It’s the 125 that’s been heard around the world. Gared Steinke’s one of a kind Husqvarna TC125 has gathered quite the following over the past month for a number of reasons. Not only is the Eric Gillen tuned 125 one of the coolest and most unique looking bikes in the pits thanks to it’s wild Snow leopard print graphics and seat cover, but it’s the only 125 in the pits. And to top it off, Steinke plans to race the entire Pro Motocross Championship aboard the two-stroke machine. After attending several rounds in 2015 on a 125, the diehard two-stroke rider gained tremendous popularity for the daunting feat, so to back up last year’s performance, Stankdog and his mechanic Eric will attend every round of the 2016 series. Just before round three was set to kickoff, we caught up with the 726 rider at Thunder Valley to discuss what went into the build of his Husky TC125, but we really wanted to hear what it’s like to have fans cheering louder for you than the leaders.
First off, what you’re doing with your mechanic Eric Gillen and this Husqvarna TC125 is something very unique, as you’re the only rider to be doing the entire outdoor series aboard a 125 two-stroke. What made you decide to race a two-stroke and why a 125?
You know, I get asked that question a lot, but I just straight up love this bike. I'm a diehard two-stroke rider and fan. I absolutely love two-strokes and they were damn near the only bike I rode till I turned pro. I raced a two-stroke in the novice class, the intermediate class and I beat a lot of local pros on just a 125 while they were on 250 four-strokes. The fans love it, the sponsors love it and I’ve received more support and free products in the last year and a half doing the two-stroke thing than I ever have in my life. That kind of thing helps out a lot. It really is a fun thing for me to do because it’s a way for me to get back to my roots and the roots of motocross. I get a lot of the older generation telling me how cool it is what I’m doing with the two-stroke. I also have the mustache and the long hair to go along with the old two-stroke vibe. It gets me more pumped and more excited when I get good feedback from the fans, so it makes me want to push even harder. But to answer your question, I just love two-strokes so that's why am doing this.
Last year, you rode a Yamaha YZ125 for a couple rounds, but then made the switch to a KTM 125SX. What was the deciding factor in your decision to ride a Husqvarna this year?
I went with the Husky this year simply because that’s what I rode all year throughout Arenacross. I felt like getting to know those guys in Arenacross also helped with that decision because they treated me so well and they treated me with respect. I was just some average Joe that was fortunately signed to the team, but that didn’t stop them from taking care of me. You know with this 125, my dad can just call up Husky and they’ll hook us up with enough parts to fix the bike multiple times. Motosport Hillsboro hooked me up with one of their bikes after I bought one myself. Last year during the nationals, the KTM was a much better bike then the Yamaha for me Power-wise. I felt that the KTM had a lot of bottom where as the Yamaha only had good top end power. For this year, a lot of my decision to ride the Husky was made based on the fact that the people at Husky treated me so good. I’m extremely comfortable with everyone there and I absolutely love the bike.
Talk about the support you’re receiving from Motosport Hillsboro…
Yeah, Scott Russell and Brian Barnes over at Motosport Hillsboro have known me since I was just a little kid riding in The Pacific Northwest. Brian is actually the announcer at Washougal MX Park, and also works at Motosport as a salesman. Those two guys have helped me out tremendously from the time I was on 65’s till now in my pro career. Scott has written checks for bikes that he shouldn’t have written just to help me out. Essentially, he was paying for them out of his own pocket then letting me pay him back later. He’s also bought new bikes for himself, given them to me to help me race then takes them back after the season is over. He goes out on a limb pretty often for me and does stuff that he doesn’t have to do. I can’t thank him enough!
It’s safe to say that anytime you line up you have the most unique looking bike on the starting line. Where did the idea come from for the crazy animal print graphics and seat cover?
Snow leopard is the print on my Huskys, but I actually started doing the Cheetah print in 2014 with Traction MX on my Kawi. We had it all covered in Cheetah print with Dirt Candy graphics, and since I got so much attention in Arenacross with the crazy print we wanted to do it again outdoors with the Husqvarnas. This time, though, we wanted to stick with a lot of white, so we went with the Snow leopard. Traction MX killed it again with the seat cover, and then Tech 1 Designs killed it with the graphics. It’s a very unique bike and everyone is always telling us how much they love the look. The girls seem to be into the Snow leopard print, too which is always a plus even though my girlfriend is going to be mad for saying that (laughs). She loves it too, of course!
At any given point when you’re on the racetrack and you ride by a group of fans, chances are they’re cheering louder for you than the leaders. What is it like getting a response like that from the fans even though you’re not leading the race?
I honestly cannot even explain the feeling. Riding at these races in 2010, I would only get three or four people in the stands cheering for me, and that’s only because they were my close friends that I brought to the races (laughs). That kind of thing lasted up until about 2014 or 2015, but coming out here on the 125 I can hear people cheering for me over every jump around every corner and damn near everything in between. Last weekend at Glen Helen, there were even a number of flaggers cheering me on (laughs). Hearing them scream like that around the entire track is an unreal feeling. Even though I’m tired, sweating profusely and really thirsty, I can’t help but crack a smile every time.
Lining up on a 125 against all 250 four-strokes at an outdoor national, you’re already at a huge disadvantage by the time you get to turn one. What kind of motor work do you have done to this Husqvarna TC125 to help bridge that gap?
Jim Haeseker from Haeseker Racing does an absolutely beautiful job on both two and four-stroke motors. Hesker tumbled and polished the tranny, we did stock bearings instead of ceramic bearings and then Crank Works did a crank for us, as they balanced it and shot peened it. We have a stock piston and the head has been cleaned up a little bit, and the cylinder has been ported and polished. And yes, it is a 125 and it is a stock sized crank for everyone that asks. No, it is not a 150. You just got passed by a 125 (laughs).