We have a chat with the AFT's rising start.
Briar Bauman has been involved in flat-track racing since 2011. With seven years of experience under his helmet, at only 23 years old, Bauman’s career has been gaining some serious momentum. Through the years, he has gained some solid experience in a variety of classes, including in GNC1 where he got to get a feel for the Indian FTR 750’s main competitors: the Kawasaki Ninja 650R. In 2017, he made the jump to the AFT Twins class alongside his brother Bronson Bauman. He wrapped up his very first season in the class with a 6th position, thanks among other things to 4 podiums. Then in 2018, he skyrocketed to third place, raking up 14 top 10 finishes out of 17 attendance one of which was a 1st place, his third one in the AFT class. For 2019, he joins super champion Jared Mees and his brother Bronson on the Indian Wrecking Crew Team, something, he shared with us, he is very much looking forward to.
Considering flat track has been a bit of an underground discipline for the past decade, what made you want to go for this type of competition rather than say motocross or freestyle?
I’m sure my answer’s going to be the same as my brother’s since we grew up in the same household and had the same upbringing. A lot of people usually have connections to flat track through relatives, parents, but Bronson and I didn’t have that. When I was very young, I ask for a motorcycle for Christmas, and he actually got a go-kart. He realized it wasn’t really what he liked, so he got a motorcycle as well.
Where I grew up, in Salinas, California, there is a man named Ricky Graham who was one of the best flat-track racers who ever lived—in my opinion. He passed away and there was a race in his honor, called the Ricky Graham Memorial right down the road from where I lived.
Basically, we had these motorcycles we had received for Christmas and we wanted to race, but our parents weren’t really into it, they were never into motorcycles, but being from the same town as Ricky Graham, obviously they knew about him. So my mom came up with the idea for Bronson and I to go to the Ricky Graham Memorial race. I think it was just the closest race to home and it ended up being a flat track race. Had we gone and it was a motocross race, we probably would have started with motocross. One thing with Bronson and I think is that we just loved motorcycles as a whole and when we went, it was a flat track race. We met a lot of great people—my parents knew quite a few people at the race, so they suggested that we come out to other races, in other places, so we went.
I don’t know motocross that well. I know a lot of motocrossers and I think it might be a little more cutthroat and flat track seems a little more family oriented. It’s been the perfect fit.
Do you see competing in the same discipline as your brother as an advantage or as a challenge?
For me, it’s an advantage. I’m not really competitive with him. I feel like we’re pretty straight up with each other about a lot of stuff, especially with the racing side of things. I mean, it doesn’t happen often that I come off the track and share information with Jared because we’re such close competitors. It’s a little bit different with Bronson. Maybe it will change once he starts to beat me as often as Jared. As of right now, it’s a full advantage. We get along really well. We have a pretty unique relationship, we’ve been through a lot so I can’t say that it’s a disadvantage in any way.
How does it feel to join a team that has such a track record, not only over the past 2 years, but also 60 years ago with the original Wrecking Crew?
Really, it’s a dream come true. It know that saying gets thrown around a lot, but once you’ve been in the position I was in, and Bronson was in, joining a team that is just as hungry and anxious to win. They won for the past two years and the drive and the fire are still there, which is really cool because I came in and everyone has the same vision and the same goal, which is to win races and a championship. Whether it’s Jared, Bronson, or me, it’s Indian’s goal. To be part of a program like that and to know that they came out with a motorcycle that was immediately capable of winning is incredible.
It’s an opportunity to showcase what Bronson and I are both capable of and to take what I had going for me last year and bring it to a team that’s just as hungry, if not more. It’s definitely an honor.
Do you find it’s more pressure now that you are joining such a strong team? And how do you take things to the next step?
Hum, no there’s not that much more pressure for myself. I’m pretty fortunate—I get to bring two of my mechanics over, people who have helped put me in the position I am in, I think having these two people included in the program really means a lot to me because we’re so close. We’ve been through a lot in the past few seasons, and they’ve picked me up when I didn’t have anything going for me.
I’d say I’m in the same position I was last year. As far as trying to up the ante, I think the main focus is trying to be better in every possible area. There’s never a time you can’t improved.
I was pretty bummed at the end of the season because we finally had things going for us and I wanted last year to keep going. It’s a good thing to have and a good feeling to start the new season.
You had but good words about Jared Mees when you chatted with Cycle World a few months ago about his domination during the 2018 season. Now you get to be on the same team. How does it feel to be able to work with him?
It’s a big deal for me, actually. Jared and me have a bit of a strange relationship. I’ve lived with him for the past three years, we train, we try to make each other better. Now to be on the same team… A couple of years ago, when I first moved in with him and word was going around that the crew was being formed, I was giving him a hard time about having him bring me on and be a part of his program. Obviously, it didn’t happen, but now it has.
