Revolutionary: Mike Metzger is the 2003 TWMX FMX Rider of the Year

BY GARTH MILAN

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Mike Metzger is insane. The 28-year-old Godfather of freestyle motocross whirls through life like a tornado through a trailer park, and keeping up pace long enough to grab but a few quotes from the tattooed madman is a test of patience in itself. If you’re lucky enough to get a few brief minutes with Metz, though, you’ll find one of the nicest, most creative, and generally sincere guys in the sport.

While dropping off his new TWMX Freestyler of the Year Award, I was fortunate enough to sneak more than a quick “hi and bye” from the proud husband and father of two. In fact, I was lucky enough to spend a giant portion of two days with Michael Fritz.

THE CHAMP

You, the loyal readers of TWMX, cast thousands of votes to ultimately secure Metz as the number one freestyle motocross rider on the planet for the past year. It’s no surprise Mike was picked for the honor of Freestyler of the Year–as after a bit of a slump in his tumultuous career he came back swinging by bringing the backflip into the international spotlight, careening over 45-foot ramp-to-dirt gaps for the first time in history aboard a full-sized 250cc motorcycle.

Yep, the past year or two have been pretty kind to Metz. After being crowned the 2002 X Games gold medallist, Mike went on to nab another piece of gold jewelry at the winter version of X, making him the undisputed new heavyweight champion of freestyle. With nearly two decades of blood, sweat, and tears invested in motocross, Mike Metzger is finally getting his just desserts.

Always the innovator, but now cursed with a body full of painful injuries, Mike is not one to let pain stop him from progression. Though his FMX career has been shelved for a few months now due to a broken bone and some head trauma, Metz is healthy enough to ride on the pavement. His newfound affection for the sport of SuperMoto may or may not be to your liking, but Mike really doesn’t care; he’s going full speed ahead in the asphalt world, regardless. Beyond dangerously sliding into hairpin corners on his CRF, Metz has a whole other list of things he’s doing with or for the sport, which again makes it no big shocker that he holds the coveted 2003 TWMX Freestyler of the Year Award in his scarred hands.

UPSIDE DOWN

“The last year of my life has been a blur,” began Mike at the opening of our conversation. “Starting from just before the 2003 Winter X Games in Aspen, I’ve been working my ass off. Just before that event, I went up with Nate Adams and ESPN to film a commercial in Reno, where I learned the flip over snow.”

Metz took his newfound ice-riding confidence to Aspen, and though there were others flippers in the mix, Mike was deemed smoothest and most consistent, and thus awarded the top prize of gold. “I pretty much knew I had the win wrapped up because I was feeling so smooth, but the only drama of the weekend was when the ESPN guys started pressuring me to flip the 95-foot gap–over ice! I knew I wasn’t going to do it, because I had smooth no-footed flips already down, which I thought would win the event. Winning gold medals is what my sponsors are paying me to do, not going out and trying stupid stuff that will kill me.”

Still, being his innovative self, Mike wasn’t happy with just no-footed back flips 20 feet over the ice–he had to do something different. On his last run of three, Metzger introduced a brandnew trick called the McFritz (a nac nac boot grab) over the 95-footer, thrilling the crowd, as well as himself, and ending the day with dominance.

Back home in sunny California, Metz threw down his motocross gear in favor of an Alpinestars leather road race outfit, and it was off to the Supermoto races. “I had been slowly getting into Supermoto, but by February I was committed and out there racing d winning several SB2 series events.”

Soon Metzger was addicted, and luckily for him the series was taking fire in the United States. “After SB2, I discovered that the AMA was going to do a Supermoto series, which was cool because I had previously planned on using all of the money I saved from the X Games and Gravity Games to go to Europe and race. I was thinking I was going to have to drop everything and move overseas, which I would have if I had to. With the AMA series announced, though, my family and I could stay here and I could still compete in the sport I wanted to,” explained Mike.

While Metzger was setting his sights on the new crossbreed sport, Mickey Mouse and his corporate owners at Disney approached the Godfather about leading them into the “Xtreme Sports” business. Basically, Mike and a whole host of other alternating riders jumped in four freestyle motocross demos per day, giving Mike his first “real job” in years.

