Catching Up with… Hayden Halstead | Yamaha Canada
By Billy Rainford
2017 #19 Hayden Halstead has shown his skills on a motorcycle on and off the track — he’s one you want to keep an eye on for trick riding and generally having a good time on a dirt bike. Last week, he decided to put those skills (and his fitness) to the test and entered the final round of the 2016 Moose Racing GNCC series at Ironman MX in Crawfordsville, Indiana. It’s not every day a Pro motocross rider enters a 3-hour enduro, so we wanted to talk to him about his experience at his first-ever GNCC.
Direct Motocross: Hello, Hayden. You just got back from doing your first-ever GNCC race at Ironman MX down in Crawfordsville, Indian. How did this come about? Why’d you give this a try?
Hayden Halstead: I’ve ridden a lot of trials the last 2 1/2 years and I ride down in Turkey Point a lot, there’s a bunch of trails down there, so I’ve been riding lots there and got a lot of technical skills with the trails bike. I just wanted to do some gnarly off-road races. That’s why I went to that WEC (World Enduro Canada) race at Walton to see how my body would do with the long duration of the race. It was a 2-hour race and that went by without a problem, so I figured we could go down and do a couple GNCC’s (Grand National Cross Country).
Stuff happens and we were busy. Both my parents booked off work and we were thinking about going to Baja (Acres) and and I’ve been wanting to go to the last three and missed the first two, so we said “Screw it! and went. It was like 20 hours of driving by the time we were done and everyone had to work on Monday. Well, we all kind of called in sick on Monday, but we all planned on going to work on Monday. Well, both my parents went to work on Monday, they just went in for an afternoon. We just went and did ‘er!
You mentioned the WEC race. How did that go? Was that your first one?
That was my first-ever off-road race. It was a fun weekend. I just went up there…I was going to go up there by myself but then my parents couldn’t not go so they ended up showing up and helping me out. At first, just me and my girlfriend went and, next thing you know, they can’t keep themselves from coming, so they showed up.
It was fun and I won there by like 4 minutes, but Walton was fun! There were no hills or anything or creeks or any of that. The one bush was a lot tighter that the GNCC’s because they have quads on Saturday so they open the trails up quite a bit. The thing with this GNCC was that it was the biggest one they’ve ever had…ever. Apparently, there were 2400 riders, so you can imagine how hammered the trail got. You think a motocross gets beat up and it’s like a hundred feet wide!
So, I didn’t really know what to expect because there were so many people and it was all so new and kind of exciting.
Sir, don’t get ahead of me, please…we’re still talking about Walton, here. I want to ask you this, did the regular off-road guys give you the cold shoulder as a motocrosser showing up to do the WEC race?
No, they were pretty pumped. They were really pumped.
They were even happy that you won?
Ummm, ya. If this was a real off-road track…
OK, you mentioned trials and Turkey Point, what’s your trials background? Have you always been into that?
No. There’s a local trials bike shop in Brantford called Dual Sport Plus and guys like Josh Long and Jordan Szoke are local Brantford Superbike rider. There’s kind of a big trials scene in Brantford. And then my real good buddy, Colin MacGregor, got a trials bike and I rode his around a bit. I had a 125 and I sold it and bought a Sherco 280. This will be like my 3rd year on it.
We’ve got a pretty sold group of guys and we rode tons the last three falls. It’s the perfect time for it. It’s fun.
OK, let’s move on to the Indiana race. What did you think when you got there?
We rolled in, you could tell they were organized but you could tell they were a little unorganized because I don’t think they expected that many people to show up. There were over 20,000 spectators there! So, we were lost for an hour. They didn’t know where to park us because I needed XC2 Pro parking and no one knows where that is. We were all a little frustrated and I said to my mom, “You know what? Every single person here is definitely voting for Trump.” (Laughs) That just tells you the kind of people that were there. It was nuts. They had a big country concert Saturday night. It was just like you’d think a Pro National would be, just more redneck. Outrageously-dressed dudes and just…ohh…nuts.
How prepared were you guys for this race? I mean, tools and a quick filling gas can, and all that stuff? Were you ready for that side of things?
