Taking a Polaris RZR 1000 Turbo to one of the largest play grounds in New Zealand was always guaranteed to produce plenty of fun!

Luke Temple is one of those guys you can’t help but get along with in the moto paddock, but he has a bit of a secret affliction, an addiction to all things Kawasaki…

Words and Pics: Mat

 

If you’ve ever had a mate who passed all his exams at school without studying while you sweated blood over cram sessions, well, that kid is kind of Luke in the moto paddock.

Instead of building his way up the ladder of power, Luke graduated straight from juniors to the big leagues when he bought his first KX450F, but it was the old KX500 that stuck in his mind…

There is an unmistakable allure to the big 500cc, 2-strokes of the 90s.

Maybe it is the huge expansion pipes, the blocky plastics, or maybe it’s the insane power. Whatever it is, Luke Temple is a man who lives the KX500 life, but getting his own example of the mighty KX wasn’t without its challenges.

“I’ve been wanting to build a KX500 for a few years now,” Luke says. “But every time a decent one popped up, I always found an excuse why I shouldn’t buy it.”

That bad attitude wasn’t to last though, and it wasn’t long before a bike popped up that Luke couldn’t say ‘no’ to.

“Earlier this year, around March, I found a really good clean 2000 KX500 that came out of California, and I finally just decided I should get it or it would never happen; you only live once, right? Next thing I know it’s in my garage.”

With our winter slightly soggier than normal this year, it gave Luke plenty of time to fettle the big 2-stroke thumper back to perfection.

The Build

“Slowly over winter, I spent my days looking for every aftermarket part I could get my hands on and even had some custom parts made. I got in touch with Sean Collier in America, who put me in touch with the team who built the KX500 that he won the 2-stroke Nationals with at Glenn Helen.”

Along with the special custom touches, Luke also raided his more modern Kawasaki parts bin.

Incredibly, even with 17 years between the heroes of the Kawasaki dirt range, the air forks from a 2017 KXF450, bolt right up to the existing KX500 triple clamps; so naturally, they went on – along with most of the KX450F front end, including the far more modern brake discs, with Luke rebuilding the stock KX500 calipers using new KX450F internals.

The wheels also were pinched from the KX450F, but considering the standard KX500 axle is an 18mm unit and those on the new bikes are up around 25mm, Warp 9 Racing in America was called and they made up the necessary spacers to ensure the rear wheel would fit.

The rear wheel also required a custom brake disc as well, which Warp 9 also made for Luke’s project.

While the front end is completely up to date, the stock rear shock has surprisingly been left in place – mainly due to the fact it tapers downward with just enough space to suit the exhaust – but Luke had a card up his sleeve to get more value out of the 17-year old shock.

He gave Mark Patterson Suspension a call and instructed them to throw every aftermarket RaceTech component at it they could.

The result is a bike that actually rides pretty well, according to Luke, and going by his performance at the Sand Prix, he isn’t lying!

While the engine is mostly stock, Luke has ensured it’s ready to take a good fang with a fresh piston, rings and a full aftermarket exhaust.

The only true modification surprisingly doesn’t produce any extra power, but instead makes the beast easier to kick over. Remember, this is a bike from a time when real men kicked their bikes to get them going.

“I’ve had an auto decompression diaphragm added to the head, which feeds off the vacuum created from the reed valve.”

This little mod makes the big 500 kick-over like a 125, and it’s hilarious to think that it is, essentially, a valve off a Briggs and Stratton lawnmower.

“The only other engine mod is the one-piece clutch cover that I have cut off, I’ve had a space plate machined up and attached my 450 Hinson clutch cover. This looks cool, and now I can get at the clutch easily.”

Finishing off the build was the obligatory graphics upgrade, which Cam Huggins from DB Graphics made up, while DR Trim in Morrinsville recovered the seat to match Luke’s 450F.

But we don’t spend all that time in the shed just to sit back and admire what we’ve put together, we build bikes to get them dirty – and Luke is no exception.

The Ride

“Once the bike was built up, I rode it at Mercer at a practice day, thinking the bike would suck. It would look and sound cool, but ride like a bike would have done in the 90s.

“To my delight, it actually rode really well – nowhere near a modern 450, but pretty good nonetheless.

“Once the Mercer Sand Prix came along I thought, ‘why not have some fun and ride the 500 instead?’ I’m a bit past the days of racing nationals and trying to get good results. Nowadays, I ride for fun, so I thought: ‘why not race the 500?’ I ended up doing really well on the old girl and came home in 5th.”

