Interview: Bernard Kerr on Racing Anaheim and Being A Rider/Manager on the World Cup Circuit

Nov 26, 2019 at 9:00
by James Smurthwaite  
Fastest in timed training would be Bernard Kerr.

Aaron Gwin, Angel Suarez and Dakotah Norton are all former motocross racers that all successfully made the leap over to World Cup downhill but what about a rider going the other way? This winter, Bernard Kerr is hoping to make the opposite transition and will try his hand at motocross racing on one of the biggest stages going - the season opener at Anaheim.

With $10,000 NZD and pride on the line, he's flying out to California to spend a month preparing for the event and has his eyes set on the night show at round 1 of the Monster Energy Supercross on January 5. To make it, he'll have to first prove himself as one of the 40 fastest moto riders on Earth, no easy feat.

But then Bernard has never done things the easy way. With his heart set on a World Cup career in 2011, he decided to form his own team to chase his dream of racing bikes around the world. He's currently the only manager of an Elite World Cup team who also races week in, week out. It hasn't been to his detriment though as he's twice been on the World Cup podium and is also a former King of Crankworx and 2x Hardline winner. We caught up with Bernard to discuss his ambitious winter plans and how he balances both sides of the World Cup coin.




Where did the idea come from to race at Anaheim?


The supercross thing was always a childhood dream. We were joking and drinking one day in New Zealand three years ago and I was like, “Yeah, I'll try it, I bet you five grand by 2020, that I will pull up at Anaheim 1 in America." Fast forward three years and we're here now.

Did someone take that bet?


Well, that's a one-sided bet so I was like, “I'll either spend $5,000 on a night out in Queenstown with everyone or I'll do that”, so if I go, I don't have to spend the five grand.

Then we got drunk again at Rotorua Crankworx this year with one of the 100% guys, Eddie and Walker, and he was giving me shit so I said, “I bet you five grand I'll make the night show”, which is a top 40 qualifying - basically qualifying for a World Cup.

So, I do actually have a solid $5,000 bet on with him each way. Hopefully, he's going to be cool and whoever wins it we give it to charity, that's what I want to do.

bigquotesMaxxis have hooked me up to get a bike off Jeremy McGrath

What was the process after that when you were committed?


Buy a bike, make it supercross and then I've got a friend in the UK, Jordan Booker, so we built a supercross track at his but it rained every day since. I was going to do 20 days in the UK and go to California but I've done seven days in the UK and I’m going to California next week now.

I'm really lucky with Maxxis and Fly being really good sponsors. Maxxis have hooked me up to get a bike off Jeremy McGrath. I promise I'm not name dropping but they are really pulling it out.

I'm going to go out there for a month and give it everything I've got to try and get good. I can ride the whole track now, I've hit a triple, I can get through a rhythm lane, I can get through the whoops and with it being muddy and wet, who knows?

The worst I can do is fail. People might make fun of you or doubt you but at least I'm trying it. I'd rather be trying it now than get to 40 and be like, “Why did I never try that?” It's ambitious I know but the worst I can do is fail.

What is the process for getting into the race?


You basically just buy a license. You get an ACU license in the UK, then you ask for an FIM license, you do a medical and then I can just enter the race, which does seem crazy.

I can just turn up, roll out into the stadium on January 4 and ride practice. Then you've got two 10-minute timed sessions with as many laps as you want and you've got to get a time within the top 40.

Last year 56 people turned up, 40 qualified and I think you have to be about 8 seconds slower than the fastest guy in the world around the track. So if he did a 50-second lap, you've got to do a 58 to make it in.

It's kind of crazy only 56 people do it


I know, but I guess it's the 56 best people in the world. Even if you're really good on a track it's pretty scary. I knew it would be hard but the jumps are so steep and scary to hit and you've got other people around you.

Scarier than Hardline?


Dude, way worse. I guess I suck on a motocross bike compared to a mountain bike but the first time I hit a triple, it's 70 feet long, which is the same as some jumps at Hardline, but it's so steep and so blind, and you're on a 110kg machine.

Bernard Kerr is always one to watch at Hardline

I'd never felt a feeling of happiness or satisfaction hitting a jump as to when I hit that jump for the first time two or three weeks ago. I hit it and then hit it 7 or 8 times in a row without stopping just buzzing.

