The company behind many things moto in Australia has so far been an enigma of sorts. Many of you may not be familiar with it but, to those working in the industry, the brand Motodevelopment is synonymous with the highest-quality motocross coaching, some of the biggest events attracting the world’s best racers, advocacy in and for the industry, running a race team and generally being the vehicle that two of the best-known names in the sport now bring to you direct.
STORY NIGEL INGLIS PHOTOGRAPHY MATT BERNARD
We were lucky enough to get a chance to sit down with moto legends and Motodevelopment directors Chris Urquhart and Shane Booth, who graciously took some time out of their busy schedules recently to talk to us and give us a chance to hear about what they’re up to.
So let’s take a look at where it all started for them and then hear a little of what’s coming for Motodevelopment and the industry in Australia in general.
What started you in motocross?
Shane: Literally a flyer for the local minikhana club that my dad was handed. Dad took me out to the club one Sunday to check it out and I guess I said I like the look of it. He bought me a Honda QR 50 and we gave it a shot and that was the end of Dad’s weekends for the next 20 years! Before I started riding we knew nothing about motocross.
Chris: Family friends of ours, the Hardmans (three brothers) from Moree, used to race. I got home from school one afternoon in 1985 and my dad had a brand-new PW50 waiting for me. From there it’s never stopped until this day.
You guys seem to have the most popular moto schools running in the country. What’s your secret?
Shane: I don’t know that there’s a big secret. We just try to run them professionally and put together a course that’s structured and well presented. We try to use all of our experience as racers and coaches to keep the courses evolving, not only from a technique and skill point of view but also the way we communicate the information to the riders. We really just work on our own thing and don’t get caught up in anything else going on.
Chris: We totally get it that the wheel will always be round, so instead of trying to reinvent it we’re constantly trying to improve our program and keep the exciting events rolling.
What is it about you two that makes it work so well?
Shane: Ha. It’s a good question. I guess we both have different strengths when it comes to the back end of the business. We generally have the same take on decisions and usually can take a pretty logical look at things and come up with the same result. I think we’re really lucky to be riding bikes for a living so that also makes things that little bit easier. I also think the fact we live in different states helps; it gives us our own space. It’s not like we’re in the same office every day. The other thing is I’m a little more willing to spend money and he’s a tight-arse, so that balances out really well, too.
Chris: Boothy and I are the closest of mates and totally on the same page with most things; however, we’re very different people — the opposite in some cases, but this keeps the partnership fresh and fun. We even laugh at how different we are but how well we get on.
Shane, what does Chris bring to Motodevelopment that leaves you to focus on other things — and what are they?
Shane: Urk is great with making things happen; he won’t take no for an answer and can push things through or convince people a little better than me. So he usually handles a lot of the phone calls, whether it’s customers or potential venues, a lot of that side of things. He could sell ice to the Eskimos.
Chris: Boothy is a smart guy. He has has some great ideas and totally gets how to make the back end of everything work. I just have to keep him in check with the credit card at times, ha-ha. No, really, it’s a great dynamic. He can make all the back end work like clockwork and I handle most of the front end, getting deals done and dealing with the customers more on a daily basis.
How did Motodevelopment begin?
Shane: It all started when we were throwing around ideas on how we could do something a little different to add to what we were already doing; I guess, looking to expand a little. It began focused on a website and online coaching. We shot a bunch of how-to videos and posted them online. It also gave us a title to run some other events under. At the time we didn’t really know what but we had a few ideas. From there it really started to grow itself and opportunities were presenting themselves that may not have been possible if we hadn’t set up Motodevelopment. So from almost just a website to begin with it has grown into a company that’s now set up to manage and run mostly rider training events but also a few others.
Chris: Shane went to live in the USA for a bit as James Stewart’s trainer and I’ve kicked off the Y-AIM Queensland program here. When he landed back in Oz, he called me for a chat and the conversation led to building a website that would host online MX how-to videos. We needed to come up with a name for this so after many chats the name Motodevelopment was decided [on].
You’ve recently been responsible for bring the GOAT to Australia. Talk us through how all that happened and how it went.
Shane: Talks for that started about 2013, I think it was. It was a little tricky to get schedules to line up so it kind of went quiet; in the meantime though we did a couple of Moto Master Class courses with both Michael Byrne and Jeff Emig. Jeff is part of the RCU crew so we kind of fired it back up again and finally we made it happen. It was a lot of work but well worth it. It was great to see so many riders support the events and enjoy them. I’ve been lucky enough to spend quite a bit of time in the US at races so I’d seen Ricky ride and race a lot and it was great to give riders here in Oz the opportunity to meet him and ride with him — plus Stanton and Emig, too. All of the guys were great to work with; they put in such a huge effort while they were out here and I think everyone at the courses appreciated it.
Chris: A couple of years back we brought Jeff Emig out to Oz for our Moto Master Class. Jeff is involved with the RCU program worldwide and thought it would work to bring it to Oz. After what felt like a million emails back and forth we came to an arrangement with Ricky Carmichael’s manager and away we went. It went off and was great, a huge success for all involved. They guys at Fox also played a huge part in making this happen.
Can we expect to see the GOAT and others back any time soon?
Shane: The plan is to go again. It all ended up on a positive note and everyone involved is keen to make it all happen again in 2017. We may hit up different venues and a different state or two.
