5 Minutes with ... Rob Hill

The TransformX Moto Endurance training system is the hottest training tool to hit moto in years. Frustrated with the equipment at his local gym, Rob Hill – an inventor and creator who has been an avid motocross enthusiast his entire life – was motivated to create a better, more sport-specific method of training for motocross. Armed with the desire to invent and the ability to convert his ideas into working products, Rob created one of the most unique and useful training systems ever invented for motocross. Several top trainers and athletes in motocross use Rob’s system to improve their physical condition and reduce their lap times. All TransformX Endurance Systems are designed to increase core strength, speed, reaction time, balance, and anaerobic threshold. As James Stewart’s trainer, Aldon Baker, puts it, “This system offers many training possibilities with one tool.....sweet!” We decided to call up Rob and let him take us through his journey of creating such a training system. This is his story!

Racer X: Hey Rob, thanks for taking the time to talk to us tonight. Tell me a little about how you became involved in motocross and your motivation behind inventing your motocross training system?
Rob  Hill: Well, I have been a motocross fan all my life and used to ride all the time when I was growing up. I’ve always followed the sport fanatically and started riding again a few years ago; I guess that was in 2001, after a 15-year hiatus. During that time away from the bike I had always kept in shape and was involved in heavy lifting and bodybuilding and I was pretty big. I weighed around 240 pounds and was not fat. I was big. But when I came back to motocross in that condition, even though I was in great shape, I had the completely wrong body type for motocross. After a few practice sessions on the bike, I could clearly see that all that extra muscle and weight was a hindrance to my riding. I was getting arm-pump real bad and needed to do something about it. That following summer, I decided to drop the bodybuilding and get in shape for motocross, so I went back to the gym and started doing more cardio-based exercises. I was still getting arm pump and just felt that something was missing from what I was doing at the gym. I felt like what I was doing was not specific enough to motocross. I started looking at what exercises I was doing and the equipment at the gym. I noticed that all of the handles used with the equipment were either too wide or too narrow and they were all really heavy. That made it difficult to get into a similar body position as when you are on the bike. I have always believed in sport specificity in training, so I solved that initial problem by taking a set of CRF450R handlebars and welded on a bunch of attachment hooks to use in place of the handles at the gym. Then I just started experimenting with lots of exercises using the handle bars. The first thing I noticed right off the bat was a heightened mental advantage because I felt like I was actually grasping a motorcycle while training, and that's when the whole idea started making sense to me. Plus the arm pump I was having issues with started to fade. And throughout the development, when I started bringing my bar to the gym, people would come up to me and ask if they could try it. A lot of people really liked the sweep and rise of the bar along with the grips and really preferred to use that versus the typical bar offered at the gym. I really liked the feel of what I was doing so I decided to build on that initial concept and the next thing I knew I had transformed that initial idea into the current TransformX training system.

