Gagne’s Way: A Conversation With Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha Superbike Rider Jake Gagne

Jake Gagne tested the 2020 Monster Energy Attack Performance Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike recently at Chuckwalla Valley Raceway. Photo by CaliPhotography

Jake, we saw that you did another test on the Yamaha Superbike. The first thing I thought was, “Wow, Jake tested and the four-time Superbike Champion (Gagne’s teammate Cameron Beaubier) didn’t.” It looked like you were testing alone. Was that the situation?

Yeah, we kind of put it together at the last minute with (Attack Performance owner) Richard (Stanboli). I’m really local to Chuckwalla, so it was kind of an easy deal. It’s only a three-hour drive for Attack, and a three-hour drive for me to get out there. So, we just went out there on Sunday and Monday. It was basically a couple of track days. It was pretty packed out there, mostly on Sunday. Monday was a little bit better, so we got some open track. Richard asked me if I wanted to ride, and I said, “Heck yeah, I want to ride!”

The answer to that is always “yes,” I’m sure.

It was quick and easy since we’re all pretty close to Chuckwalla. It was kind of a hectic track day experience to get a lot of stuff done, so it was more so just getting some riding in for me and getting familiar with some different things.

I’ve talked to some other riders who do a fair amount of testing at track days. They say that it’s great to get on the track, but it’s a little tough sometimes with other people on the track. So, they seem to work on things a corner at a time. Is that kind of what you feel too when you’re among traffic that’s obviously going to be slower than you?

Photo by CaliPhotography

Yeah, a little bit. Like I said, Sunday was a little bit more crowded, but even on Sunday we went out during the lunch break so we could spin a few laps. You get maybe one clean lap. Either way, it’s always better than no riding. On Monday, it was a little bit more mellow. We just had to deal with some wind and some cold and stuff like that. Riding is riding. I’m really happy we got to spin some laps.

Who was at the test with you? Obviously, Richard, but who did you have for crew or team that was there?

Richard, Walker Jemison, and Mike Canfield. That’s kind of our little crew, except for Glen Grenfell, my crew chief. He couldn’t make it, unfortunately.

So, will you guys have some other tests after the first of the year?

Yeah, for sure. I think we’re still trying to work out what, where, and when. But, for sure, after the new year, I’m sure we’ll get back in the swing of things and get ready for 2020.

In terms of ergonomics and everything with the bike, do you have it set up at this point or do you think you’ll still be doing some more tweaking on it?

To me, it feels really comfortable. The Superbike that I just rode at Chuckwalla was the one that Cameron rode at Buttonwillow. I only got four or five laps on that thing at Buttonwillow because I was mainly riding the 2019 bike. So, at Chuckwalla, I was getting familiar with the 2020 bike, which is a little bit different than the 2019 bike I rode at Buttonwillow. The new Superbike felt really comfortable right away. We just moved the handlebars and this and that around, seat and all that stuff to get comfy. But I’m good to go.

Does the 2020 bike that you just rode at Chuckwalla have the Attack Performance swingarm on it and everything?

Yeah, it does.

That swingarm is quite a piece of engineering, and it’s also a work of art. It seems like it’s been something that everybody’s been pretty successful on, so it’s obviously a proven concept on the racetrack. How does the new bike feel? I don’t know if you can compare it to when you were on the Honda in World Superbike because that was a couple of years ago, but let’s talk about the BMW. Does it feel smaller than the BMW you raced last year? What’s the comparison between those two motorcycles?

It’s maybe a little bit smaller. You just have to ride them differently. The BMW is kind of really more of a point-and-shoot bike. This R1, I can definitely roll a lot more speed. To me, it’s really, really friendly. Even when I first got on an R1 in Superstock 1000 back in 2015, to me, it felt really comfortable and really nimble, just like an R6, but it just had all that extra juice. It’s always felt like a really nimble, comfortable, flying machine.

Josh Hayes and Garrett Gerloff have said it feels like a big R6. Is everything going well with your training? How’s your leg doing and all that?

Yeah, it’s going really well. My leg hasn’t given me any issues in a while. I’ve just been riding, getting back and putting in motos, riding motocross and riding my mountain bike and doing some training at home. Just doing my thing. It’s good to get back in the program. We’ve got the holidays coming up, so I’m going to fly back east to my parents in Virginia to hang out. When I’m home, I’ve just been putting in a lot of motos and surfing and training and getting ready to go. Time flies. We’re going to be at that first round before we know it.

After you get through the holidays, it seems like it comes pretty fast and furious. The tests will come up and things like that, and you guys will really be bearing down and getting stuff ready. How is your off-season fitness program going? Are you doing anything different this year? Have you changed anything with your program heading into 2020 to get yourself ready?