It’s really cool. He’s one of my best friends, and I respect him a lot for how serious he is about his program, and the amount of work he puts in everything he does whether it’s on or off the race track. It something has his attention, it has 100 percent of it. If he knows something can make him better, and he can practice it, then he’s going to do it.
I try to bring that mentality to everything I can in racing.
Is there still the desire to outperform him?
Yeah, I do actually. I would actually say that I’m not a very competitive guy with the goal to win every weekend outside of the racing world.
Jared is extremely competitive. If he can manage to bounce a tennis ball off the wall one second faster, he’s going to go until he can’t go any further. I see things a little differently, I try to relax, with that side of things until the helmet goes on on race day. Once the helmet goes on, the goal is to beat everyone and if you beat Jared, that means you’re winning. So outperfom him is always a goal.
It’s difficult because he’s been so dominant in the past few years. That’s the goal this year. If you’re ahead of Jared, you’re probably in a pretty good position on the race track.
Some competitions take more mental fortitude, others, more physical strength, where does flat track stand?
For me, I feel it’s more mental. I put a lot of strength training in my program, which maybe not as many guys do. I never bring the fact that Jared is fitter than me to the starting line. I think the mental side of things weighs heavier. If you can remember to stay loose, and do your own thing. I think I fall in the middle of where a lot of flat track guys are: some of them don’t really do anything. They just race and do motocross on the weekends. Then there are guys like Jared who have a two-times a day workout regime. I try to stay strong physically, but I don’t as much as Jared.
If it came down to a make or break situation, mental is the bigger deal. If you can believe in what you have, on any given day, I think anyone can win.
What’s your preparation?
Like right now, for Daytona, I’m just trying to ride as much as possible. With the riding, you throw a few different types of workouts. I do a lot of rowing and cycling, and I try to combine that with body weight workouts. I try to get strong and once we get to the season, back off a little and just get more into the riding side of things and keep yourself sharp.
I personally believe that when you go and ride a motocross, you work most of the muscles you worked on building for the season. I try to work out four to five times a week and once we get into the season, it mellows down a bit.
We joke about it, but nothing compares to actual race time. We train, and train and train and I’ll feel like I’m in the best shape of my life going into to Daytona, but then I still wake up on the following Monday a little sore. The mental side of things, the mental ware down on top of the physical ware down, the heart rate, and the intensity of racing—it can’t be replicated on a motocross track.
How’s the bike for 2019? Did you get a chance to try it out yet?
Not yet, we’re still working on some stuff. It’s one of the motorcycles I’ve ever raced on so I’m pretty excited to just get back on it in a couple of weeks and stretch my legs, check it out before the TT and the start of the season. It’s an exciting process, I look forward to getting back on it.
How does the FTR compare to other bikes you’ve raced on?
The only other flat-track specific bike I’ve ever been on has been the XR-750 (Harley-Davidson) and it didn’t really fit the way I ride a motorcycle. I also rode on a Kawasaki which isn’t a bike built specifically for flat track so it takes a lot of time and effort trying different things that work on different race tracks. Basically, for Indian to just build a bike from scratch and base it off ideas they have… I mean, I had the chance the ride it at the end of the season and it worked every single places I went, better than any bike I had ever been on.
It’s incredible—it’s the best bike I’ve ever raced. At one point at the end of the season, Dave my mechanic and I weren’t really changing anything and it was just doing its own thing. It’s pretty incredible. It seemed like earlier in the season, when I was on the Kawasaki, we changed everything and couldn’t even come close. At the end of the season, with the Indian, we didn’t change much and we were in the top 3, 4 guys on the racetrack, so it speaks volumes about the motorcycle.
What are you looking forward to the most for the 2019 season?
I like the clean slate—maybe not so much a clean slate but a fresh start. Start the season like we ended the previous. It seems like the past couple of years, we’ve run into some issues throughout the year, not knowing where to go.
Now, as I said earlier, it’s really a big deal for me to have both my mechanic on the factory Indian team. It’s going to be nice to start 2019 fresh on motorcycles that we’ve won on, that we’re excited to get on, and that we know really well. We’re still learning and that’s one of the benefits of being part of the factory team.
What do you think of the new trend that brings the flat track to the streets with the introduction of flat track inspired models like the FTR 1200?
I love it! I didn’t have any connections with Indian when the 1200 came out, and I thought to myself that it was pretty cool, that I had to get one of those things! It’s cool to see flat track grow to the point where there are motorcycles built around the ones that we race on. The 1200 is really close to the FTR that we race on, and I hope to get one eventually. I think it’s a big deal for flat track to be going in that direction, and have people get on those motorcycles that look like the ones we race on and ride them on the street.