Not bad for a bike based on a design first penned in the early 80s.

But the coolest thing about this bike is the number of people that come up and drool over it. It seems everyone – no matter their age or background – can appreciate the old 2-stroke Kawasaki.

“It must be a nostalgia thing or something, but people just love to look at it,” explains Luke, and we’d have to agree.

Wels, Austria – 30 August 2018 — Leading the World Enduro Super Series, Jonny Walker heads to round five at Poland’s Red Bull 111 Megawatt with his sights set on victory. Already a three-time consecutive winner of the event, he’s hungry to make it a fourth win and extend his advantage at the top of the standings, as the second half of the WESS season hits its stride on September 8/9.

Refreshed and recharged following his podium result at round four’s Red Bull Romaniacs, here the Red Bull KTM Factory Racing rider talks about the importance of winning in Poland and maintaining his advantage in the race to become this year’s ULTIMATE ENDURO CHAMPION…

Jonny, as a three-time consecutive winner of Red Bull 111 Megawatt are you ready to challenge for a fourth win at round five of WESS?

Jonny Walker: “I’ve won Red Bull 111 Megawatt for the last three years, but now more than ever is the most important time to win this race. With it being a part of WESS, a championship I’m leading, I can’t settle for anything less. We’re just beginning the second half of the series too and although I top the standings my advantage isn’t that much. I really need a win here to build a bigger points advantage for the rest of the races to come.”

With three wins and a 100 per cent podium finishing record, what’s been your favoured moments from the four editions of Red Bull 111 Megawatt?

“I’ve had a lot of good battles at Red Bull 111 Megawatt but definitely for the last two years the fight between Mario Roman and myself have been some of the best. We both seem to be very close in speed around the coal mine and are always together at the finish line. He’s made me sweat for the win twice now, especially in 2016 when I won by just two seconds. After 90 kilometres of racing, that’s incredibly close.”

Why do you think the racing is always so close in the PGE coal mine?

“I think it boils down to the nature of the terrain, the coal mine. It’s so big that the course is impossible to learn. There’s no opportunity to walk it beforehand, so on lap one everyone is trying to figure out where it goes. Also, nobody really wants to lead lap one because there’s so many pitfalls and that keeps everyone bunched up. Then about midway around lap two we catch the slower riders from lap one and again it bunches everything up.”

Do you find it requires a certain element of race craft to be successful?

“Yeah it takes a lot of race craft to pull off the win. There are times when you need to be patient and work through traffic and then there’s times when you need to push on. You are always trying to anticipate what’s coming next because the situation changes from lap-to-lap. The track is so physical too, the sand takes a lot of energy to ride fast and if you make a mistake on the climbs you can lose so much time. For me, I feel like I need to be in a strong position starting the final lap and then give 100 per cent to the chequered flag.”

The second half of season will see the nature of championship change with the inclusion of Cross-Country races and a Beach Race. How are you approaching these rounds?

“Even though we’re four rounds in it feels like things are really only getting started. It’s quite an intense second half to the series as we’ve got four rounds in 10 weeks, so there’s a lot of racing left to give. Red Bull 111 Megawatt is the final Hard Enduro on the calendar but with a Cross-Country feel it also leads into the faster races to come. They are all new to me too and are going to be a challenge to get right, but I’ve been working hard to get ready for them and I’m up for the fight.”

Red Bull 111 Megawatt is your focus now, but round six in Great Britain is a home race for you, are you looking forward to racing at Hawkstone Park?

“To have a world class Enduro in Britain means a lot and Hawkstone Park is such an iconic venue to do it in. I’m excited to ride there because I don’t get the opportunity to race a lot at home. It’s going to be a memorable event for sure, and really tough. British fans are so passionate about Enduro it’ll be great to race there. Of course, the pressure will be on to deliver a big result, but a win on home turf would be something special.”

Finally, as the championship leader at the series’ halfway point, what would it mean to become this year’s Ultimate Enduro Champion?

“To end the year as the ULTIMATE ENDURO CHAMPION would be huge. It would be an amazing achievement because it’s all about being the best all-round Enduro rider. But it’s something I’m trying not to focus on just yet because there is also a lot of racing to come and in a championship like WESS anything can happen. I need to stay focused on each round. Red Bull 111 Megawatt is next on the list and I’ll be giving it 100 per cent to win in Poland. Finishing second is not an option…”

Round five of the World Enduro Super Series takes place at Red Bull 111 Megawatt in Poland on September 8/9.

