So, you want to fix American road racing? You’ve got to start them young, and now we have the machines to do it. Welcome to the USA, Ohvale.
America road racing is a skeleton of what it once was. The world does not look to the U.S. for the next world champion and, if we’re brutally honest with ourselves, it hasn’t for quite some time.
That’s because Europe hasn’t just overtaken America in developing rising talent; it’s lapped us. The Europeans have known something we either haven’t or simply chosen to ignore—that if you want to be world champion, you need to start young. Really young.
We’ve known this in motocross. We have the fastest motocross and supercross riders in the world because these guys started riding when they were barely out of diapers, honing their fine motor skills while growing up in an industry that’s backed them 100 percent.
In road racing, we’ve been lazy. Dirt track has long been the gateway to road racing and provides the necessary skill set for delicate throttle and bike control at high speed, but often riders don’t see any blacktop until their early- to mid-teens, by which time the Europeans have been racing on the stuff for a decade.
If you look at the careers of Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Andrea Dovizioso, Jorge Lorenzo, and Maverick Vinales, they all have one thing in common despite the age difference: they were all successful mini bike riders, nurtured through a system that enabled them to become the global racing forces they are today. Mini bikes, small bikes, pocket bikes, whatever you want to call them, breed champions. End of story.
Photography by John Shofner
Thankfully, there is hope on the horizon in the form of former international Brandon Cretu and his new company, Rise Moto. Brandon has been one of the leading American competitors at the Isle of Man TT and Macau Grand Prix, and has formed Rise Moto to become the new importer of Italian company, Ohvale. Comprising of four machines in the GP-0 110cc (both in manual and auto gearbox), 160cc, 190cc and the 212cc (only 30 of these limited-edition bikes will be made worldwide), the Ohvale line-up is a solid one and something American juniors (and seniors) have been crying out for a generation.
“I had been following Ohvale’s progress in the mini-racing scene in Europe for quite some time,” says Cretu. “I knew they didn’t have any USA presence and just was intrigued by the brand. In May of 2018, I had to go to Europe for a race, so I contacted them to see if I could get a meeting with them, see the factory, and just learn more about their product and vision. We really hit it off and I secured the deal to bring the bikes to the USA.”
Within four months of that meeting, Cretu had 11 bikes in the U.S. with six sold days after making the announcement that Rise Moto would bring Ohvales here. Since then, over 70 bikes have found new homes, and the list just keeps getting larger for customers wanting their own Ohvale.
“The response has been overwhelming,” says Cretu who is busy ensuring a spares inventory can keep up with demand. “We stock spare parts, accessories, and tires in the USA at our warehouse in Pennsylvania. We’re still a small company and growing everyday, so we are constantly expanding our inventory to match the needs of the market here as we sell more bikes.”
To ensure the Ohvale craze doesn’t become a passing fad, Cretu has been partnering with various mini race organizations across the country, including a tie-in with MotoAmerica.
“We’re working with all the mini racing organizations to incorporate the Ohvales into their current racing classes,” says Cretu. “We will have demo bikes embedded with NJMiniGP in the Northeast, SFLMiniGP in the Southeast, and M1GP on the West Coast so people are able to go and see them in person and try them out.
“Beyond that, we are working with MotoAmerica to create a National Ohvale Championship that runs alongside their series at select tracks across the country, and we hope to implement this by 2020.
“For 2019, we are having a special event alongside MotoAmerica at Pittsburgh which will be similar to a Red Bull Rookies Cup format. We are bringing 16 of GP-0 160s over from Italy, and kids aged 10-14 will submit an entry and if accepted, pay the entry fee. Then all they do is show up, get assigned a bike, and race for the weekend. The winner will get to keep their motorcycle and the top two will be sent to Italy to race in the Italian Ohvale National Championship final in October.”
Cretu knows he’s got an equally big responsibility and opportunity with the Ohvale name to not just bring back some glory to American road racing, but open the sport up to families.
“Once you are able to make road racing easily accessible and affordable to kids/families then it will begin to grow from the bottom up in my opinion,” Cretu said. “An Ohvale is the equivalent to a KTM SX65 or SX85, which are the benchmark bikes in youth motocross. Parents can buy one of those bikes and their kid can go race and win youth MX races without the parents having to really know much about a motorcycle.
