Interview: Kyle Chisholm

Friday, May 4, 2018 — When a rider performs consistently it’s easy to take his results for granted. Because he does what he always does. Or in the words of Pulpmx host Steve Matthes Chiz is gonna Chiz, right? In the case of Kyle Chisholm that pretty much sums up his 2018 SX campaign. Going into the final 250SX East-West Showdown the 51FIFTY Energy Drink Yamaha rider is seventh, just four points behind reigning champion Justin Hill. One of the tallest in the 250 class you get the feeling the former Bercy Supercross winner is in a good spot for the coming outdoor season when he will switch back to the bigger YZ450F. 

Things are always on the move in the world of Chiz. Even more so lately. The 30-year old Floridian is well on his way to his best career season result in the 250SX West Region. He kept his 450 skills sharp with selected East Coast rounds, he and his wife Britney just announced another baby girl and the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship opening round is just around the corner. In motocross is actually where the Shot Race Gear rider had his best over Pro finish. He grabbed fourth in Southwick, 2010 when he placed sixth overall in the Nationals.While Chisholm arguably rode one of his best heats of the year –finishing fourth- in Salt Lake City last weekend that speed unfortunately didn’t translate into results when it counted. However keep an eye on the number 11 Yam in Sam Boyd stadium where he finds a track that he usually likes. That’s plenty to catch up on so we hopped on board with the former Canadian MX2 champion on one of his last shuttles from home to the practice track in Florida!

How’s the outdoors prep going Chiz?
“It’s going really good, I enjoy outdoors a lot. Many guys who are getting towards the end of their career are not so keen on the outdoors. I can see why but I still like everything about it and don’t mind to put in the work. We ride supercross from at least the beginning of October all the way through May so to go to something new is exciting! The last couple of weeks when I had time off I’ve been riding together with Adam Cianciarulo, Chase Sexton and a couple of other guys. It’s cool to train together with fast guys like that when you’re putting in the laps to get comfortable on the 450 again. But first I want to finish strong in supercross, hopefully with a top-5.”

Is that transition to the bigger bike and outdoors easier since you’ve been doing selected 450 rounds?
“Of course I’ve been on the 250 for most of the season but yeah doing quite a few 450 races gave me sort of a jumpstart. Especially because the Yamaha 450 is new this year. Getting used to the power, the weight of the bike, compared to the 250, and that new chassis definitely help. And obviously those last couple of weeks where I was able to ride outdoors on the bigger bike were cool too. Otherwise you just have one week off between Vegas and the first outdoor. So it’s nice to at least have that speed when you start testing. I feel that if you don’t have that (outdoor) speed it’s so easy to go in the wrong direction with your settings.”

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Not to take anything away from your ability on the 250 -because you had a great 2017 and you’ve been going strong this year too- but with your style and your size I see you more as a 450 rider. I would think your current form bodes well for Motocross season.
Chisholm: “Yeah, I’m more of a 450 rider really. That’s what I did most of my career, in outdoors I only raced 2 years on a 250. But I do think that riding the smaller bike and how you have to be aggressive on it have helped me for the 450. And the other way around as well. If you jump back from the 450 it feels so light as if you’re on a 125 or something. You can just hammer it! It’s also what I did as an amateur when I rode a 250 and a 450 so for me it feels natural.”

What’s your favourite track of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship?
“Red Bud is for sure one of the top ones. I like Milville a lot too. Don’t make me pick between them! The dirt is more similar to what we’re used to in Florida and they’re both fun tracks.”

Are you extra cautious of your weight when you know you’re racing against all these lightweight, young throttle jockeys in the 250 class?
Chisholm: “I don’t go to extremes but I try to stay as lean as I can without losing power. I’m at 170 so that’s not too bad. I’m 6’ 1”, I try to have my weight between 165 and 170. I can’t have my weight below 165 because that’s when I start feeling weak. I’m good friends with Malcolm Stewart who was 250SX champion two years ago. We’re about the same height but he weighs about 30 to 40 pounds heavier than me. So if he can win a supercross championship there’s no reason why I couldn’t be good on a 250!”

Keeping a cool head and having that wealth of experience behind you can be a quite an advantage if you’re racing against all these kids.
Chisholm: “I think so. Sure, I’ll admit that I lack a bit of the aggression that they have but I make up for it with experience. Knowing how to race, especially in supercross, is so different than motocross. The way you have to pass guys, set it up and the way you have to think ahead of where you’re going to pass somebody is very important. When you practice on a supercross track it’s something you don’t have to think about. Younger kids might be fast on the supercross track in practice but when they go to a race and they’re around 20 other guys it’s a completely different animal.”

What’s the secret behind the longevity of your career?
Chisholm: “A lot of it comes down to the passion for what I do. I always told myself that as long as I enjoy doing it, I’m competitive and I make a living at it I’ll continue. I still learn every day, I enjoy the process and the training, everything that goes into it really. It’s not just about the racing in the weekend for me. Unfortunately I had some pretty big injuries still I had that drive that made me want to come back. The drive, the motivation and the passion to race motorcycles is one side of it. The other is the hard work and the training. Especially as you get older, the more important that is. How much you should do, what to train, when to rest, what to eat… that’s a fascinating journey by itself. Learning about my body has been a great process. And there’s a lot to be learned when you’re recovering from injury.”

