Nate Adams FMX Rider Of The Year

In a sport driven largely by outgoing, flamboyant personalities and showmen-not totally unlike the WWF-it’s not surprising that guys like Brian Deegan, Mike Metzger and Travis Pastrana have risen to the top of the FMX popularity charts. Sure… It also helps that they are all hugely talented and innovative on the bike, but it’s their personalities that separate them from the rest… Until now! Enter a soft-spoken, no-frills, humble fellow named Nate Adams who has emerged as FMX’s new dominating force, even without the over-the-top persona or sideshow act. Nothing against Nate’s character, though. He’s actually one helluva nice guy, but it was pure talent and hard work alone that allowed “The Destroyer” to quietly win both X and Gravity Games gold in 2004. Proving that nice guys don’t always finish last, Nate not only had the winningest year of his career, he also won the popular vote by being crowned the TransWorld Motocross FMX Rider of the Year by you, the fans. Now in the middle of rehabbing the gnarliest injury of his career, we had the opportunity to catch up with Nate to get his take on the award, his golden year and what the future may hold…

You’ve never been known for having an overly-flashy, showman-type of an image, so it’s got to be a cool feeling knowing that the TWMX readers voted for you based on your bike skills…

Yeah, it’s awesome! When I heard that I was in the running, I was really excited about it, and I really wanted it. Like you said, this award is based on the readers’ votes and isn’t the magazine’s pick, or an industry pick. It was a pick made by the fans, which means more than anything else to me. You know, I had a really good year, winning X Games and Gravity, so I am sure it has a lot to do with that. Those are big contests, so I’d bet that before those two wins there were probably some freestyle fans who didn’t even know who I was, and I’ve been doing this for about five years now. Travis has dominated this sport since the beginning, so for me to beat him this year probably turned a lot of heads. But I am really pumped for this award… It’s an honor!

Prior to winning this award, did it ever bother you that maybe you hadn’t received some of the recognition and attention you deserved as a rider, just because you aren’t quite the showman that say, Deegan or Metzger are?Well, I think I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t bother me at all. I like the fact that I am just a rider and nothing more, though. I am not a showman, I am not flashy and I think that anybody who’s ever seen me ride or heard me talk can tell that, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a personality; it just means that I am here to ride and I want that to speak for itself. I think that the tricks themselves should be the only things influencing the judges’ scores, so I don’t go out ripping my jersey off at the end of my runs to try to impress anybody.

While we’re on the topic of you having a mellower demeanor than many of your colleagues, do you feel that the other riders have accepted you, or do the Mulisha guys pick on you like the little nerd in grade school?

(Laughs) No, I get along with everybody. I don’t think I have a single enemy in the whole industry. And it’s not that I am against the flashiness or anything like that. I am not against it at all. I think our sport needs that. I think we’re fortunate that freestyle has the Brian Deegans, Ronnie Renners and even guys like me. We have a really good balance in our sport right now that offers something for everybody. There are the fans who like Travis, the fans who like the Mulisha, and those who prefer the goofier personalities have Ronnie Renner. We’re all friends, though, when it comes down to it. The Mulisha comes off like they hate everybody, but we’re all laughing, joking and talking when the cameras aren’t on.

Do you pull as many chicks, being the mellow clean-cut guy, as the Mulisha guys do?

(Laughs) I don’t pull any chicks. It’s weird…motocross hanot helped me with the females at all.

One would think that you could’ve just strolled into the club with that gold medal around your neck after X Games and scored instantly.

(Laughs) That’s funny… I actually thought about that, but I didn’t want it to get stolen.

The progression of the sport just keeps climbing and climbing, and the tricks that you guys are pulling now are unbelievable. When you look back just two years at what Metz was doing with the backflip as compared to what’s being pulled now, it’s amazing. Where does it end?

I don’t think it’s going to end anytime soon. With innovative and creative people like Travis and Deegan, Twitch, Kenny (Bartram)… I don’t think it will stop. A lot of people thought it would stop when backflips came out. And what a lot of people don’t realize about the backflip is that when the original people like Caleb Wyatt, Travis, Metz, Deegan and I started doing them, we didn’t have foam pits. Most of us learned them on 70s first, and then just went for it. I know I crashed at least 15-20 times while learning those, and that’s a lot of crashing when you’re inverted. When it comes down to it, a lot of the top freestyle riders will do whatever it takes to win, and that in itself pushes progression. Now with foam pits, some of the danger element is gone. Travis has double flips and 720s into foam, so I don’t think you can put a cap on progression.

