By Kenneth Olausson
Double world champion Rolf Tibblin was well-known for his extreme fitness. The Swede was always in top physical form and if nothing else went right on the track, his physical stamina would help him cross the finish line as a winner. In the beginning of the 70s Rolf lived on the US west coast and began hosting a Husqvarna Training School. Here are some memories shared.
The Husqvarna International Training Centre was introduced in California and started in 1973 after Tibblin had arrived in the USA. Several locations were looked at, but it was decided that San Marcos would be an ideal place as the Carlsbad track lay in the vicinity. A hotel in town provided the meals while a local gym was perfect in order to practice the physical training. The first school included five days of attendance, but it was later to be reduced to three.
The true training buff in motocross is the Swedish giant Rolf Tibblin, who won his first 250cc crown for Husqvarna back in 1959 and then went on to a double title victory in the 500cc class for the same brand. Tibblin regarded the physical training as an absolute must in order to become a successful rider. Not only did he preach for practicing strength, but he was also keen on emphasizing endurance and stamina. No doubt he became one of the fittest motocross riders ever and in order to do so Tibblin developed his own training regime.
Motocross in the USA was a young sport in these days and fathers did not teach their kids about how to tackle and practise this young game of action. And since there were more learners than teachers around, most youngsters charged into racing with an overabundance of enthusiasm and a lack of experience. People would go out on Sundays with their only rule being to ride fast - without any boundaries. Some riders went berserk over their banzai method and in worst cases they would break a leg or worse. But now there was a possibility to learn the motocross game properly and safely - with a true master as the teacher.
The interest for the Husqvarna International Training Centre was vast and considering the fact that each class only consisted of some 20 youngsters, the queue in line was long and people had to stay on a waiting list before they could enter the Holy Grail contest. It all started in January 1973 and for the first four months, Tibblin ran the course single-handedly before picking up assistance. The program was equally divided into instructions for physical conditioning and riding experience.
Rolf Tibblin was a true believer in physical fitness. He had the opinion that riding fast over long periods takes 75 percent physical and mental skills while only 25 percent is about riding ability. Tibblin felt that fast kids with good potential were ignoring the 75 percent as well as the fact that they were learning the rest all wrong. And this is what my training is all about, said Tibblin proudly…
”The class usually gathered at 6:30 in the morning at the pool of the hotel. The majority of the pupils were between 20 and 25 years old, while the rest were younger with braces on teeth or a few still with pimples. It was definitely a group of beginners.” But then, it also happened that Steve McQueen - a good friend of Rolf Tibblin - passed by to get some inside info from Tibb.
After breakfast it was time for morning workout. Tibblin started by emphasizing the importance of warming up properly in order to retain your body heat. Then he went on with many different exercises and the workout concentrated heavily on legs, stomach and back muscles, which Tibblin said a rider should rely on most. “The trick is to control the bike with your lower part of the body if you ride for long periods,” said Tibblin with a broad smile. “The arms should relax on the handlebars while you ride with your knees.”
As an example the following exercises were included on Tibblin's practise scheme: kneebends in four sets of 15 each with a 10-second rest between sets and push ups in double sets of twelve. Furthermore, there were toe raises, waist bends, swivel hips, leg thrusts, waist stretch, toe touch, scissors, arm circles and headstand among the features. Physical training methods are different and vary.
In the end there was of course the practical exercise on the machines out on the Carlsbad track, Here, Tibblin showed on "how to" and gave every rider his personal instructions. “And don't you try to cheat on the exercises,” was Tibblin's mantra, “you're only cheating yourself!” As a roundup task, there was a small motocross race. The contestants had to walk the track first in order to learn it. It took time but in the end it would save time while riding. And for the final everyone had to show what they had learned.
Performing well was in for everyone at the Husqvarna International Training Centre, which went on for a few years before the school was abandoned in 1975.