It sounds lame but it was insane how good the feeling was to hit it, more than anything I've ever done on a bike.

If nothing else, it's good training for downhill isn't it?


That's it. I'm going to California and it's so wet and crap here now so I'll be so fit by January. Then I've got two more months to train for Crankworx in New Zealand then the World Cups so I see it as a positive thing.

Hopefully, I'll get lots of coverage, I mean we're talking about it now. It should be really fun and I'm going to get to meet some childhood heroes in the States, which on its own is so cool. I love motorbikes so much, I think all mountain bikers all wish we could ride motorbikes way better.

You're the only team manager and rider from an Elite team, how did that happen?


We used to travel in vans going around doing races for fun and I wanted to try and keep that going. Going into 2011, I rode for Pivot's UK distributor, Upgrade, for two years. I was trying to get a ride on a proper team but I couldn't really get the deal going. So I was like, “Oh, I'll speak to the owner of Pivot and see what he says.”

I didn't actually know what having a team meant but he said, “Write me a proposal and I'll see”. I wrote a proposal and he said it sounded good and offered what I thought was such a huge amount of money and now looking back was a tiny amount of money, we literally struggled so hard. He had trust in me and next year will be 9 years running the team, which is kind of crazy.

How was that different from doing the privateer life in a van?


Well, I didn't think it was at the time. I just wanted to keep doing that but it progressed a lot and now we have a truck and really good riders on the team as well. It's kind of crazy, it wasn't a set thought it just happened and now it's pretty sick.

Bernard Kerr pushing around the tight last corner to kick out Keegan Wright in the last run of the quarter final

How has it been watching it grow from that van set up to where you are now?


It's really cool seeing the change from having a really small set up to being quite a big, proper team. We still have a laugh but I think it's really different in our team because we don't really have any adults on it, even though we are all 28. It’s crazy to think we started off with nothing and we have a full proper team now.

Was that ever a goal?


It wasn't. I just wanted to start a team so I could keep travelling around in a van with my friends and getting paid to do it. It just kept developing, developing and developing and we just got carried away.

Is that attitude still what you look for when you're signing new riders?


Yeah, we want to do good, obviously, and your sponsors want you to get results but we wouldn't get someone that's not fun. You can't get a rider that's boring and just wants to get results because they're probably not going to have fun over here and we’re not going to have fun with them. For sure we want to do good but you've got to be in it for fun as well as trying to do good at races.

How important is media presence for you when it comes to riders?


Pretty big yeah, we will definitely look at that heavily. If there are two guys with the same results we would for sure go with the one with way bigger media presence. Obviously we don't want you to have a bad weekend but if you have a bad weekend and still get more coverage than the guy that came 10th, I think that's a guy that's worth quite a lot of money.

Bernard Kerr is on firey form right now. A very fast TT and big style at every opportunity on track.

Is there one metric you go by, social media? A photographer's rider?


Definitely not one thing but for sure, have a good social media and get out there loads for your sponsors. Look at Eddie, he has fun, photographers want to take photos of him and then he's in more articles because he’s doing something stupid in the pits or whatever. I think just have fun and ride your bike loads and you stand out.

When it comes to you personally, how do you split your time between your riding and the team management side of things?


I don't really think about splitting my time, this time of year you just have to work really hard. I guess it's easy now in England it gets dark at 4 pm so I've got a big evening window to get work done and talk to everyone in America. Now we've got assistant managers in the season and a really good team of everyone that helps a lot.

Bernard Kerr opted for more style over speed and we thank him for that

Do you see yourself always being a team manager? Do you ever see yourself handing over that side of things?


I've thought about it definitely when you've got too much to do. But no, the team's awesome right now. I don't know how much longer I'll race for, racing's fun but I just love riding my bike more than racing.

I think I'll keep the team going, I'll keep going to the races, it would be cool to go on photo or video tours or see some different countries because we do race in the same country on the same weekend year in year out and it's getting a bit old now after ten years of doing it.

So looking beyond that with your personal goals, what are your aims?


