The Social Sunday with ex-road tester Simon Roots

Published: 02 July 2017

What better way to spend a Sunday than for MCN to sit down with a fellow biker for a chinwag about life and bikes, of course.

This week we caught up with ex-road tester and KTM's Marketing Manager, Simon Roots.

What's on the menu for brekkie at the bike cafe today?

“Porridge, raisins and tea. Tea is the fuel for a riding day. I’m not really a fry-up kind of guy. The thought of the meat sweats all morning doesn’t appeal to me. You don’t get meat sweats with porridge.” 

Maybe porridge-sweat...

*Simon laughs*

What are you looking for on a Sunday ride?

“I would be on my own. It would involve some interesting topography and it would have a half-way point by the sea.”

What place?

“I’d probably fight my way through to Wales, Aberystwyth.”

And what's in your pannier/backpack when you're out on a ride?

“Absolutely nothing.”

What?!

“Nope, nothing. I have no security rucksack, I have a wallet, a phone and that’s it.”

Not even a bottle of water?

“Nope, that’s what a wallet is for. Even when I’ve been to Europe, if all I’m doing is riding, I mostly just use a rucksack. A few years ago I did the Cannonball Run. I was away for six nights and just took a tank bag and a rucksack. You wouldn’t want to get too close to me by the last night or two…”

Yes, just a small waft, Ha!

*Giggles* “Yeah.”

But, hey! Let’s go back to the backpack thing, what’s wrong with a backpack? 

“You never get anything out of it! Well I never do. The times that I have done I’ve thought, ‘Right, I’ll get a cool rucksack, a nice Kriega, and put things in it. But the things that I do take, I have no use for. Actually what I do do is, unless it’s sweltering, if I’m in leathers then I’ll put a rain coat over the top, if only to keep the flies off my leathers.”

So you’ve got some nice leathers then, eh?

“I’ve had some nice leathers in my time, yeah.”

Oh, do share…

“I had a set of RST leathers made with a tuxedo at the front and a tiger print on the back. I took my inspiration from a set that Eric Bostrom wore in about 2002/2003..”

That’s cool! Nice choice. Now let’s talk a bit about your two-wheeled pals. What was the first bike you ever  rode?

“The first was a 50cc automatic, then a Kawasaki KX80 when I was about 12 years old. I remember one of my dad’s friend’s going, ‘Err, it’s an 80cc, that’s gonna be rubbish.’ Then he jumped on it and the first thing he did was flip it!”

Karma will do that to you. What was your first road bike?

“When I was 16 years old I had a Yamaha TY50. I then got my licence when I was about 18. Back then you did your licence at 18 and could then jump on any bike.”

What did you go for after that?

“For about two years, I spent some time on a Yamaha DT125, then a Kawasaki KMX125 and then I think I had an XS400, which is a crappy old Yamaha. Then my first ever sports bike was an Yamaha FZR600, which I got when I was about 20 years old.” 

So what is your top tip for a new rider?

“To get in as many miles under your belt as much as possible. It doesn’t really matter what bike it’s on. It’s a case of, practice the right things, do things in the right way, take the right advice and then act upon that advice in all your riding, on road, on track, off road, wherever.

“There’s things like BikeSafe. They’ll teach you in a manner that ensures you’re best equipped to survive the road. It’s very easy to dismiss all your instructions after you pass your test, but there’s lots of good nuggets with them. What I’m wary of is people simply jumping on the road and going for it, trying to go faster and faster and faster. My idea of a great ride is to not have any stories at the end of day. So yeah, BikeSafe is a really good option and it doesn’t cost much money. They have a classroom session in the morning, which I’ve done before. In that they present a video, which details people going out on rides. The staged stuff they show is, they set a scenario for you, then booby trap it with something you need to spot. It’s learning from those mistakes in the classroom so you don’t actually commit those mistakes when you’re out on the road. It’s really enlightening. The experience the officers who teach BikeSafe is really valuable and to pass it on to people who have just passed their test, may stop people from having scrapes on the road.”


Yeah, they teach to be more of a sensible rider. 

“Yeah and to show you what car drivers might do and what might be around the corner. In some instances advice like that might slow you down, but in other instances you think, ‘Right, I’ve assessed everything that might happen, on the balance of probability it won’t happen, so I guess I can just keep going.”

Definitely agreed. So who got you into riding? 

“My dad and my mum, who also ride. Also my two brothers ride.”

So it’s a family affair! Do you all ride together?

