I need to win. I have to win. It is an ever-present mindset in everything I do, but especially racing dirtbikes. In order to accomplish this I have to be constantly pushing, striving to get better. Spending most of my seat time on the ragged edge of control and out-of-control means I spend a decent amount of time in the dirt, and spent a whole lot more time there when I was learning to ride a 300 two-stroke this past year.
My 2018 KTM 300 XC-W Six Days was the first new vehicle I've ever had of any sort. Because this bike meant a lot to me, and I could not afford a new pipe every ride, I went looking for protection, for armor.
*A Mykel Horner Photo
I came across an Emperor Racing skid plate and pipe-guard combo at a distributor and new instantly it was what I needed on my bike if I was going to keep it Ready to Race. Before I could purchase it, it was purchased at retail for me for Christmas by my girlfriend.
I had no idea the history and passion behind Emperor Racing until I moved to Colorado and started racing for Emperor Racing as a fully supported rider. I already knew the products were awesome and racing under Emperor I got to work with Steve and really get to know the Canadian company.
At the Helm, a Mechanical Designer by trade, rider by blood; Steve Vander Helm, proud Canadian. Talk about passion for our sport. Rider through and through, and has the professional skills to conceptualize, develop, and produce some premier dirtbike protection parts.
They machine very high-grade, high tolerance type pieces to not only look killer, but perform even better. Steve started doing mechanical design for the elevator industry and later for the heavy steel industry designing dump truck boxes, low bed heavy-haul trailers and precision excavator attachments. From there he designed parts for most of the elevators you see and use today. He saw the successes of his designs and the company owning patents of his design, but never saw the value returned to him as the designer. Eventually Steve concluded that he was better off solo. But what would he design? Steve was then, and is now, an avid rider. He noticed these riders all getting new bikes but could not get guarding products for them in a timely manner. From there; the idea of Scorpion Racing is born.
Steve figured he spends all his time riding and racing, saw the demand for the product at his races and knew he had the skills to bring it to life. So he decided to start a company called Scorpion Racing that made premium, rock-solid dirt bike parts because he was already making custom plates for all his buds, but custom-only was not going to be profitable at scale so he started producing the first generation light skid models in 2005. Soon after that was the 1st gen rad Rad guard.
2007 Model Lightweight Guard for WR450
Fast forward to 2008, the market needs a heavy duty model. Riders have been asking and Steve had been prototyping some models and releases the Heavy Duty Skid Guard combo, under the Scorpion Racing name, that is the root of his flagship product today.
*2008 HD Skid Plate for KTM & Husky
In 2012, Pirelli tires forced then Scorpion Racing off their name citing they already had that brand established. They then re-branded as Emperor Racing as it became a situation where whoever had the most money to throw at lawyers was going to win that one. Steve made the smart business decision to not take on the tire giant as he was out-gunned.
Ever since Steve’s inception as Scorpion Racing back in 2005 his products have always been created through extreme testing and rider input. He takes that feedback and uses that mold his next models or improvements. That’s huge. And I think lost on a lot of companies nowadays. Most other companies are so full steam ahead with their vision they might have stopped to consider the consumer’s needs.
The flagship product today, the Pipe Guard Skid Plate is a beautiful piece of machining. Start to finish, end to end, you can tell it’s something made by someone with a lot of pride in what they do. Beveled edges, high-grad Alu, all metric hardware, the list goes on. The quality and craftsmanship is very obvious with handling these plates. On the bike is even better. Being all aluminum they have a UHMW plastic "Slip Liner/ Link Guard" easily bolted to the plate that does exactly what the name suggests; help you skate over obstacles easily and protect your linkage, win-win.
*These products are available for most recent & current model year 250 & 300 two-strokes, and the 250, 350, 450 model four-strokes
With a 3/16” thick aluminum construction, hand Tig welded wings (full length both sides) with an Emperor logo carved into each side for the bling factor, aluminum mounting brackets and high-grade metric fasteners, you simply can’t go wrong.- Steve Vander Helm, Owner & Founder
This plate is the real deal. I can now practice here in The Rockies with confidence. Bashing rocks and logs 10 miles away from the truck down some gnarly single-track can lead to some stranded-type issues if things go sideways. I think broken clutch covers, crushed stator, mechanical DNF’s, etc. are all severely reduced, if not eliminated altogether by having this grade of protection.
It mounts firmly to frame with a secondary plate/bracket that stops the force of impacts from being transferred to the exhaust. Snug-fit hardware throughout makes install super easy. No holding bolts in place while trying to find them with a bolt. Oil changes can be done without removing the plate.
The rad guard of today morphed from a Scorpion two-piece design to a one-piece, brace & guard that protects the radiators very well. The biggest issues with a rad guard are the limits riders want: We do not want a width increase, height increase, want to be able to mount aftermarket fans, nothing on the back, easy mounting, light. The Emperor Rad Guard does all that. I have use it and crashed with it plenty. It does its job.
A product’s warranty is a great way to gauge how the company feels about their product, especially those that make wear parts. Steve offers a 1 year warranty on his products and stands by that warranty. I know, I've tested it.
I had some riding buds in town soon after moving to Colorado. We went for a ride on some trails that were new to all of us- that’s always fun- new trail. We were moving through some double-track on the lookout for a trail. I was leading and came up to a Y in the road about 35-40mph. I was slightly entering the left-hand trail when noticed we needed to go right. So I pulled across the grass ‘median’ and caught a rock hiding in the grass.
The plate acted as a crumple zone and transferred the impact through my pipe and bent it at the weakest point, the joint. I was able to ride the rest of the day without limitation.
I had to cover shipping both ways but Steve replaced the guard at no charge and replaced a brand new guard for the cost of shipping. I am only the 2nd person that needed a plate warrantied. It was an easy process and hope to not need to warranty another.
The story here is a cool one. A very smart and production-capable rider started making great products 13 years ago. His love for the sport makes him constantly striving to innovate and stay on top of what the consumer wants in premium bike protection. I think its some of the best money spent as I would surely have cracked cases, an exhaust flange, something by now learning splat and crossing techniques for racing enduro.
People often see the skid plate and rule it out for weight or frame flex reasons. It weighs 7lbs and the weight is sprung. I think you have to ride at a pro or season pro level to feel stuff like that, but perhaps not. For me it’s saved my race, my day, my bike. Until I manage to stay off the ground and clear obstacles I’ll likely be riding with Emperor Protection.
If you’re interested in protecting your bike and getting that peace of mind I would encourage you to look to at EmperorRacing.com. They are in full support of our sport, put their money where their mouth is, rider founded, rider ran and they make some damn good products and I am proud to ride for them.
We will be doing write up and review on the skid plate and the rad guard separately. Long ago, when installing the first skid plate on my bike I decided to write up a how-to to do the install. If you need any more help you can refer to that walk-through here.
Edited by Freemotion