I want to win a World Cup. I know I'm close. I've won practice a few times and I know my speed was there this year, at Andorra it definitely was. I crashed and came 17th, I was up at all the splits at the time.

I know I can podium and if you have your day, you have your day. It isn't easy and everyone wants to win a World Cup but it would be awesome to win a World Cup.


60 Comments

  • 45 0
 Such a legend!!!
Definitely the most interesting team on the circuit + Kerr hinself the most stylish rider out there..

I also really hope Eddie will return strong to the ews next season. Him winning that thing or even just doing really well would not only be gold for the team and the fans but also for the whole series and will bring back a bit of the spirit that from my perspective got a bit lost during the last seasons

Keep up your incredible work Bernard .. we fans do appreciate it a lot!
  • 24 2
 I like Bernard, he looks good on the moto but I've been a supercross, moto fan and raced at a pretty high level for years and from what I have seen there is no way he will make the night show. These guys are just on another level. I give him a lot of credit and wish him the best i just dont see it happening.
  • 1 0
 Yeah you might have a good point there... I don’t know at which level Bernard used to ride MX in the past.... A friend of mine used to race SX in Germany at the highest level out there but when he tried to qualify in Daytona a couple years ago he didn’t make it unfortunately...
  • 2 0
 I'm thinking the same. Bernard has amazing bike control so anything on two wheels should come easier to him than most, but if he just started hitting triples and based on the couple clips posted it's going to be tough. The competition is quite stiff at that level, and he'll need to be dialled in ways that World Cup DH racing just simply doesn't. Good luck Bernard!
  • 2 0
 Kerr's looks too slow for an SX main...or qualifier for that matter. When I was a kid I raced against Dean Wilson Alberta and he was laying down faster times than most guys on bikes with bigger displacement, some "pro" cat guys. He was like 12...on an 85.
  • 12 0
 @ninjaty: judging from the footage posted, he is going to get creamed. But I don't think that's the point. It's ab9ut him having a good time, having a crack at something new and exciting, and generating a ton of publicity for him and his team in mountain biking. I think.
  • 4 0
 @jaame: Agreed. I don't think Bernard is so naive as to think he'll be in the mix for positions. The bet is whether he can qualify for the night show.

I am already cringing at all the "huehuehue look at this mountain biker thinking he can just jump into Supercross" moto circlejerk comments the week leading up to A1.

Again, to be clear: no matter what happens this is cool and I hope Bernard does well. His bike control is amazing, so maybe a month in California will make for some fine polishing.
  • 2 0
 Well, you can either think he just started doing triples a few days ago or that he started doing triples out of nowhere sucessfully. Obviously there will be a lot of hungry privateers at Anaheim but let's see how he handles it! Either way he was throwing some nice whips while riding motocross in Italy
  • 3 0
 I’d wager there is less than 10% odds he makes the night show on a fluke, but f*ck I’d love to see it. The Moto crowd would shit their pants.

