When the gate drops at Anaheim I, signaling the official start to the 2011 Supercross season, many riders will be making their first appearances on new teams, or aboard new bikes, or in new gear. Chad Reed, who will be making his debut on his new TwoTwo Motorsports Honda, is one person who quickly comes to mind, as does Josh Grant getting things started on his new factory-backed Honda Team, and Davi Millsaps on his new JGR Yamaha, and Brett Metcalfe on the Makita/Rockstar Suzuki. But perhaps one of the more interesting first showings at Anaheim I will be Andrew Short on the 350cc factory-backed KTM.Short, a long-time Honda team rider, will not only be making his KTM debut at Anaheim but so will the KTM 350 in Supercross.The 350 had a mixed showing in its first year on the motocross circuit, as it captured a World Motocross title in the hands of Italian Antonio Cairoli but struggled a bit in the AMA Nationals with Mike Alessi at the controls. However, Short will be giving the 350 a second chance in the States when the bike makes its first appearance in Supercross in a few short weeks.Since signing with KTM in September, Short has spent much of his time getting acquainted with both the KTM 350 and his new team, and, according to Short, things have be going along quite well.We recently caught up to Short and chatted with him about his progress at his new team.Now that you’ve been riding the 350 for a while, how do you feel on it now?At first, the KTM, well, I was really nervous about getting on the bike. I thought it was going to have a different feel being a European bike. [KTM] has always had kind of that reputation, I think, just from the outside, but once I got on it, I felt really comfortable and we started testing and made some good adjustments. I like the bike, for sure.Was the plan for you all along to ride the 350 or did you have a choice between the 350 and the 450 KTMs?I rode the 350 first, but that wasn’t the plan all along. We wanted to try both [the 450 and the 350], but we wanted to start there [on the 350]. They thought it would be the best platform to get going. Nobody has really ridden the 350 in Supercross, so I was the initial guy to get it kind of set up. We made gains really quick; we shifted the power so it is a lot lower. There’s more useable power for a tight Supercross track, so it came really quick, I was surprised how quickly I adapted to it.Have you ridden the KTM 450?I have ridden a 450 but not one set up specifically for me. Mike Brown had one ready to go for some European races he rode in. But we got to a point where testing and development was going so well with the 350 that we were happy with the direction and the progress we had made. We just said, “hey, this is the bike, I feel comfortable on it, I feel good on it, let’s just move forward with this.”Now that you’ve ridden the 350 a bit, do you think it has advantages over the 450?The 350 is a unique bike and has a lot of advantages. With a 450, on a tight Supercross track, it takes some skill to manage it, and technically you have to be a little better, whereas the 350 lets you get away with a little more stuff, especially with the entry into the whoops and the entrance into the turns. There just isn’t as much torque in the motor to – when you have a lot of torque in the motor, the bike wants to stand straight up. When you’re leaning over as far as we do in the turns and going into the whoops as fast as we do, [the 450] just doesn’t want to do it, but the 350 helps a lot with that. So, these are the biggest things that I noticed that are a lot different.
