Interviews 1 Oct 2020

Industry: Team Honda HRC’s Trey Canard

Factory test rider on the all-new 2021 Honda CRF450R platform.

As the factory test rider of Team Honda HRC, it’s shaping up to be a busy few months for Trey Canard in the lead-up to the 2021 Honda CRF450R’s Monster Energy Supercross debut in the hands of Ken Roczen and Chase Sexton. The most anticipated model of the new year, 30-year-old Canard has had a minor involvement in the production bike’s development, but most importantly, has already started dialling in the race bike that Roczen and Sexton will line-up with once the gates drop. MotoOnline spoke to the former 250SX East and 250MX champion – who retired during 2017 – about his role, the standard model and turning it into a works race bike.

Image: Drew Ruiz.

To start with, how’s life been treating you as a factory test rider of Team Honda HRC?

It’s been fun. It’s a challenge that I didn’t really expect, you know? As a racer, you see things from kind of one perspective and so my eyes are open to everything that goes into, not just having a great bike, but a great team. And there’s a lot of moving parts that you don’t really get the chance to see when you’re racing, so it’s been fun. It’s been exciting and, I think, probably a bigger challenge than I anticipated, but I think it’s helped me grow as a person and I’ve really enjoyed the challenge.

Did you have much involvement in the 2021 CRF450R’s development process, the production bike?

Yeah. So, whenever I first got to the 2021, I think there’s a few stages that they go through in pre-production, and I think I was kind of at the final set-up before they actually mass-produced the bikes. I was only able to ride it a couple of times, just kind of at the very end of development, but I was excited about that. We haven’t really been able to do that on our side. As far as the Americans on the race team go, we haven’t had to have any really true involvement, so for us to be involved in some way was a huge thing for us and I really enjoyed it. Like I said earlier about being in a different perspective, this was like a whole new bag of worms, because you really see that thought process behind why they do what they do and everything is very methodical and has a reason, so it was really cool to be a part of that, even though it was just a small bit.

What were your impressions then when you’re able to get out on the actual production bike alongside the media at Glen Helen at the press intro?

Yeah, I was excited. I’d only written the production bike – what actually is being made – one time before that and I didn’t know what to expect, naturally, because what we rode in pre-production doesn’t always exactly translate to what happens once it’s being produced, so I was nervous, but excited. I think there was some great feedback, and I think there’s a lot of promising things about this bike that I’m excited about. I think it gives us a good platform to start with as a race team and I’m excited to see what 2021 can bring.

It’s going to be interesting when the Works Edition comes out to see how that varies from the standard model. Have you had any time on that yet?

No, I haven’t. I haven’t. It’s so cool though, this is something that I was raised and I was like, ‘man, they need to make a Works Edition, and to see them doing that now, it’s a great bike. The Yoshimura system that’s on there is awesome and everything that else that they’re doing, it’s just there’s like a bling factor to it that you don’t really get with an off-the-shelf bike. It’s a pretty special thing to be able to find that thing in the way that it is, so excited to see it. I think this bike, for me, this bike just looks cool – I just want to ride it. I was Supercross testing last week, we had our first test and I was just pumped to see graphics on the thing, because it’s just such a good-looking bike.

Image: Drew Ruiz.

Yeah, that was going to be my next question. So from this point, I guess, how have you ridden it in the factory specification and how exciting is it just to get on that new bike and get started towards 2021?

Yeah, so what we did is we started with just a production bike and we just slowly started putting parts on it, which I was really excited about. A lot of times, we get a new model and we just throw all of our works parts on it. We don’t really take time to kind of cipher through that stuff, so we started out with a stock bike and we started putting clamps on it and wheels and it just kind of built it up from there. So, right now we’re pretty close to where we were with our previous year bikes as far as parts. I’m excited. I had our, like I said, our first few days of Supercross this week and there’s some things that we were really shooting for last year that we didn’t really ever hit, which I think that was discouraging at times, but to have this bike kind of start right away, I feel like we’re really, really close to finding those things that we were looking for. It’s exciting to me to have just a clean slate. It was pretty cool too, because we just threw our previous year’s setting in just straight away just to start and really we weren’t that far off. It translated pretty well, so yeah, I’m optimistic about it and I think it’s going to be a good bike.