I would never claim to be the most knowledgeable on mx, but based on those clips I don’t see it happening.
  • 2 0
 @Neves99: I appreciate that you offered that perspective. I did realize after a while that I jumped on a criticism train for what should be a cool thing Bernard is doing to challenge himself.
  • 2 0
 @RXN059: It is a really cool thing Bernard is doing and i have no clue if he will make it or not. One thing for sure is that there are a lot of supercross underdogs over there. There's a reason why european riders try to make it overseas. Look at Musquin and how much he worked to get to those top steps! I truly hope Kerr makes it even if it's on LCQ lol
  • 12 0
 Now that’s a HARDCORE racer! Respect brother.
  • 9 1
 It’d be super cool if Maxxis and Fly could pony up a bit more cash and hire someone to document the process of training and qualifying in California! Would definitely watch that.
  • 3 0
 Bernard said Maxxis are going to be doing some filming around it but I’m not sure if it’s going to be at the event itself or just the run up to it
  • 8 1
 The only A1 he will get into is if he borrows someone’s old Troy lee designs helmet ! Ya gotta be kidding me ! Fatty Carmichael wouldn’t qualify and he’s an old goat , good luck though lol
  • 1 0
 lol Good luck Bernie! you gonna need it signed Eddie lol
  • 6 0
 It’s interesting that it takes so little for a foreign racer to be able to race A1. Its a very serious process with the AMA to be able to race if you’re in the US. Or it was 10 years ago when I was racing.
  • 3 0
 Let me clarify- the AMA Pro license was a very serious process. You had to earn points at various high level races (Loretta Lynn’s, National Arenacross, etc.) and/or you had to have a promoter/owner from one of the national tracks certify your competency before you could apply. Definitely not a buy a license and go situation.
  • 4 0
 @samdeatley: and I thought you had to score points in the AX / Road to SX series ?
  • 7 0
 @ATV25: that's what i was thinking while reading this whole thing... Didn't they implement that rule to stop people who are really not qualified to be racing SX from getting on the start line? And yeah I understand Bernard is already a professional athlete from a different sport, but its kinda BS to me, if he can just "buy a license and go" when there are people in the states who have spent their entire life trying to qualify, and have gone through the tough process of gaining enough AX/SX futures points...
  • 3 0
 @qman11: it is the FIM so good only knows how screwed up the process can get ! I hope the best for Bernard ! STAY SAFE . . . SX is no joke and "the best in the world" get f*cked all the time.
  • 1 0
 @ATV25: I think so too, but I didn’t know for sure. I haven’t read the AMA rule book since 2007. Hopefully he does well, though.
  • 1 0
 It’s always been easier for foreign guys, especially since the introduction of the FIM being apart of SX regulatory body.
  • 4 0
 Very interesting read..!
I’m really looking forward to see what he’s gonna do in DoCal this upcoming month.
Since he has so much skill on two wheels already there’s a big chance he can develop a lot in a short period of time, riding the SoCal tracks with help from the right people. And a bike from McGrath can only improve him more, thinking suspension etc.
Wishing you all the best Bernard..!
I’d be so stoked to see you stand at that gate at A1 during the night show!! Big ups!!
  • 6 2
 Seriously wish Kerr all the luck in the world. Hate to let him know the slowest guy on that starting grid has been hitting those triples since they were 12 years old on an 85cc. My cousin swept several local Pro class championships this past year, showed up for an AMA outdoor national, and frankly wasn't even close. This will most certainly end in a crash, hopefully it won't be a bad one resulting in injuries. Good luck!
  • 5 2
 Supercross should not be attempted by people who have never even done a local race!

I appreciate the ambition, but I can see this effort getting culled pretty quickly once Feld/AMA get a sniff of his (lack of) qualifications.

Kerr's surprise at only 56 entries actually underlines how naive he is - people at his level aren't even allowed to try. That he intends to use ACU and FIM loopholes is dumb and dangerous.
  • 4 1
 Awesome ambition and I hope he pulls it off, but that is a REALLY dangerous idea. Being able to clear triples reliably well doesn't mean anything for dealing with unexpected moves from other riders at full race pace. Simply "failing" and getting a DNF is not the worst that can happen by trying to huck your meat in a pro SX race without any kind of race conditioning on a dirt bike. Years of DH racing doesn't count. The expert/pro line of any moto event will get hairy and out of control in an instant if your nerves aren't groomed specifically for it. I also would not expect FIM to allow him to race once they catch wind of whatever loophole he used.

It's a bit over a month to A1. We'll see what happens.

Signed, an AMA A/AA dirt bike racer.
  • 3 0
 I'm missing something here.
You can't just wake up one day and decide you're gonna go race the world's premier SX series, against the world's fastest racers.

The AMA qualifying procedure consists of earning a LOT of points in expert classes/won other Pro MX/SX races and championships.
How is it that this dude is magically gonna roll into Anaheim Stadium and line up on the start gate?
  • 5 0
 Super ambitious!

