Ben Spies on 1,000cc

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“Switching from an 800 to a 1,000cc Yamaha is just like riding a big v-twin compared to an inline-four,” describes factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies. “It feels slower and smoother, but they’ve got so much more torque that it ends up being faster.”

On Friday, Grant, Sean and I sat down for a frank discussion about next season with the Texan rider. Ben’s entering his third season in MotoGP and second with the factory team at the same time as the bikes are radically changing. Could this be his chance?

Photos: Sean Smith

“2012 will be the first year in a long time that I haven’t changed teams. Changing from World Superbikes to Tech3 to the factory team, it’s been a while since everything was going to be the same. I’m looking forward to that and just knowing the series a little more.”

“The first year in MotoGP, the goal was to learn. The second year, the goal was to win a race and get some podiums and we did that. Now, going in every weekend we need to be challenging for the podium. It’s my third season in MotoGP and, if we’re going to do anything special, we need to start focussing on trying to be the best.”

“With the one thousands coming along, a lot of changes are going to happen, even now we’re seeing that. The bikes are going to be pretty similar to the 800s on how they handle, but now they’ve got the torque to get out of the corner. Where a lot of times on the 800 you couldn’t make a pass because you didn’t have the drive out, with the 1,000 it should just open up more passing because you have the power to get you out of the corner. The 800 just didn’t have enough torque; if you lost momentum, you just couldn’t get it back. The 1,000 will help with that. Hopefully, being a bigger guy, there won’t be such a disadvantage like there was being on the 800 either.”

“Tire wear’s going to be a bit more obviously, but I think the bikes are just going to be more physical to ride. They’re harder to stop, they’re harder to hang on to because they have so much power; they’re definitely going to be be a little more physically demanding. But, in saying that, every MotoGP rider out on the grid, I don’t think physical fitness should be a problem unless you’re riding with injuries.”

“At the tighter tracks, we’ll maybe need to muscle them more than before. I dunno, it’s one of those things we really have to wait to understand and ride them more to see. They’ve definitely got a lot more power and what I’ve felt is that they’re a little more physical to ride, but I mean they’re more fun that way too.”

“The bigger engines basically add low-end grunt. But, they’ve still got all the electronics that made the 800s so rideable. It’s kinda strange, they’re pretty tame feeling with all the sophistication now. Real smooth until you hit the straightaway.”

“The wheelie control and all that stuff is working just like it does on the 800, but you do feel an advantage when you’re up in 4th and 5th gear and how hard it’s still pulling. Getting on the throttle and out of corners, they’re very rideable, but it’s a fine line not putting too much electronics in to where you’re slowing the bike down. You’ve got to try and keep the edge.”

“Running the same size fuel tanks as the 800s, we’re going to have to keep fuel economy in mind. You can’t be running 100 percent throttle the whole time now. That’s something that surprised us. So, now we need to play around and do a little more with the electronics to save on fuel.”

“Thinking about fuel, you can’t use some of the stuff you want to and you have to change the way the bike is to get it through the whole race. Who knows, maybe that’ll enable us to make the bike even easier to ride.”

“Some riders try to pretend that they’re too smart. They try to pretend that they have degrees and all this different stuff on making a motorcycle. But, the best test riders are the ones that just come in and say what the bike is doing. I’m a rider and my job is to go the fastest I can on the track and, when I come in, say what I’m struggling with. Not come in and tell them, ‘change this or that or 10 percent stiffer swingarm.’ You just tell them exactly what the bike’s doing and the engineers figure it out. It’s their job to make the decisions.”

“The first couple of tests we’ve had on them, Yamaha’s got them fast already and super, super smooth. But, we’re still trying to close the gap with the Hondas.”

“Honda is the benchmark this year. They have to be after their performance. But that’s down to Casey too, he’s pretty incredible. They had never won an 800cc title before, so they poured a bunch of money in the off-season into their bike and we didn’t. Hopefully Yamaha was concentrating on the 1,000.”

