ON THE TRAILS WITH TROY HERFOSS
TWO-TIME SUPERBIKE CHAMPION TROY HERFOSS TAKES BEING A WEEKEND WARRIOR TO THE NEXT LEVEL
When it comes to just about anything with two wheels, it’s safe to say Gold Coast local Troy Herfoss knows a thing or two.
A life long motorbike racer, he’s earned an Australian Supermoto Championship, an Australian Supersport Championship, multiple AMA Supermoto Championships, two Australian Superbike Championships, and an X-Games Silver medal for good measure, and just inked a 2 year deal to keep his day job with Team Honda Racing.
When it comes to human-powered bikes, this year he found himself at the top of the podium at the Cycling Australia Road Masters National Championships, and he animated the Elite Road Nationals in Ballarat against the likes of Richie Porte, Adam Hansen and eventual winner Alex Edmondson; going off the front early, only to be reeled in about with about 25km to go.
On the mountain bike, he’s won his fair share of elite XC races, and even edged out the likes of Dan McConnell for the silver medal at the 2013 Australian Mountain Bike Eliminator champs, only finishing behind Paul Van der Ploeg, who would go on to be crowned World Champion in the same event later that year.
Just back from early season motorbike testing at Phillip Island, Herfoss is happy to be back on the Gold Coast riding his mountain bike.
“We were testing the electronics on the new (motor)bike, and trying to dial in how much traction control you get at different lean angles,” Herfoss said. “I’m not sure if I like it just yet, it’s different.”
Herfoss has been on bikes, both engine and human-powered, the majority of his life, entering his first dirt bike race at 9-years-old, and following the racing circuit around the country at age 15.
“My dad got me a BMX bike when I was a kid and unhooked the rear brakes so I’d learn how to slide the bike to a stop. I used to go to the BMX track every day after school but motorbikes were always the main sport when I was growing up — I rode dirt bikes.”
The push bikes didn’t really enter the picture until much later.
“I broke my arm and it was pretty bad, I was in a cast for about two or three months and I was struggling. I’d just turned 18 and I was out having a drink and partying with my mates, and I think I took my fitness level for granted,” he laughed. “I got the cast off and started riding the dirt bike again with my first race only four weeks later. I was in really bad shape and I got told to buy a bicycle and lose some weight — to be honest, at first I really didn’t like it.”
With the help of Graeme Allbon and Con Toparis, the owner of the famed Green Grocer in Goulburn, Herfoss got on an XC bike. Orbon took Herfoss out on a few rides, and that’s when things began to click.
“Graeme invited me out for a few rides and on the mountain bike I could ride at an A-grade level as a B or C-grade cyclist because of I had the skills from dirt biking. I just sort of loved it straight away,” he said. “I like cross-country and I like the structure of the training; I like climbing the hills as much as I like going down the hills really. I still have heaps of fun out on an enduro bike, but I really love climbing.
“The skills I’d picked up from racing dirt bikes transferred really well. The actual correction in the air is a massive advantage for me from the motorbikes — downhill probably would have been more suited to me with the dirt bike skills,” Herfoss said.
YOU KEEPIN’ FIT?
For Herfoss, that love of riding has continued but it’s also become a useful tool to keep him fighting fit when the Superbike season rolls around.
“I’m a tall guy on the motorbike and aerodynamics is a massive thing and being tall obviously doesn’t help, the other big thing is my weight, cycling keeps me lean. I think just being accustomed to
the position, the levers are all the same as the motorbike and you’re in that position all the time. Especially on the mountain bike, you’re always on unpredictable terrain and you’re learning to correct the bike and getting used to the bike moving around underneath you.”
“It’s also a bit safer than the motorbike, the injury rate isn’t quite as high when you’re not travelling 300km per hour. I can tip over on my mountain bike and I don’t generally break anything on the bike, or knock on wood, myself. If you crash a motorbike bike, even if it’s a slow crash, it’s expensive because everything’s made to break off to save the main componentry so cycling has definitely been really helpful.