 

Red Bull 111 Megawatt Fast Facts

2.59: Jonny Walker’s winning margin in seconds over Mario Roman in 2016
3: Jonny Walker has claimed a hat trick of wins (2015, 2016, 2017)
10.85: Walker’s winning margin in seconds over Roman in 2017
111: The race starts at exactly 1:11pm in honour of Taddy Blazusiak,111 being his race number
1000: Number of competitors entered
2014: Blazusiak won the first edition of the race

Red Bull 111 Megawatt 2017 Podium

1. Jonny Walker (KTM); 2. Mario Roman (Sherco); 3. Graham Jarvis (Husqvarna)

Red Bull 111 Megawatt Past Winners

2017: Jonny Walker (KTM)
2016: Jonny Walker (KTM)
2015: Jonny Walker (KTM)
2014: Taddy Blazusiak (KTM)

Red Bull 111 Megawatt Schedule

Saturday, 8 September:
Qualifications
10:00-14:00 — Round 1
14:30-18:30 — Round 2

Sunday, 9 September:
9:45 – Final B (qualifiers 501-750)
1:11pm – Final Race (qualifiers 1-500)

At a recent ladies only session, I had a couple of them idly mention that they have always wanted to wheelie, so I sounded out another rider to see if she would be keen to learn them also. Her response was a little discouraging.

“I never want to work on wheelies again. The last time I tried them I looped out and hurt my foot.”

Then she read my mind.

Perhaps knowing what I was going to ask next, she added, “I know about using the rear brake to bring the front back down, too.”

Feeling almost shot down, I tried one more question. “Ok, so when the front got too high, what did you actually do?”

“I panicked and took both feet off the pegs,” she said with a sheepish smile. So, she knew the theory but hadn’t trained her muscle memory to react properly.

Breaking the news that her answer meant that I had now decided we would work on wheelies, I asked another question. “How much time did you spend actually practising using the rear brake when the front came off the ground?”

Her answer and the way she said it told me that she admitted her need for what we were obviously going to work on next. “None.”

Super Simple

I had never tried teaching wheelies this way before, but even though this was a big group that I didn’t want to disappoint, the theory worked well enough in my head that I was willing to give it a try.

Choosing the start straight at Moto Central I told them to “just roll along slowly in first gear with your bum back far enough on the seat that you can cover the rear brake with the ball of your foot or toes, while the arch of your foot is still on the footpeg. Then simply turn the throttle for a second or so then suddenly back off the throttle, pull in the clutch and use the rear brake.”

Women are usually pretty good at multi-tasking, so hopefully, this wasn’t too much to ask.

Some interesting problems arose. Small feet meant some riders couldn’t reach the rear brake like this, and so had to have their heel on the footpeg. That was actually ok because it meant they could sit further forward on the seat.

Another issue was a 2-stroke 150cc bike that would bog when only the power was applied. She could have rolled along at a faster speed before powering but thankfully she was experienced enough to use some clutch to help get the front up. Other bikes were just so front heavy that they needed more encouragement to get the front off the ground.

So, after some time simply getting used to powering and then using the rear brake I moved on to stage two.

Ground Breaking

They had now introduced their brain and body into using the rear brake after a hard power, so I felt more confident about giving them the real weapons. But even this was something that I decided to teach in a way I had never taught before. Simplifying the clutch, throttle and brakes of using the rebound action of the forks to help lift the front wheel.

“Still sitting back on the seat and covering the rear brake, this time as you power I also want you to momentarily pull in the front brake and clutch at the same time then let them go. The rest of your movements after that should be the same where you then pull the clutch in, chop off the throttle and use the rear brake at the same time, but because of the front brake and clutch you used with your power earlier, it should be easier to get the front wheel off the ground.”

The ladies were quite dubious. “I’m just not strong enough to pull the front wheel of my bike up,” was the answer that many of them nodded their heads to. I smiled because this was a chance to help them do something they really didn’t believe they could do.

“If you are ok with me borrowing your bikes, I am going to prove that it doesn’t take strength to lift the front wheel on any of your bikes.”

Now it was their turn to smile, for two reasons. They knew that I was calling their bluff, and they were keen to see me try it on their bikes.

