MEET TRAVIS NEWBOLD
copy Gary Inman
As the Pikes Peak International Hillclimb (PPIHC) approaches we took the time to interview the rider of the Kriega-sponsored Bottpower race bike that will be competing in the historic race. Travis Newbold runs his own motorcycle shop in Denver, Colorado, and has raced everything from Baja to Superhooligan.
In 2015 he was on the PPIHC podium on the radical Buell-based Ronin.
Background first, how old are you?
I am 34 years old, born and bred in Colorado, and I have been racing
motorbikes for 25 years now.
How many times have you raced the PPIHC?
I have raced the hill eight times now. I have been fortunate enough to podium six times. The first year was 2008 and I had no experience on tarmac. That was a real shock, I nearly packed it up and went home after the first day of practice because the speed was so overwhelming. On race day I ended up stalling the engine on the start and rolled through the timing light, I re-started and then lost the front in a tight gravel corner near the top. I ended up finishing ninth but I was so stoked to have finished. I was hooked. Back then the hill was tarmac at the bottom, then dirt near the top, since 2011 it’s been all tarmac.
The first few years I rode my Honda CRF450 off-road race bike with 19in dirt track tires and an oversized brake rotor. After a few second place finishes in the 450cc class I wanted to win so I built a CRF450 Pikes Peak special from salvage parts. I cut and welded my own motor mounts with an acetylene torch so crank shaft, counter shaft, and axles were all on the same plane. The bike brought me first place and set a new 450cc record in its first race. That was 2012. In 2015 I raced the Ronin in the Heavyweight class and fished second overall.
What made you want to race Pikes Peak for the first time?
I had just done a few years of dedicating myself to racing the Baja 1000 and I had become very keen to the flat out speed and dangers. When my financial backing for Baja left me I thought why not give Pikes Peak a try? Back then it was only $350 to enter and with it near my back yard the logistics were a lot more easy than going south of the border. I can remember watching it on TV as a kid and all I knew of it was it being a gravel road to race on. Why not give it a go?
Tell us about the Ronin and the ride you had on that?
The Ronin was a lot to handle compared to a 450 supermoto, but I had so much fun trying to harness its beautiful beasty nature. The Ronin crew built it ground up in just a few months and had we more time to test with it I am fairly certain we could have been king of the mountain with it. The bike looks different and blows people's minds so I enjoyed riding it because I like to be the black sheep. It actually handled very well and had all the right stuff for the
Mountain, except adequate cooling. The air is thin there and when the bike got warm in the tight corner section, known as the Ws, it went into a limiter mode for several miles. That was frustrating because I was trying everything to push as near my limit as possible but we still finished very well against the likes of an HRC/ American Honda Fireblade Superbike.
What do you need to finish on the podium at the PPIHC?
A big part of finishing well is just making it to the top. Especially, since last year, when they have now limited entries to about four bikes per class. I try and make a run as smooth and mistake free as possible. The race run is only once a year as all the practices are broken up into sections of the course, so it takes some magic to make a perfect run. I doubt any racer has ever felt that they made a perfect run. So I try to just focus, go fast, and make it to the top.
What attracted you to the ride after you had missed a year of the PPIHC and after one of your close friend’s died on the mountain?
I have done a fair amount of reflecting on this and found that living life to its fullest is very important to me. Not doing something because of what others say is not how I want to live. 2015 was a very emotional year for me and I believe in making the most out of my experiences. Life is short and opportunities are always around us but we have to open our eyes to see them.
What hopes do you have for the Bott?
I am extremely excited about the Bott! David seems to be a very attentive engineer and despite other bikes having many years of development I think we are going to bring a very adequate package to the peak this year.
What happens between now and race day?
I am on a training program that includes riding as much as I can and maintaining a healthy mind and body. I do some yoga in the morning that more resembles a drunken toddler rolling around the floor. I believe in keeping handlebars in my hands as much as possible whether it is motocrossing, trail riding, or back yard bashing on my XR100. I am preparing my Suzuki SV650 for some short circuit racing and whenever I have a moment to myself I go over the 156 corners in my head. I am also eager to get shipped over to Spain soon to do some testing on the actual bike. Seat time is ultimate to me.
Describe your favourite PPIHC section or corner?
Right after the start there are three corners taken nearly wide open, then I brake and drop two gears for a right hander lined with hay bales and armco. I exit the double apex right hand corner on the right side of the road, when I do it correct my right shoulder will brush the reed grass and I quickly flop over to my left careful to not clip my left knee on the curb inside of the first of four chicane kinks, that all are taking holding the same gear. It is bumpy and crossing the paint lines is dodgy. When done well it feels better than sex.
Good luck, Travis!