“I think that’s why you see a lot of motorbike guys getting into cycling and mountain biking for
training, ‘cause it’s cost effective and it gives you the same sensations.”
While bike racing whether it be on the road or trail is a completely different animal, Herfoss can draw similarities, experiencing the same butterflies lined up at an XC race as he does sitting in the grid at Phillip Island.
“The preparation is different but I think the mindset is similar, you go through the same nerves. XC racing and Superbike are similar because you’ve really gotta go when the gun goes off — the race is on and you’ve got no choice but to go as fast as you can,” he said. “Both races are short and intense, it’s about managing
your heart rate and saving as much energy as you can for the last part of the race.”
“With the Superbike although your heart rate isn’t bouncing through the roof, but even sitting at the start line on the motorbike I’m at about 145bpm. I max out at around 189-191bpm so already just with nerves you’re in the endurance zone, and by end of the race I’m always touching high 180s.”
While racing the Superbike may not require quite the same aerobic output, guiding a 180kg machine around a bend at breakneck speed, it does require laser guided concentration and finesse.
“It’s a big mental challenge on the motorbike, I’ll go around Phillip Island in about a minute-anda-half, within 2-or-3-tenths of a second each lap. When you’re approaching turn one at 300km an hour and you’re hitting the same foot of road every lap it takes quite a lot of fitness so you’ve got be able to manage your heart rate and fatigue, and maintain your focus in the medium-high range.”
The experience he’s accumulated racing on the Superbike circuit gets drawn on to keep his composure sitting on the start line at bike races, especially lined up against World Champions and Olympians.
“I THINK THAT’S WHY YOU SEE A LOT OF MOTORBIKE GUYS GETTING INTO CYCLING AND MOUNTAIN BIKING FOR TRAINING, ‘CAUSE IT’S COST EFFECTIVE AND IT GIVES YOU THE SAME SENSATIONS.”
“I think over the years you realise that they are just doing the same thing you are. When you’re young it’s easy if you’re fighting with someone like Daniel McConnell for a wheel going into the first turn to just give it to him because he’s Daniel McConnell, but I’m not intimidated by those guys anymore.
“I definitely understand their level of riding ability and have tonnes of respect for them, but, when I do line up for something like the Eliminator, I was sitting there with these three guys that were Olympians and there was a lot of nerves. I think if I didn’t have the experience from Superbike racing there is no way I would have been able to keep myself together.”
HINDSIGHT IS ALWAYS 20/ 20
Herfoss is based on the Gold Coast and despite his prowess for road and mountain bike racing, his main focus is the Australian Superbike circuit.
This success on road and mountain bikes is not new for Herfoss, and he can’t help but look back and wonder if things would be different if he’d chosen carbon shoes instead of 1000cc motors.
“My dad always told me always said to me ‘be great and one thing not good at many,’ but he was bad for it, always racing different disciplines of motorbikes and he was always quite good at all of them but maybe didn›t quite crack it. I just love being able to be competitive at a lot of different sports.”
“At this point, I’m 30 years old and I’m set up really well in the Superbike, and I’m lucky enough to make a living out of it. At my age now it’s hard to quit my job and take a big gamble to try and make a living out of another sport. If I had got a bike when I was 10 or 12-years old I’m pretty sure I would have gone down that path, I seriously love it that much. At the moment I put a lot of effort into certain races on the bicycle
because it’s a huge passion for me and then I just sort of take it for what it is around that.”
“It’s frustrating sometimes when I think ‘ah I could be competitive at certain races,’ like even when the National Round (XCO) was here (at Nerang) I could have literally ridden my bike from home and done it, but you just can’t take underestimate these courses and the riders you’re against. I think I’m a bit too competitive sometimes, I can’t just come in and enjoy it for what it is I‘d want to compete at the highest level I can.”