The foam pits have definitely changed the sport a ton, and there’s no doubt that they’ve saved a lot of broken bones during the learning process, but what’s it really like from a rider’s perspective to train in one of those things?

It’s a lot of hard work, actually. A day in the foam pit wears you out. I’ll be so sore sometimes the next day that I won’t even feel like riding. People think that it’s like lying on a pillow, but the reality is that you’re going from about 30mph to a dead stop in just a half a second, so it can leave a mark. I’ve jammed wrists, hit my face on the handlebars, twisted ankles, busted my nose… It hurts! The bike sometimes lands on top of you, and that hurts on any surface. A day in the foam pit can be a pretty rough one, for sure.

What’s the process like to go from creating a new trick in your head to actually executing it on dirt?

I usually always map things out in my head for a while to make sure that I’ve got every detail worked out. I’ve got to be sure that it’s even possible before anything else. After that I usually take things to the foam pit if it’s something that I’ve never come close to doing on dirt. I like to take things slow to minimize the risk of getting hurt. It’s mostly mental, though. I know how my bike and my body are going to react to most things, so I’ve got to be comfortable with something in my mind in order to remove any mental blocks that might keep my body from responding. And sometimes you just have off days, so you need to be smart enough to know when it’s time to just pack up the van and go home.

You train and you’re in great shape. Do you think the other freestyle guys are like that?

I know that Travis and Deegan train a lot, but other than that I don’t know how much the other guys train. I think that being in good shape is really important though, and I know that as long as I am doing everything that I can do to prepare, then there will be no regrets later. If I slack off and get beat, I know I won’t be happy with myself. A lot of people don’t think that a two-minute run takes much out of you, but those two minutes are pure intensity. I know that may sound lame, but it really is gnarly. The whole time you’re out there you’re riding as hard as you can. It’s like sprinting for two full minutes. I am sweating and breathing heavy when I am done with a run, yet I can ride my moto bike out of gas on the track and not get as tired.

Travis goes out there and really hauls ass around a freestyle course, and we know that you have the skill to, because we’ve seen you at a motocross track, but nobody else seems to do that. Is that because they don’t have the skill, or is it due to the fact that most people have to think their way through a run more than Travis does?

Maybe a little of both, but I’d say it is mainly the fact that freestyle takes a lot of concentration. When you’re practicing, it’s not like a race. Everything is really mellow and you can concentrate on hitting ramps with more precision. If you try to pick up the pace while in a contest you can really screw yourself up. Travis is just so good on a bike, though, that he can just pull off whatever he wants. He can go wide open to a ramp and then brake and still do a 360. Most guys need to approach ramps smooth and more controlled in order to execute their tricks. What he does is really tough to do, and that’s actually something I’ve worked on a lot this past year. I think picking up my pace this year at X Games helped me a lot. Travis used to get in a few more tricks than anybody in his runs, but at the X Games I was right in there with him. It definitely helps out your score when you get more tricks in.

Freestyle doesn’t seem to have the same rivalries like we see in racing. Like you and Travis, for example, complement each other on tricks, but we never see Ricky come up to Chad and say, “Dude, Chad, you really railed that corner. Good job, buddy!” Do you see it that way?

Well, to an extent. If someone does some crazy new trick, you’d rather see them pull it right away than get hurt. Like Travis was supposed to do a double flip at X, and I was nervous for him. I’d rather see him ride away and win than KO himself, but there’s still definitely competitiveness in what we do. I am not happy when someone else wins, so it’s not like we’re all buddy-buddy all the time, but we are all friends when it comes down to it.

