RiCK Rolls: The Rapid Rise Of RiCKdiculous Racing

Josh Bronfman and his star rider, Hayden Gillim.Photo by Brian J. Nelson

RiCKdiculous Racing arrived on the scene in MotoAmerica a few years ago, and the team has grown by leaps and bounds to where it is today. One of the premier race teams in the paddock, and operating out of a large semi, RiCKdiculous fielded a MotoAmerica Supersport team this past season that featured Hayden Gillim, who very nearly stole the class title from seasoned veteran and Yamaha Factory-supported rider JD Beach.

For 2019, the team will once again feature riders in Supersport and Liqui Moly Junior Cup, with Gillim leading the charge for the purple-and-gold squad, his sights clearly aimed at capturing the title that barely eluded him in 2018.

But, what of RiCKdiculous Racing? There’s a lot we don’t know about this burgeoning team, including what “RiCKdiculous” means and who owns and operates the organization. For the answers, we spoke with team manager and new Owensboro, Kentucky, resident Kelly Rees.

Kelly, a lot of people don’t know where the name “RiCKdiculous” came from. Can you start by telling us about the origin of the name?

Josh Bronfman coined the word “RiCKdiculous. It all started back when he was in college, and he and his buddies used to call each other “Rick” just as a joke. A lot of ridiculous things happen in college, but for Josh and his buddies, those things were “RiCKdiculous.” The word kind of stuck. And then, when Josh and his father Adam started a motorcycle riding school, the word “RiCKdiculous” just kind of made it into the name of the school. It’s hard to forget a name like that, and it kind of lightens things up. It’s actually kind of funny. Josh is kind of an animal with branding and merchandising and stuff like that, and it’s given him a name that he can work with and have some fun with and make some pretty cool stuff out of.

So it’s Josh’s team and, also, his father Adam’s team, right?

Correct. It’s a father-and-son-owned organization.

And what is the background of the Bronfman family?

The Bronfmans originally came from Russia. They’re a Jewish family that immigrated to Canada. Samuel Bronfman, Josh’s great-grandfather, founded Crown Royal up in Canada, and he obviously started quite a family fortune.

Crown Royal…is that why your team and all the bikes are purple with gold crowns on them? Like the purple bag with the gold-tasseled drawstring that a bottle of Crown Royal comes in?

Exactly. Everything’s purple, and there’s the gold crown. It’s a reference to the Bronfman family’s heritage.

How did the Bronfmans – Adam and his son Josh – get involved in sportbikes and motorcycle road racing?

It started when Josh bought a Ducati Monster. He started riding it, and really liked it, but I think he scared himself pretty good on it a couple of times. Josh then talked his dad Adam into buying a motorcycle, and I think Adam had some similar experiences where he enjoyed riding but also scared the crap out of himself. The family lives in Utah, and Josh and Adam both decided that they wanted to be much better riders, so they started attending the Yamaha Champions Riding School at what was then Miller Motorsports Park. Then, when YCRS left Utah, it kind of left a void. Adam and Josh didn’t have anywhere safe and sane to learn to ride their motorcycles better, so they picked up where YCRS left off and created a riding school that we think is needed in the community and in the sport. RiCKdiculous Racing and the school were born from that.

RiCKdiculous Racing team manager Kelly Rees on the grid with his son, Gauge. Photo by Brian J. Nelson

Ken Hill was an instructor with the Yamaha Champions School at one time, and now, he’s with RiCKdicuolus. Did he stay in Utah when YCRS went to New Jersey, and did he start the school with Josh and Adam?

Ken still works with the YCRS guys a little bit, and everyone at RiCKdiculous has a great relationship with YRCS. We’ve done some things together when we’ve had opportunities to, but yes, Ken is an instructor at the RiCK schools.

So Josh and Adam Bronfman got into motorcycles. They were riding, and they wanted to be safer, and the school arose from that. But, at what point did the motorcycle road racing part enter into it?