Does your factory test team crossover much with the actual race team? Because you see in MotoGP when they’re testing privately, they’ve got a specific test team…

Yeah, so I think the motorcross budget’s probably quite a bit smaller [laughs], because, I mean, it is the race crew, those guys, and hats off to them. They race all weekend and then they’re in the shop Monday and we’re at the track Tuesday, Wednesday, then they fly out Thursday, Friday, so it’s a grind. They worked really hard and I think there’s something that’s very valuable in that, because the engineers and everyone involved get to see what it’s doing in a race situation. Motocross, Supercross I think is a little more unique that way than MotoGP, just because there’s so many variables. Road surface can only change so much, where dirt is like, I mean, every lap you go around, it’s different and it’s pretty unique to the races. It’s really hard to replicate that at the practice track, so for them to be able to see what exactly either the complaints or the positives are and then to be able to go straight to developing those things, I think is a pretty big added bonus, but it’s a lot of hard work for them as well.

Do you get Ken or Chase calling you or texting you and wanting the inside scoop?

Yeah! I try to stay up to date with them and especially if we’re really working on something, but Ken was particularly excited about this bike and he saw my Instagram story the other day, so we chatted about a bike. It’s cool. I think Ken’s probably more at a point in his career where he’s probably more interested in understanding the bike at a really technical level, while Chase is still really young, and he just wants a good bike and he wants to go race it, which is awesome. It’s been fun though. That’s been one of the challenges for me, is just dealing with different personalities and trying to help give them the best of what they could have.

So is it your job to find a base to work through a whole heap of stuff and then, by the time they actually begin Supercross testing, there is that sort of base to work from knowing that somebody like yourself has set that foundation?

Yeah, exactly. There’s so many parts and so many combinations of things to go through. My personal goal is, I just want to get them as close as possible because we’re all different riders. Chase likes the rear really low and the front high, plus the bike really powerful, but Ken likes the opposite, he likes the rear tall, the power to be really soft and manageable. I’m somewhere in the middle, so I always think, ‘man, if I really try to get it perfect for them, I think I might miss some things’. And so the best thing for me to do I think is to just be really honest and if I feel something that I think might be a good direction, to really just steer the ship in the right direction so that when they actually get to their test, it’s close. It’s five parts two test for them, rather than 20, you know?

Image: Drew Ruiz.

We often speak about the importance of the production bike’s platform to turn into a factory bike, especially in America with the regulations there and everything. The better the base is to work from, the better the factory bikes that we see on race weekends are, so is there anything in particular that you think the riders will find that beneficial with the 2021 model?

Yeah, I think, just riding it in Supercross the past couple of days, one thing that I think was a bit of a struggle for us with the previous model was weight transfer. It was really easy to go just a few clicks off in the front, for it to be extremely low or to be extremely high, or too stiff, far too soft… I think there’s a bigger window as far as that’s concerned, which I think in racing situations is a huge bonus, because you’re always trying to optimize comfort and just the window, the ability to ride the bike as fast as you can, as long as you can. There’s times when we make bad decisions, we don’t make the best decisions. We go two clicks the wrong way or a part too wrong, so I think that thing that I was really excited about is when we did some changes, it wasn’t so drastic. It seemed to be a bigger window in some of the areas of the bike and I think that can be huge, because I think that if you make the bad choice, you’re not going to have a really bad race. I think it’ll really kind of open that up and give the riders a little bit more consistency, maybe.

You’ve had a long career, a really successful career, but to make these bikes work at this level, you’ve got to ride pretty close to what the actual pace will be for the race team riders. How do you find that balance between pushing as rider, which you’re obviously still capable of, but then also just logging the information and ensuring you’ve got that feedback?

I just try to stay fit. Obviously not race fit – I couldn’t go do two 30s at full pace – but I just try to stay fit enough, sharp enough on the bike at home so when I do go testing, I’m not having to work through that physically. And I think that helps a lot, because I don’t know that you really truly lose all that much speed. I don’t know that you gain a whole lot of speed either, you kind of are just maintaining, so that’s number one for me, is just trying to stay kind of sharp and fit. I say fit… More fit than if I wasn’t riding and that type of thing [laughs]. I think the other thing too, is I just don’t do anything that I’m not extremely comfortable with anymore. If there’s a big rhythm section that is really tough or maybe the whoops start really hard that day, I have to back it down, and the reason I do that is whenever you push yourself beyond what you’re capable of, you lose a little bit of, I guess, cognitive ability. You kind of go into a zone and so I just try not to get there. I try to stay really kind of calm and focused, because the most important thing, I think, is the feedback, and then if I’m fit enough and doing enough riding at home, I think the speed is going to be fine.

And I’d imagine with an all-new bike, the workload’s probably going to be elevated from day to day and then over the next few months, especially.

Yeah, for sure. I mean, just the last couple of days, it’s like we’re just peeling layers off the onion – there’s so much to be learned and things that you grow so accustomed to with one bike that you have to almost kind of go back to the drawing board a little bit as far as the feel and trying to understand what the bike is doing, so there’s going to be a lot to learn, but it’s exciting. I think there’s some really good positives that we can look forward to.

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