“Ohvales are purpose-built road-racing bikes you get on and ride without having to worry about messing with engines or converting from dirt to street, like the people are used to doing currently. I also think these bikes will open more opportunities with karting tracks around the country to allow kids to ride their Ohvales on them, which will also help grow the sport and interest in road racing.”
Brandon’s also got a few friends in the game by association, as many of the top MotoGP stars such as Danillo Petrucci, Miguel Oliveira, Jack Miller, Tito Rabat and superbikers Chaz Davies and Josh Herrin all use the GP-0 190 for training between races. If it’s good enough for them…
“Kids have to be on a road race-style chassis as early as possible to have a chance overseas, even at the highest levels of U.S. road racing,” Cretu says. “I know a few kids who have gone to Europe to race in the Ohvale Championship in Italy and they all admit that they were unprepared for the level the kids are at over there.”
2019 will prove a huge year for Rise Moto and Ohvale in the U.S. It may take a few years for the series to grow into a viable breeding ground for future champions, but you’ve got to start somewhere. And, who knows? We may just be at the beginning of the next American racing revolution.
Riding the Ohvale GP-0 190
Of the four models available in the Ohvale range, the $6899 GP-0 190 is the kingpin. Powered by a Japanese-build Daytona 190cc four-stroke, the 190 pumps out a claimed 25 horsepower, has an Arrow exhaust, Keihin PE 28 carburetor, runs a gorgeous tubular steel chassis, 10-inch wheels shod with PMT slicks, a four-piston monobloc front caliper gripping a 180mm disc and twin-piston caliper biting a 155mm disc at the rear, 33mm inverted forks and a fully adjustable monoshock.
There’s a massive list of aftermarket add-ons for all four Ohvale models, like an Adreani cartridge fork kit, Ohlins shock, different tires, slipper clutch, gearing options, tire warmers, bike stands and covers, as well as the ability to design your own custom graphics (you can make your bike look identical to Valentino’s if you want).
We headed out to Apex Kart Track at Perris in SoCal with former AMA Superbike privateer and now owner of a few Ohvale’s in Josh Chism, who let us loose for a few sessions on his brand-new babies.
First things first: These bikes are small. If you’re under 5’8”, you should fit on them pretty well, like Josh Herrin does. If not, you’re going to find them cramped. A degree of decent flexibility certainly helps.
Once you get over the diminutive stature of the Ohvale (remember, adults ride these bikes as much as kids), the GP-0 190 is nothing short of a track weapon. The 25 horsepower on tap feels at least twice that when you’re so close to the ground, and often the 190 would wheelie out of the second gear corner onto the back straight with my 190-pound frame onboard!
There’s an excellent spread of power on tap, although the gearing we had for Apex was way off so I didn’t get to really explore the final quarter of the rev range down the back straight. This engine absolutely hammers for something so small, but the most impressive part of the Ohvale is how it teaches the rider to take corners.
My biggest issue in cornering, always has been, is turning in too early. It comes from braking too early and not carrying enough roll speed through the turn, trusting the tire to turn later than I would normally be capable of.
With a 53 percent front weight bias, the Ohvale punishes such behavior. If you turn too early, you will go off onto the inside of the track. This is no exaggeration. I did it. You need to turn and apex late, which makes next the straight longer and gives you better drive. Turn too early on a big bike, and you’ll run way wide and ruin your drive. Do it on the Ohvale and you’ll literally run off the track. There’s a huge amount of chassis stiffness to aid this, and the Ohvale reminds me of the factory Aprilia RSW250 of Alex Debon I rode a decade ago in how lightning fast it takes corners.
The brakes are incredibly powerful, and you don’t need more than one finger to haul up from pretty serious speed. There’s also ample feel at the lever, so young riders will start to learn the intricacies of brake feel while leaned over without even realizing.
The Ohvale GP-0 190 is certainly not cheap, but it’s the kind of motorcycle that will serve a junior rider well for a long time and is positively light years ahead of something like the CRF150 pit bike that’s currently raced around the country in mini bike races. The build quality is excellent, and the ride is like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. It’s such a little rocket.CN
||Ohvale GP-0 190 ($6899)
||Single-cylinder four-stroke, air-cooled
|Bore x stroke:
||62 x 62 mm
||Keihin PE 28 carburetor
||33mm inverted fork
||Fully adjustable monoshock
||Single 4-piston monobloc caliper, 180mm disc
||Single 155mm disc, 2-piston caliper
||PMT slick 100/85-10 in.
||PMT slick 128/80-10 in.
|Weight (curb, claimed):