We started coaching a lot of high-level racers. Scott Russell joined our school as an instructor, and he’s still with us. We started helping a lot of riders like Cam Petersen, Jake Lewis, Nick McFadden, Cameron Gish. Quite a few racers started using the service. So that kind of bloomed into the RiCKdiculous RDC, Rider Development Camp, which focused only on racers. Then we had the regular RiCKdiculous school that dealt with people who just wanted to learn how to ride better. We started working with so many racers and having such good results with those guys. JD Beach and Mathew Scholtz have been to our Rider Development Camps. Valentin Debise, too. So, the natural progression was just to go out there and see if we could develop some riders from the ground up and started racing.

How far back do you go with RiCKdiculous? Were you with the school before they started racing?

My son Gauge was actually doing YCRS stuff when he was 11 or 12 years old. When YCRS left Utah, Ken Hill reached out to me and said, “This is what we’ve got going on, and we think there’s some room here to get Gauge involved in this school so he can keep progressing in the sport. Gauge and I met Adam and Josh, and it was a good fit. Everybody got along, and we’ve been involved with these guys for quite a few years. They’ve had Gauge under their wing for about five or six years now.

When RiCKdiculous started racing in MotoAmerica, you were the team manager from the beginning. Is that correct?

Yes. In September 2016, I got a call from Adam saying, “Come up to the house.” He wanted to talk about some stuff. There had been rumors of Gauge possibly getting a ride with some other teams or doing some other things. When I went up and spoke to Adam, he said, “Hey, I don’t necessarily want to buy rides on other teams. I want to do this myself. Do you think that we can put a team together and be successful?” My immediate response was, “Of course, we can.” So, we spent that winter putting together some infrastructure. We had Daytona Anderson and Gauge as our riders. Daytona was in Supersport and Gauge was in Superstock 600. We started out with a pickup truck and an enclosed trailer, and we hit the road.

And it progressed quickly. You guys have a big semi now and are one of the premier teams in the MotoAmerica paddock. Do you have any kind of a plan for the future? Moving up to Superbike? What are the Bronfman’s and RiCKdiculous Racing’s aspirations?

We would love to be in Superbike. It’s a matter of sponsorship and money. Superbike is an expensive program to run and, as everybody can see from the program we run, we’re not going to go into it wanting to take 10th. We want to go into it being able to win, and that takes a significant investment. When we can find enough sponsorship and support to make that program work, we’re more than willing to move up to Superbike.

How did RiCKdiculous Racing’s relationship with Hayden Gillim get started? Did Hayden attend one of the Rider Development Camps? How did that evolve into him being a rider for your team?

Hayden, we knew from when we raced in 2017. Josh (Bronfman) and Hayden had kind of buddied up together and were kind of hanging out. Then Hayden came out and did a couple of the Rider Camps with us at Chuckwalla, and we were all really blown away by his talent on a 600. He was an animal on the bike. So we kind of looked at each other and thought, with the class changes that were coming, this kid needed an opportunity to go out there and show what he’s really capable of. We could do that on a 600 and then kind of build a program around him and see if we could turn it into something more.

He’ll be back for another year with you guys. Obviously, he knows all the tracks, he’s a seasoned rider on a lot of different machines, and he’s now spent a year with RiCKdiculous Racing. Is it safe to assume that the expectation is for him to win the Supersport Championship for RiCKdiculous in 2019?

Well, that’s always the expectation. But Hayden learned how to race the 600. You could see, as the season progressed, he was getting better and better and better on the bike. That last round, to take the two wins in the dry, that was just kind of him stomping his foot down and saying, “This class is mine.” I think Hayden has as good a chance or better than anyone else on the grid to take the number one home next year.

2019 was an interesting season for him. He kind of had a “book-ended” season. He started out really well, scared JD (Beach) a little bit in the beginning, and then, JD kind of came on strong. Then, at the end, Hayden and JD were really battling hard at the front. We’ve talked to JD, and JD said that Hayden never says anything to him about “I’m a big guy on a small bike.” But, he’s told us that he’s pretty hard on the clutch at the start of races just because he’s a bigger guy. What was the season like for you guys? There seemed to be some adjustments that had to be made, in maybe his racecraft and strategy during the year, but what about in his equipment?

