World champion off-road rider offering lessons
By Darren Lum
Published Sept. 25, 2018
Getting four-time world champion off-road motorcycle rider David Knight to come to this year’s Corduroy Enduro is all part of a plan to raise the profile of the annual race held in the Gooderham area, said event chairman Blair Sharpless.
This past weekend the 2018 Promation Corduroy Enduro – presented by GP Bikes – drew hundreds of riders from all backgrounds and skill levels, vying for a purse of $5,000.
Started 65 years ago by Ron Jackson and Don Charters, the event was known as a scramble and got its name for how the roads looked in the 1950s. It offered river crossings, muddy sections and unique features for the pros such as the “famous Tunnel of Love” where riders negotiate a concrete tunnel under an overpass.
Sharpless said bringing Knight, who holds American and British titles in addition to his four world championships, is part of an effort to build the event internationally and help Canadian riders develop.
“I want to carry on the tradition of the Corduroy, but I also want to provide an international calibre of event for our Canadian riders because if they don’t have the money to get out of the country and go race against the best in the world they’re never going to get the chance so if we can build the event where they can race against them at home we’ll build better riders,” he said.
Knight didn’t race at the Corduroy. He was still recovering from surgery after breaking two vertebrae and several ribs on a crash during a training ride on the Isle of Man in August.
He was left with neck discomfort from the plane travel and didn’t want to delay his recovery.
Despite the disappointment of not being able to compete, he appreciated the beauty of the Highlands.
The cool weather, grey skies and what looked like an impending storm reminded him of his home, the Isle of Man. Located in the Irish Sea off the northwest coast of England, it is home to the famous and unique motorcycle road race, the Isle of Man TT (Tourist Trophy). Racers race on a closed course through residential areas, averaging speeds of close to 200 km/h around the island.
Sharpless paid for Knight’s appearance, which included an autograph session, colour commentary for video coverage of the Corduroy on YouTube and with enduro21.com. Knight will also provide three one-day schools from Tuesday, Sept. 25 to Thursday, Sept. 27, which can benefit beginners, novices and expert riders. Contact Steve at Trail Tours 705-875-2980.
Paul Holden, a Haliburton cottager and amateur rider, was with Sharpless and Knight during the press visits in the lead up to the event. He encourages riders to take advantage of this opportunity.
“The other demographic that can benefit from David’s schooling is people like me,” he said. “I’ve never raced a real race in my life. I’m just a trail rider. The techniques and the things he can teach a rider of my age and calibre can help me be a better trail rider. He touched on confidence. Confidence is key. When I look at a rock face, I want to throw up. Going through one of his training schools, I come to a rock face [I think] this is what he said to do: commit, and do this, do this ... and you’ll get through it. It’s a huge feeling of accomplishment for an amateur to have had some proper training and be able to get through a section that always schooled you.”
Holden helped arrange the meetings to promote the event and the educational sessions with Knight.
Knight offers training and coaching back home.
He loves to teach and compares the fulfillment of seeing that proverbial light go on with his students, regardless of their age, to winning a race.
“It’s like racing, really. It’s very satisfying. I find when you have a training school and whether it’s a young kid or older guy, or someone who has been racing a long time or just starting, when you get someone that just listens and does what you tell them to do and they get the benefit of it then it’s almost like the feeling of winning a race,” he said.
He said he feels fortunate to have the opportunity to teach.
When he started he wished coaching was available for him. Stronger riders such as pros and experts can benefit.
“I’m learning now and I’ve won four world titles and whatever,” he said. “If I knew now what I knew at 18, you know, I would have been better again. More dominant than I was.”
Sharpless said the Corduroy might be dubbed Canada’s toughest race, but he offered different courses so it was tailored to the skills of different riders.
“It’s the toughest for your category,” he said. “Not everybody has to ride all the hardest stuff.”
The spectator points of interest are only for the pros.
There are four different courses from novice to pro riders. This was done so “everybody has a course they can finish.”
At 50-plus years old, he remembers riding the Corduroy as a 16-year-old, tasked with completing the same course as the pros. Back then the machinery wasn’t that much different. Now the motorcycles the pros ride on gives them an advantage that translates to hours saved compared to amateurs.
Knight said the first time he came to Canada was back in 2006 when the World Enduro Championships was held in Parry Sound. He finished first in the Enduro 3 category on both days.
The father of two wants to return and plans on racing the Corduroy.
He characterizes the Corduroy as an “old school enduro,” which he thinks is the best. It’s the kind of race with natural features such a wooded trails, logs, mud holes, boggy areas and river crossings, missing from contemporary off-trail races instead of a “show enduro” – good for spectators not riders.
“It’s a riders’ race. You’ve got good terrain, difficult stuff, fast stuff. A bit of everything, a good mix. And that’s to me that’s how it should be,” he said.
Riding greats such as 1950s and 1960s British riding pro legend Jeff Smith, who was a motocross world champion, have won this race and Knight wants to be included with him and other winners.
Knight said winning the overall individual FIM International Six Days Enduro – the Olympics of off-road motorcycling because countries send teams to compete – back in 2005 is one of the most special wins of his career. He compares this win to winning at the Isle of Man TT race.
These older and established races mean more to Knight than world championship races, which are more about money than about the pure passion and spirit of off-road racing like the Six Day and the Corduroy.
“I’d rather come to a big event like this where you get riders from all abilities ... riders that haven’t ridden long, or old guys that have been riding forever and barely walk, but can still ride a motorbike. It’s a lot of people chattin’. Ya know, a good atmosphere. I’d way rather be at a race like that ... I’m enjoying myself than go to a world championship race where no one wants to speak to anyone,” he said.