Public Access - James Toseland Road Ride

With just days to go before Brands Hatch WSB, Bertie Simmonds takes a road ride on the wild side with 2004 World champ and Great British hope James Toseland

You will not see James Toseland stripping if he wins at Brands Hatch World Supers. I'm sorry ladies, but his impromptu strip at Silverstone, when he secured two hard-fought WSB podiums, caused such a furore that it spelled the end for the Sheffield lad getting down to his kecks for all but Cosmo's recent charity centrefold collection.

While women love him and we cheer for him come race day, for us blokes it would be all-too easy to hate James Toseland. The reason is simple: envy. Firstly, he's awesome on a motorcycle, second he's an ex-world champion - and will be again. Thirdly, he's a fit bloke and a good-looking lad, and finally he can tinkle the ivories and plays keyboards and sings with a band. And if you're a bloke, does it really get any better than that?

At the moment though, he's wide-eyed from having a biker's blast on a road-going Fireblade. Best bit has been the casual nods from the riders we meet head-on, oblivious to who this really is. They probably think he's some wannabe in a set of Winston Ten Kate rep leathers.

But no, this is the real McCoy. "I don't usually ride on the road," admits James. "And you've seen the
reasons why! I can't help myself. It's all the adrenalin, y'see? That's what I want from riding a bike. I can't just potter around, really I can't. I mean, if I was riding from here in Manchester to Sheffield back home I'd be banned before I turned up at my mum's. I'm that bad..."

Indeed, James.

But let's get down to business. Ostensibly, we're here to talk about the impending World Superbike round at Brands Hatch on 6 August. Something James is seriously looking forward to, although as we've already mentioned he will be keeping a tight rein on his emotions and clothing this time. Maybe...

"I can't believe it," he laughs, "I've been banned from stripping! My leather sponsors were a bit annoyed you see, with me not wearing them on the podium, which I can understand. But the other problem was with the organisers of the race, who said there was a scrap that went on for 20 minutes as people tried to get hold of the leathers. I had no idea. Thing was, to get onto the podium I had to nab a pair of trousers off one of the Ten Kate mechanics, and he's obviously Dutch and you know how tall they can be, so I'm on the podium looking daft with these huge trousers on while the mechanic is running around in the pits trying to
get hold of a pair of trousers that fit."

This is the sparky James Toseland we remember from almost 10 years ago when he was the Next Big Thing in British racing. The young Toseland had wiped the floor with his competitors in the 1997 CB500 Cup, and had special dispensation to ride in the British Supersport 600 championship at just 16 years of age. He finished third overall. I also remember this talented lad being a little bit too excited about winning at Brands and wheelying off the back of his CBR600.

Since then he's become the polished professional. Perhaps a little too polished. But away from the pressure-cooker of racing things are different.

He's chatting like a mad thing after the road ride. With all of the very understandable hero worship going on from the assembled lads, and me, the question needs to be asked: does a home round help your chances of winning?

"It does make a difference, it really does," says James. "You can feel the support as you come out onto the track. Really, you can. I was made up to get two podiums at Silverstone, but now it's time to pin down Brands Hatch. I love it there, but I've not had much luck. In the last two years I've had mechanical problems. It's time to do the business for the fans."

JT Road ride

One man who currently stands in the way is Troy Bayliss. "He's riding awesomely at the moment, but we've seen him make mistakes before. He made one at Misano this year and he's been caught in the championship before, back in 2002 by Colin Edwards, so it's possible. Obviously it's tough for us as we're about 90 points down and we're working the bike without the sort of sophisticated electronics that Troy and the Ducati team have, but this is the way it is and we just have to deal with it."

So can't the Ten Kate team simply strap on a traction control system? Or is it not that simple?

"Sure, we're trying an over-the-counter system for the Fireblade," explains James. "The system we're looking at isn't from Honda, it's from another company and it costs around £20,000 to fit, per bike! That's £80,000 for the four bikes that me and Karl Muggeridge have. It shows the commitment that Winston Ten Kate has in the series to do that. They're a great team and a top bunch of people. They work so hard to help us get the results."

Indeed, we should all remember that even Honda's press pack for the 2006 Blade lists Ten Kate as a privateer team. Remember that when you measure their results with the likes of Xerox Ducati.

Mind you, a lack of traction control brings its own rewards. "It's fun controlling a 220bhp Fireblade and it's what I know now, so maybe it wouldn't be the best thing to get the system halfway through the season. Maybe it would take development time away from the bike, maybe. Sometimes it's best to stick to what you know."

Toseland is one of the crowd-pleasers in WSB; he's as happy with the rear tyre out sideways and smoking as he is with both wheels in-line. And he knows how to wow the crowds with his band, Crash, too. After our photo-shoot he was heading to Goodwood where Crash was playing three nights at the Festival of Speed. Last year he also managed to hook up with ex-Squeeze legend Jools Holland.

"That was mega. I played in front of 25,000 people at Newmarket races. Awesome, it really was. I was much more nervous there than I would be in front of 100,000 people at Brands - that's my stage after all. The worst thing was that I'd just had some dodgy highlights put into my hair and they looked awful, so I'd shaved my head and then I heard that I was going to be playing with Jools Holland. What could I do? I went out and bought a trilby so I'd look half-decent on stage. Jools was cool; I don't think he knew much about what we were going to do until near the end. I had to improvise with no rehearsal time. The best bit was my gran was there and she was the one who taught me to play the piano."

Singer, pianist, ex-world champion, awesome bike rider. And he even loves his gran. James Toseland, I hate you.


You'd think with a 220bhp superbike at his disposal JT would turn his nose up at the road version. Not a bit of it: "Bloody hell, it's quick isn't it? It's impressive when you see the spread of power, it's so quick to pick up the revs - and the front end. I really couldn't ride a bike like this on the road as I'd get into so much trouble. I'm pretty impressed by the brakes too, to be honest. They're really good, even compared to race stuff."