Hayden’s got a lot of things going for him, and he’s got a couple things going against him. His overall size is one of those things that’s against him. But, it really only comes to play on a couple of the tracks. Road America obviously is where it really comes to light because he just can’t get behind the bubble the way some of the smaller guys can. On the other side of that, you get to some of the really tight, technical tracks where you’ve got to muscle the bike around, and he’s out there just smashing them. So there’s give-and-take to everything. I think Hayden rides around his shortcomings very well just like most of the other riders do who are out there. You look at any of these guys, and they’ve all got something that they’re working on all the time. Hayden’s size is probably his biggest issue, but I can’t fault the kid on the way he rides the motorcycle.

He has such a solid dirt track background, and the start is everything in dirt track. You know he’s a great starter, but certain physical things with him prevent that a little bit. If he could get around that issue with his starts, that would certainly benefit him.

That’s the kind of stuff we’re working on in off-season testing. We’re working on some different clutch-perch ratios. We’re working on some different clutch internals and things like that to see if we can find something that will give him a little more confidence in the clutch. I don’t think Hayden’s a bad starter. I think he nurses the clutch a little bit because he wants to make sure it’s there for him at the end of the race. That’s a realistic concern considering the way he rides. But then, you look at the way that kid rides in the rain, and he’s an absolute animal. He puts his head down.

That proves his smoothness as a rider.

Yeah. It’s something to watch, man.

RiCKdiculous Racing is based in Utah, and we assume that’s because the Bronfmans live in Utah?

They live in Utah in the summertime, so yes, the RiCKdiculous schools are based out of Utah.

You also lived in Utah, but we were surprised to find out that you moved to Owensboro, Kentucky. What was that all about, Kelly? Where are you from originally?

I was born and raised in Utah. I lived there for 47 years.

What’s the deal, then? Why did you move to Owensboro?

It’s kind of a story. I owned a motorcycle shop in Utah. That’s what I’ve done for the past 10, 12 years. We were race-oriented. That was our main deal. When Miller Motorsports Park shut down and its future was kind of in jeopardy, I started looking for somewhere to relocate that had a track so that we’d be able to race and we’d have a good customer base. Then we got this team going, and I traveled around the country quite a bit, and I got to see how nice it is out on this end of the country. My wife and I started talking about relocating. We were looking at a number of places out West, and she wanted some property and a few other things. We couldn’t really find what we wanted out there. We were on Zillow looking at houses and she goes, “Where do all your boys live?” I said, “Owensboro, Kentucky.” She says, “Where’s that?” So I slid the map over to Owensboro, Kentucky, and the third house that popped up, she says, “I want that house.” So, I flew her out here in July so she could experience the heat and humidity, and she still loved it. So here we are.

Is your wife from Utah, as well?

She was born and raised in Utah, just like me.

Let’s backtrack for a minute. You said you had a motorcycle shop. Tell us about that.

I got my first motorcycle 40 years ago, so I’ve been doing this for a while. I opened a shop in 2006 in Utah, and then, when we moved here, I sold it to Ryan Richardson who was actually one of my employees there.

Are you going to have a motorcycle shop in Owensboro?

No. This is already more than a full-time job for me.

So your full-time job is RiCKdiculous Racing? That’s what you do?

It is.

That’s pretty great. You’ve got the new house in Owensboro, and your wife’s happy. Logistically, has it proved to be any kind of a challenge yet for you and the team? Is the team still technically based in Utah?

Yeah, I would say that the team is still based in Utah. Logistically we’ve been in pretty good shape. The truck during race season is usually parked at a racetrack, anyway. Then I would fly back to Utah. The position we’re in now, most of the tracks are a day’s drive from my house. I’ve got a shop here, and I’ve got a place to park the semi here. As far as actually getting work done on the bikes and the truck and everything during the season, this is much easier for us to deal with, where I’m kind of the only guy who deals with the truck and the bikes and everything else. This has really simplified my life quite a bit.

