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Alex Lowes at the 2018 WorldSBK Pirelli Aragon round

“Racing makes you feel alive” Alex Lowes talks a biker’s existence

Jun 242018

Alex Lowes has a lot going for him. The 27 year old Englishman is recently married, a favourite with Yamaha, a Suzuka 8 Hour winner and former British Superbike champion and is one half of motorcycle racing’s most famous twins. He also tasted his very first World Superbike race success with a brilliant run at Brno in the Czech Republic and followed up with a trophy at Laguna Seca last weekend.

Lowes obviously bears a physical resemblance to his brother Sam (a Grand Prix winner and now finding his form again in the Moto2 division) but also talks with the same rapid-fire pulses of gestures, half-finished thoughts and white-hot honesty usually delivered with humour. He’s good company in our brief chat about what forms and drives him as an athlete in a fiercely competitive FIM series where the likes of Jonathan Rea and Kawasaki have set the bar of performance very high.

"I knew early-on I wanted to beat Sam – at anything – and we were both so competitive that you sometimes go a bit over-the-top."

Alex, firstly, how do you rationalise the risks of racing as you get older?

Now I’m a bit older I look at it [the dangers] slightly differently…but when I was younger I had competition with Sam from an early age. When you put bikes, BMX, motocross into the mix then it becomes a bit of a recipe for disaster against each other. I knew early-on I wanted to beat Sam – at anything – and we were both so competitive that you sometimes go a bit over-the-top. You crash, you get injured and as you grow up you learn to give things a bit more respect. I remember a lot of silly things, like trying to clear a certain jump at motocross where you’ll have absolutely no gain from it whatsoever. If someone would dare me to do something I’d just go and do it! As you grow up you know what risks are worth taking…but I’ve always been a bit brave. I’m married now so I must be very brave.

What about the joy and elation of racing? Does it help to erase the hard knocks, crashes and injures?

Elation is strange. When I won the British Championship I never really enjoyed it because I was stupid. I was young and not enjoying the moment for what it was. I knew I was going to World Superbike the next year and I had a test seven days later. I just went home and then went back to the gym, thought about the test and moved onto the next ‘thing’. It’s not good. If I could have given myself some advice when I was younger then it would have been: enjoy it more, enjoy the situations, go out with the team and the guys. I love what I am doing and at certain times I have forgotten that. It sounds weird but one of the biggest emotions you have after a good result is relief. At a race things might have been building up for a few days and you and the guys know you can do it but it’s just a matter of getting the job done and with the pressure. Only during the last year or two have I enjoyed more aspects of coming to the races.

Although you have that team factor, it must also be a very lonely sport sometimes. A lot of self-reflection…

People can tell you congratulations and you've done well but it doesn't actually mean anything: you have to tell yourself. I never used to do that and would always be annoyed for not doing even better. Now I’ll appreciate the result was the best we could have done on the day. It is better than constantly wearing yourself down. You cannot always win, so if you just put the emphasis on that then everything else is a disappointment. I know I can win. Everything has to go right but I know it can happen. But I’m naturally a bit harsh on myself. I’m learning to give myself a bit of credit.

Is it tiring to always chase that goal of improvement? To always self-evaluate?

It can be very tiring. Sometimes I’d like to be able to switch off completely and not think about bikes, racing or look at my phone. When Sam’s racing I’ll be looking at his lap-times. If you win a race then you are already hoping and thinking about winning the next one: it is never-ending. But I am slowly learning to be happier away from the track. In fifteen years time people will not care about what I did on a bike, so it is about being happy in life and enjoying the moment, otherwise it passes you by too quickly.

"He said if you can keep your cool for four hours around a golf course – especially when you are not that great – then it can help you on the bike."

You appear to be a golf fan: that’s quite a contrast to the day job…

Golf is a tough old sport because you think you’ve mastered it and then you go back the next day and you cannot even hit the ball. I’m a competitive person so I like the thought of always improving in whatever I do, and golf is good for that. I started playing more regularly because of the sport psychologist I was working with. He said if you can keep your cool for four hours around a golf course – especially when you are not that great – then it can help you on the bike. Do you know what? It has. On a fast track when the bike is sliding and moving out of the corners then you cannot get that feeling doing anything else, but away from racing I appreciate calmer activities. I find golf is rewarding because I’m not that good compared to guys that play it a lot but when you make that perfect shot and execute it just right then it’s such a nice feeling…but not the same as racing, not even close. Racing makes you feel alive, makes you feel good.

Even though it took a few years to bag that first win and you are chasing more and more, is there also an element of fantasy about what you are doing now? Do you feel thankful for it?

My life is fantastic and my wife Corinne reminds me to appreciate stuff. When I left school and I was working with my Dad [then] the dream was to be doing what I am now. So when I’m frustrated and want to do better she reminds me where I am. I have a lot of good friends and all the guys in the team as well. Trying to enjoy life more is the goal; there is still a life away from racing. Overthinking things is the worst thing you can do. At the end of the day you can only do your honest best.