Steward Baylor Interview—Signing With Sherco

South Carolina racer talks 2020, his new Sherco deal, and his injured knee.

Steward Baylor will be going for his fifth AMA National Enduro title in 2020 racing for the FactoryOne Sherco enduro team.
Steward Baylor will be going for his fifth AMA National Enduro title in 2020 racing for the FactoryOne Sherco enduro team.Darrin Chapman

Sherco USA is certainly making a splash in the world of off-road racing with all of its recent signings of top talent. The latest to ink a deal with the FactoryOne Sherco enduro team are Steward and Grant Baylor. Dirt Rider recently spoke to Steward and chatted with him about signing with the new team and the upcoming 2020 season.

Sherco makes a lot of off-road models. Have you tried to figure out which one is going to be the best fit for you?

I have been riding the 450 SEF Factory mainly, but I just spent some time on the 300 SEF Factory and it’s a really good option. I actually ran a faster lap time on the 300 than I did on the 450, but not right away. It’s similar to the KTM 350 versus the 450. I’ve always been a little bit faster on the 350 than the 450, so I feel the 300 could be the bike of choice for the National Enduros. I don’t want it to be where I’m chasing two different bikes back and forth throughout the season, but if I favor the 300 in one condition and the 450 in others, we’re going to do whatever it takes to be on top.

Although he has yet to choose which model he’ll ride, Steward says he’s spent the most amount of time on the 450, though he was faster on the 300.
Although he has yet to choose which model he’ll ride, Steward says he’s spent the most amount of time on the 450, though he was faster on the 300.Darrin Chapman

You’ve talked the last couple of years about enjoying the fact that you’ve been running your own privateer team. What made you decide to make an exception this time and go with FactoryOne Sherco team?

They seem really open to just about anything I want to do. It made my decision easy. I felt where I was with KTM, I’ve been there for 10 years and I wasn’t moving any further up. I had asked, I had talked about it, and they didn’t want to put any more into my program. When Sherco called, they were throwing everything in and it made my decision really easy. When I talked to the owner and he said, “This is what we can offer. This is what we can do. If you want this, we’ll do it. If you want that, we’ll do it.” I feel like I still have my own sort of freedom within the factory team.

You have a lot of knowledge on how to run an enduro team, win races, and compete at the highest level. Will you have a lot more input in the team than usual?

The team manager is Wayne Dickert and he’s from Arizona, so I don’t know how much presence he’ll have on the East Coast. I would say that I’ll probably be more so the face on the east side [of the country] as far as who’s going to be there every weekend. I would really love it if those guys could make it, but I understand they’ve got a lot of racing going on the West Coast as well.

How will you guys travel? Will you use a semi or Sprinter vans?

Right now, the team is looking at a semi. They have already bought one Sprinter and I believe they plan to get a second Sprinter for the East Coast for my mechanic to drive to the National Enduros. Essentially, he’s in a stacker trailer to be present at the National Enduros as well, but the semi for GNCC.

You’ve been on KTM for all your life. How big of a change was it switching to the Sherco?

[Switching to the Sherco] was [surprisingly] easy. There are a lot of things that are different, but overall it’s not like I’m changing to a Japanese brand. In my personal opinion, I think KYB suspension is better. It was an easy transition. I’m still on a steel chassis. Everything was definitely easy as far as being comfortable [including] the Brembo brakes and the hydraulic clutch. Obviously changing brands is never [a cakewalk], especially with me for example. I’m 25 years old and I’ve been on KTM for 22 years, so any little thing can obviously throw a huge curveball into the program. I plan and expect that the first few races we’ll run during the first year, we’ll have our troubles. The good thing is the owner and everybody on the team is really motivated to find the issue fast and find a fix for them even faster. That’s what has been consuming our last few weeks. I believe I put 30 hours on the bike already.

After spending most of 2019 dealing with a knee injury, Steward is trying to strengthen the muscles around the knee during the off-season.
After spending most of 2019 dealing with a knee injury, Steward is trying to strengthen the muscles around the knee during the off-season.Darrin Chapman

Let’s talk about your knee a little bit. It bothered you all year long and hindered your riding. What are you doing this winter to prepare it for the upcoming season?

Currently I’m limping (laughs). Yesterday I popped it out. I’ve got some workouts that I’m sticking to. The biggest thing is during the season I can’t do much as far as weights and during the off-season I can. I get a little more time to spend in the gym. The last few weeks I’ve been in the gym for two to four hours. It’s been really tough, to say the least. I’ve got some moto kids who are training with me and that makes things easier. I’m hitting the weights a little harder, especially on that knee, trying to bulk it up a little bit to get the stability back in it. Obviously, I can walk on it and I can race on it, so it’s not what a doctor would consider to be a completely unstable knee, but it’s far from where it should be. I talked to CTI and they’ve got a correction brace. I’ll just wear it throughout the day while walking and it will straighten my leg out while doing normal activities. Basically, right now it’s what they called a “knocked knee.” It’s pretty bad on that side and it will just keep wearing itself down until it gets to the point where I have to have surgery, but with the CTI correction brace, we’re hoping that will hold things off at least to get me through the end of my career before I need anything else. If I make it to the end of my career, then hopefully I won’t need the surgery anymore and will go about life until it’s time for a knee replacement.