Rob Hill

I have been using the TransformX training system for over a year now and it is much more than just a set of handle bars with a hook welded to it. This is a well-engineered, sophisticated piece of training equipment. Tell me about the development process that took you from that initial design all the way to a patented piece of equipment.
I have always been into inventing things and developing ideas. This was a no-brainer for me as I not only got to work on something that was close to motocross, I also got to invent something to help my riding. Once I decided to go all out and develop a complete system, my number-one concern was how the product was going to function. I wanted to make sure it was going to benefit motocross by adapting the ergonomics of motocross through training. The second issue was to make the system small enough so that you could not only take it to the gym but also the track or on a trip. I went through several different designs to make sure the system was compact, user-friendly, and maintained the ergonomics of motocross. With those initial ideas as the foundation, I started determining the different types of exercises that were the most beneficial for motocross. The first piece of equipment I modified was the Concept2 rowing machine. The rowing machine is a great piece of equipment, but I always felt that the handles that come with the Concept2 rower are too narrow for motocross. So I removed the Concept2 handles and replaced them with prototype TransformX TX-Bs. Soon after developing that adaptation, I started thinking about how when you ride you are often faced with off-balance scenarios and I wanted to make sure I could replicate that in the gym. The bent-over row is a great exercise for replicating the attack position so I added a bottom hook for that purpose. Well, that hook, along with the rower hook, took away from the compactness of the system, so Brian Greco of Grizzly Machine and I starting experimenting with ways of rotating the bottom hook up and out of the way. From that, we designed a removable and rotating hook that maintained the compactness while adding a ton of variability to the bar. I have to give Brian, along with Mitch Monnett (CNC machinist) and Art Kanack (expert fabricator) major props; without them, this project would still be an idea. They helped immensely in making it work. I started talking to trainers like Aldon Baker and met Rick Johnson at Loretta Lynn's last year and they pointed out the importance of doing off-balance pushups. We had been prototyping an off-balance system. Instead of building a platform that was very stable, we actually went in the opposite direction and designed the TX-RAR balance control  push-up platform that could easily be attached to the “R” series TX bars and provided a safe way of doing off-balance pushups. At first, we were concerned that it was too demanding and difficult to train on. I sent one of the first prototypes to Aldon Baker so that James Stewart could give it a try and he said, “It’s great, but can you make it harder?” I thought, “What an animal!” James has some prototype TX stuff that takes near immortal skill and fitness to train on. The TX-2R combined with the TX-RAR allows the athlete to achieve balance control while training for motocross. It builds on the idea of off-balance scenarios that you encounter on the track. We incorporated attachment points to the ends so that resistance bands can be attached. We then developed a system that loops around a door to attach the resistance bands to. So what you have in the end is a system that delivers a complete, total body workout.

I know that the engineering you put into this system has taken a lot of time and money. How many patents do you currently have?
I currently have two patents pending and was awarded my first patent in September, 2005.

What does your product offer a rider that typical gym equipment does not?
It directly addresses proprioception in training for motocross. Proprioception is an automatic sensitivity mechanism in the body that sends messages through the nervous system. It is often referred to as “the sixth sense.” Your nervous system then relays information to the rest of the body about how to react and with what amount of tension. It is easier to understand if you think about it like this: Without proprioception, drivers would be unable to keep their eyes on the road while driving, as they would need to pay attention to the position of their arms and legs while working the pedals and steering wheel. It is important when you are training for motocross to remember that when you are on the bike you are always in motion and encountering obstacles. Sometimes these obstacles come up unexpectedly, and when they do you need to make sure you are strong enough and have the appropriate balance control to avoid a mistake or, worse yet, a crash. By developing your proprioceptive sense you will make fewer mistakes on the track and ultimately decrease your lap times. So with this system we have developed a way to address several aspects of training for motocross, namely endurance, strength training and balance training all in one package. Plus, you don’t need a gym to train if you have this system. It can be used anywhere.

Who in the industry is currently using the TransformX training system?
Currently, we have Millsaps Training Facility, Aldon Baker uses it with all of his riders including Nicky, Tommy and Roger Lee Hayden and James Stewart, Coach Seiji who is the trainer for the Team Green Kawasaki Xtreme Amateur program has been using the system for a while. Rick Johnson is getting ready to start using the complete TransformX system at his Champ Factory schools. Rob Beams, who runs the Toyota 20 Athlete Development Program, just purchased a few complete systems for his riders, and of course Racer X Virtual Trainer has been using the bars for a while now.

Speaking of James Stewart, I know that you took a standard Concept2 rower and completely transformed it into a TransformX Works TX-4 with a custom paint job, redesigned seat and even tricked out the TransformX bar for him. Tell me a little about that and can anyone get a Works TX-4 like that?
Man , that whole thing with James just came off awesome. What Tim Simpson, our graphics guy, and I did was study the look of James' KX450F SR works bike and tried to replicate the TX-4 to look like that. That is where I got the idea for the gold damper cover on the TX-4 rower. There are a few other special things on that TX-4, like the TX-B puller, that I developed specifically for James. That puller is a special one-off low-rise bar. We modified the Concept2 seat and added a gripper seat just like on his race bike. There are several other improvements on that rower and other components that we haven't released to the press yet and are going to be on next-gen models. That whole thing started last year at High Point when you introduced me to Aldon Baker. Since meeting Aldon at that race, he has been just awesome to work and consult with. He is one of the most approachable, nicest guys I have ever met. Aldon has offered some really good ideas that have real science behind them and it doesn't get much better than that! We really wanted to do something special for Aldon so we created a custom Works TX-4 for James. James has been just awesome to work with.

