He can take hairpin bends at 120 miles per hour, tinkle the ivories like Jools Holland and run over three kilometres in 12 minutes. Former Superbike world champion James Toseland we hate you.
James, how’s life treating you?
Life’s good. I’ve just changed Superbike teams from Yamaha and gone over to BMW, but it would have been nice if it hadn’t rained in Europe all winter. We’ve only had one dry test day out of six.
Bummer. Testing a new bike must be like trying out a new pair of running shoes, we imagine.
When you change bikes you have to get a feel for it. If you stay on the same bike then pre-season testing isn’t as critical because you know what it was like from the year before. But with a new machine it helps to try and get at least six days in the dry to get used to it. We’ve got a couple more days testing in Australia before the first race so fingers crossed the floods don’t down come down to Melbourne and we can get a couple of dry days under our belt.
How much running do you do to stay in shape as a Superbike rider?
I always enjoyed running as a kid so it’s one of the things I do a lot of for my training because I enjoy it more than the cycling, swimming and rowing. The fitness test for BMW is the Cooper test, which measures how far you can run in 12 minutes, so that’s something I practise every now and then to get a good reading on.
Sounds like it could be a bit of a lung buster?
It gives a rough guide on fitness level and is a really good, quick blast test to see what you can sustain for that time. I’m not sure about the history of it and why it’s called that. All I know is when you’re pushing yourself for 12mins it seems a fair old while.
Out with it then, what’s your PB?
My record for the test is 3,350m in 12 mins on a treadmill but I do it on both treadmill and track because you never know which surface they’re going to test you on. The last one I did was on a treadmill, which does make it a bit easier.
So how does that help you ride a motorbike?
With Superbikes you have two races in the one day and they’re both 45 mins long roughly. Because the season follows the sun we race in a lot of hot countries so your hydration and fitness levels have to be right up there. The other thing is because it’s such high speed - we average over 120mph on every track these days - your fitness levels are really important for your levels of concentration and safety. We need to keep our concentration and if you’re tiring then that can slip and you’re a danger to everybody.
Indeed. So how do you make sure you are still on your A-game when you’re knackered?
An interesting technique you see with boxers is where they’ll play chess after they’ve finished a hard session or do something like a crossword or sudoku to try and make their brain work properly when tired. I don’t do that much of it. I enjoy training and I’ve never had a problem with concentration because my fitness level has been good. So if I thought I needed some work on my concentration I’d do a bit more of that stuff.
The season takes you to some stunning locations, where’s the best place for a run?
The first stop on the circuit is Philip Island, a two-hour drive south of Melbourne. One of the surfaces I love running on is the beach and that’s one of the most picturesque ones I get to visit. The circuit is right on the coast, there’s a café on the seafront and I sit there and think how amazing the place is and how amazing the job is.
Nice. Running on the sand is a right sod though isn’t it?
Well, I broke both my ankles a few years ago and I’ve got two screws in them. I’ve got good flexibility but I haven’t got full flexibility so I have to run on a harder sand than a softer sand because the flexibility you need to run on the softer stuff is a bit too much for me sometimes. Running near the water where it’s hardened and flat is good.
Are those screws in there for good then?
I had the accident in 1998 and broke my femur in three places and had this massive metal rod down the leg. About a year later they tried to remove the screws from my ankle to get all the metal work out, but the screws were that set in and there was that much bone that had grown around them they would have to have broken my ankles while trying to get them out again, so they stayed.
So would that stop you running a marathon?
No, but it’s just a case of making the time to do it. I’ve always tried to juggle my schedule to do the London Marathon and that’s something I will do at some point but it always falls on a race because it’s always in the season. The New York Marathon would be more convenient because the season will have finished by then.
So I’ll definitely do one, one day. I also thought about trying to complete an Ironman at some point which is the daddy. I train for my job, but my training would have to change to compete in something like that.
What else do you get up to in your down time?
I play piano quite seriously and I’m also in a band. I’ve been writing my own songs at home on the Isle of Man. I’m working on a new one now and that’ll be my fifth so if I get to the half-dozen mark then I’ll hopefully record an album at some point.
Good luck with that. MR likes it when sportsmen release songs, the first single we bought was Gazza’s Fog on the Tyne, still brings a tear to the eye. So how will you and BMW do this year?
I’m a bit apprehensive about the first race due to lack of testing but the team is fantastic and the bike has a lot of potential. If we’re not at the front in Melbourne, we’re hoping to improve throughout the season and my ambition is to win BMW their first superbike race.
We’ll be rooting for you. Thanks James.
No problem, have a good week.