Thrill seeker rides tall
Jaden Hassan is 1.9 metres tall, only 17 years old and an unusual candidate for a national champion of a sport more suited to jockeys than giants.
But the Westmere teenager is smoking the motorbiking world, with a podium placing at the recent New Zealand superbike championships securing his status as one of the country's most promising young riders.
"When the visors go down it doesn't matter who the people on the track are, I'm just that guy and we are all just trying to pass each other," he says.
Jaden's first equal placing, accompanied by two unofficial track records, has got the motorbike community talking.
"He's probably one of the best talents I've seen come through in a long time," motorbike suspension expert Robert Taylor says.
Track racing has a heavy technical side and Mr Taylor believes it is Jaden's skill combined with an eye for detail that is speeding him to the front of the pack.
"He is very focused and very intelligent. Raw talent will always arise near the top but the bike's set-up will make the difference."
Ensuring the bike is technically sound before hitting the track is a huge part of the sport – with competitors often taking two days before a race to get everything prepared.
"There's guys with 10 years' more experience who can't do what he does," Jaden's father and unofficial mechanic, Greg says.
Mr Hassan believes his son's ability to give feedback on the performance of his 600cc superstock bike has meant he is advancing beyond his years.
Jaden has helped develop the suspension system for the Yamaha, which he has been sponsored to race.
The teenager says learning about the mechanical side of the sport is beneficial, especially because he has a lanky frame which is a slight disadvantage on smaller motorbikes.
Beyond technique, his raw enthusiasm for riding has been ingrained from a young age – the year 13 student first got on a motorbike at the age of seven.
"I just turned up and jumped on a bike and went round and round and people seemed to think I was good," he says.
Jaden started racing on a 125cc when he was 13 and is the youngest in New Zealand to ride in this category.
The thrill seeker was also clocking up speeds of almost 200kmh in those first few years.
"You can't really describe what it's like to be doing those speeds.
"The whole feeling gives you an awesome adrenalin rush," Jaden says.
A natural progression to a larger 600cc bike came last year and with it, Jaden pushed the odometer past 300kmh.
He says not even injuries can keep him away from the sport he loves – there have been instances where he has competed with broken bones.
"If I bail, the first thing I think about when the gravel stops churning is when can I get back on my bike."
Fortunately, the talented rider will be getting his fix of adrenalin during the next few months.
He is busy preparing for the winter circuits and international fixtures.
Jaden and his family will also be heading to England later this year for a test ride with a professional racing company.
He would like to thank Yamaha New Zealand, Ricoh Photocopying, Ignite Consultancy, Rev'it Leathers, CKT Technical and Western Springs College for their support during the past few years.
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