Because of my broken leg, I was out of commission a lot of last year, especially early, so it took me a while to get back in the swing of things. I’m always kind of changing what I do. I don’t like to get stuck in a program of just doing one thing. I’m always trying to change my fitness program. I’m always riding a lot of moto and I’m always taking a lot of time to surf and swim and do a little bit of mountain biking and a lot of just kind of stretching and yoga, a lot of high-intensity interval training rather than just sitting on the bike for hours.

Can you give me your thoughts on the whole situation with Suzuki and Yoshimura, just from your point of view? What do you think about all that and what it means for the future of Superbike?

I didn’t even know. I didn’t hear anything about it until, I think we were at Chuckwalla over the weekend and that’s when I had heard that Suzuki was going to Team Hammer instead of Yosh. Is that basically what it is?

That’s correct.

I’m happy to see that Suzuki is still in there supporting, but obviously it’s a bummer to lose Yoshimura. How long has Yoshimura been around the paddock?

Forty-one years.

So that’s a real bummer. But, hopefully, we can just keep getting a bunch of good superbikes on the grid and building up the paddock and the racing is going to be good. There’s no doubt about that.

At the end of the 2019 season, a lot of people thought the sky was falling with regard to Yamaha, and they’d heard the rumors about Yosh and everything. Yamaha as a manufacturer is still involved, clearly, on your team and elsewhere in the paddock with supersport and junior cup, and twins cup as well, and stock 1000. So, Yamaha is still very much involved. Suzuki is very much involved. Hammer, the thing about them, they’ve got a superbike team. They’re going to have stock 1000, twins, and also supersport. So, Hammer is going to have a bigger footprint in terms of their team bikes than Yoshimura did. Suzuki seems like they will still be very much involved. So, things changed, but yet, those two manufacturers seem to be as committed to MotoAmerica as they were before. Do you agree?

Yeah, for sure. Like you said, kind of just changing of the guard and what’s going where and who’s running what. It’s a bummer to see people and organizations and teams leave that have been around so long, but we’ve always got to keep it up and do what we’ve got to do to keep racing.

The other day, I talked to Steve Scheibe, the owner of the team you raced for last year. He’s actually encouraged by the whole thing. For the other teams like Westby Racing and Kyle Wyman and Scheibe Racing, it kind of levels the playing field. Do you think the level competition—every year it’s gotten stronger and stronger—do you think the competition is going to continue to get better?

Yeah, one hundred percent. We talk about people leaving and teams leaving and coming back, but either way I think we’re going to have a really good lineup of Superbike riders out there. Like you said, I think everybody is kind of closing the gap. Everybody is getting more dialed in with their stuff, and it kind of brings the whole field together. We’re going to see good racing. It’ll be a good show for the fans.

With the holidays coming up, let’s talk about some fun stuff. Have you got your holiday shopping all done yet? Are you still working on it?

I’m still working on it. It’s like next week, right?

Yeah, it’s coming up quickly.

I’ve gotten a couple of little things for my mom and dad and brother and stuff. You know how it is. Wait for that thing that I think is cool.

Did you spend Christmas with your parents in Virginia last year, as well?

No, I didn’t. I don’t remember where I was. I think I was at home in San Diego. I don’t think I was at my parents’ house for Christmas because I was there for Thanksgiving and all that. That’s why I wanted to make it out there for Christmas this time around.

What did you do for Thanksgiving this year?

I was at home in San Diego. The day after Thanksgiving, we had a bunch of friends over. We kind of had a bunch of dinner at the house and brought a bunch of food over and stuff. But on Thanksgiving Day, me and my buddy, Dylan, my roommate who I live with, we went out to the desert. It was raining on Thursday, so we went out there Wednesday night and camped and rode all day Thursday when it was raining, so the dirt was perfect. We trail-rode all day. It was super fun. Usually out there it’s so dry and dusty. It was like the most epic day I’ve ever seen out there with the rain in my 26 years of existence.

Is there anything specifically that you want for Christmas, or did you already get it when you got this Superbike ride with Yamaha?

(Laughs) I don’t want anything. I’m good. I tell all my friends and my mom and my dad. I’ve got motorcycles to ride. I’ve got a Superbike to ride. I’m pumped.

That makes it hard for people, you know. People want to get you something. It’s easier for them if you actually tell them that you want some stuff, even if it’s something little from the convenience store. Allow them to get you something. It’s such a good feeling to give. You probably are the same way.

I know. You can get me a keychain or something, Sean. Keep it under $2.99.