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  • Writer's picturePete Noneman

Selvaraj Narayana

About Sel

Selvaraj Narayana, known as Sel to his many friends, grew up in India, where he learned about mechanics by taking apart his brother’s motorcycle and putting it back together. He had a technical aptitude for mechanics and graduated with an Automotive Technical Degree from the Industrial Training Institute of India.

Still, he loved motorcycles because they were more fun to ride and work on. Sel wanted to get away from India, where opportunities were few, and pursue his dreams of a career in motorcycling. He moved to Germany, studied German, and apprenticed at Maico motorcycles, eventually working full-time for the company. A company he would be a part of for nearly 20 years. It was with Maico that Sel began to make his mark on the motocross industry. Meticulous and hard working, his skills were soon recognized by the Racing and Research Development department engineers. Borje Jansson, who was competing in the World Road Racing Championships, liked the way Sel worked and asked him to travel to the races with him maintaining his bikes. He went to the World Championship rounds with Jansson, sleeping in the van and cooking in a tent. Now working in the racing department, Sel was assigned to build and develop motorcycle Road Racing engines for Jansson, plus frames, engines, and suspension for the motocross bikes.

Eventually, Sel became one of the essential technicians for the Maico team, traveling to the races throughout Europe. He joined Maico’s motocross efforts and worked with riders like Ake Jonsson and Adolf Weil. Sel assembled the first Maico 501 engines for their motocross bikes. At the MXGPs, Sel met and became friends with a rising motocross star named Roger DeCoster, a friendship that continues today.

During the week, Sel would test as many as forty bikes a day. When the production line would assemble a new bike, Sel would gas it, kick start it and test ride the machine, troubleshooting and testing the throttle, gearbox, electronics, and brakes. For Sel working on and riding motorcycles was a dream job. Soon motocross became Sel’s passion. The Maicos were considered the best-handling motocross machines of the era but were fragile and finicky. Sel and the other technicians did everything by hand, ensuring the Maicos would last for a whole moto. He constantly worked on the racing machines, refining and developing every part to get the best results.

Working with motocross stars Willi Bauer and Hans Maisch, they came to the United States for the 1972 Trans-AMA series. After the series concluded, Sel stayed in the United States, where he developed the U.S. side of the Maico business. He Became Maico’s American Racing and Technical Department General Manager in charge of building and running the U.S. Maico team and testing and development. He worked with Maico through the ups and downs, including the split of the founding family and the eventual bankruptcy of the Maico brand. In 1987, after assisting with liquidating the Maico assets, Sel received a call from Mr. Trunkenpolz of KTM to come to Austria for a meeting. Following lunch at Mr. Trunkenpolz’s home and a tour of the KTM factory, they asked Sel to take over the KTM Western USA office. Suddenly, he was at KTM.

His success with the KTM brand is unmatched. He was influential and the driving force in many things we see at the KTM group today. He was the first Red Bull/KTM Supercross Team Manager at the beginning of a winning Supercross program. He developed the S.X. line of “ready to race” Supercross machines, the highly successful KTM Junior Supercross program, and the development of a KTM clothing line for the kids that grew into K Style KTM clothing for the world. By 2006, KTM sold more clothing than motorcycles and had more profitability. Sel personally designed the first graphic for KTM, from the round logo to the conventional logo to the graphic logo.

In 2008, KTM CEO Stefan Pierer and CFO Mr. Hubert Trunkenpolz came to California. They told Sel that KTM wanted to build motorcycles in India and tap into the massive street bike business in the Southeast Asian market. They had linked with Bajaj Auto and wanted Sel to take charge of the project. Sel agreed but wanted to keep working on his American projects, so he did double duty. He traveled to India, Austria, and the United States back and forth as he oversaw the building of the Indian KTM production facilities and worked as the Director of Logistics for KTM in India. In 2010, he took over all of Southeast Asia as a Managing Director to develop a distributor base for the street market. Sel spent years on the project, up until 2018. He oversaw the expansion into Malaysia, established an office in Singapore, and developed the market in twelve countries.

In 2018 Sel returned to the U.S. full-time as the Executive Director of KTM North America, advising directors, motorsports, administration, and marketing, including the Mexico operation and special projects. Today, he is still with the KTM as an executive director.

In addition to the commercial success, Sel has been an integral part of the fabric of the powersports industry. Narayana served as a contributing member to the Motorcycle Industry Council, including several years as a board member, he has nearly 40 years of experience in the motorcycle industry as a whole, and his experience and insight are unmatched. He’s sat on the Board of Trustees for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). He received the MIC Chairman’s Award, the AMA Supercross Lifetime Achievement Award in 2008, and the Mickey Thompson Award of Excellence in 2009. He’s a recipient of the 2001 Vintage Iron Lifetime Achievement award winner, the 2020 AMA Dudley Perkins Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Trailblazer’s Hall of Fame member.



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