Keeping Ricky Carmichael’s bike sorted out and winning races takes a special mechanic. Mike Gosselaar has the distinction of wrenching RC through not one but two perfect seasons in his career.
Makita Suzuki’s Mike “Goose” Gosselaar has a unique job. He’s the mechanic for the GOAT, the Greatest of All Time – Ricky Carmichael.
Gosselaar prepares RC’s 2007 RM-Z450 Suzuki, which represents a couple years of steady refinement. RC’s bike has just four more races scheduled in Supercross form. Actually RC’s quartet of bikes only has four Supercrosses to go. RC has two at home, one race bike in the semi, and one for the test track/shop. They keep all four up to about the same specs, even down to all the expensive titanium hardware.
“Suzuki spends a boatload of money on them,” says Gosselaar, “We keep a total of four of these bikes at all times – all the same bike. Piece for piece there is not one difference.”
Previous to moving to Makita Suzuki with RC in 2005, Gosselaar was a career first-stringer at Factory Honda. Starting in 1993, he’s worked for Steve Lamson, Ezra Lusk, and then RC. He also worked temporarily with Jeremy McGrath, Kevin Windham, and even Stefan Everts.
Working for RC isn’t too complicated according to Goose, you just have to keep him happy with the front brake, which he considers his pacing item.
“Ricky is a front brake fanatic,” says Gosselaar, “You will see me on the start sometimes, before the parade lap, changing his front brake lever, and after the parade lap I might change it again before the parade lap. He never stops monkeying with the front brake.”
Gosselaar says RC has his program so refined, that having a better front brake is his key to going faster. For that reason Suzuki has spared no expense to get RC the trickest Nissin works caliper and hardware on the front. As far as brakes, the only thing stock on RC’s front end is the brake line.
According to Gosselaar, RC always says “‘If I had a front brake that worked better than what I have I can go faster.'”
“His front brake is the key,” continues Goose. “He’s like a road race guy now. He says ‘I can only go as fast as my front brake will let me.'”
You think you’ve got some man hours into your bike? How many washers have you drilled to save weight?
RC’s bike has to use the stock frame and swingarm per AMA rules, so changes are made for RC’s size in the seat and subframe. Gosselaar ran across the same issues at Honda, where RC had that famous Supercross bike with the low handlebars.
“He has short legs so we have a low seat, and a low subframe,” says Gosselaar. “At Honda, for some reason he started rotating his bars further and further back. He was uncomfortable going through whoops. He thought if he rotated them back he would sit back further and get his weight back. It got to where every week he struggled he was like ‘I want to move my bars back a little more.’ I said no, you can’t go anymore.”
They were so low at the last race, we parked that bike and when we went to do Supercross testing months later, we brought his bike out just like he left the track, and he said ‘you guys are jacking with me, I didn’t ride my bike like that,’ and I said ‘we haven’t touched it, this is how goofy you had your setup!’ He had a hard time believing it.”
Gosselaar stresses that RC’s bike is of course light and expensive, but the attention is really on making a bike work better for a specific rider, what they like, what they need to win, what they learn during the season, how much power to use, all that. “These bikes are made for whatever they like,” says Gosselaar, “It doesn’t mean its better or anyone else can go like he can on it. Engine-wise, the way it runs it’s not super powerful; we have it running really good. If we wanted more power we would have it. Who wants to ride an open bike at a Supercross? I don’t, would you?”
Carmichael’s front brake is the single most important feature on his machine. According to his mechanic, he can never get enough performance from the front binder.
As far as the repeating fuel controversies, RC dodged the minefield this time around, and Gosselaar, like the other factory mechanics, doesn’t understand why it’s an issue: “This fuel thing, if we wanted to get five more horsepower out of this thing, we have everything for that on the shelf,” he said. “There is no reason to be running a fuel to get more power. We are right at the limit of how much power you can have and how fast you can ride it. Ours guys have it pretty much figured out.”
So what’s the one thing Mike can tell us about RC no one knows? “He has a very tender ass,” says Goose pointing towards his seat, “We have different densities of seat foam and he can figure them out. You can’t feel it with your finger but he can feel it with his butt!”
Gosselaar was lucky to have a more relaxing race weekend than normal at Houston when we caught up to him. His rider now stepping into auto driving part-time was just signing autographs for the day. His bike was there, clean and race-ready, just like when he used it to win the San Francisco Supercross a couple weeks earlier. With no race weekend pressure Mike gave us an exclusive and detailed tour of Carmichael’s remarkable motorcycle – and remember this is one of four!
Not only does Suzuki install titanium bolts everywhere possible, but they drill them out to save every ounce possible. Ricky’s bike is a perfect blend of protection and perforation.
Making Carmichael’s RM-Z450:
Motor – CP pistons, optional Pro Circuit camshaft, FCC/Hinson clutch w/Factory Suzuki inner cover, Stock cylinder/valves, Factory Suzuki crank
Carburetor – “Special made Keihin carb, just for looks. No performance gain. Magnesium, very expensive. We want to have cool stuff on the bike.”
Tires – Bridgestone “They have so many different tires. Compound selection is in (Bridgestone’s) Doug Schopinsky’s head, he knows these tires inside and out. They have different compounds and different heights but they look identical.” Note: Part of RC’s agreement with Suzuki was he could select the tire brand, and not be tied to a team sponsor choice on tires.
Exhaust – Pro Circuit Titanium header and muffler
Footpegs and Brackets – Titanium, Suzuki of Japan
Rear Brake Lever – Titanium, Suzuki of Japan
Fuel Tank – Stock, wrapped in heat-shield tape, “We were one of the first to wrap the tank with a heat shield. The 4-strokes run so hot, the fuel tank is right on top of the hottest part, you end up boiling fuel and you get bogging, and you don’t want to bog in Supercross.”
Rims – Excel
Hubs – Factory Suzuki of Japan
Grips and Bars – Pro Taper
Win, lose or draw, Mike Gosselaar is always there to find out what he can do to make his bike better. Luckily it’s mostly been the winning side of things.
Oil/Lube – Maxima
Chain – D.I.D.
Sprockets – Tag Metals
Levers – Factory Suzuki made to stock specs.
Shifter – Factory Suzuki, “It’s an aluminum shifter but a little different location.”
Misc Titanium Hardware – The bike has titanium hardware everywhere. Suzuki doesn’t use a custom hard parts catalog like some of the teams, everything for RC’s bike (and Tedesco’s) such as footpegs and bracket, front brake parts, brake lever, etc is works from Suzuki of Japan. “They make everything special just for us, nothing is off the shelf.”
Graphics – One Industries
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