A fighting fit Tom Sykes believes a winter of recovery and reflection has been ideal preparation for 2018, a year that will see him adjusting his approach for the 26 races that lie ahead.

Coming into his ninth straight season with Kawasaki, the 2013 world champion acknowledged his riding style – specifically his braking method and means of applying the throttle – must adapt to the evolved character of the 2018 ZX-10R.

As he put it, “giving the bike the ‘Tom Sykes shoulders’” – braking late and applying the throttle aggressively - proved to be no match for team-mate Jonathan Rea's silky smooth approach, which led to his securing a third straight world title in the autumn of 2017.

New regulations have dimmed Kawasaki’s rev range for the year head, meaning Sykes is dealing with a power band that doesn’t kick in as aggressively as he would like, leading the Yorkshire rider to believe his natural, on-bike tendencies need to be curbed.

Strong showings in winter testing while the 32-year old was still recovering from a serious hand injury that plighted his end of ’17 suggested he will be well placed to challenge pre-season favourite Rea throughout the season ahead.

“At the end of the day, it’s disappointing for me that, with this bike, I’m not getting the best from myself,” said Sykes, speaking at the KRT Kawasaki team launch in Granollers, Catalonia.

“I know Jonathan is doing a great job, but when I’m in the motorhome thinking about the situation, I’m disappointed because I know in myself there is more in the tank that I’d like to give to Jonathan and give to the rest of the competition.

“I’m just not able to do it. With the previous bike and the previous rules, it was so easy to bring out the best in myself. I’ve really been working hard during winter testing not to push the bike to the limit; to brake earlier, do things differently, and let’s just say ride more softly. The moment I try and give the bike the ‘Tom Sykes shoulders’ it kind of doesn’t like it. I work it too hard and you go slower.

“I like to keep the gas open for as long as possible and brake as hard as possible. The trouble is, in the past that worked extremely well. I’m off the edge of the tyre very quick and using the power of the bike to my advantage. But last year every time I tried to chuck everything at it, it didn’t like it. Now I’m understanding that braking ten metres earlier is helping me through the corner.”

Sykes had just recently undergone a small operation to remove metalwork from the hand he damaged during a terrifying free practice at Portimao last year. While still sporting a small scar, he feels well recovered from the dislocated fracture of the little finger on his left hand.

“If I wasn’t injured, I’d have got back on the bike 30 minutes later and raced,” he said of the injury. “It wouldn’t have been a problem. The problem was it was my hand. Everyone thought, ‘It’s just a little finger, blah blah blah,’ but it was the little finger, the finger next to it and the base of the hand.

“I don’t know if anyone has ever noticed, but to ride a Superbike two hands are more beneficial than one. There were a lot of clueless people making a lot of clueless comments at the time, but it was difficult. We did all the winter testing.

“If you can imagine, I’ve been doing most of my riding with the thumb and the first two fingers – like a claw. After winter testing, I thought, ‘Enough is enough.’ I’ve just had the metalwork removed and now I feel that going to Phillip Island is going to be better than it was in the Portugal test. I feel very prepared this year.”

Asked whether the huge impact had any lasting impacts other than the physical injury, Sykes responded in his own inimitable way: “It was just a bit of a pain in the arse,” he said. “I rode with it eleven days later.

“Bearing in mind, the little finger had been completely snapped off, I rode eleven days later and it was just awkward - in the changes of direction. It was always on my mind because I had to use my legs and right arm a lot more than I perhaps once would.

“We’ve got over that and I’m looking forward to the season. There’s one thing for sure: every time I step on the bike in winter testing I don’t really pay attention to that. It’s out of my mind. We’re all a set of idiots really because we’re able to block that stuff out of your memory.”

Sykes winter of training has included slight modifications to diet, and physical preparation with friend and trainer Brad Howell. With the first race at Phillip Island less than a fortnight away, the Englishman feels he is “prepared in all aspects.”

“Do you know what? I feel I’m prepared for the season in all aspects: diet and training has been slightly tailored this winter. I’ve been working a lot personally and also with my good friend Brad and I think we’ve hit the nail on the head.

“We’ve done a good winter. On the bike as well, we’re really looking at fine-tuning some areas. I think it’s all been very good. Having said all that, I really hope we can put everything together and make a good season.”

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wow 9 years in one team for wsbk rider thats rare ! ?

i can imagine how tough to change riding style after soo many years riding kwak with such  extreme style..but adapt is key to survive. JL99 can do it with ducati..surely TS66 can do it too..hopefully before his time with kawak runs out.

Would you go away from the most dominant bike for years? A guaranteed worldchampionship. For what it's worth.