Travis Pastrana has had a busy few months! Along with his usual schedule he was getting prepared for the MXoN nations while dealing with knee injuries, before competing at the MXoN at Red Bud and becoming the star of the show as always!
After that were several more trips as well as preparing for his Nitro Circus tour in the UK and Europe that the charismatic, fearless and mulit-talented American has just embarked on with his crew.
Tom Jacobs caught up with Travis to see how he gets ready for a big show like Nitro Circus.
Your dad was a risk taker, what is the best lesson you learnt from him?
Well, the best and worst was, ‘if you say you’re going to do something, do it.’ it taught me that if I was going to do a trick, do it but then it was also one of the worst lessons because I have got a lot of injuries that way!
How did you see your career going when you were growing up?
All I wanted to do was become a supercross and motocross racer, that’s what every day went into. When I was about 14 they started to have motocross jumping competitions, and I was always the kid who was jumping the biggest jumps, so I thought, ‘this is awesome!’ I think the first competition was $5000 prize money and my parents were like that would buy us a new motorcycle for Loretta Lynns, and we could really use that.
So initially was a more a financial decision but that’s not why I really do it, I turned out to be better at freestyle than racing. With the injuries every time I was hurt I would go-kart. I got really bad knees so I just started driving cars. With nitro circus when I was hurt I started trying to do backflips into a foam pit in 2001, it’s wild how injuries can help change my life!
I have probably become healthier in general because of what I have to do to keep my knees and shoulders together! I don’t have ligaments in all the places they should be, it forces me to be a lot healthier. When I was on the couch I would watch moto videos and think they could be better, I took a lot of courses when I was 15 years old on editing and production. When I was hurt I would edit and film and that allowed me to stay in the sport.
You wear many hats, how do you put on the show for Nitro Circus?
When we first started this live tour, we had had an Australian promoter that said it would work. It was myself and the guys in Nitro in the beginning coming up with ramps and different stuff, we weren’t very good at it, it was super long, we had a great time. I was shocked we had three consecutive night, We filled a stadium of 13/14000 people in Brisbane.
You go to different people countries, you go to Western Canada and find some awesome mountain bike riders, Australia has some awesome BMX and moto guys, Europe has different areas, France have guys like Paget, the moto guys in Belgium are amazing, coming from Everts and guys I looked up too, there is a long heritage. It’s cool that everywhere you go you see a person that adds something you wouldn’t have thought of. With Youtube, people say how do I become a part of Nitro Circus? If you can do something that no-one else can do we with find you!
What is the biggest memory of being in the zone or having the flow?
When you drop in for X games and you aren’t warmed, you aren’t in that flow state. In Nitro Circus you start with getting the crowd going and some energy with tricks and that’s you warmed up for the bigger tricks that scare you!
When I did the double backflip I was only doing it maybe 6 out of 10 times into the foam pit. But in competition it’s all about repetition and when I hit the ramp it felt very natural, it felt like I had done it a million times because I had, everything slowed down and I could remember every sight and sound.
Nate Adams would visualise every trick for maybe ten minutes, it used to annoy me filming! But everyone has their own thing. For me it was about understanding what you had to the days and months before then when game-time came you knew what you had to do.
For me it was about not accepting anything less than winning. In racing it’s what do I have to do to be as fast than the other guys, that’s taking more risk, jumping to the flat, going faster through the whoops or being in better shape when you get there because you aren’t as fast. If I’m 25 minutes into the moto, I need to move forward.
How structured is the Nitro Show?
The first half is similar on every tour, but the team is different but you have to know the first half its going to work. The second half is planned in general but we don’t know which trick and which rider will do it.
How would you describe what talent is?
Talent is hours and hours and hours of training. Certain people have good eyesight, certain people are stronger. Certain attributes suit different sports. I don’t have the talent of an F1 driver because you have to be precise every single lap. My talent lies in making the best of the worst, when it’s raining, when it’s muddy, when it’s snowing, when you are in the air and thinking the worst that’s when I go, ‘okay, how can I make this hurt the least.’
My talent is survival, it’s why rally cars work well, freestyle works well and it’s why motocross worked well because you have to always be changing your lines and be ready for anything that happens. That’s what I have done well on, not necessarily just being the fastest.
I can take risk to get there, I wasn’t good at battling for second or third and was hurt so much. But I’m rally I had a co-driver, I wasn’t able to do the world championship because Subaru pulled out but I won the US national championship against some good guys like David Higgins this year and to come out on top was really cool.
What was the best failure you had that helped you?
I came into the 2003 supercross championship, I was coming into it for the first time in my life thinking I was the fastest rider, ready to go. I got epstein bar, chronic sinusits. I got really run down and I couldn’t do motos and I thought I would just go ride in the hills. I hit this jump and broke my leg and blew out my knee.
That was the last time I was really ready for supercross and the next year I broke my wrist really bad, that moment I went to rally because I couldn’t ride a bike with my knee and then that led to Nitro Circus while I wasn’t riding because I could build jumps and film guys, and those friendships have lasted my whole life and taken me around the world.
If I hadn’t injured myself I probably would have still been going as a racer and my career would have been over by 30/31 I would assume and I don’t know what I would have been doing.
Could you have seen yourself as a team manager or riding coach?
Definitely not a team manager, Roger DeCoster was amazing, he showed me how much work and time. I tried to start teams and lost a lot of money on every team, I think it is because I don’t know a lot about machinery. You look at Roger and Mitch Payton they spend hours on the dyno, I was a rider so if anything I would have been a coach but I am probably not the best coach either. I would just say go faster – twist the throttle!
My prime racing was the early 2000s there are guys there are a lot of guys fighting for championships that were born in 99/00/01 and you’re like ‘holy crap!’ it’s wild that it was a half a lifetime a go for me when I was doing my best racing. It’s wild seeing the guys coming up, I still watch it.
If you had a giant bill board what would your message be?
People have told me many times I can’t do this, you are an idiot for going freestyle or you’re wasting your money doing a tea. It‘s not about proving people wrong but if you’re really passionate about something just do it.
You have two girls and their dad is a motocross background and their mum is a skater, are you worried about pressure on them to follow in those footsteps?
I got a call from Doug Henry which is awesome, he is my all-time hero. I got a call from him to say his son was performing near my house in Washington DC, his son is a professional jump-roper, I didn’t even know that was a professional sport! I was like, ‘Doug what happened there?’ He said, ‘ of all the injuries I went through I wouldn’t change it for the world but I don’t have the courage to watch my son go through what I went through. I’m proud of him to see him be so passionate about something.
I thought that was worded well, I want my girls to do well and be passionate about something but if it is motocross, awesome, or skate-boarding, awesome, but if it’s the violin I’m happy too.
What would you say to people who are on the fence about going to see Nitro Circus?
When you see the energy and comradery, there is a guy on a scooter and a couch five stories high flying through the air! If you’re up for a fun experience with a lot of energy this is the show for you.
Interview: Tom Jacobs Pics: Doug Turney