Jonny Walker is considered by many to be one of the main up and coming “young guns” in the sport of Extreme Enduro that is often lead by the likes of older, experienced riders. Apparently, Jonny did not get that memo. Jonny has not only been able to keep up, but also overtake, many of the old guard and has done so with style all his,that just happens to be also coupled with the tenacity of a tyrannosaurus. Having a strong trials background, Jonny tackles terrain and obstacles with experience and skill beyond his years. Having won multiple titles in the world of Trials events, Jonny has carried that to the world of Extreme Enduro where he continues to grow and exceed all expectations.
Young, strong, poised, yet aggressive, Jonny takes on the terrain with a true passion the sport needs in future years to carry the torch, and Jonny is truly willing, able, and ready to carry that torch. Having already made a mark for himself upon many of the larger stages and races of Extreme Enduro, Jonny is one to watch in every event he enters and is sure to impress at every avenue.
This month we were able to gain an interview, via e-mail, to interview Jonny and see what makes him a true Extreme Enduro and Hare Scramble champion.
Q: Jonny, thank you for this interview opportunity and also for the readers to get to know you a bit better. To give them a bit better insight into you and your career, what got you into not only riding, but also trails, and now, Extreme Enduro?
A: My dad was a keen trials rider so I just followed in his footsteps, we used to go riding after school and at weekends. I rode trials from the age of 6 until I was 17 and progressed up to Junior World Championship level. I got a little bored and stale with trials and at the time many of my friends raced motox and it interested me. I had a go and enjoyed it so I saved up and bought a secondhand KTM 250 EXC. I rode some local mx and then I was introduced into Enduro and quickly followed into Endurocross and Extreme. It all happened so fast in the period of about a year, going from being a hobby rider to competing in British and European Enduro Championships and then my first World SuperEnduro in 2011.
Q: What drives you now to be such a competitive and formidable racer?
A: Racing is what I love doing. I love the adrenalin from going fast and especially the power of my 300 EXC. It’s so much fun, and no matter where I go I believe I can do well. I have a great team behind me and my mechanic has been in enduro a lot of years with some of the very best riders such as Knight, Edmondson, Blazusiak etc. He encourages me to improve all the time and work hard.
Q: What is your usual training regime like and do you have any specific training tips for the rest of us out there trying to be better riders in Enduro and hare scramble type races and riding?
A: I don t have such as a training regime, but I’m not one to be sitting around. If I’m not riding MX, Enduro, or Trialing I’m either cycling or in the gym. My tip would just be to ride your bike as much as possible because nothing beats bike time. Lots of variety and lots of fun. Just try to identify and work on your weak areas. I have also learned that a good diet and plenty of rest is equally important. Trying to find the balance, too. Learn what your body needs.
Q: As of late, you have truly been making your mark on the Enduro and Extreme Enduro race world in highly demanding races. What are some of the more memorable races and events you have been in over the past year?
A: The most memorable results was placing 3rd at Erzberg for my first time there. I didn’t know a lot about the race prior to going, but it’s the race that got me noticed. I got the lead early on, but then got lost and damaged my front brake, but I learned that I had the speed to race with the best, which gave me a lot of confidence and motivation. One year later, I won the race and its one of my favourite places. Also, I had a good debut at the 6 days of Finland placing 4th overall in E3. I hope I can make another 6 days again soon, and I guess my recent weekend in Turkey at Red Bull’s Sea to Sky when I won all 3 races after a season full of bad luck and illness.
Q: You race many races we stateside riders are unfamiliar with such as the FIM Superenduro Champioship and the British Enduro Championship, as well as races we know such as Hell’s Gate and Erzberg. What, if any, are the differences between these races and which do you prefer?
A: All these races are very different. FIM SuperEnduros are short, intense races similar to your Endurocross series. British Enduro are timecard races where you have to do special tests and similar to a 6 Days format with long days in the saddle, and Extreme races are just brutal where you need the Trails skills and a high level of stamina. It’s hard to train for all these races so I just vary my training before each race. I don’t prefer any races. I just love to ride my bike. At the moment, I need to build my experience so it’s good to have a lot of variety, but it makes it difficult to be really good at any one thing because I don’t specialise in one discipline. My mechanic says that the best Enduro riders must master all conditions and that’s what I am trying to do. Later I will focus on doing less and doing it better.
Q: Going back to your training, do you train specifically for each race, or do you simply train as a whole?
A: I usually train for the specific race coming up, but if it’s like three weeks in between the race then I’ll just ride whatever I feel like. Most important is getting familiar with the specific bike set up. There are a lot of suspension and motor changes for each type of race, especially with Extreme. For example, the race Hell’s Gate we need to race in the night with lights. Erzberg we need a really fast bike for the Prologue and can be reaching almost 100mph!! But, then for the Hare Scramble main race we need a bike with super soft power and suspension for the rock sections, so we are always changing and it’s difficult to get super confident with the feeling of the bike.