Talk us through the day-to-day running of Motodevelopment.
Shane: Lots of emails and phone calls! Both of us still work three days a week, myself at DIRT ACTION magazine and Urk at Link International, so we just do what we can around that. We’ve developed lots of processes to help automate as much as we can, mostly in the way of taking entries and payments, but all of the organising of venues and the logistics takes up a lot of time. As an outline we currently run our motocross courses, Moto Master Class, RCU, BMW Off Road Training and BMW’s GS Experience test ride events. We’re also involved in the back end of some other events at a lesser level, too. We just do what needs to be done to make it happen.
Chris: Ha-ha! Well, it normally starts with a phone call to Boothy to chat about what we need to attack for the day. Events we have running are Motocross Coaching, BMW Off Road Training, BMW GS Experience and we do a fair bit of behind the scenes work for other events: building online forms, collecting data and dealing with customers. On a daily basis we’re answering calls and emails, booking venues, booking catering for events, planning travel and freight, promoting upcoming events, booking venues for new events and of course a lot of riding our motorcycles.
For the last four years or so you’ve also been working closely with BMW Motorrad Australia as its exclusive trainers and ambassadors in the booming moto-adventure segment of the market. Talk us through how all that started.
Shane: I’ve known Miles Davis, who was the marketing manager at BMW Motorrad Australia, since I was about 15 and we’ve always remained friends. It came about after a phone call from him asking if we’d be interested and I said, “Leave it with us for a few days and I’ll let you know.” We had to run the idea past some sponsors and no one had a problem with it so we said we’d be up for it. We ticked all the boxes that BMW asked of us and we started the courses. It’s something we really love doing and for me it’s just great to be coaching but at the same time have a refreshing take on it. It’s not competition based like we’ve always been, so that’s nice. It opened up some great opportunities for us and all of the crew at BMW Motorrad are great to work with, so we look forward to a long relationship with those guys.
Chris: It really came about while we weren’t expecting it. Miles Davis came to a MX School about 15 years ago where Boothy and I were starting out as instructors. Instantly, a great bond was formed and we spent many weekends riding and travelling together. Out of the blue one day Boothy got a call from Miles about the adventure-bike training option (BMWORT). I flew to Melbourne and went for a weekend adventure ride and attended an event with Miles. Some epic memories were made. From here we made an agreement with BMW and have never looked back. The whole program has been running great and growing each year.
A completely different kind of riding. Can you briefly explain to our avid readers the differences between motocross and adventure riding?
Shane: I guess the biggest thing is motocross is about going fast and it’s a competitive form of riding. It’s a form I still love and I don’t see myself stopping that for a long time. Adventure riding is probably more about the social side and, as the name suggests, adventure — going places you normally wouldn’t or couldn’t using any other vehicle. I’ve met so many great people since being involved and have already made some lifelong friends from it. I’ve grown to really enjoy it; the bikes we ride are awesome and the places we go equally as great.
Chris: The biggest difference is that motocross has always been about going as fast as possible and being on the edge most of the time. Adventure riding is more about hitting epic locations and making the ride there a memorable one with sweet roads (dirt and bitumen), good mates and a lot of laughs! I actually love that I have the option to do both on any given day.
Talk us through the move to Husky and give us some insight into how exciting this is for Motodevelopment.
Shane: To be honest, it’s a move that not that long ago we’d never have thought we’d be making, but over some time we felt like things were heading a different direction to what we were looking for. We’re still really motivated to do what we can to give motocross riders an opportunity to be the best they can and to reach whatever goals they have in the sport. This frees us up in many ways to pursue some ideas we’ve had for a while and maybe even dabble in some off-road events, too. Husqvarna is an exciting brand right now that’s on the rise and when the opportunity presented itself it seemed a no-brainer for where we are at right now. It’s great to be working with a brand that has such a rich heritage in motocross yet is so fresh and exciting at the same time. The bikes are great and we’re looking forward to what we can work together on in the future.
Chris: I guess it all came about in a fairly casual way to begin with. We had attended a few different events over the past year with the guys from Husky/KTM and both Shane and I were impressed from the outside looking in at how they are doing business and the way everything they do has this real buzz to it. I guess it’s how we try to keep everything we do with Motodevelopment. While we loved the Yamaha product and always will, doing business was becoming beyond difficult from our point of view. There were certain things happening on a management level and let’s just say they weren’t for the better of Motodevelopment or Yamaha in our eyes. We decided we were leaving Yamaha before we even had a deal; we were prepared to leave with nothing. Eventually we had some meetings with Jeff Leisk and Jon Hafey and a game plan was made. It’s exciting times for us and there are some really great plans to roll out in the next couple of years.
What’s next for Motodevelopment?
Shane: There are a few exciting changes on the go for Motodevelopment in 2017 which will open up the opportunity for some new events, which is going to fun. We’re committed to our off-road training with BMW and will be charging ahead with our courses and events for them. The plan is for several Moto Master Class courses along with RCU, if that works out. We’re also entertaining the idea of branching into something totally new for us, which hopefully we can talk more about in the coming months.
Chris: We ask ourselves this at times. I guess one thing that keeps coming to the surface for us is opening a retail destination store for all things moto. It would definitely have an online option. We really do think with our knowledge and position in the industry we could provide a great place for riders of all disciplines to purchase everything they need to go riding. This is a dream, so let’s see where it lands.