Editor ‘arris had a 30 minute interview with stunt rider Jason Britten at the recent Toronto Motorcycle Show and managed to squeeze in 10 questions posed by the CMG readership.
If you were at the Toronto Motorcycle Show just gone you may have met stunt rider Jason Britton who was there to promote his videos, meet his fans and partake in various interviews.
CMG Online was one of the media invited to interview Jason, so in typical Editor ‘arris style, rather than take the time to think up some questions, he put out a call to the readership and then selected the best 10.
Here are the answers to those 10 questions – and a few more that ‘Arris actually thought up on the spot in fractured moments of inspiration that shone through his beer-bruised brain (it was the CMG pub night the evening before, after all).
Name: Jason Britton
Hometown: Huntington Beach, CA
Wife and kids: Kendi, 3 kids
Years Riding: 38 (started age 2)
Current (stunt) bike: ZX-6R
Jason Britton grew up in Huntington Beach, California, and started riding motorcycle at the age of two. By the age of 10 he was racing BMW bikes, and two years later popping wheelies and riding motocross.
In 1996 he started stunt riding and he moved to make it into a career two years later with the release of his first video. This career has seen him act as stunt double in feature films such as Torque (where he doubled as Ice T), Biker Boys, and Waist Deep.
He is currently host of the Superbikes TV show, executive editor of 2Wheel Tuner Magazine and stars in a whole whack of extreme stunting videos.
1) Could you tell us one of your most embarrassing moments while riding? (Byron Chan)
I’d have to say the State Fair in Sacramento, we’d been doing four shows a day for about nine days at this point and we had everything down to a science.
I hopped on my bike and I clutched up a wheelie then the bike just shut off and came down really quickly. I went over the bars and landed on my back. I was just sitting there for a moment, and then I got up, put my hands up in the air and everyone just went “Yahhhh.”
I went to start my bike back up but saw that it was out of gas so I had to wheel it over and refill it. All I could think about were the six thousand people watching me wondering how the hell I could forget to put gas in my bike!
‘Arris – How do you keep a clear head when doing stunts?
There’s so much focus required when you’re riding the bike that you just don’t have time to worry about anything else … you just have to remember to put gas in the bike before you start (laughs).
2) What modifications are done to your stunt bikes to prevent the engines being destroyed when stood up on their back wheels for extended periods? (Jim Sinclair)
Years ago I used to put a modified pick up in the engine, which would take the oil from the back while doing wheelies. Then I realized that when I did stoppies, the pick up was now at the wrong end.
So I just stopped running the big square 12-bar at the back of the bike — the bit you stand on while doing extended wheelies — and so stopped running the bike upright for extended amounts of time.
Now if we do wheelies we have to stand the bike up to where the bar would be for the oil light to come on. So if we keep it just below that point it still picks up oil.
‘Arris – So do you always keep an eye on the oil light?
Yeah, always watching the oil light when we go back or when we clutch the bike up and hop off the back and hold the bike there, we look at the oil light to make sure it’s not on. If it comes on, we put the bike down a bit.
‘Arris – Has it ever gone so far where you’ve destroyed an engine?
Oh yeah, early on when we did the long wheelies at high rpms or when we used to have the 12-bars on the back and you’d climb around the bike we’d just destroy engines like you wouldn’t believe … six in one year once.
3) If you could have any motor configuration for stunting, what would it be? (Jay Spare)
Inline four, 600 cc is the perfect combination. The twins are really punchy and make the bike a little bit abrasive down low. I find with the inline fours if you put enough gearing on them you can do pretty much anything.
They’re good in the low rpm range from two thou to four thousand rpm — which is the primary area you need the power — and then you can ring their neck drifting and a lot of the high rpm stuff.
‘Arris – Can you have too much power, like with a 1000 cc four?
Yes, definitely. It’s very easy to have too much power. A 1000 cc is way too abrupt. If you’re doing a circle wheelie say at 2 or 3 mph and the front wheel starts to come down then you need just a little bit to get it back up and too much power can have the whole bike come from under you real quick.
‘Arris – Is there a bit of a learning curve when you change bikes?
I can pretty much hop on one to the next because the way I set them up makes them pretty much interchangeable. When I got my new ZX6 it came with a new front end, which changes the characteristics of the front end diving. It’s got a little bit more power too, but I can mess with the gearing to compensate for that.
‘Arris – How much set up is there for you to do with a stock bike?
Well … clip-ons, rear sets, stabilizer, forged Marchesini wheels — as they’re a little bit lighter and slightly stronger than stock wheels — brakes …
I also put on adjustable rear-sets so the ergonomics of the bike no longer matter as I can move them up and down or back and fourth. Add to that adjustable Vortex clip-ons so that I can twist them out and change the length of the bars as well.
4) Was your change last season from Aprilla to Kawasaki for your stunt bike of choice due just to a sponsorship change or did you feel the Kawi offered better power delivery or flexibility for your stunting style? (Ivan Nichols)
Umhh, actually the change was from Suzuki. I did actually ride an Aprilia a little bit last year to test the water and see if there were any other motorcycles I liked better [than the GSXR].