Ya, my friend, AJ Snively — I bought an over-sized tank off him — and he lent me a quick fill and I had my full crew there. I had lots of help. My dad’s got everything dialed, always. We had a pretty nice set up there with spare parts in case anything broke and my mom was cooking me food all weekend, so it was good. Well, I thought I was ready for it.
The starts are like a calvary charge! What was that like and what were you thinking as you headed out on the first lap?
Well, we were trying to figure out if I could start the bike in gear or not, so I was practicing some starts on Saturday. We figured out I had to start in neutral and I could usually get my bike started on the first kick probably 75% of the time, so I was feeling pretty good.
We were on the line and I was practicing. I got it first kick like 6-7 times in a row so I felt pretty good. Buddy does the flag thing, we all kick our bikes, mine starts first kick, I put it in gear, I was going pretty good… I was on the very inside and I was getting pinched off a little bit. All of a sudden, I’ve got nowhere to go and I go full speed into a hay bale. I thought my weekend was over because I hit it so hard. I bent my rad back a bit.
I was pretty much last but luckily I had seen there was an auxiliary trail right when you get into the trails. It was kind of hard to see but I talked to (Tyler) Medaglia a little bit and he told me to make sure I at least walk the first couple kilometres so I knew what to do on the first lap when everyone’s sprinting. I remembered that and I passed a couple guys there.
There was only a little bit of bush before you head out on the moto track and that was bad news for them because once we got out there I passed a bunch of dudes. They were pretty fast but they weren’t ‘moto guys.’ I passed a couple guys and got up pretty quick but the first lap, once we got back into the woods, I was so tight and riding way over my head, and didn’t know where the hell we were going, it was a mess! I was like, “What the hell did I get myself into?!”
What part of the moto track did they use? They didn’t use those massive hills and jumps did they?
No, but that was pretty much the only thing that was cut out. They used most of the track and they did it the right way so my dad was really making sure that I knew the track because he knew the sections that I wanted to hit. There was a triple and a quad and I wanted to hit those first lap, and I did. I remember I hit the quad, I was drag racing a guy, and he just did the double-double and I just hit the whole thing and passed him and was happy it paid off.
What kind of suspension did you go in there with, your moto stuff?
Ya, but it’s set up pretty soft to begin with but I didn’t really have to tweak it very much. It’s good stuff. You can’t beat Yamaha suspension and if you get modded Yamaha suspension, you’re pretty much set.
So, you get one lap under your belt, you start passing some guys, what was your mindset? How did the rest of it go?
I never felt like I was over my head and I had two guys behind me and one fast guy in front of me. He started leaving me a bit and I was trying to get settled in but I couldn’t at that pace the first lap. I just stayed mentally tough and just toughed it out and didn’t give up and just kept them behind me. I knew that the longer I could keep them behind me, the longer they’d be dragging me at that pace where I’m not comfortable with, and eventually I’d probably get used to it. It’s what happened.
By the second lap, I kind of knew what I was doing so I calmed down a bit. I was calm but I didn’t know where we were going and I had to make more decisions than they did because I guarantee they raced there last year. They knew where they were going. That lap was a lot better and I still had the one guy behind me and we were battling pretty good.
The problem was, he’d be all over me in the bush and we’d be going at it and it would open up and I’d be faster in all the moto/corn field stuff. I’d gap him a couple bike lengths, But, the poor guy…I just never give up, so he was probably so frustrated. We hit each other like 3 times and he was probably like, “Man, I’m so much faster than this guy but he’s riding a 10-foot wide bike!” (Laughs)
I knew that if he got by me I’d maybe lose him and then I wouldn’t know the pace, right, so I was just trying everything I could to keep him behind me and keep going fast.
Did you know what place you were in when you came through the pit area?
Lap times were like 30 minutes so we did 6 laps. I think I was in 18th the first lap and then 15th and then 12th for pretty much the entire race. I battled with a guy on the last lap. We got lapped, and when we got lapped he just all of a sudden went as fast as the guys lapping us! He just took off. I couldn’t…there was nothing I could do. I passed him the lap before and we were battling it out and then he just took off! So, that kind of pissed me off.