Along with being team manager, you’re also a dad. Gauge is your son, and we spent some time talking with him last summer. We did a video with him where he talked to us about the training advantages of living in Utah in the high altitude. Now that you guys are not at high altitude, is he concerned about his fitness, based on the fact that he doesn’t get that advantage anymore?

No, because if you watch JD and Nick and Jake and Hayden and all these guys out here when they go cycling, I think he’s got his work cut out for him in just keeping up with those guys. We’ve got a turn-track built on our property now. It’s about three-quarters of a mile long. So, the kids can walk out our backdoor and train. There’s road cycling at the end of my driveway where you can do as many miles as you want on back-country roads and not have to worry about much. I think the overall environment is much better out here for what we’re trying to accomplish.

Is Gauge homeschooled or does he go to a regular school?

He does online school. He should graduate in the middle of December.

So, he’ll race Junior Cup again in 2019, and the next step would probably be Supersport?

Yeah. He certainly wants to keep moving up in the sport. It was a tough decision for us to bring him down from Superstock 600 to Junior Cup, because every kid wants to be on the fastest bike he can be on, but this has been a really good opportunity for him to kind of hone his racecraft more than just relying on horsepower. I think, when he does go back to the 600, he’s going to be a much better rider. He’s still training on the 600, so he’s kind of got both worlds going for him.

It’s an interesting philosophy. We’ve talked to some riders who feel like, if you jump into the deep end, it’s going to improve your skills. But there’s also this idea of “don’t move up until you’ve mastered a particular displacement level or class.”

I guess it depends on your mentality. If you go into it with the mindset that you’re going to be in 8th to 16th place because you’re still learning the class, I think you can work through that. But, if you jump into Supersport thinking you’re going to go right out there and be on the podium, you’re going to have a really rough time. That’s just how it is. But there’s a lot to be learned from both directions. The overall climate of the sport, I think directs people to the class that they’re racing in more than anything. If you want to survive in the sport, you’ve got to produce results. That’s just it. If you go into Supersport and you’re not in the top ten every weekend, or the top five, or on the podium, are you going to be able to put your program together again for next year? Are you going to have the backing and the sponsors to do that? That’s always stuff that you have to balance when you’re looking at what you’re doing. I think a kid like Cory Ventura, and a bunch of them, they deserve to be in Supersport and to go out there and start learning how to race in that class, because it’s completely different than what they’re used to. There needs to be opportunities for those kids to be able to do that for a few years and learn the class. Nobody’s just going to go out there and win it. It’s going to take them a couple of years in that class to figure it out before they get on the box.

Do you think there is a need for an “in-between” class? Obviously the old Superstock 600 class is what I’m talking about. I’ve had a couple of conversations about Draik Beauchamp and the fact that he’s going to race in Twins Cup next year. I think he’s of the opinion that Twins Cup is a good step up from Junior Cup but maybe a notch below Supersport. You take a rider like Benjamin Smith who won Junior Cup in 2017 and had some struggles this year in his first year in Supersport. Maybe he could have benefitted from racing in Twins Cup this past season. Is there a rung on the ladder that’s missing right now?

No. The rung is there. Almost everybody wants to jump into the deep end and be a pro, but I don’t think that’s the right attitude to have. Junior Cup is a great way for these kids to get their feet wet, learn some racecraft, be on the big stage, learn how to deal with the pressure and the stress of the paddock. Racing’s racing. I don’t care if you’re racing WERA, MotoAmerica, or down some back road. Once that flag drops, it’s all the same. The pressure and the paddock and the people and the crews and the pace, that’s what these kids have to learn. I don’t think there needs to be a class between Junior Cup and Supersport. I was really, really happy when they combined Superstock 600 with Supersport for 2018. I thought that was the correct move to make. However, I do think Twins Cup is a good alternative steppingstone because it’s not ridiculously expensive. You don’t have to have data. You don’t have to have everything going like you do in Supersport or Superbike. So I think it’s a good intermediate step if a rider needs it. The bikes aren’t as fast, but racing’s racing.