FMF KTM’s Cody Webb got his AMA EnduroCross Championship back—the third in his career—after a solid 2017 campaign. But the EnduroCross schedule is short, so Webb has found himself involved in a wide variety of things throughout the rest of the year. We talked to him last night while he was headed back home to Northern California after a weekend at Glen Helen for the Kurt Caselli Ride Day.
Racer X: So you had a learning weekend?
Cody Webb: Yeah, it’s the first time they’ve done this. Yesterday we had the Kurt Caselli Ride Day at Glen Helen, and then today they had certified CPR and First-Aid training. They had 25 or so top off-road riders. Most of them were the KTM or Husqvarna guys because we were all out there doing the team photo shoots, but we had Johnny Campbell and some guys like that out there, too. After Nathan Woods got hurt real bad at a race and passed away, and then what happened to Kurt, and then this year Taylor Robert crashed really hard at the beginning of the year, they want us to be able to assist if you come across a rider in the middle of a race or on a day when you’re out training.
What was the Caselli Ride Day like?
It was pretty awesome. I missed the last couple of years because I was traveling and doing races in Europe, but it was fun to be back. They always have a team race and that was fun. I thought for sure we finished last, but it turns out we finished ninth. Hey, top 10 is pretty good for a non-moto guy. My teammate, his name was Travis, I don’t know him at all but it’s picked at random and we just go out and have fun. We also do the big parade lap that you’ve probably seen before, where everyone goes out and rides a lap in Kurt’s honor. The first year I did it, I was getting goosebumps all the way around the track. This year, it was still pretty emotional.
You mentioned you’re not a moto guy, but I know you have done moto training to try to help your EnduroCross game. So, can you hold your own out there?
I wouldn’t quite say I can hold my own. Maybe at my area in Northern California when there aren’t a lot of pros around, but this event, it’s a who’s-who. Plus, it’s not about throwing down lap times, it’s about having a safe event and just having a ride day. I did try to go out and have some fun with my teammates, though.
I want to ask you about racing the ISDE for the first time this year. Did you do that to help expand your skills?
I’d ridden the Trails des Nations many times before, so I thought it would be cool to also race the ISDE. I have to be one of the few riders to have ever done both of those. Also, the team [FMF KTM] likes the riders to race two series each season. I didn’t do the SuperEnduro [European EnduroCross] series last year, so I didn’t have another series going on. They had a couple of ISDE qualifiers on the West Coast run as a series, so Antti [Kallonen, KTM off-road team manager] asked if I wanted to race them. I wasn’t going to say no to that, especially since I wanted to do Six Days anyway.
How much of a learning experience was that?
It was crazy. Those guys are no joke! I could have gone faster, but to go that much quicker I would have been riding over my head, and I’m not comfortable doing that. Their sprint speed is crazy. I had been training for EnduroCross on a 350, and then I hopped right on a plane and went to Europe and raced a 300 two-stroke. And I hadn’t been training specifically for it; I’d been doing EnduroCross where you can kind of get into a rhythm. Over at Six Days, it’s just short sprints.
Obviously, you’re really good in super technical terrain. Do they have any tests at the ISDE that play to those strengths? Are there any tests that are super gnarly?
No, there really isn’t a place to utilize my strengths. Some of the transfers were pretty gnarly, but I would just say it was an awesome trail—it wasn’t an extreme enduro or anything like that. One dude, he launched his bike off a cliff, so I helped him, I rode it back up for him. It was pretty funny. I’m pushing this guy’s bike up the hill—I got to use some of the extreme enduro skills there.
[Laughs] So the only extreme enduro skills you used were on someone else’s bike?
[Laughs] Pretty much, yeah. Just some guy’s four-stroke clunker.
Okay, let’s talk EnduroCross. You got your title back this year. Let’s start with your preparation. What was your motivation coming into this season?
Yeah, you don’t know what you have until you lose it. Obviously, Colton [Haaker, last year’s champion] had the target on his back after winning it last year. Last year, I don’t know, I just felt like I was always searching for something, just making changes to clickers or whatever. I never felt like I had the bike dialed right. And I was on the smaller bike [250F] and would never get good starts. This year I switched to the 350. We started that two days after last season ended. So, basically, I was testing in November of 2016, and EnduroCross didn’t even start until August of this year! We tested a lot. We tried air forks versus spring forks, we did a lot of motor work, and then before the season started, KTM came up and we did three more days of suspension testing. Obviously it’s hard to get a perfect setup in EnduroCross, because you want it stiff enough to take a big hit, but also something supple. So I went for something that worked in the rocks and was soft, and I just told myself I’d deal with the big hits with soft suspension.
Colton got hurt and ultimately didn’t make it to the end of the season to defend his title. But you were doing really well and winning races even when he was there at the start of the season. You just felt better this year?
