Five min­utes with: Jeremy McWil­liams

Motorcycle Monthly - - Interview - PHO­TOG­RA­PHY: KTM & Mor­tons Ar­chive

“You kind of know when it’s go­ing to break away, and nine times out of 10 you can catch it.” KTM de­vel­op­ment rider Jeremy McWil­liams ex­plains what goes in to cre­at­ing one of the world’s most pow­er­ful naked bikes… Jeremy McWil­liams is a road racer from Belfast – un­til Scott Red­ding’s win at the 2008 125 Bri­tish Grand Prix, he was the only rider from the Bri­tish Isles to win a race – or pole – in a mo­tor­cy­cle Grand Prix class in the 2000s.

He’s raced in the North West 200, 500 and 250cc GP and in Mo­toGP. He’s a hugely in­flu­en­tial de­vel­op­ment rider for KTM, and a very nice bloke. Wor­thy of five min­utes of any­one's time.

MCM: How does de­vel­op­ing a road bike com­pare with rid­ing a Mo­toGP race ma­chine?

Jeremy McWil­liams: There’s a huge gulf be­tween road and race bikes, but every­thing that a man­u­fac­turer learns through rac­ing helps them de­velop new tech­nolo­gies for road bikes; you’ll see that in the mod­els to come – KTM is now us­ing quick­shifters, blip­per sys­tems… in the fu­ture the new range will have those op­tions.

But first things first, a bike has to work – ev­ery­where un­der any con­di­tions with any level of rider. Road de­vel­op­ment is all about de­vel­op­ing a bike around ev­ery kind of user. Com­ing from my back­ground in rac­ing to road bike de­vel­op­ment is quite a dif­fer­ent thing, but I’ve al­ways had a road bike, so I don’t just get on one and go at a mil­lion miles an hour – I ride like a sen­si­ble road user.

MCM: Do you have to test up to a point where it goes wrong?

JM: I also worked on the trac­tion con­trol sys­tem of the Ad­ven­ture with the same R&D team and Bosch. We went off to a fa­cil­ity in Ja­pan where we kind of tested that un­til ba­si­cally we crashed it.

We have a team with us, and my job there was to show at what point we could get break­away.

I’m to­tally at ease with that – that’s re­ally what we would have been do­ing when I was rac­ing. You kind of know when it’s go­ing to break away, and nine times out of 10 you can catch it.

We take a whole team of dif­fer­ent level test rid­ers… we had one or two that ba­si­cally tested it be­yond the lean an­gle that a tyre can phys­i­cally keep grip at, so we had some fun do­ing that. No­body was hurt though – it’s a con­trolled en­vi­ron­ment.

MCM: Some bik­ers think that tech­nol­ogy is tak­ing con­trol and skill away from them. Do you think there’s a point where tech be­comes too much?

JM: It’s down to im­ple­men­ta­tion – it’s down to how good the test team are. Of course you can pro­duce an ABS sys­tem that in a straight line doesn’t brake as well as an ex­pe­ri­enced rider, but we had to test it against my very, very best brak­ing ca­pa­bil­i­ties. I’m be­ing re­ally hon­est when I say I can’t beat the ABS sys­tem. I be­lieve I can, but we put a marker out to mea­sure it ex­actly, and I re­ally can’t; in dry, wet gravel… every­thing.

I don’t think you can beat tech­nol­ogy, but you can get it wrong – you can kind of miss the trick with it, but as long as you’ve got a very high qual­ity R&D and test team – as KTM has – then you usu­ally get it spot on.

MCM: Some rid­ers have said that they need to turn the ABS off on track, but surely that’s only re­ally an is­sue when you get to your level? JM: We raced this bike in an en­durance cham­pi­onship with the ABS on. I’ve tried it back to back to see if I can go quicker but I re­ally can’t. When you put a re­ally good set of race tyres on, and then you use the trac­tion con­trol sys­tem on the cor­rect pro­file tyre, lap times are ev­ery bit as quick as with­out it.

MCM: Of all the bikes you’ve rid­den, what’s been the best, and what’s been the most ter­ri­fy­ing?

JM: You change with time, but right now if I could choose any bike to ride on the road I’d take a 1290 Su­per Ad­ven­ture, be­cause I can cruise along in Ger­many at 180mph with one hand on the bar for many, many miles. Then on the B-roads I’m able to have as much fun as I could on a sports bike.

Re­cently I had to ride a sports bike for quite a long dis­tance and I re­ally strug­gled with it – it was an­noy­ing. Most of us ride for en­joy­ment, but I didn’t en­joy it – I didn’t want to be there.

When I was rac­ing I still think the lit­tle KR3 Kenny Roberts bike [500cc V3 two-stroke] was the most ideal lit­tle race bike I’ve ever sat on; you could ride it out of the pits like you were rid­ing to the shops. It didn’t feel like a race bike un­til you were rid­ing at 98% on it.

The worst bike was prob­a­bly the three-cylin­der Aprilia Cube Mo­toGP bike in 2004 – I think it nearly killed Colin Ed­wards and Noriyuki Haga be­fore it had a go at me. I had a tor­rid time with that, but no re­grets – I had a lot of fun try­ing to make things work, but the project stopped. Thank­fully. I could have had a two-year con­tract, but they stopped it be­cause it wasn’t go­ing any­where. They’ve pro­duced some great race bikes since…

“A bike has to work – ev­ery­where un­der any con­di­tions with any level of rider. Road de­vel­op­ment is all about de­vel­op­ing a bike around ev­ery kind of user.”

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