Without any major contests going on right now, your name’s not in the spotlight quite as much. Many of your fans may not realize that you just suffered a major injury. Tell us a little bit about that…

I was doing a demo at a Supercross in Italy, and I was doing a backflip/nac-nac to heel-clicker that just went wrong. I was actually there to do the 360, but I was asked to do one more jump before ending my run. I wanted to go out with a good trick, and the nac-nac to heel-clicker flip is something that I do all the time. For some reason, though, I lost concentration for a split second and my peg foot slipped off while I was doing my nac-nac, so I was actually double naccing off the side of the bike while I was flipping. I held onto the bars and my flip still rotated perfectly, but when I landed I flopped onto my left side, breaking my left femur, tearing the meniscus in my left knee and the labrum in my right shoulder.

Does an injury this serious open your eyes a little bit to the risk involved in what you do?

I think anyone who’s been laid up in the hospital for a serious injury knows that your mind wanders, and I’ve definitely questioned myself as to whether I am good enough and strong enough to come back. I know I can do it, but it definitely puts some fear into you when you’re laying in bed all broken up. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me where I’ve just blown it so bad on a trick that’s become so basic for me, but that just goes to show you that it can happen anytime to anybody. So it has definitely opened my eyes.

Do you expect to have some mental blocks to overcome once you get back on the bike, or do you think you’ll forget all about it once you’re riding?

I think I’ll probably be hesitant for a little while. It will be about half a year off the bike total, so I think it’s going to take a couple months to get back to where I was with confidence and bike familiarity. When you ride every day, it’s no big deal because you feel as one with the bike, but being off the bike for so long, I expect to have to regain that feeling again.

Despite the injury, you had a really great year and achieved yourss track, but nobody else seems to do that. Is that because they don’t have the skill, or is it due to the fact that most people have to think their way through a run more than Travis does?

Maybe a little of both, but I’d say it is mainly the fact that freestyle takes a lot of concentration. When you’re practicing, it’s not like a race. Everything is really mellow and you can concentrate on hitting ramps with more precision. If you try to pick up the pace while in a contest you can really screw yourself up. Travis is just so good on a bike, though, that he can just pull off whatever he wants. He can go wide open to a ramp and then brake and still do a 360. Most guys need to approach ramps smooth and more controlled in order to execute their tricks. What he does is really tough to do, and that’s actually something I’ve worked on a lot this past year. I think picking up my pace this year at X Games helped me a lot. Travis used to get in a few more tricks than anybody in his runs, but at the X Games I was right in there with him. It definitely helps out your score when you get more tricks in.

Freestyle doesn’t seem to have the same rivalries like we see in racing. Like you and Travis, for example, complement each other on tricks, but we never see Ricky come up to Chad and say, “Dude, Chad, you really railed that corner. Good job, buddy!” Do you see it that way?

Well, to an extent. If someone does some crazy new trick, you’d rather see them pull it right away than get hurt. Like Travis was supposed to do a double flip at X, and I was nervous for him. I’d rather see him ride away and win than KO himself, but there’s still definitely competitiveness in what we do. I am not happy when someone else wins, so it’s not like we’re all buddy-buddy all the time, but we are all friends when it comes down to it.

Without any major contests going on right now, your name’s not in the spotlight quite as much. Many of your fans may not realize that you just suffered a major injury. Tell us a little bit about that…

I was doing a demo at a Supercross in Italy, and I was doing a backflip/nac-nac to heel-clicker that just went wrong. I was actually there to do the 360, but I was asked to do one more jump before ending my run. I wanted to go out with a good trick, and the nac-nac to heel-clicker flip is something that I do all the time. For some reason, though, I lost concentration for a split second and my peg foot slipped off while I was doing my nac-nac, so I was actually double naccing off the side of the bike while I was flipping. I held onto the bars and my flip still rotated perfectly, but when I landed I flopped onto my left side, breaking my left femur, tearing the meniscus in my left knee and the labrum in my right shoulder.

Does an injury this serious open your eyes a little bit to the risk involved in what you do?

I think anyone who’s been laid up in the hospital for a serious injury knows that your mind wanders, and I’ve definitely questioned myself as to whether I am good enough and strong enough to come back. I know I can do it, but it definitely puts some fear into you when you’re laying in bed all broken up. I’ve never had anything like that happen to me where I’ve just blown it so bad on a trick that’s become so basic for me, but that just goes to show you that it can happen anytime to anybody. So it has definitely opened my eyes.

Do you expect to have some mental blocks to overcome once you get back on the bike, or do you think you’ll forget all about it once you’re riding?