Can anyone get a Works TX-4 like that or is that reserved for the fortunate few?

Anyone can get a Works TX-4 “almost” like that [laughs]. It does take a lot of time to do the extensive paint work, we have to completely disassemble the rower, paint it, have Tim Simpson design and apply custom graphics, then have some other special parts added that turn the Concept2 rower into a TX-4. But yes, anyone can have their TX-4 customized to whatever level they want. We do reserve a few things for guys like James Stewart, but pretty much everything else is available at manandmachine.com, or call us with questions.

Let's talk a little about what you are doing for an injured rider named Chris Blais.
Well that is something that Rider Down.org, Concept2, Man and Machine and you at Racer X Virtual Trainer are doing to help Chris and his family. For those that don't know, Chris is a three-time Dakar rider and a two-time podium finisher. He is as popular at Dakar as any of the top riders in motocross. The guys at Rider Down, of course, wanted to help Chris and his family. We all got together and decided to do a custom Works TX-4 Endurance System for Chris, just like I did for James, and auction it off on eBay to raise funds for the Blais family. I went through the same process with Chris' TX-4 as I did James' to replicate his factory KTM bike. The orange and black just looks awesome and again that TX-4 incorporates a few things that are one-off that are reserved for special projects. I think people are going to be real impressed and hopefully that will be reflected in the bidding. Whoever ends up with Chris Blais’ TX-4 Endurance System is getting something special!

Let's talk about what is actually available to the public. What are your price points and what does that include?
Our introductory TransformX puller bar is made specifically for the Concept2 rower and starts at $90. It’s a light-duty bar made specifically to replace the narrow handles that come stock on a rower. It is meant for lightweight, high-repetition endurance work and is called the TX-B. Next is the TX-1 Race Trainer, which is a two-position bar that comes equipped with end attachments for connecting the resistance bands for strength training. That system can also be connected to universal weight machines at a gym and sells for $130. Next, we jump up to the R products, which stand for removable skid plate. The skid plate turns the TransformX bar into a more versatile strength-training tool. It comes with a hook for hanging weights off of as well as hooking to an overhead object and for pull-ups. You can also do stable pushups with just the basic R model. An accessory to any of the R products is the proprioceptive balance pushup platform that attaches to the skid plate and is called the TX-RAR, which stands for Rock-And-Roll, and sells for $50. The complete TX-2R Podium Works kit sells for $400. The TX-3R Champion is our statement TX bar that has everything the R products have plus collapsible ends to make it more travel-friendly. The TX-4 is a complete system that includes a Concept2 rower and is intended for the guy who wants everything he needs to train for motocross in one concise package. If you purchase a TX-4 training system, you will have everything you need to become fit for motocross and that system sells for 1900 dollars. So, as you can see, we having something for every budget.

And most important of all, where can someone buy the TransformX bars?
They can buy online at Manandmachine.com, or if you are a rider at Millsaps Training Facility, you can get the system there. Coach Seiji in Texas is a dealer and Rick Johnson's Champ Factory out in California will be a dealer soon. So there are several different outlets to buy the system now and many more dealers that we are looking at all over the USA and Canada for future.

Well, Rob thanks so much for taking the time to sit with me and talk about such and great training product. I use my TransformX bar every time I train and I know you really have done your homework on this one.
Well thanks. I'm glad you are enjoying it! It’s always great to talk to you, Tim.

Tune in to www.pitpassradio.com tonight for a segment with Rob Hill.