Suzuki’s new acquisition Kyle Chisholm has plenty of seasons under his belt, and is looking at 2019 more excited than ever. The veteran pro is back on a 450, has a happy family life back in Florida, and just signed to the Suzuki 450 squad at HEP Motorsports alongside Adam Enticknap and Aley Ray. We recently chatted with Kyle about the new changes and much more. Read on…
So you're part of the HEP Motorsports Suzuki squad in 2019, and back on a 450!
Yeah, back on the 450 and teammates with these two knuckleheads Adam Enticknap and Alex Ray. [Laughs] No, they make it fun. I'm the old dad, boring guy of the group.
Like the veteran. Dustin Pipes just mentioned how he could tell you're an established pro by the way you carry yourself and go about your job. It was a compliment.
It's a job, and I think it will be a good mix in our group. I'm friends with both of them, and I think their goofiness combined with my seriousness will be good. I think they might even lighten me up a little, because sometimes I might work too hard. To king of lighten it up and have fun can bring out the best in me sometimes. So when I need that, they may be there to do that. And kind of vice versa, when they might need to buckle down and get serious they might take a cue from me. It's good to have fun and also be serious; I think we'll have a good mix with the group.
You had a pretty good year on the 250 in Supercross last year, right?
Yeah, my whole year was going pretty well until I hurt my knee at the fourth outdoor race. Supercross was really good, the West coast series went well and I even did around five 450 rounds on the east with a little help from the team but mainly just me and my dad on a stock bike. I got 13th at 4 of the 5 rounds.
That's a solid extra paycheck for a guy like you right?
Yeah, I was happy to be in between 10th and 15th because I literally rode the bike like three times before racing it. So to go out and get 13th and be not too far out of the top ten with such limited time was good. I felt good, had a good year, and I feel like I've steadily improved over the last three years. So it was a little bit of a bummer tearing my ACL and hurting me knee during the outdoors but unfortunately I have gone through it before and kind of knew what to expect.
You knew right away when you tore it right?
Yeah, I knew right away. And I know the recovery process and what I need to do to get back and be strong. I tore my ACL in 2009, had surgery during the outdoor season, and then 2010 was one of my best years of my career. That was the year I got my career number. So I've come back from it before, it's just patience, hard work, and working on getting it stronger.
Healing from an injury sometimes refreshes riders by giving them a forced needed break from it all.
Yeah, I didn't do the rest of the outdoors or any off-season race. It's good and bad, and always good to keep racing and stay race-ready. But it's also good. I've been doing it long enough to where I don't feel like I have to do those off season races to be good when Anaheim comes. I know what it takes in the off-season to be competitive during year and do well. I'm always trying to learn new things as well, and just get ready for Anaheim one.
The current landscape of teams and rides available makes for some tough decisions for a professional looking for a ride. You've adapted to available rides by going into the 250 class recently –is it necessary to be open minded when you aren't a top-level factory guy?
Yeah, sometimes I wish I didn't have to! But yeah I mean look at Dean Wilson right now; he's a really good rider and was left without a ride. For me going back to the 250 almost three years ago was actually fun and kind of refreshed everything for me. It was new and different and I got excited, and that has snowballed the last couple of years. It's been progression each year.
And the 250 class is no joke, either.
Yeah, there are a lot of good guys. It was also a big learning curve, and I also feel like I've been able to apply a lot of what I learned while racing the 250 to the 450 so I think it helped me overall. Now having that fresh in my mind from the past couple of years I can kind of apply what I learned to the 450. Momentum, not getting lazy with the 450 power, and more…it's good and bad. There are some things you can't replicate from one bike to the next but it's all been good.
Have you been up at Castillo Ranch with them?
Yeah, I flew out here and went straight to the track. We headed down south to do Feld's media sessions, and we're heading to the track to test a few more days and then I go back to Florida.
You're still based in Florida, right?
Yeah, but I also have a place in California too. I prefer Florida with the family and my kids, and my family can help us out with the kids too. As long as testing goes well out here we'll be ready to go at A1.
Who do you usually ride with?
Chad Reed usually, but he's been in North Carolina a bunch and his property is for sale! That's a bummer, and I enjoy riding with him and we're good friends. Just the atmosphere, the training, and riding together –I'm going to miss that. Mostly lately I've been over at the Moto Sandbox.
You should go swindle a deal with the JGR dudes! Both on Suzuki's at least!
I'd love to get up there and ride –I hope it happens! I like the JGR guys too, and I know a lot of them from racing over the years.
It's funny how when you invest in a really awesome property, without a good riding partner it's hard to push yourself right?
Yeah, and even when Chad is way faster than me it's still good for me to ride with someone at that level. And I can be the carrot that Chad chases, and I'm good enough to be a real reliable training partner to him. It goes both ways, and I've really enjoyed that. I look at him as a legend in the sport and it's cool to be friends with him and riding with him. He's the old guy, and it's funny because riding at the Moto Sandbox with Roczen, Cianciarulo, and Sexton and I feel like the dad of the group. Chase was like, "Yeah I was born in 1999." In 1999 I was like in high school! Just being around those guys is cool because they are obviously really great riders too, and it's been fun. But when I was riding with Chad and Michael Byrne I was the young guy. It's funny how time flies.
You might be gaining old man strength. You know when you shake an old dude's hand and he almost crushes your whole hand?
[Laughs] Yeah, I hope. I learned to accept it.
You seem like you're enjoying it all.
I've been around a long time, and not the longest, but I'm pretty easy going and I just enjoy being serious and putting in the work. I am ready to bust my butt and do all of the hard motos with anyone else that it training. If I didn't enjoy the hard work I don't think I'd still be doing it. Getting older I think about how I'm not going to be able to do this forever. But I know what I'll miss the most is the day during the week with your small group of guys that you train with, busting each others balls, and all the hard work. The spotlight is also fun, but those days are the most memorable ones.
We look forward to seeing you on the Suzuki next month!
Yeah it's the first time! I rode a Suzuki RM80 for maybe a few months when I was younger, and then I got a Team Green ride for the rest of my amateur career. So that's the only time I've ever really ridden a Suzuki. This is the first time in my pro career I've ridden a Suzuki.
Is it weird looking at a yellow fender?
Not really. It's more just the way the bike feels. All the bikes are so good now, but each bike does certain things better than others. It is fun going through the process of learning a new bike. Of course I would love to stick with just one bike, but it's fun going through the process. The first thing I noticed about this RM-Z450 is that it turns really well, and you can tell it has a really good balance to the chassis.
It will be cool to see the whole HEP Motorsports team do your thing next year.
Yeah, it's going to be a fun year.