Who’s had the biggest influence on your riding?
Chisholm: “Man, I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some of the greatest riders in our sport. I grew up with James Stewart who’s a couple of years older than me. My dad and his dad were friends and they rode together. All the way from being a kid to starting my pro career I rode and trained a lot with James. That’s been a huge thing because especially at the beginnning of his career he was the best rider in the world in his class. More recently I’ve be training and riding a lot with Chad Reed. Just to be around someone like that and learn from them is awesome. When I rode for the San Manuel Yamaha team and James trained with Aldon Baker for a year, that’s been an interesting experience too. So you could say that I’ve been around good and successful people. And it’s not only about those super stars. Michael Byrne was around Chad a lot a couple of years ago and he’s a really smart guy so that helped me quite a bit.”

In everything you do, whether it’s managing your contracts, taking care of your training program, or running your own team like you did you really strike me as a DYI guy. You’d rather make things happen yourself than sitting around. Did you ever have a formal trainer?
“With Aldon It was not a fulltime thing, it was more from being team mates with James that I followed his program a little bit. The only trainer that I really worked with was Robb Beams, certainly in my first few years as a pro. Robb trained Ryan Dungey before he started to work with Aldon Baker. Robb is from Florida, he’s a very smart guy especially when it comes down to nutrition, conditioning and things like that. I learned a ton from him. Even now when I want to know something I’ll sometimes reach out to him. Other than that I did everything on my own. But maybe my situation is different from other guys. My passion for racing and my motivation is so big that I don’t need someone to tell me to work out. I want to train! And secondly I’ve been blessed to be around people who know what to do. One other guy I need to mention is David Vuillemin though. David was the team manager at MotoConcepts in my second year with the team. From the riding side of things David was a huge help for me. His approach about riding opened my eyes at that time. DV was big on intensity and refining technique. He was very specific in how to improve your riding, for some people that might be too detailed but I loved it. Where to hold your feet, how to set up a corner, the way to approach a jump… Some things worked, some didn’t but Vuillemin had a great way of explaining stuff like that.  And DV was an incredible rider himself, when he was on it he could beat the best riders in the world!”

Your biggest success has been outside of the US. You won Bercy Supercross, you won German SX races, you won in Canada and you’re a consistent top-10 guy in the US no matter the series our class. Do you feel understimated as a racer?
“Perhaps. I’m a pretty good overall rider and like you say I’m always there. There’s not one thing that I excel at but I feel that I’m maybe just as fast as the fastest guys in the whoop sections. And the rougher and more technical the track gets the better it’s for me! That’s also where my fitness comes in. If you’re in the top-10 they don’t show you so much on TV as much as I wished they would. It’s all about the first three guys and not a lot else. I’ve been close before but I’d really like to get a podium finish in the pro class in the US, it doesn’t matter if it’s in supercross or outdoors. That’s definitely a big goal that I still have. A win would be even better of course!”

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You obviously look very comfortable and make things look easy when you’re on the bike. To the point where you would be one of the examples of guys with a lot of natural ability. So what is your definition of talent?
“I don’t know man. At our level everyone has to work really hard at it. But I’m gifted enough to ride pretty fast when I’m off the bike quite long after an injury. I have the ability to hop on a different motorcycle to adapt and be quick easily. Maybe that comes with natural talent, it’s second nature to me to ride a motorcycle. Probably that ability just comess from doing it so much from a young age. To be at the top level is still a lot of work, but just to be at a high level is pretty easy for me. My team mate Hayden Melross is trained by Tim Ferry so sometimes we’ll analyse video together. Tim would point to a certain section and comment how easy it looks when I do it compared to most other riders who’re struggling. While it definitely felt tough when you’re doing it I had to agree that it didlook easy when you see it back! Experience comes into play but also being taught properly how to ride, using the proper technique and all of that. So maybe natural talent doesn’t even exist and it’s all the hard work and learning how to execute like you should. But for sure some people have an advantage when it comes to their body or body type and their mental makeup. That could probably be described as talent but most of it is just grind, pure hard work!”

I remember you got a later than late fill-in ride with team Puerto Rico at he MX of Nations in Lommel in 2012. A little bird told me you’d like to have your revenge this year in Red Bud.
“Absolutely! I’d love to have a go on my terms, certainly now it’s at Red Bud. I really like that race but Lommel was a tough deal man. I got an e-mail to fill in for Jimmy Albertson, who hurt himself in practice, on Thursday morning! I always had wanted to race the Nations and I always wanted to race Lommel but a couple of weeks before I was already told no. So I took some time off after the Nationals and I was not prepared like I wanted to. I arrived in Belgium on Friday night, my luggage had been lost, it was one thing after the other! Me and Zach Osborne crashed in our qualifier so we didn’t make the A final. If we had stayed where we were we would made it just fine. Even in the B-final on Sunday we had bad luck. Zach crashed I believe, and someone ran into me in the first turn, bent my shifter and my bike was stuck in second for the whole moto. It was awesome to get the experience but I’d love the opportunity to go back to the MX of Nations and set things straight!”

We’ll let you get to it, seems we have arrived at the track. Good luck in Las vegas and for the outdoors
“Thanks, keep in touch.”

Words: Shot