Anyone remember when Shaun Palmer did this as well?

www.youtube.com/watch?v=GDUlwPmlHBs
  • 2 0
 He did qualify for GlenHelen I believe, but he also messed up his hand pretty bad and I don't think he finished the motos. And that was pretty much it for him. He did qualify for Anahiem too, and I don't think he finished the main but he was there in 22nd. I wish Bernard all the luck in the world and I hope he stays safe.
  • 3 0
 @brownstone: ripped part of his pinky off if memory serves me right, did it in a fence.
  • 7 0
 Shaun Palmer, the bad motherf*cker that he was, qualified for the Los Angeles SX main event back in 1998. No one has come close to his multi sport success, WC DH, Snowboard 1/2 pipe, boardercross, skiercross, snocross, and moto!
  • 3 0
 @brownstone: he did indeed qualify for the Glen Helen main event on a factory Honda in ‘01. He got railed into the fence and crushed his pinky. He was unable to finish. He quit after that unfortunately.
  • 2 0
 @Golden-G: Palmer was the Ultimate Badass
  • 4 0
 @survivalofthefattest: @Golden-G: Can you guys stop using the past tense please?! I had to Google to make sure Palm is still alive, which he very much is!
  • 2 0
 @Golden-G:

Napalm raced Pikes Peak too.
  • 1 0
 @endlessblockades: you are correct! Where is he know and what is he doing? Last we heard was his gig with Intense.
  • 2 0
 @Golden-G:

Seems to be OK - he just turned 50 and posted a photo riding MX in a shiny suit on his IG @palmer555 crazy I remember when he was a grom when snowboarding was just starting and his nickname was Minishred
  • 2 0
 I hope Bernard does well. I'm curious how he will manage the transition from mtb time trial to mass start, frantic hole shot, passing at way faster than DH bike speed, etc. I'm quite sure he knows exactly what he needs to work on. How many years does he have on a moto?
  • 3 0
 is there any chance we could see bernard doing some moto with Gwin and the Intense owner? Bernard, best of luck mate. We love watching you doing all the crazy stuff you do. Stay safe
  • 3 1
 Remember when Gajer, an actual MX world champion tried to race Monster Cup and jacked himself up?

How many SX guys get seriously hurt in practice every year.

This is a joke that has not-insignificant chance of ending badly. If they even let him do it.
  • 2 1
 How did he end up with an AMA pro license? Did he go do any qualifiers? Sx futures? Any pro Moto racing at all to prove he deserves one (or put in the $1000s like everyone else does)? For Pete's sake I was doing Sx triples on a bone stock 2003 yz-125 in middle school as a B-rider, but I sure as heck didn't belong at a pro SX race.
The politics of this kind of tick me off. Stupid AMA.
I doubt he comes within 2 seconds of even making the night show.
I'm sorry if this sounds like I'm hating on Kerr, but there are a lot of riders better than him the have to go through a lot more hoop-jumping to get a license to even go line up for a supercross practice.
  • 4 0
 Wow, what a challenge/experience! Good luck. I hope to be there in person.
  • 5 0
 The BK whopper!!
  • 3 0
 3 advices! traing hard, be careful with the crashes before A1, focus!!
  • 1 0
 watch out for the whoops! I bet the whoops get him in practice. absolutely treacherous at all levels. I hate whoops, my left hip still hurts a little sometimes and its been 15 years. good luck Bernard.
  • 4 0
 Legend!
  • 1 0
 There's a really cool video here with a crossover with one of the Moto guys coming to race a World Cup if Bernard makes it in...
  • 1 0
 Yeah like a two wheel version of Mayweather vs McGregor. And we know how that went... nah, I’m just being dum, gotta Love Bernie Kerr. His living his best life and that’s what it’s all about.
  • 2 0
 Let’s get another rider to try and enter. Come on Gwin, you want to and have guys in the know to help.
  • 1 0
 Gwin probably knows he has no business on a supercross track though
  • 1 0
 So cool! I was wondering how it was going with getting into A1. I really hope he makes it! I'll certainly be rooting for him
  • 1 0
 Hope you manage to qualify !
Will not be easy but why not, hope you have been practicing your starts or you not thinking about the actual heat race?
  • 1 0
 This is awesome news! Can hardly wait for A1! Even if Bernard doesn't make the night show this is totally badass! I'll be watching and cheering for him on Race Day Live!
  • 3 0
 Shawn Palmer did it.
  • 1 0
 Anaheim is the supercross opener not the motocross opener. It's like saying downhill and XC are the same because bikes.
  • 2 0
 Good luck! This is super inspiring.
  • 1 0
 I remember when Palmer tried to qualify but can't remember if he made it. I think he did.
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