“Honda had a great bike and Casey rode the hell out of it. It was the whole package, there wasn’t one thing, like the gearbox, that made it. Danny and Casey and the bike were just the whole package. They made it tough, we were looking at lap times we had one last year on the Yamaha — basically the same motorcycle — and races that Jorge had won by six seconds last year, I was doing the same time this year. We were definitely on the limit, but we need to work on it and get better.”

“I lost my best friend and teammate when I was 14, so I already knew that racing was dangerous. Simoncelli’s death was horrible, but sometimes it happens. It’s just one of those things with racing, we all know it can happen.”

“This year, a lot of the races were boring for me, even when I got on the podium. I could see 2nd place in front of me and 1st place in front of him and a four-second gap between all of us. Hopefully the 1,000s will make for more passing and make better racing for the fans. Hopefully it’ll be better TV, but also more fun; it’s no fun when you’re racing by yourself. The riders want good racing too.”

  • tomwito

    Can’t Wait!

  • mugget

    Sweet interview. Can’t wait to see what happens next season… the CRT bikes have got to shake things up a bit as well…

    • Peter Ha

      The CRT bikes are running pretty slow. They’ve got a lot work to do in the off season to even compete with the factory rides. Seems like they’ll just clutter up the grid.

  • smoke4ndmears

    Man, you know life is too good/the fans are right when even racing MotoGP is boring.

    • Sean Smith

      “With my profession as a motorcycle racer, I do not mix pleasure with business.” (via Bike Exif)

      • the_doctor

        And that interview was boring. I read that yesterday, and it affirmed my opinion of Ben-Bot. But this interview you guys did changed my mind again. Regardless, Ben is a pretty talented rider, and we all know charisma doesn’t win races.

        • jp182

          i think some interviewers can bring the personality out of their subject and some rely on the subject to do the heavy lifting.

          • Tony

            Absolutely! Next time, bring the personality out…

  • Andy Gregory

    Nice. Here’s hoping Yamaha and (especially) Ducati come up with something good in the offseason. Really looking forward to the return of the 1000′s and a larger field with the CRT bikes.

  • Steve

    Nice interview guys. Hope next season plays out like Ben hopes, with more guys mixing it up and no dominant marque! I definitely would think this could be the year he makes his mark on the series- he’s done nothing but progress and obviously build confidence through every race. Looking forward to seeing you at Indy again next August Ben!

  • TuffGong

    Ben Spies is a winner. With the tiny boys feeling the effects of the bigger, more powerful bikes, look for some better racing from Vale,Nicky,Colin and most assuredly,Ben Spies.We will miss you,Marco….

  • Andres Freire

    I am very happy for the season to come, I hope you do well Ben and hopefully we will see an American rider win MotoGP.

  • Gene

    I can’t wait either. I’ve watched Ben since he was in the School of Hard Knocks run by Prof. Mladin.

    The dude’s 5’11″ and down to 155lbs… as opposed to the fat bastard on the Ducati in the last story.

    I’m hoping the 1000s aren’t too neutered by the fuel & electronics rules.

    How the heck did you wrangle an interview with Ben friggin’ Spies??? Congrats!

    • quint7

      The dude’s 5’11″ and down to 155lbs… as opposed to the fat bastard on the Ducati in the last story.”

      AND he is wearing jeans….normal jeans. C’mon HLF’ers, if normal jeans are good enough for a MotoGP star it’s time for you to leave NYC behind and go get something that lets you balls move side to side. Your balls will thank you. (And you’ll be allowed to visit Ben IN Texas without fear of being lasso’d and gangbanged).

      • Sean Smith

        Lasso’d and gang banged? Balls restrained by specially designed jeans? I don’t wanna jump to any conclusions here, but it sounds like you’ve got some creepy fantasies.

  • oldblue

    Standout sentence;

    “you can’t be running 100% throttle the whole time now.”

