My Life in bikes: Troy Bayliss

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‘A local copper told me he was keeping an eye on me’

x-British Superbike and three-times World Superbike Champion talks about being a young idiot and racing for Ducati in WSB

How did you get started on bikes?

When I was about five my dad bought me a Honda Z50 dirtbike and I just rode that around the farm where we lived out west in Australia. I would ride around with my dad and chase the cows. I loved that bike so much; even from the first time I rode it.

When did the racing start?

When I was about 10 I went to my first motocross race and I had a Honda CR80 Elsinore, the red one. I was always crying and I didn’t enjoy it at all. I always used to finish second to last. Luckily there was one person who was a lot worse than me.

You were more successful a bit later on so what changed?

Over the winter I got a Yamaha YZ80H and started doing some proper practice, and then I started winning. It was all just for fun; I had no intention of going racing at all.

Your dad helped you a lot at that time didn’t he?

Yeah, he was a car mechanic but used to do a lot of work on the bikes. Not tuning, but he would work on things like building longer swingarms and he wasn’t afraid to try new stuff all the time. In 1983 or ’84 he built me a big-wheel Honda CR80 before they were available to buy. I rode until I was about 14 or 15, and then just stopped.

First big bike
Kawasaki ZXR750 H1
‘I was nearly knee down in jeans’

When did you get your road licence?

I was 17 and I bought a Yamaha TT250 and I got my learner’s permit. I was a car paint sprayer at the time and used it to get to work. I rode that bike on the road like it was a dirtbike. The local copper, who was nice bloke, had a word and told me he was keeping an eye on me and not to ride it like an idiot. I just told him I was an idiot and asked how else was I supposed to ride it. In 1990 I decided to get a proper road bike and bought a brand new Kawasaki ZXR750 H1 for nearly $10,000. I was nearly knee down on the road in jeans while out riding with my mates. It was all a bit stupid. Kim [Ed: Troy’s wife] used to wallop me on the back of the head to get me to slow down. I went to Eastern Creek that year to watch the GP and I just said to myself ‘I could do that’.

How did you get on?

I did two races on the ZXR750 before realising I needed a smaller bike so I bought a Kawasaki KR1-S. I told myself I would put race fairings on it when I could afford it so just took the lights off and went racing. Of course I crashed it and smashed all the fairings to pieces. I bought a Kawasaki ZZR600 to race as well that year.

It was a wildcard ride at Phillip Island on a Suzuki 250 that changed everything for you. What was that bike like to race?

Amazing. The handling was incredible. It wasn’t as fast as the factory bikes and I was a little big for a 250, but I did OK. After that I got invited to go and race in England with GSE Ducati.

Best bike
2002 Ducati 998
‘It felt like a comfortable armchair’

Which Ducati did you love the most?

The 996 I took the British Superbike title with in 1999 was a lovely bike. It didn’t feel like that bike could be crashed because it felt so nice. The Vance and Hines bikes I raced a couple of times in America in 2000 were lovely; just as nice as the factory bike later that year. But I think the 998 of 2002 was my all-time favourite. It just felt like a comfortable armchair and even though I lost the title that year I still love that bike the most. The 2003 MotoGP bike was a tough bike to ride. It was hard to ride fast and it was really, really hot.

What’s in the garage now?

I’ve got a pile of dirtbikes and I do have replicas of the 999 and 1098 race bikes but I’ve never ridden them on the road. I also have the 998, 999 and 1098 championship-winning bikes. If I were to get a road bike again I think it would be a Ducati Scrambler so Kim and I could head out for a coffee.