Racer Profile: Austen Madison - Changing Gears

A sit down with defending Snowbike Series Champion Austen Madison
Austen Madison ACS Snow Bike
Name: Austen Madison
Age: 22
Hometown: Jefferson, WI
Race Series: ACS Snow Bike (season points champion 2016-17)
Bike/Kit: KTM 450 SX-F/ Timbersled
When did your career start?
AM» I started riding bikes at age 10, racing snocross at age 11. In my snocross racing career I won four regional points championships, two Eagle River titles in the 14-17 Jr. Class and had multiple podium finishes.

Why did you decide to make the switch from racing sleds to racing snowbikes?
AM» When I moved out on my own a couple years ago, affording snowmobile racing just wasn’t going to happen without the support from my parents. I attended the Duluth season opener this past season, and as soon as I saw the snowbikes I knew I just had to try it! I already had a bike, so buying a snowbike kit was much more affordable than even buying a used race sled. It was about half the price.

How does racing a snowbike compare to racing a snowmobile around a snocross track?
AM» The snowbikes have a lot less power, so it’s harder on the jumps which are designed for the Pro-Open snowmobile class. But if you watch a snowbike race, you’ll see that the bikes are a lot faster through the corners than the sleds. If you look at the lap times between bikes and sleds, you can see that the average lap time for the snowbike racers is not much slower than the sleds.

Do you see anything changing in race setup to be more accommodating to snowbikes?

AM» With the changes to the Pro-Open snowmobile class this season moving them to stock engines and chassis, they will have to adjust the track design a little bit. That should make it somewhat more manageable for the snowbikes.
Austen Madison KTM 450 SX-F/Timbersled
Do you see more snowmobilers or more dirt bike riders trying snowbikes?
AM» From the general consumer standpoint, I see more snowmobilers trying out snowbikes. They’ve already got winter weather apparel, where dirt bike riders may not have gear for cold weather. But when you look at the AMA Snowbike Race Series, there’s a lot more motocross guys coming over to try racing snowbikes. The snow industry needs dirt bikers to get into snowbikes in order to help grow the industry, and it’s happening slowly but surely.

How will snowbikes impact the overall snowmobile industry going forward?

AM» I think there’s opportunity for snowmobile-specific companies to expand into the snowbike market. There’s a lot of need for things like better gear, hard parts like bark buster handguards, and performance upgrades. One example where there’s a big opportunity, is boots. Most of today’s snowmobile boots are too big and bulky to accurately work the shift lever to change gears, but at the same time there aren’t many options for an insulated, waterproof motocross boot either. You’re stuck having to choose between poor shifting or cold, wet feet. Most racers opt for the motocross boot because we’re not out on the track that long, and it’s better for shifting gears. But you better have a boot dryer in the race trailer! Pants are another area where most snowmobile gear is too bulky to ride on a snowbike.
Austen Madison KTM 450 SX-F/Timbersled
How do you manage your racing while working a full time job and attending school?
AM» It’s not easy, but work has been accommodating to my racing schedule so far. I’m working on my engineering degree as well from Madison Area Technical College, and work has helped me out with that as well. I’ll probably have to take some time off from work this season with the increased race schedule.

What are your plans for the upcoming race season?

AM» I plan on racing the full ISOC series on a Yamaha 450 this year thanks to the support from Timbersled, Cycletrader Rock River, Powermadd and all my sponsors. I will be defending my season points championship from last year and also be racing the AMA Snowbike series.
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