Q: And speaking of bikes, let us talk about a bit about what you ride, please. You have been seen mainly on two-stroke KTMs, most notably the 250 and 300. Yet, I have seen where you have been toying around on the four-stroke 350s by KTM as well, yes? Are you considering going the route of the 350 platform, if so, why and how does it stack up in the world of enduro and hare scrambles in comparison to the 250 and 300 two-stroke?
A: I have always ridden the 300 2-stroke in the past, but just recently I tried the 250f and really liked it and I had a one off ride in Columbia on the 350F which was fun. For all extreme races and outdoor races I will stick with the 300, but for the indoor races I want to try the 250f because in the short races I feel I can push much harder and don’t get as tired. I feel more comfortable when I’m at the limit with this bike. But, if I had to choose only one bike it would be my 300, probably the best Enduro bike ever made.
Q: May I ask who your mechanics are and do you do a good deal of work on your bikes or do your mechanics handle that load?
A: My main mechanic for the past three seasons is Julian Stevens and he’s good for me. He was the guy who organised my first deals and sponsored me. I look after the basics on my practice bike and he does all my race bikes. He works hard as we have a lot of races throughout the year and he also has to fly to the factory and get my bikes ready over there too. He prepares everything, the motors and the suspension, but now we have 4 stroke bikes as well and I race more events overseas, the workload has increased. We have employed another mechanic to work from the Factory – Sebastien Fortanier. He was before working many years with Cyril Despres and Jonny Aubert!! Julian will focus on testing, looking after my UK bikes and looking after the management side and my sponsors. He started as a Race mechanic back in 1988 at 500 Moto X GP’s and is tired of all the travelling. Seb will go with me to all the big races in Europe and around the World.
Q: May I ask how your bike is set up for you, and are there any set up secrets we riders and fans may want to know about?
A: My 300 is basically stock with a few little mods in the engine, we don’t have any special Factory parts. Everything we use can be bought, except for Julian’s experience. (laughs) We just work on making the power super smooth. Of course, we have a little more power than a standard bike, but it’s very easy to use. We make small modifications to protect vulnerable areas and to keep the bike super reliable – such as better cooling etc. Suspension is very important and the tyres. We use the WP Cone valve suspension and a Trax shock, which we fine tune the settings for each race and discipline. We do a lot of comparative testing to find a comfortable setting and the important thing is to slowly make logical steps, no big changes, and always keep notes so that you can refer back to them later. Our bike is a little lower than standard which is a big help in extreme races and we are very careful with how we prepare our tyres and mousse. We try to find the best solution for traction and handling.
Q: Speaking of setups and gear, what is the one piece of gear or bike component you could not live without, and why?
A: I think the suspension is the most important thing. I have a good setup at the moment and it seems to be working everywhere with little change. I always race with my suspension, even if I borrow another bike I always take my fork and shock. The reason we always use my suspension is that it’s the most important constant. You need to know how your bike will respond good or bad. I can quickly adapt to a different engine and it’s not so difficult to make changes to the bike’s power trackside, but it’s not easy to change the suspension out in the field and it’s having confidence in what the bike will do at speed that gives me confidence to keep the throttle open longer. Power is less important than the handling.
Q: What are your plans and goals for 2014? I know you are already doing the FIM Superenduro World Championship, but where else are you going to compete and are there any new avenues you plan to take?
A: Yes! In 2014 I will race again SuperEnduro, all the important Red Bull Extreme races and the first 2 or 3 rounds of the World Enduro Championship. Also, the British Extreme Championship, which I won a few years back. I won’t be doing British Enduro championship because I don’t have the time. I hope I can go to the 6 days though. I want to do a variety of races because each discipline helps you in different areas.
Q: Good luck to you in all your future plans, truly. Can we hear a bit about your sponsors and why you use them?
A: Well, I am really lucky to have built up a great portfolio of Sponsors. We try to get the best products we can to make my job easier and work with the most reliable companies. Of course, my main Sponsors are KTM and Red Bull, followed by Kini clothing, Airoh Helmets, USWE Drink systems, and then all the technical sponsors which mostly come from KTM.
Q: Lastly, what is a day outside of motorcycles for you when you are resting? Anything we may not know or would like to know?
A: When I have a free time I like to spend it with my friends and family as I don’t get to do it as much as I would like. I live in one of the most beautiful parts of the UK, the Lake District, and with friends we quiet often go for Golf, fishing and snowboarding in the winter. I don’t have any unusual hobbies. My job is my hobby and that keeps me busy enough with all sorts of fun activities from Training schools to Red Bull media days to Motosport shows and festivals. I always have a full diary.
Jonny, I thank you again for the interview and sharing your exploits and tips with our readers and fans. We all truly appreciate you taking the time to sit down and answer the e-mails and being very candid with us. It has been a true honor to chat with you and gain insight into what you do. Again, thanks.
There you have it folks. Jonny Walker, a true rider and a man who is striving to be the best at what he does and having a blast doing it. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the interview. Until next time, stay dirty my friends.
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Ryan D. Hackney, The 300 Guy
*All photos courtesy of http://www.jonnywalkerracing.co.uk/gallery by consent.