The pit stop went well. That was about in the middle. Dad gassed me up really quick, my girlfriend gave me some dry gloves, and Mom switched my goggles out for me, so that was a nice feeling, getting dry stuff. There were some gnarly creek/mud hits or whatever you want to call it.
It didn’t look too bad on Friday, but then after 1500 other guys went through on the Saturday before us, the water got dragged out…the water goes with them, right, so it gets a lot longer.
You mentioned the leaders lapping you. Were you impressed by how fast they were going?
Ya, I felt like they weren’t going fast enough to lap me in a 30-minute lap though. They lapped me right a the very end which saved me from doing 7 laps. I would have been like 3-hours-and-40-minutes. I was impressed when they lapped me that they were still going that fast, but it didn’t seem like they should lapped me. It was kind of weird.
My initial thought was like, “Woah, this dude just passed me, and then this dude, and this dude” but I didn’t know how they lapped me. They didn’t seem to be going that fast. It seemed achievable, the pace they were doing.
Looking back at this, were you tired, not used to the tight trails, or what was it do you think that kept you off that pace?
The amount of ‘new’ for me was insane, especially the first lap and getting a bad start. That kind of sucked. I was definitely prepared, physically. I never really got tired. I was drinking carbs and already carbo loaded up so I was pretty good to go, that way. Cardio-wise, I never really got tired, but physically, my knees and my hands and my back, like my joints, were all ruined. I didn’t really notice how bad they all were until after the race.
What did you guys does after the race? Did you stay for the awards?
We had to take of pretty much as quick as we could. We just packed up, checked the results and did the normal stuff and took off. Everyone seemed to leave really fast. We were some of the last people gone and we packed up fast.
I’ve been to a few of these and I find it’s so much different than moto in that it seems totally about the racers doing the event and not the spectators because it’s actually difficult to watch with it being so spread out.
Well, there were like 20 million spectators and I swear they’re all just on the hills or in the mud. Twice, where I got stuck on the one hill, they think you’re falling over and they just dog pile you and drag you up the hill.
I was watching some on YouTube and the one guy on a quad stops on the hill and they’re all pulling him up and dude’s just running the people pulling him up over! And they just do it again!
So, you got 13th in the XC2 Pro. Does that make you want to do more of this stuff or does that make you done with it? What’s next?
I want to go to at least that one next year, for sure. Now that I kind of know it, I feel like it could be even more fun, especially on the first lap. I feel like I’d be attacking more instead of trying to assess what the hell’s going on. I don’t know, we’ll see what happens next year. It’s kind of a weird time of year.
OK, let’s wrap it up by asking you what’s next. What are you going to do?
I’m not too sure. Just working right now, waiting for everyone to shake down with all the teams and just getting some money so that I can take off and go down south and get training. That’s my main focus right now, keep working out and making money so I’m ready when winter rolls around to either go down south or out to California and hopefully hook up with someone fast and work my ass off.
So, does that mean you’re not exactly sure what you’re doing next season for outdoors?
I’m pretty sure things are good with MX101, but you never know.
Ya, that seemed like a pretty good set up for both sides.
Ya. And I did pretty good, right, so I’ve got a pretty low number and they’re pretty happy so it shouldn’t be a problem, but you never know, right.
OK, well thanks for taking the time to take us through this experience. Who would you like to thank before we let you go?
Just my family and my girlfriend Megan, and Al Brown. And all the team sponsors: @mx101racing @fxrracing @andywhitemx @carsononefive @yamahamotorcanada @superior_suspension_settings @fmf73 @atlasbrace @ride100percent @6dhelmets @matrixconcepts @rideengineeringinc @ridedunlop @nihiloconcepts @decalworks @motorexusa @tmdesignworks @allanbrownmx @renthal_moto @rk_excel @evanspowersports @worksconnection @gytr_yamaha @cycra @mddistributions @twin_air @gpmoto #Rynotech #Mckeesport #R&RAutomation