“Disneyland was a major turning point in the year for me, for better and for worse. Prior to the Disney demos, my manager Russ Stratton sent out a press release stating that I was retiring from FMX. I’ve said the word ‘retirement’ a lot, and people have maybe blown it out of proportion a little. I guess I didn’t really mean the concrete definition of ‘retire’ when I said it, I just meant that I was quitting for the time being to pursue my newfound love of Supermoto.

“When the Disney people approached me to ride, I couldn’t refuse. Not only were they willing to pay me a lot of money, but the format they picked was great. Basically I rode about 42 days of freestyle straight, and it was a full-time job. It was fun, though…doing demos is great. I sessioned the ramps every couple of hours with my closest friends, turned a bunch of Disney visitors on to the great sport of freestyle, and stoked the kids out. In my mind, that’s what it’s all about. More than any other aspect of the sport, I enjoy hanging out afterwards with the kids, signing autographs, and seeing them smile and be stoked on my riding.”

But his “California Adventure” at Disney also came with a heavy price. Literally days before heading to the biggest FMX contest of the year (Summer X in Los Angeles), Mike’s chances at three golds in a row were shattered. “I was getting ready for X, and at every show I was flipping for the crowd. Since I had no other time to practice and prepare elsewhere, I was trying some of the tricks I knew I’d do in competition at each demo. I tried doing my new trick called the McNasty (a back flip heel clicker), and it ended up being a little too nasty! I under-rotated and landed upside down, got a concussion, and broke my wrist. Regrettably, I was so involved with the drama of X (doing a ton of PR work the week prior) that I never really got a chance to ride and realize how bad the injury was. Once I got to the Coliseum and was on the course, I felt like a fish out of water. My concussion was hindering my performance and my wrist was throbbing,” recalls Metz. It was an easy decision to step out of the competition and watch from the sidelines, and believe it or not, Mike took it all in stride.

“I leave that stuff to the good man upstairs, and that’s just the way things happened. Way before the crash, I had already told everyone that I was done with freestyle and committed to Supermoto. All of a sudden my plans had changed, like they always seem to do, and I started getting back into FMX because of Disney. My sponsors know that this kind of thing (crashing) comes with the territory, so they understood that I couldn’t compete at X. The only thing that bummed me out was that it was also hindering my performance in Supermoto, which I had already set important goals for.”

Unfortunately for Mike, the concussion and wrist were just the start of a whole other string of bad luck and injury to follow. “I was playing around with a few friends after the contest (X), and I hit my head again. I got another concussion, just eight days after my last one, and then a few days later I cased a freestyle ramp double in front of my shop. I tweaked my wrist again, sprained my back, and my head was constantly aching.”

RISING ABOVE

If you haven’t noticed by now, Metzger has an extraordinary drive to be the best at whatever it is he decides to do that week, month, or year. And if you thought Mike would let some nagging injures keep him off of his bike and out of the AMA Supermoto series he is so fond of, you definitely haven’t been paying attention!

In between several FMX demos he had already committed himself to doing, Metz was determined to be out front on the pavement. “Like it or not, racing is in my blood–it’s something I was born to do. Because of countless injuries (Mike has literally lost count of his numerous broken bones and concussions), my body just can’t take much jumping anymore. Supermoto has way less impact, and it keeps me on two wheels and racing. When you’re not running into walls, things seem to be pretty safe in Supermoto.”

Mike is already making his presence felt in the world of Supermoto that he so badly wants to take by storm. Just before going to press, Mike captured his first podium spot by racing to a solid third-place finish at the Irwindale (**?**) AMA event.

But don’t worry–the TransWorld Motocross Freestyler of the Year has not turned his back on the world of freestyle motocross. While spending time filming for TWMX’s Crush, Mike was back in the hills hucking huge natural-terrain gaps with some of his closest buddies. Beyond that, a gigantic foam pit is already under construction at Paradise Ranch, leading us to believe that Mike is not even close to making his last marks on the sport that made him famous.

It’s the little things in life that motivate Mike to do the crazy things he does, and that’s precisely why the world has so much respect for the Godfather. Metz isn’t motivated by big money, a big ego or the promise of fame. He does it for himself and the fans, plain and simple. In fact, just learning that he won the Freestyler of the Year award perked Mike up like a double shot of espresso.