Are you concerned about getting good starts on the 350? Your teammate Mike Alessi, a notoriously fast starter, seemed to struggle to get good starts consistently on the 350 in the Nationals.My main concern is that I want to get good starts next year. If I can do that, I feel like I can be really successful with the bike. The [track] conditions in Supercross is hard-packed when you get in front of the gate, it’s not so deep, so you don’t have to have that torque like a 450 has, where in the outdoor Nationals, it’s really deep in front of the gate and you’re basically wide open and using all of the power you can get. In Supercross, you have to manage [the power] more, and it’s more of a skill with how you control the clutch and throttle all at one time, and how you hold your body, so I think in Supercross it comes down to more of the rider and technique than actual power. But for the outdoors, you need some actual power.My race bike is specifically set up for Supercross, and that’s the same for everybody else, too, like at Honda, my bike was far from a stock bike, like suspension. Our suspension is set up so stiff; I don’t know if people quite understand that. I wouldn’t want to show up at [a motocross track] and ride a Supercross bike, it would be just miserable. It’s so stiff, but that’s what it takes to handle those big jumps and the whoops. Supercross is a whole different animal. You need a whole different bike to do it, and it’s cool that KTM has two different platforms – a 350 and a 450 – to have that option is good, and I think we’ve picked the best one for us.Was it difficult for you adjusting to the KTM after riding Hondas for so long?I have ridden the same [brand of motorcycle] for six years, but I hopped on [the KTM] and I felt really good, it wasn’t a big shock – I didn’t struggle at all. That made me sleep better after I rode it. You always worry about stupid things like that, but once you do it, you look back on it and laugh, and that’s kind of how I was. If I knew then what I know now I’d be smiling instead of trembling [when switching to a new bike]. It’s been cool.What were you most concerned about before you rode the bike?Chassis. Going to KTM, that’s what I was most worried about, the chassis, and the [rear suspension] link is new for them, but the last few days we’ve been testing suspension, so that’s been really good for me, surprisingly good. We have RG3 with us and are consulting with WP, so you have two kinds of minds going at it, and that helps, having more resources.What are some of the things you like most about the 350 on the track?Overall, the KTM feels real stable from the footpegs on back, it doesn’t seem to go side to side, and the weight is more balanced, I would say, over the Honda, which has a lot more weight on the front end, so it gives me a little more confidence going into the whoops and stuff like that. I feel like I have a little more control in that it doesn’t go side to side as much.What a bout the 350’s motor?My race bike, they tuned it up pretty good, so it’s really fast. I have no problems with obstacles.What’s been the hardest thing to adapt too going from Honda to KTM?Just the getting used to new people, a different test track, a different shop, a new mechanic, a new team manager, the personnel. That’s what makes a high-end race team click, that’s what makes it go around. For me, I have relied on a good group of people for so long on the previous team that I didn’t have to think about what I was doing or [worry] about my surroundings, and now, I had to figure out new people and all that, so that was the hardest part. But it came real quick and easy. I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been cool to get different views on how people go racing and how to set up bikes and different strategies and stuff like that. At the same time, it’s been a lot different than at the previous team.What are some of the main differences between the two companies?Just the companies in general. One is huge and one feels really small and family like. I wouldn’t say racing was on the side but more separate at Honda, more on the business side. Say, you go to a ride day for Honda, you’d have to have a video crew to show it to management afterwards. At a KTM ride day, management is there riding, it’s a different mentality. I’m not saying one is good or bad or better than the other, it’s just a different group, a different environment. I’ve just noticed how small it is. I think it’s really cool how KTM is so passionate about riding, it’s in their blood, you can tell, and it shows. I think that’s good for me being a racer, knowing that management loves racing.Have you thought about the outdoors yet? Will you stick with the 350?I’m not quite sure yet. I have a production 350 that I ride on outdoor tracks and it feels good, and I’ve ridden a 450, and I think we’re just going to have to wait and see. I think the 350 might be the best for me, but I would like to try them both on the same track and do lap times. Our series is so competitive that you can’t really give up anything, and I want to be on the best equipment for myself and KTM, so I can represent them good. So whatever bike we end up on, it will be cool. And it’s cool just to have the option. Nobody else has that.Have you consulted any with Mike Alessi who has been riding the 350 for over a year now?Actually, we just started riding with him. He recently got back from Australia, but I’ve never talked to him much about the bike before I signed.How do you like working with your new team manager, Roger DeCoster?Roger is cool, he’s a really good guy. I haven’t worked with him that much. He’s really into the technical side of the bikes, he loves the machine shop and tweaking on the bikes, that’s kind of his forte, so to lean on his knowledge and experience is cool. The biggest thing with Roger is everything that follows him. I knew going to KTM that if Roger was there, that good personnel was going to follow right behind him, he brings that with him. That’s what I’ve enjoyed most. I like the way he organizes a team, what he puts things together and the peoples he’s gotten involved with. Another good thing is that Austria [the KTM factory] is a lot more involved this year, and with Roger being fluent with so many languages, he can communicate with them really well, with the factory and with everyone involved, and communication is key part with racing. But getting Roger, it’s been kind of the last piece of the puzzle [for KTM]. They’ve been successful with everything else – world motocross, enduro, and on and on, but they haven’t conquered Supercross yet, so it’s the last thing for them. They’ve dominated everything else, now they want to dominate Supercross, and I look forward of being a part of that, so I will try my best.