A lot of motorcycle mechanics work day in and day out at a shop, dreaming about snagging a coveted job as a professional racing tuner. For Patrick Barker, that dream came true when he landed a job as the tuner for JGRMX. The top-tier team has been a competitive force since its debut in 2008, and Barker has been along for the entire ride.
On any given race weekend, Barker has just one thing to think about: making James Stewart’s Yamaha YZ450F go faster and stop better than every other motorcycle out there.
Barker, along with the JGRMX team, is based in Huntersville, North Carolina. Before the team started in the fall of 2007, Barker was a mechanic at a local motorcycle dealership. “The only job I ever had before working on this team was at the dealership,” Barker says. “I was friends with the owner and raced for the dealership. I started there at 15 and worked the parts counter until I was old enough to go to the back and start building bikes.”
When Barker heard that a new motocross and Supercross team was hiring, he put in his application and got the job. Now, his life is a whirlwind of traveling, tuning and testing. “For West Coast rounds we fly out Thursday morning and meet the truck at the hotel or stadium parking lot around lunch. We’ll tear down the bike: disassemble everything, clean it, and service it. So Thursday and Friday is tear down, service and rebuild. Saturday morning is sound testing and tech inspection, then we have the track walk around 11, and start into practices from there and on to the night show. I hop on a plane Sunday morning and come home to do it all over again,” he says.
Even Barker’s time at the shop–from Monday through Wednesday–is busy with working on parts he brings home from the races, building test parts to send to Stewart, and finding ways to improve after each race.
One of those ways to improve was to switch to Galfer brakes for the 2012 season. Both Stewart and Davi Millsaps, the other JGRMX rider, tested a wide range of brakes. “Both guys picked Galfer as the best. None of the other companies were even close,” Barker says. “It’s great having so many brake pad options. We’ve never had that before and it adds tunability. We can change pads depending on the track conditions. Having strong brakes, as fast as these guys are going, is obviously really important. They are always either on the gas or on the brakes.”
When it comes to putting on his own brakes to stop and have fun, Barker enjoys mountain biking. But, he adds, “I just like to chill out a bit since we work so much. I live near a lake, so we go out and ride jet skis and go wake boarding. When it gets cold here we go snowboarding.”
Barker jokes that even though he started riding and racing motorcycles at the age of five, he only gets to ride about once a year now. Still, he enjoys working his dream job and getting to be an integral part of a championship effort. Keep up with JGRMX online at jgrmx.com.