“To have all of the TransWorld readers vote for me and pick me to be the best FMX rider of the year is a tremendous honor. I put a lot of time and pain into being the best freetsyle rider. Getting here hurt, but sometimes you just have to pop a few Advil and deal with it if you want to be the best. For me, I put my heart and soul into the last year of FMX. Knowing that people appreciate it and acknowledge what I do makes me want to keep reaching my goals, then set new ones. Though my body won’t allow me to do much freestyle right now, I have set my goals in other areas and will be in our sport forever.”

With a schedule already full of Supermoto races, a brand new shop called Metzger Action Sports just opening, and a foam pit currently under construction, things aren’t even close to slowing down for Metzger. Sure his life has been busy, but it’s also been extraordinary. Congratulations, Mike, on becoming the first-ever TransWorld Motocross Freestyler of the Year–you earned it.

How the Votes Stacked Up

Mike Metzger: 24.4%

Brian Deegan: 19.2%

Travis Pastrana: 18.6%

Kenny Bartram: 10.8%

Nate Adams: 7.8%

Drake McElroy: 4.6%

Ronnie Renner: 2.2%

Dan Pastor: 1.6%

Beau Bamburg: 1%

Jeremy Stenberg: .4%

Others: 9.4%

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and wrist were just the start of a whole other string of bad luck and injury to follow. “I was playing around with a few friends after the contest (X), and I hit my head again. I got another concussion, just eight days after my last one, and then a few days later I cased a freestyle ramp double in front of my shop. I tweaked my wrist again, sprained my back, and my head was constantly aching.”

RISING ABOVE

If you haven’t noticed by now, Metzger has an extraordinary drive to be the best at whatever it is he decides to do that week, month, or year. And if you thought Mike would let some nagging injures keep him off of his bike and out of the AMA Supermoto series he is so fond of, you definitely haven’t been paying attention!

In between several FMX demos he had already committed himself to doing, Metz was determined to be out front on the pavement. “Like it or not, racing is in my blood–it’s something I was born to do. Because of countless injuries (Mike has literally lost count of his numerous broken bones and concussions), my body just can’t take much jumping anymore. Supermoto has way less impact, and it keeps me on two wheels and racing. When you’re not running into walls, things seem to be pretty safe in Supermoto.”

Mike is already making his presence felt in the world of Supermoto that he so badly wants to take by storm. Just before going to press, Mike captured his first podium spot by racing to a solid third-place finish at the Irwindale (**?**) AMA event.

But don’t worry–the TransWorld Motocross Freestyler of the Year has not turned his back on the world of freestyle motocross. While spending time filming for TWMX’s Crush, Mike was back in the hills hucking huge natural-terrain gaps with some of his closest buddies. Beyond that, a gigantic foam pit is already under construction at Paradise Ranch, leading us to believe that Mike is not even close to making his last marks on the sport that made him famous.

It’s the little things in life that motivate Mike to do the crazy things he does, and that’s precisely why the world has so much respect for the Godfather. Metz isn’t motivated by big money, a big ego or the promise of fame. He does it for himself and the fans, plain and simple. In fact, just learning that he won the Freestyler of the Year award perked Mike up like a double shot of espresso.

“To have all of the TransWorld readers vote for me and pick me to be the best FMX rider of the year is a tremendous honor. I put a lot of time and pain into being the best freetsyle rider. Getting here hurt, but sometimes you just have to pop a few Advil and deal with it if you want to be the best. For me, I put my heart and soul into the last year of FMX. Knowing that people appreciate it and acknowledge what I do makes me want to keep reaching my goals, then set new ones. Though my body won’t allow me to do much freestyle right now, I have set my goals in other areas and will be in our sport forever.”

With a schedule already full of Supermoto races, a brand new shop called Metzger Action Sports just opening, and a foam pit currently under construction, things aren’t even close to slowing down for Metzger. Sure his life has been busy, but it’s also been extraordinary. Congratulations, Mike, on becoming the first-ever TransWorld Motocross Freestyler of the Year–you earned it.

How the Votes Stacked Up

Mike Metzger: 24.4%

Brian Deegan: 19.2%

Travis Pastrana: 18.6%

Kenny Bartram: 10.8%

Nate Adams: 7.8%

Drake McElroy: 4.6%

Ronnie Renner: 2.2%

Dan Pastor: 1.6%

Beau Bamburg: 1%

Jeremy Stenberg: .4%

Others: 9.4%

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