“We haven’t ridden together in a long time. However some time ago, I knew how to ride a bike. But I think, before I’d passed my test, my dad let me have a go on his ZZR1100 and I just zoomed up the road at ridiculously stupid speed and when I came back you could see my dad’s face was like, ‘Why did I let him do that?’ But we occasionally went out, I do remember one time we were coming back from something like the BMF Rally and we were coming off a roundabout and there was a garage straight after it. Dad had indicated left to turn off the roundabout, cancelled it and then indicated left again to go into the garage. But my mum didn’t pick up on that, so she was on the inside of my dad. Dad then slowed down to turn left into the garage and *sniggers* took my mum out.”

Oh no!

“So mum was on the floor and he had to pick her up. All the insurance forms looked really dodgy because it was Mr Roots and Mrs Roots. And I think mum had to kind of get dad’s  solicitors to pay for damages, for the bike and for leathers. That may have been the last time we rode together.”

Ah, we’re sure you’ll have a ride together again one day. And what do your parents ride now?

“Dad has got an FZ6 Fazer and my mum’s got an FZR1000.”

Nice! They both sound like the coolest parents, but what we want to know is, who gave you the most advice?

“I tend to do things on my own. I know dad provided me with a bike and gave me the starting blocks a clutch and gearbox and we went on a couple of rides and he pointed out a couple of bits. Then when I went more on my own I started figuring out things by myself. Despite all that though, all I wanted to do when I was young, was get my knee down. Had I spoken to someone at the time who knew how to do it then I would have done it in an afternoon, but it took me weeks and weeks and weeks. In the process I got the peg down, the exhaust down in a desperate effort to get my knee down. I just couldn’t understand why I couldn’t get my knee down. Similarly with when I started racing, I thought, ‘I’m fast, so I’ll start racing. I took zero advice, hadn’t done a track day and then went blindly into my first race. It was an endurance race and I ended up crashing after five laps. Safe to say my racing career didn’t last long. I realised quickly I wasn’t fast enough, rich enough or wear sunglasses enough.”  

Would you say that was your worst crash then?

“Not my worst. I think the one that’s affected me the most was on the launch of the Ducati 999 at Misano. The likes of Troy Bayliss were there, so I was very starstruck, it was my first big launch and I’d got the first session or two out of the way. By that point, I thought I’d learn the circuit, but when I crashed I ended up going beyond the limits of the circuit. I went up a rumble strip, then the the front tucked as I was still leant over quite a lot. And I think that was at about 120mph. I broke my ankle and took a lot of skin off a finger. When sitting in Misano hospital all I could see were pictures of Wayne Rainey when he had his crash and it’s the last thing you want to see. Wayne had a life-changing crash and I was sitting there like, ‘Ah, my ankle really hurts, my finger really hurts.”

Crashes aside, what’s the best launch you’ve ever been on? 

“It was a real privilege to be on of the first people to ride Circuito Ascari on a BMW launch. The last launch I did was the 1290 Super Duke R in Qatar. I ended up on a fully race-tuned bike. It had a full system, WP suspension, slicks, the lights were on at Qatar.”

Oh yes, MCN’s Chief Road Tester Michael Neeves was also on that launch. 

“Yes. It was a just a stupidly surreal occasion to be at. I felt highly privileged. As well as Michael, I tried to wheelie the straights.” 

I’m sure we have some MCN readers who are also budding future road testers, what are you three tips to them?

“I would tell them to, 1) say yes to everything, 2) enjoy everything and 3) just pretend you’re the reader of your publication and answer the questions one of your readers would ask.”

Now you’re marketing manager for KTM – Why make that move from working on bike magazines? 

“I really wanted a new challenge. Having been road testing environment for 15 years, I could do the job and was full of enthusiasm for the job, but I just felt I needed to prove myself in another field. I’m not there yet, but I’m getting there.”

What’s the major difference between the two jobs?

“Now I get to know all the KTM secrets.”

Can you share them with us?

“Yes!”

Yes! That’s what we like to hear.

“Haha. It’s really cool to see behind the scenes and it’s great to be able to work with a brand that is so dynamic full of ideas.”

Let’s wrap up…what’s your fave 2017 KTM? 

“Super Duke R, because I can do naughty things on it like use it’s launch control and traffic lights.”

What is one thing you love about biking? 

“It’s ability to get you into all sorts of trouble but ultimately you get away with it 99.9% of the time.”

What’s the worst thing about riding? 

“Cleaning flies off everything.”

How is the rest of 2017 panned out for you? Any big trips coming up? 

“The rest of 2017 is very busy for KTM. Our next free weekend is October 8. And I’m going on a Performance Bikes track day in August and I’m really excited about that.”


Click back next Sunday to Motorcyclenews.com for our next MCN Social Sunday interview.