Voted Australia’s top stunt rider by his peers, young Dave McKenna has some tips for anyone wanting to start in the world of motorcycle stunting.
“The first thing is to get a dirt bike,” the 28-year-old says.
“You can learn a lot on a WR250. It’s all the same – throttle, brake and body control.”
We could list the injuries the Yamaha ambassador has experienced in his career, but it would probably be easier to list the bones he hasn’t broken.
He says stunt riders have to confront the fact that they will crash while learning and says it is far less painful with a light bike on dirt than a heavy street bike on the tar.
“I learnt the hard way. You can crash a dirt bike and just pick yourself up,” he says.
“Once I learnt on a dirt bike, I was ok on a street bike.”
Dave grew up on a farm near Ballarat and did some motocross racing like his dad, Les Riley.
“But I knew from when I was about 12 I wanted to get into road bikes,” he says.
His first bike was a 1987 Honda CB250F Hornet which he only kept for there months before becoming bored.
“I kind of got tired of it and bought a GSX-5750 ex-race bike while I was still on my learners,” he says.
“I know I shouldn’t have done that, but it was out in the country and I didn’t think it would hurt anyone.”
He was wrong.
“I only had that in good nick for about three months before I ended up looping it practising some wheelies at about 150km/h. I trashed it down the road.”
He also broke some bones so he decided to go back to dirt bikes to more safely hone his skills.
“I was watching a lot of Crusty Demons freestyle MX videos at the time, but there was something about the road bikes that took me.”
So he returned to stunting street bikes and was eventually noticed and asked to do some demonstrations.
“I always thought it would be a hobby, but then the opportunity came up to go to China for six weeks, then 12 weeks, and in the end I did nearly three years full time in China,” he says.
“I came back because it started to get a bit quiet in China and I had got more into instructing than stunt riding.
“When I came back, I had to start my career all over again, get a job and work on stunting part time.”
Then Yamaha picked him up and sponsored him. He’s now been full time for three years and has been voted top Aussie stunt rider by the online stunt riders forum “Aussie Stunt Riders”.
Dave says he learns a lot of his tricks from watching stunt videos.
“Luckily there are loads of videos on the internet so I can see what is possible and work it out from there with a lot of trial and error,” says Dave who has never had a stunt teacher.
“If you are really serious about stunting, take your time. Learn one thing at a time and don’t rush it.”
Another tip is with tyre pressures.
“Start out with lower pressures to learn, but you eventually have to get back to 32psi so you can turn,” he says.
Dave originally stunted for Yamaha on an R6, then a turbocharged MT-09 with 207 horsepower (154kW) which is featured in the video at the top of this page (not an MT-10 as subtitled by the video editor).
Next stunt bike will be a supercharged MT-10 with 250 horsepower (186kW) for drifting displays.
Apart from the turbo and supercharger, all bikes are standard, including engine internals, except for the usual stunt modifications such as a tank on the seat, 62-tooth rear sprocket, heavier clutch spring, hand-operated rear brakes and thumb throttle.
“I’ve not had one problem with any of them,” he says.
“I get them straight out of the crate and there is no run-in period; they so straight on full noise.
“The R6 is pretty flat with nothing until up the top, so I had to change my riding style for the MT bikes. The make the R6 feel like a dirt bike because there is so much more torque. Really punchy. Now I couldn’t go back.”
So what’s dave working on now?
“I’m always working on new stuff. It never ends,” he says.
“However, the next biggest thing that I’m working on is 360-degrees stoppies. I can do it in practice, but you are really on the limit and have to nail it. If I can get more consistent with that it would be cool.”
You will be able to see perform at the Newcastle Supermoto Championships in September and Melbourne Motorbike Expo in November.