I announced that I was going to choose what I considered the most difficult bike to wheelie on first, then paused long enough to build the anticipation as they wondered which one I would choose. On my suddenly choosing the 150cc 2-stroke, there was quite the amused uproar. “What? That should be the easiest bike to wheelie!”

The owner of the bike looked slightly miffed herself, yet at the same time slightly grateful because it meant she was justified in finding it hard to wheelie on. Still shaking their heads as I rode it around to demonstrate, they suddenly all laughed and nodded their agreement when I turned the throttle without using any clutch and the bike bogged big time.

All In

That was my demonstration on why I considered the bike hard to wheelie- and now that they were on my side, I went on to demonstrate the “all in, all out” technique that I wanted them to try.

Without using any brain power, I simply did what I asked them to do, robotically pulling the front brake and clutch in while powering and then letting them out again straight away. This popped the front up nicely, so I then controlled it by backing off the power, pulling the clutch in and using the rear brake at the same time. It worked really well. I then tried on an old school bike that had seemed very front heavy, with the same pleasant result.

“Can you see how I am not hardly pulling on the handlebars at all?”

They admitted they hadn’t seen that, so I went back around and demonstrated again, now getting a chorus of nods. Apart from needing both hands to operate the controls, I could have lifted the front without holding onto the handlebars at all. The power, brake and clutch was enough without any need for pulling.

Now it was my turn to be surprised. The robotic movements that I had told them to do actually worked! Front wheels were popping up all over the place, controlled by the rear brake that I had trained them to do moments before. In saying that, I think the ladies were surprised as well- but also amped.

It was enough proof that I thought our experience good enough to share with you all, so hopefully, more people can learn this very important and very fun skill, without ending up with a sore foot- or bum.

Kawasaki NZ brought their [then] favourite racer along to put the new KX450 through its paces with a view to racing one later in the year. So, in-between motos we got hold of Bay of Plenty’s Rhys Carter and chatted about the new bike, where he’s currently up to and his racing plans for the future.

Words: Paul Pics: Paul, Chris Ritchie, Andy McGechan

 

He’s currently sitting eighth in the Pirelli MX Nationals in Australia after five rounds, riding for the Complete Parts Kawasaki Racing Team. In what is a fully-stacked field and with the disadvantage of flying in and out between meets, that’s a bloody impressive result. He’s run his own race team (3twenty3 Racing), coaches other racers and has been at the pointy end of the NZ MX scene for over a decade. All set to represent NZ in the MX of Nations in 2017, a practice crash led to a decent break in his collarbone, putting him out of the team and off the bike for a few months. But he came back stronger than ever, and with his continued support from Kawasaki NZ you can expect Rhys to be fighting at the front of the pack come the beginning of the NZMX Nats later this year.

DRD: What are your thoughts on the new 2019 bike as a Kawasaki rider?

Rhys: Straight out of the box I like it. It’s more powerful than last year’s, feels a lot more stable which made me feel more comfortable straight away. I love the hydraulic clutch – although the feel for me is going to take a little bit to get used to with not having much free play. The electric start is unreal, and the suspension for me, especially the forks, is a big thing. We changed a couple clickers here and there which made a massive change to how I could turn, and gave me a lot more confidence in entering turns.

The power itself, it picks up a bit faster and a bit more aggressive than last year and pulls way, way more. The initial punch for me – I like it a lot down the bottom so we tried the aggressive map. When you roll the throttle on with the aggressive plugin, it snaps really good. If you go to whack it straight on, it’s better than the stock coupling but not quite as much as what I like. But in saying that, it’s a lot better than the previous year as well. All in all, it’s a massive step forward. The changes they’ve done is awesome. I actually like the footpegs, they are a lot wider and I feel a lot more balanced and I have a lot more movement in my body with them. The front brake is a lot sharper on last year’s which is a massive, massive, improvement I believe. So, the test has been really positive.

DRD: Does that mean less work for you to transform it into a race bike?

Rhys: Yeah, I think so. The power delivery is great, and once I do what I did with my bike last year with gearing and stuff, I reckon it’ll be even better. Then, when I put a pipe on it, like a Pro Circuit, it will give me more bark and the torque that I like. So yeah definitely. And with the forks and shock being so good straight out of the box and my suspension guys knowing what I like, there’s an easy fix as well. Yeah, definitely a lot less work. But then in saying that, you’re always wanting more, so it depends on how hard you want to go about it.

