Steve Hatch is one of the most-popular riders on the American off-road scene. He's been a top racer for over 10 years and recently left Team Suzuki to form his own team backed by throttlehead.com, Kawasaki, FMF, MSR and Kenda. We recently spent a week with Hatch riding in Hawaii with three-time world motocross champion Greg Albertyn and supercross legend Jeremy McGrath. It was an incredible experience and it offered us a chance to catch up with Hatch a week after he won the National Enduro in Missouri.Dirt Rider: How are things going this season?
Steve Hatch: Awesome. This is the first year of our startup team at throttlehead.com, and the results are getting better. All the guys on the team and our families have been extremely supportive. I'm having a ball and I'm realizing what race setup works for me, and already the Kawasaki KX250 is one of the best bikes I've ever ridden.How is your new team?
** Everyone from the truck driver Eric Bailey to mechanic Matt Leach, manager Jon Adams, owner Scott Bright to my teammates Josh McLevy and Andy Shea are incredible to work with and everyone has a lot of respect for each other. There are no egos among any of the members. We have a motto that everyone's been living up to, "whatever it takes." All of these guys and their families have been unbelievably helpful and will do what whatever, whenever to make the team competitive at the highest level.You have one more year left with Kawasaki on your contract. Do you think you'll ride a 250cc two-stroke in '05, or will you be on the all-new 450cc four-stroke?
** I think I will ride some of both throughout the year. I think it is pretty neat that Kawasaki gives me flexibility to choose the best bike for each race. I've focused this year on the KX250 because I changed a lot on the race team. I've heard the new 450cc is really good, and I've even considered racing a 250cc four-stroke. Kawasaki gives me a lot of good options, and I want to take full advantage of my new team situation.** How did you get hooked up with Moto Hawaii?
** Just kind of by chance. I had a big Christmas ride with all my buddies in Arizona, and through a friend of a friend, I ended up meeting Jeff Guest. He said that he lived on Kauai and I told him that I had honeymooned there and it was one of my favorite spots in the world. Then we started talking about tours and he said he wanted to look into doing a motorcycle adventure of his own. One thing led to another and I came here to scout riding areas and I decided to help him. I gave him a lot of ideas on what it took to run Steve Hatch Adventures, and he's done an incredible job following that template.How did things go in Hawaii?
** Unreal! Everything that Moto Hawaii did was extremely first rate. The riding, the camaraderie of the 15-20 people it took to put this adventure, television show and magazine article together was absolutely amazing. The scenery is surreal, the trails are super-fun because of their difficulty, and the local riders are extremely talented. What was your most memorable experience?
** The entire six days was all memorable. We did so much, that there were about 30 things that were amazing. Everything from riding to a waterfall with the group, to private grass track riding to helicopter rides along the Napali Coast. We went horseback riding, inner tubing down irrigation flumes, played on zip lines, and had an amazing welcoming luau. Then, we had a farewell luau at the top of the Princeville Ranch Bluff that was on 200-foot cliff at sunset, which was absolutely stunning.What was it like riding with Jeremy McGrath and Greg Albertyn?
** That was probably some of the most fun I've ever had riding with top pros. That was definitely a huge dream of mine. Both of them, having such incredible careers in racing, as well as being great spokesmen for the sport, is why I like them. This was the first time that I had ever ridden with either one of them, and they're both super cool and I realized that Jeremy and Greg enjoy play riding like I do. We all love challenging ourselves with slow technical riding, nose wheelies, trials riding and technical trail riding. Basically, we all love finding new ways to master our riding techniques. What are your top 10 places to ride in the world?
** 1. Kauai, Hawaii
2. Upstate New York
3. Trout Lake, Michigan
4. Cave Creek, Arizona
5. Travelers Rest, South Carolina
6. Washougal, Washington
7. Mammoth Lakes, California
8. Stoney Ford, California
9. Ocala, Florida
10. Anywhere in Delaware
Did you happen to see Albee loop out his bike on the street in fourth gear while we were in Hawaii?
** Yes, and I had a front-row seat. I thought he was going to land on my front fender. I couldn't believe it. I was in shock. I had a three-time World Champion loop out in front of me. It flipped over so quickly that it didn't even break the rear fender, because the first thing to hit was the top of the rear fender. It's not scratched on the back at all; he just ruined the top. In fact, when he looped out, he didn't have time to get his feet off the footpegs.Did you learn anything from McGrath on the motocross track?
** Yes. He was so cool, in the fact that he took the time after we rode 20 minutes, to show me how to jump the tabletops that I wasn't doing. It was hard for me to pace because his bike was so quiet that it didn't feel like we had enough speed to make it. I wasn't going to ask him for help, but he came over to me and said, "Let me show you how to do those." I thought that was really cool that he would take the time, and I thought to myself, who better to learn from a seven-time supercross champion. He certainly had the credibility to teach me. Once he showed me what to do as far as speed was concerned, they were super easy, and we rode around for 10 minutes together. Then he got me to do this bigger tabletop in the back. He told me to hit it third gear and I would downside it easy. I thought it was cool that he felt I had enough talent to do it comfortably.How do you think McGrath would do at a GNCC?
** Awesome. He reminds me a lot of Rodney Smith in the fact that he has speed to win motocross, and it looks like he enjoys riding off-road. He's a very technical rider, and I think he would adapt quickly.How has off-road racing changed in the last 10 years?**
It's gotten a lot more professional. It's really neat to see a lot of the NASCAR and supercross marketing tactics come into play. We're finally seeing television and magazine coverage, getting a lot more mainstream exposure than ever before. Sponsorship has gone through the roof to the point that we race out of semis. We are no longer considered old school, and the image of rider's slapping on stickers at the last minute is long gone.What does the future hold for off-road racing?
I think the sky is the limit. I think we are five to 10 years behind the supercross scene. It would be nice to have more mainstream notoriety, and I hope is comes soon.What does the future hold for Steve Hatch?
I want to race at least five more years. I always look at Rodney Smith who is one of my best friends and mentors, who is 40, and he's going really fast, and I'm only 35. He's still winning at 40, and I believe if I stay in shape, make smart decisions, that I can keep on racing. Our sport is more than pinning it for 30 minutes and praying for a good finish. It rewards the mentally and physically strong. After that, I would like to work in the industry or reverse roles with my wife, you know, be Mr. Mom, so I can support her in her dreams.