International riding styles and Pros who lead the way
With different racetracks and riding styles in Europe and the USA, there's bound to be an influence on Australian riders. And there's no doubt that over the past 10 years, a new style has developed here in Australia as fresh young riders are coming through. But who've been the most influential riders in the past decade? The three main guys I believe have changed it up are America's James Stewart, Australia's Chad Reed and Europe's Stefan Everts.
The first time I watched international motocross riders from the sidelines was at the Broadford GP in Victoria in 2000, and it was Stefan Everts who really stood out to me. He made riding a bike look so effortless. It was so cool to watch him flow through deep ruts, and he hardly used any brakes. He also had amazing balance when standing on the bike, using his tree-trunk legs and aggressive upper body to guide him around the track.
As I began to watch more of these world- class MX riders, I noticed how many of them had begun to emulate the way Everts stood up a lot. For Aussie riders, this was reinforced when Chad Reed and Andrew McFarlane travelled to Europe to go after World Motocross titles. Local riders really started to pay close attention to the European style, and learned how to flow through deep ruts at full throttle.
But when Chad Reed went to the States in 2002 and showed amazing speed and determination, our attention shifted more toward the USA. Up to that point, no Australian rider had ever made it in the States, so a lot of us started to take notice of Chad and try to analyse what he was doing different. Chad also gave Australian riders hope and purpose by proving it was possible to make it in the USA, and that made even more of his peers want to imitate his style and follow in his footsteps.
America is where our sport has the highest profile, and where most Pro riders want to succeed at some point in their careers. So as more and more Aussies have started racing in the US over the past five years, it was inevitable that America would play a bigger part in driving trends in Australia. The AMA Supercross is so big that it now has a major impact on riding styles around the world. During my time living in America, I took notice of the US riders' aggressive racing style, which meant working the bike hard in between the jumps and around the corners, and carrying lots of momentum around the track. And if there's one guy who's been responsible for that, it's James Stewart.
Stewart is an exceptional rider who is known for the 'Bubba Scrub' and the sort of blistering speed that many riders hope to adopt. Most don't even come close, but that doesn't stop everyone trying! Right now, the Yanks seem to be a step above everyone else in the world, and they have developed great technique, skill and timing on the bike, which is what supercross requires. Compared with the USA and Australia, Europe doesn't seem to put as much emphasis on supercross for its riders.
We shouldn't underestimate the impact our own riders could have on the sport, either. Australia now holds the second largest supercross series in the world. It's fostering more speed and depth in our riders all the time, and with more internationals wanting to come to Australia to race both the MX Nats and the Super X series, young Aussies now have the opportunity to watch and learn from both American and European riders – just like watching Stefan Everts 10 years ago changed my riding style.