You can end up with too much. Like when I raced in Aussie a few years ago, I got my bike de-tuned cause there was just too much power. When you have too much, you pump up and the benefit is all gone. So, it’s good with this new bike ’cause you can change the couplings and they make a massive difference, where I thought last year’s ones weren’t huge benefits when you swapped them. With this year’s model, there are big changes between in each one, and that’s going to change how the bike feels which will help a lot people out.

DRD: You’re home from Aussie during the break in their season. How’s it going over there?

Rhys: Aussie is going really good, it’s getting better and better. My results have seen me running in top five within the last three rounds, so that’s really positive. And I got a Super Pole, which is really good for me as I’m not a strong qualifier. We’ve been in a 5-week break, so it’s a massive opportunity for me to gain more out of my riding, and what I’ve worked on in the last five weeks is already a massive benefit for me. You know, a stopwatch doesn’t lie. And when that’s getting better on the track, and the days you go riding with it, it’s really good for my confidence. So, I’m excited for our last five rounds.

DRD: The next round back is Canondale, just out of Brisbane. How do you usually go racing there?

Rhys: Yeah, I like it. It’s got a good flow to it whereas you find a lot of tracks in Aussie are quite tight which I struggle with. I like the nice flowing tracks much like here at Pirini. A few tight sections are okay but not as tight as some of the other ones in Aussie. Thankfully, from now to the end of the season the tracks are very flowy and really my type of tracks. So, I’m excited for those.

DRD: How are you doing the racing in Aussie? Are you part of a team?

Rhys: I ride for the Complete Parts and Equipment Kawasaki Team, so it’s a supported Kawasaki team but at the same time it’s the main Kawasaki team in Australia. There’s myself and a kid called Aaron Tanti – he’s on a 250 and obviously, I’m on a 450. So I just fly in on a Friday, turn up to the track and my bike and everything is there. And I’ve got an awesome team over there, so everything is sorted for me. The team owner is unreal. Everything is enjoyable you know, and I don’t have to stress. All I have to worry about is my flight being on time. So, it’s like a dream, like you go and the bike is immaculate, it’s unreal how it’s built, looks, and you’ve got a big semi truck and everything is there. It’s been really enjoyable and don’t really want it to end!

DRD: What’s the plan for the rest of the year? You’ll finish Aussie and then back here into the team and everything?

Rhys: The plan this year is to finish Aussie and then hopefully go to des Nations in America. Then it will be time to come back and the NZ MX Nats start. So, I guess the next couple months after Australia and des Nations we will work on this bike, getting it sorted and then go onto next year

DRD: Are you running the 3twenty3 team the same this year?

R: No, this year the team will be run out of Head Office, so Kawasaki will run the team. It means myself and Derek will be able to step away from those things, which is good in some ways, you know, Even though I enjoyed working on the team with Derek, now I just get to focus on myself and my riding and go do what I wanna do. So, yeah, it’ll be good.

DRD: Do you think that will make a difference, as you would have always had one eye on your racing and the other on the team side of things and your supported rider? Did that take your eye off the ball when it came to racing?

Rhys: I don’t think so, because I enjoyed it so much. Getting to work with Josh [Tredinnick] last year, like, I really enjoyed working with him. He was a great kid to work with. I don’t think it’s going to make that much of a difference, the only thing is I won’t have to worry about the kind of budget we have. I’ve just got a straight contract that I’ve got to go with and that’s it. So, just less paperwork and that. And as long as I get to work with all the sponsors I’ve had for years, I’ll be happy.

DRD: And, by the sounds of it they’re all staying the same?

Rhys: I think so. Gear-wise, I won’t change, Shayne [King] has been awesome. He looks after me really well, so gear-wise head-to-toe won’t change. Bike stuff I don’t think there will much of a change, maybe the odd one or two things. But, as I say, I’m not in control of those things anymore, so I just have to go with whatever’s going.

DRD: When do you get your hands on the 2019 model?

Rhys: Umm, that’s supposed to be my one. But for me, it’s not a major because I’m racing an ‘18 all the way through Aussie, so there’s not much point me having one. If someone else needs to ride one or it needs to be tested by someone, that’s fine. I think they’re here mid-July so that gives me plenty of time. 
If they go and say they want to race one in the last two rounds in Australia, then it might change a little bit. But right now, I’ll stick with what I have. I like the bike, I’m in a comfy position, so there’s not much point in changing aye.