  • Beale

    Did you guys buy him a keychain?

    • Groomez

      Nice lol

    • The other Joe

      HFL Keychains!

  • coredump

    Haha look at the rape eyes in the second pic.

    • jp182

      lolol I noticed that too. Wes, you approved that pic???

    • Ben Incarnate

      All I know is that Spies’ jeans are clearly not tight enough.

      • quint7

        Ya beat me to it. Damn.

  • Thom

    @ HFL Staff

    You folks seriously need to consider doing an article on Ben’s bicycling activities , ESPECIALLY his personally sponsored racing team

    The bicycling press ( ProCycling- UK ) has done one from the Bicycling worlds perspective and it’d be nice to see the subject broached by the M/C press ( e.g. HellForLeather ) as well .

    Not to mention there’s a whole lot any racing hopeful here could learn about Cross Training as well as the benefits of letting your legs do the talking , rather than a motor on a regular basis

    Think about it if you would ;-)

    • Gene

      Well if you look up at the masthead, you’ll notice this is “motorcycling press” and not “bicycling press” – I know Ben does wedgie-bikes from a mention or two in RRW, but I’m too fat and American to be really interested in reading about that. If I was, I would probably have a sub to ProCycling or whatever and could read it there.

      • Thom

        @ Gene

        Allow me to suggest that ;

        1) You get off your fat ass and get some exercise before you wind up costing Medicare etc a God awful fortune

        2) You actually use that thing on top of your neck for something other than a hat/helmet rack and expand your horizons

        3) You drop the ” Bicycle Xenophobia cause I’m an American ” schtick . Wake up and take notice Americans have been kicking ass in Bicycling for the last two decades

        • Jon B.

          I’m agreeing with Thom, again?

          • Thom

            Damn ! It must be an Xmas miracle or something !

            Just joking . Thanks

            • Brad W.

              Nothing wrong with training but Gene does have a point. Most people wouldn’t care about Ben’s cycling team.

        • Sean Smith

          +1 Bicycles help you get used to being contorted into a racing tuck while building muscles that help you control a motorcycle and greatly improving the kind of cardio-vascular endurance needed to man-handle a bike for 45 minutes or more.

    • damien

      Spies doesn’t sponsor the team, he owns it and rides in it. Not being a dick here, just clarifying. I too think that would be a cool article. He seems pretty passionate about it and the team did very well last year.

      • jp182

        And since he owns it, it WOULD be a good off season article…..just saying Mean Gene

      • Thom

        You’re spot on and my mistake . He does own the team . So another ‘ Good ‘ reason for an article here would be more exposure for the team , thereby opening the possibilities for more sponsorship and perhaps even more ambitious goals

    • John

      A well informed on topic comment from Thom… Come on guys, April 1st is still months away.

      Many top tier riders spend hours in the saddle of road bike. I have to agree with Thom, it would be interesting to hear from the racers perspective the advantages of bicycle training .

      • Peter88


        • Ceolwulf

          That would be a very interesting article I think. Lots of riders also train on bicycles. Guy Martin is another.



  • Coreyvwc

    Ooh can I comment on Ben’s pants too??? I love discussing current fashion trends and their relevance to prototype motorcycle racing with my fellow motorcycle enthusiasts! So what better place than HFL…?

  • rvfrules

    “This year, a lot of the races were boring for me, even when I got on the podium. I could see 2nd place in front of me and 1st place in front of him and a four-second gap between all of us. Hopefully the 1,000s will make for more passing and make better racing for the fans.”

    Want to make racing exciting again? Get rid of all the electronics that make the bikes “so rideable.”

    • ozgeek


    • Sean Smith

      Nah, get rid of the fuel capacity rule. They’ll have front wheels in the air in sixth gear at the end of the front straight and top speeds will be higher than ever before.

      • Coreyvwc


      • rvfrules

        Better yet, bring back the 500cc 2-strokes without the electronics and put the Isle of Man back on the GP calendar.