I started having problems with the Suzuki in 2006 because they used a half plastic tank and the three piece tail section made it difficult to do headstands and stunts like that. Then in 2008 they introduced the power mode switch, which made the bike really high strung and the motor was only good from nine thousand to redline, whereas I needed power low down.
That’s when I got on the Kawasaki and the motor was really linear all the way from idle to redline. The tank was also a full steel unit, which was a real benefit as I have to dent the tank down as a seat. Then the tail section was one piece, which didn’t have any problems of coming apart or breaking. It was also more stable. That’s when my relationship with Suzuki ended.
A lot of people say ‘Kawasaki pays him, that’s why he rides their motorcycles.’ It was actually nothing like that – we worked out the details only after I fell in love with the bike.
5) What is your best advice on how to start learning how to wheelie my bike in a safe manner? (Beulah Turner)
I would absolutely recommend a crash cage to help protect the bike, and take the plastics off the motorcycle. With these you’ll have far less to damage and so you won’t be so afraid to drop the bike as it’s not going to do a lot of damage …. Unless the bike goes end over end (laughs). Also, wear a lot of protective gear because when you fall off the bike you want to be able to get up and try it again.
As far as riding the bike goes you have to learn the rear brake. That’s the key to learning a wheelie, is being able to bring the bike up and then keep it from going over by using the rear brake. You can go all the way back to the tail light and bring the bike down just using the rear brake. Once you master that, you can turn the idle up a bit and do no handed wheelies too.
‘Arris – Do you think there’s a level where most people get to and after that it’s more about innate skill?
I don’t know, I don’t feel like that because I’ve taught people how to do wheelies who said they could never do it, but once they learned how to master the rear brake it seems like their mind removes that mental block. If anyone can put the effort and time into it then they’re more than capable of doing wheelies and the like.
But where that level stops … I don’t know.
6) Who was the rider who most influenced you in your career? (Larry Maltby)
I would have to say AC Farias from Brazil. He was doing circle wheelies and things like that back in the ’90s when no one had ever seen or even thought of circle wheelies. He’s probably the most talented rider I’ve ever seen.
7) When did this stunt-riding thing begin? (Robb Cooper)
I’ve been riding a motorcycle since I was two and started doing stunts in ’96, but I didn’t put out a video until ’98, so I guess that’s when I started doing it professionally as I started getting paid for it.
‘Arris – What did you start on?
A GSX-R750 – that’s when I started doing some really different stunts. That was a pretty good bike. A little bit heavy but it was pretty good overall.
8) Is the ease of putting personal videos on sites like YouTube causing more amateurs to try extreme stunts? (Ian Macdonald)
The stuff like seeing guys ride wheelies on the street might give people a bad impression and people might get the wrong start into their stunt-riding career. But overall I think it’s a great avenue to have as there’s a lot of instructional stuff too. I didn’t have that access when I started this and had to learn the hard way … that’s not always the best way to learn things.
Everyone’s got a mind of their own and what they choose to do anyway, but hopefully they’ll heed the safety side of things.
‘Arris – Where are safe places to go to try and do stunts?
Warehouses, parking lots, it would be great if we had stunt parks but it’s going to take time before we have legalized stunt parks. There are such things in Europe so there’s no reason why there can’t be stunt parks in the U.S. and Canada.
9) Why are governments not more open to free stunting areas where safe, secure and legal stunting can take place? (Neil Strowbridge)
I think it’s a liability thing, but it’s only a matter of time before people will realize that it’ll take stunters off the street and get them into a legitimate stunt park. I think it just needs more people to lobby for it.
10) What is next for Jason B.? (Rui Pita)
I’ve started to expand out a little bit and look at what I’m going to do after stunt riding. Of course there’s the television show but nobody knows how long that’s going to last. I became executive editor of 2 Wheel Tuner magazine but it’s not something that I’m going to continue.
I also just opened a motorcycle shop near my home and am looking into expanding into different locations to offer different areas the same level of service.
From there I really feel like in the past couple of years I’ve been transitioning to race bikes and rally cars. I feel really comfortable in a car. After getting off a motorcycle where there’s nothing around you and then into something with a big cage around you.
‘Arris – You’re forty years old now, do you see a retirement age from stunt riding?
I think when I don’t enjoy it anymore. When I stop progressing and if I get frustrated. But I’ve just had two discs replaced in my neck and one removed from my back and I feel like an 18 year old kid again!
CLOSING THOUGHTS – Editor ‘arris
Okay, this is probably a good time to admit that up until I got the e-mail inviting CMG to interview Jason Britton, I didn’t actually know who the guy was. I mean, I don’t have cable and living in Montreal means that I only get two English channels – CBC and CTV, so Superbikes was simply not on my radar.
Besides, stunting doesn’t do much for me and I always assumed that the types that do it would tend to be a tad full of themselves, somewhat arrogant and generally painful to be around.
Britton proved to be much more than I thought – accommodating, thoughtful, modest and intelligent, he was the polar opposite of what I was expecting.
As I was packing up post interview, he was called up on the show’s main stage to do another interview and in the background there played one of his many videos. Shots of the man standing up on the tank of a GSXR as he split traffic on a freeway ran counter to the person I had just met.
I guess there’s a thin line between man and hooligan. As for me, I shall reset my judge-o-meter to be less presumptuous …