There are a lot of elements to racing a motorcycle, and as the racing in MotoGP gets closer, every detail counts. When you are chasing thousandths of a second instead of tenths, then even the smallest details matter.
Paul Trevathan, experienced MotoGP crew chief with the Red Bull KTM Factory Team, understands this all too well. After switching from motocross, Trevathan took some of the skills he learned in the dirt to help MotoGP riders go faster. With success: he helped Pol Espargaro develop the KTM RC16 to the point where Espargaro racked up six podiums, including five in 2020. With Miguel Oliveira taking Espargaro's place in 2021, Trevathan and Oliveira teamed up for a victory and two more podiums.
At Valencia, I sat down with Trevathan to dig into the nitty gritty of bike set up, in terms of position on the bike, and how that has changed over the years. We talked how handlebar positions have shifted, how riding styles affect peg, lever, and seat positions, and the process of adapting a rider to a bike. Trevathan talks about how he has adapted to work with Miguel Oliveira, a very different personality to his previous rider, Pol Espargaro. And he discusses how aerodynamics and ride-height devices have changed MotoGP, and the effect they have for a crew chief, and on rider safety.
Q: First, I want to talk about the position on a bike. We see this is something, it seems also like it has gotten more and more important over the past years. Riders are so finicky about their position. Even though you swapped from Pol to Miguel, who are more or less the same sort of height and build, how much work was it for you to change the bike to suit Miguel?
PT: It’s an interesting subject because my background was motocross. So, coming from motocross and every rider having their own bend of bars, their own seat. Now you see it even more extreme, how they have their own seat shapes and everything else. I was a little bit shocked when I came to this world where nobody at that time was really paying that much attention to it.
You sort of think like motocross, this is a massive issue, for example. So, you have this going on. Of course, the hand grip size, the diameter, the angles of your wrist and everything else. I played a very big part in this in motocross. So to be comfortable is very important.
So, I found it quite interesting here that people didn’t pay that much attention. As long as they fit on the bike, it was pretty much sweet, it was okay. But as you say, over the generations now the way the riders are riding, the way the riders hang off the bike, they use their legs a lot more to maneuver themselves. It’s become a much bigger art. Then you still see the arm pump problems that riders have now.
So, a lot of this also can be helped by these different setup issues and stuff that we do. For me, fundamentally first there's the hand grip. Some like a soft one, some like a harder one. Then you have something like the ribs, depending on what leather the gloves use. All these elements come into it.
Then the size of it. Not every rider has the same size palm or the same size hand. One glove is thicker. So, to get that feel really connected to the motorcycle is super important.
Then going from there, you’ve got the levers. Everyone’s fingers are a different shape. Everyone, how much power they have, and who wants to brake with one finger, who wants to brake with two fingers. Clutch is only for the start, but you’ve got to keep it out of the way. Now we’ve got ride height device levers.
So, all these little things are becoming quite a nightmare to deal with, but it’s something that the sport has evolved.
Then you have handlebar offsets, where the rider wants to be. Is he a guy who wants to put his head forward? Is he a guy that just wants to hang off the side? So, all these elements play a massive part in how the motorcycle will work in the end.
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