Some motorcycle racers bow out hastily from competition. Others withdraw with grace and style. Then there are those that never retire, instead fueling their obsession by continuing to rip around on 180-horsepower sportbikes while helping others do the same. This latter category where we find two-time AMA and World Endurance champ Jason Pridmore.
At 47-years-old, Pridmore remains a fixture in the US road-racing paddock. Through coaching, including his SoCal-based Star Motorcycle School, and lending his voice to beIN Sports television coverage, JP continues to be well versed in the racing scene. Whether it’s a pro tip, bike set-up, or understanding the psychology of a racer or other personalities within the sport, Jason more often than not has the answer.
Pridmore rides frequently, logging more track miles on his Ninja ZX-10R in two months than guys like me do on street bikes all year. And he doesn’t plan on dialing it back anytime soon.
“I just love it,” he says. “What’s really weird is I go through these stages… when I was a kid I always wanted to be a professional motorcycle racer. When you’re young, you ride because you love it. Then when you become a racer you still love it, but all of a sudden if things aren’t going the way you want you start realizing, ‘wow, this is really a job.’”
“It becomes not so much fun if you’re not where the fun is—which is at the front. Then you have a few of those years, and it becomes difficult,” he reflects. “Now it’s like I’m a kid again almost. I feel like I’m enjoying riding now more than I ever have. I just get a kick out of going around the racetrack. I still love pushing the bikes and experiencing the new technology. It’s great being a versed enough rider where I can take advantage of technology and see what the limits are on these new liter-bikes.”
Despite being away from full-time competition for over a decade [2006 was his last AMA year], he reckons he’s not only faster, but a safer rider, too.
“Steve Rapp [AMA racer turned commercial airline pilot] and I had one of the greatest conversations I’ve had in a long time. We were talking about how the age we’re at now; I still feel like I’m in my mid-20s. I still feel young. I still feel like I can ride,” tells JP who logged 2500 track miles the past two months on this trusty green Ninja.
“I guess every ex-racer would tell you that,” laughs Pridmore. “But the thing is, I still feel relevant. I know I can ride at a high-level. It doesn’t really matter what age you are – if you still have the ability or the willingness to push, then it’s fun.”
“I understand my riding now more than ever,” continues JP. “I think for me, riding these bikes is easier than it used to be. Plus, riding these new 1000s is exhilarating— it’s fun, but it’s also safer.”
Sportbikes have evolved considerably in the past 10 years. Ducati’s first traction control-equipped bike (2007 1098R) was cutting edge, but that technology has trickled down to the masses with every liter-bike manufacturer now employing various forms of wheel spin control on its ’17 superbikes.
“I think a lot of riders use these electronics as crutches,” says Jason. “They tune the bike to them instead of the other way around.”
Fortunately, Jason is the guy to help folks with that. Whether it’s private one-on-one coaching seminars or through his Star Motorcycle School trackdays, Pridmore is the person you want to speak to if you’re keen on improving your riding skills.
“Every time I go on the track I’m never just going on the track to ride,” he describes. “I’m always going on the track for something. There’s always something that I’m looking to do. I know it sounds crazy but I’m still trying to figure out where the edge is about certain things that I do with my riding. I try things. I’m always trying stuff and seeing what works best for me so that I can pass that along to people that I work with.”
“I’ve got such a buzz right now from teaching,” he shares. “I get such a kick out of making people better. It’s a lot of fun for me. But in order for me to improve as an instructor, I’ve got to keep improving too.”
Still, Pridmore wants to help more people. He says there’s a lot of mis-information out there and his mission is to throw light on it and help separate fact from fiction:
“I think there’s so much poison out there,” he says in regard to social media and other forms of media that broadcast dis-information. “Social media has created this platform, allowing people that don’t fully understand what they’re talking about to be able to get online and post what they think.”
“It’s tough because people get drawn a certain direction,” JP continues to explain. “If you really want to improve your riding, do some research on who’s going to be teaching you.”
“When you make that selection, go with an open mind,” he recommends. “Don’t go there to try to tell people why you do things a certain way – go there to try to improve and get better. Go there with an idea that you want to become a better rider than you showed up as — that’s the biggest thing.”
“I’ve got all this incredible young talent that comes to me— and I’m so fortunate — they all come with talent. All I try to do is break down idiosyncrasies which allows people to understand how they can improve.”
“On the flip side, I can take a guy who’s never ridden on the track before and get just as much fun out of seeing their face light up with something so simple as downshifting better or braking better, or whatever it is,” JP sums up.
“It doesn’t have to be me,” says Pridmore, acknowledging that there are plenty of riding schools and true expert coaching available these days. “Find out who you want to have help you and get better on your motorcycle. Try not to rely on all the things these manufacturers are doing to these bikes [i.e. electronics] because they all think that we’re not very good riders, so prove them wrong. Get yourselves to be better riders so you can take advantage of technology.”
Riding motorcycles and teaching others to do the same — two things Pridmore loves and excels at. Interested in learning more? Check out Pridmore’s Star Motorcycle School or follow him on Twitter @JP43.