I think I’ll probably be hesitant for a little while. It will be about half a year off the bike total, so I think it’s going to take a couple months to get back to where I was with confidence and bike familiarity. When you ride every day, it’s no big deal because you feel as one with the bike, but being off the bike for so long, I expect to have to regain that feeling again.

Despite the injury, you had a really great year and achieved your goals of winning the two biggest events in freestyle. What will be your goals once you’re back?

My first goal will be to get back to 100% on the bike. I don’t want to be hurting or not able to compete at my highest level at a contest. Once I am back to where I was, I’d like to keep pushing myself to progress, and I’d like to win every event I enter.

What’s after freestyle motocross for you?

After? I don’t know… Hopefully I won’t have to think about that for a while. I am only 20, so I’d like to think that I’ve got at least another 10 years in me.

We’ve heard that you have goals of qualifying for Supercross main events someday…

Yeah, that’s just a fantasy, though. A more realistic goal would be to maybe make a night show, but really I’d like to make a National more than anything. Everybody’s so fast though, and…well…I am not, so that’s pretty far fetched right now. If I could get fast enough to make a National someday, I’d die happy.

AND THE VOTES ARE IN…The TransWorld Motocross FMX Rider of the Year award, now in its second year of existence, is the fan’s opportunity to cast a vote for their favorite freestyle rider. To help increase participation this year, we made it possible to cast your vote online at www.transworldmxVOTE.com. The number of paper votes received was similar to last year’s count, but thanks to you computer-savvy readers out there, the number of overall votes was nearly tripled.

Not only is this award a great chance for the fans to express themselves, it’s also become a great honor for the winning rider as well. Such an honor, in fact, that some of the riders even involved themselves in the voting this year. Despite their best campaigning efforts, however, Nate Adams, along with his likeable personality and amazing talent, stomped his competition as the fan favorite for ’04, taking home nearly 28% of the votes. Congratulations, Nate!

Nate Adams: 27.9%
Travis Pastrana: 22.4%
Larry Linkogle: 13.3%
Chuck Carothers: 12.1%
Brian Deegan: 10.7%
Mike Metzger: 5.2%
Twitch: 3.0%
Kenny Bartram: 2.1%
Adam Jones: .9%
Drake McElroy: .9%
Others: 1.5%
your goals of winning the two biggest events in freestyle. What will be your goals once you’re back?

My first goal will be to get back to 100% on the bike. I don’t want to be hurting or not able to compete at my highest level at a contest. Once I am back to where I was, I’d like to keep pushing myself to progress, and I’d like to win every event I enter.

What’s after freestyle motocross for you?

After? I don’t know… Hopefully I won’t have to think about that for a while. I am only 20, so I’d like to think that I’ve got at least another 10 years in me.

We’ve heard that you have goals of qualifying for Supercross main events someday…

Yeah, that’s just a fantasy, though. A more realistic goal would be to maybe make a night show, but really I’d like to make a National more than anything. Everybody’s so fast though, and…well…I am not, so that’s pretty far fetched right now. If I could get fast enough to make a National someday, I’d die happy.

AND THE VOTES ARE IN…The TransWorld Motocross FMX Rider of the Year award, now in its second year of existence, is the fan’s opportunity to cast a vote for their favorite freestyle rider. To help increase participation this year, we made it possible to cast your vote online at www.transworldmxVOTE.com. The number of paper votes received was similar to last year’s count, but thanks to you computer-savvy readers out there, the number of overall votes was nearly tripled.

Not only is this award a great chance for the fans to express themselves, it’s also become a great honor for the winning rider as well. Such an honor, in fact, that some of the riders even involved themselves in the voting this year. Despite their best campaigning efforts, however, Nate Adams, along with his likeable personality and amazing talent, stomped his competition as the fan ffavorite for ’04, taking home nearly 28% of the votes. Congratulations, Nate!

Nate Adams: 27.9%
Travis Pastrana: 22.4%
Larry Linkogle: 13.3%
Chuck Carothers: 12.1%
Brian Deegan: 10.7%
Mike Metzger: 5.2%
Twitch: 3.0%
Kenny Bartram: 2.1%
Adam Jones: .9%
Drake McElroy: .9%
Others: 1.5%