I definitely felt solid this year. Whenever I went and practiced, I made sure I got my money’s worth. All of my hard effort and intensity was on the EnduroCross track, and then I used my other training to build a base. I tried to not wear myself out.
Is this something you’ve learned through the years?
I used to just go out and sprint on my bicycle as hard as I could. Then I would go out and ride [the motorcycle] as hard as I could. But when you do that, some days you’re just not feeling it and then you slack off. This year, whenever I was on my dirt bike, I put all the effort into that. With the rest of the training, KTM now has a deal linked in with the Baker’s Factory, and they have Charlie Mullins as our trainer. He puts together a program for us, and a lot of it is holding your high-intensity stuff for the motorcycling. The other stuff, you’re putting in the work, but it’s just training rides, and not wearing yourself out. It depends on your resting heart rate. I’m trying to keep myself within about ten beats on the heart rate. No 15-minute climbs all out.
The EnduroCross schedule was condensed this year. What was that like?
Yeah, it started and then it felt like it was done pretty quickly.
Talk about the risk. As Colton experienced, if you have one injury, the season is over pretty quickly.
Yeah, it’s kind of like supercross—you have to have a clean season with no injuries. That’s pretty much part of the game. It was important for me to be smart. If I didn’t get the start, I would maybe check up instead of taking a risk. Look at a guy like Ryan Dungey. Maybe some other guys could go faster as far as raw speed, but it’s pretty hard to beat the record he has.
Yes, but this is EnduroCross, and it seemed like even when you would get the start, something crazy would still happen and you’d have to battle.
Yeah. This year was pretty good. I had some chaos at the opener in Vegas when I was leading, then I took the No-Joke Lane and lost the lead, then Colton made a mistake and I got by him, then I got pushed wide and went down. So that race was pretty much over for me. Then in Reno, I crashed on the first lap—I had a good start and I went pretty far back. Then Colton went down, so I passed him, then I took the No-Joke lane and he ran into me. We went all the way back to about seventh again. I kept clicking off laps, came from sixth of seventh all the way back to first. It was probably the nuttiest race I’ve ever been in.
That’s saying a lot for EnduroCross!
Yeah, it was a lot. After that, all of my races were pretty smooth. I got the fastest hot lap in every round, and in the main events, Reno was insane, but the rest of the main events I was able to get good starts and pretty much walk away with it. The final race of the year, though, I holeshot, then I crashed back, came back, almost stacked it again, and I was somehow able to hold it together and win again. I was able to have a pretty consistent year, somehow.
So now EnduroCross is over. What do you do with your time?
I leave Wednesday to go to Poland for the FIM SuperEnduro Series—the European version of EnduroCross. I didn’t race it last year. For a while, KTM was trying to keep international guys international and keep the U.S. guys in the U.S. So it was just logistics and budget, because last year they spent a lot doing some races in South America and all that. This year all the races are in Europe, which saves some money. I’ll be doing that series, and a lot of extreme enduro races. I think they’re going to have an extreme enduro AMA series here in the U.S. next year, so I’ll be doing that, too.
What about the college engineering degree? Are you finally done?
I got the degree. While I was in college, I would spend a lot of time over at Bell Helmets because they were close to me. I would talk to the engineers and they would help me with some projects. I had a good relationship with those guys, so they offered me an internship. For some reason, I took it. I haven’t even been there for the last week and a half because I’ve been racing and I’ve been gone, and now I leave straight for Europe so I’m going to be gone again! I’ve learned a lot there. You learn a lot watching YouTube videos doing CAD solid modeling. I’ve learned a lot more than I did at school….
Wait! Don’t tell me you learned more about engineering on YouTube than you did in college!
[Laughs] Basically, I did! Okay, also trial and error. It’s cool to see how a project starts and how it goes through design and engineering and manufacturing. Now I know why everyone plans two years in advance.
[Laughs] So the EnduroCross Champion is an intern at Bell Helmets!
[Laughs] Yes, intern at Bell Helmets.
This is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard!
Do you get paid?
Yeah, I do get paid—it’s engineering, it’s not like a nutrition internship where you have to pay to be an intern. It’s not bookoo bucks, but it’s something. I don’t know why I agreed to it. It was really fun at first, but now I really just want to ride my dirt bike.
Well, that’s always my main question for you. You have a factory KTM ride. When you think of your future, do you just think about racing dirt bikes, or are you thinking about engineering?
I’m just thinking about dirt bikes right now. The degree, it’s one of those things where I know I have it in my back pocket. I just signed for another two years with the team, and if everything goes well, I’d like to come back and keep doing it after that. Racing dirt bikes is definitely more fun than solid modeling.