Words | Antonovich
Photos | Emery
Freestyle Motocross has been an ever-evolving sport since the beginning, and as the sport continues to evolve with today’s mind-boggling tricks, the riders must also make way for change. Nate Adams is a true pioneer in the FMX world, and since his time as “the new guy” the sport has been taken to some incredible new heights with the evolution of tricks and ramps. Now looked at as “the old guy”, Adams still competes today, and you’d better believe that “The Destroyer” has still got it, as he continues to compete at every major FMX contest throughout the year. Recently, we caught up with Adams to see what he’s been up to since the addition of his twin baby boys, and to get his take on the future of FMX.
It’s been a busy year for you, Nate. A lot of touring and a few injuries. Overall, how has everything been going for you?
Everything is going pretty good. My knee is still a little sore, but the Nitro Circus tour has been great. Unfortunately though, I was forced to miss the second half of the tour because of the injury. I’ve just been staying busy, man. My twin baby boys are 6 months now, and they’re growing so fast. It seems like there’s something new with them every day. Whether I’m at home or on the road, it’s an exciting point in my life.
For yourself, Brian Deegan and Travis Pastrana we’ve been able to see you guys grow. You were the next teen prodigy after Travis and now you’re in your early 30s with two kids, Deft Family and you’re still competing today. Is this how you expected things to go?
Maybe a little bit, but not really if that makes sense. People often ask me what my best career accomplishment is and I can’t really name anything in particular. I guess the best answer I can come up with is the fact that I’m able to make a living riding my dirt bike. I get to travel all across the nation and around the world and I get to meet a lot of great people. I even picked up Spanish as a second language. Everything is going really good. I’ve got Deft Family and everything is really great with the company. I really want to be a good role model to my kids, so that influences a lot of my decisions now. I guess I’m kind of the old guy now though, which feels weird because for so long I was thought of as the young gun. That’s how it is, but I’m still riding my bike and I’m still having fun. As long as I keep getting invited to these events I’m showing up and riding!
On the progression of today’s tricks as a whole, it almost seems to mellow out for a little while, but then someone will come out with some kind of insane flair or flip trick. When you started doing 360s 10 years ago, did you ever expect it to get to this point or did you think the 360 was the last trick possible?
No, I’ve never felt that about trick progression. I’ve been involved in the sport since before the flip was a must do trick, and once we figured out the flip and flip combos we knew the progression would get to an insane level. As I get older I see the new guys like Jarryd McNeil and Harry Bink who have come into the sport like Andre Villa and Blake “Bilko” Williams did. Those guys kept the progression up, so I always felt that the sport was in good hands. I love to see the guys that love it; the guys that have given up their lives to pursue a freestyle motocross dream. 10 years ago I never would have expected flairs and triple-backflips, but I knew the progression would never stop. It’s crazy to think where it’ll be in another 10 years.
The evolution of ramps has changed quite a bit in just the last few years to keep up with today’s double and triple-backflips. Most notably though, the ramps at Nitro World Games were some of the most unique ramps we’ve seen. Again, is this a case of the ramps evolving with the tricks?
Definitely! I think the envelope has been pushed now that those ramps have been introduced. The popper ramp was something great to introduce to the sport because everyone really seemed to like it. I see it as one of these quarter pipe ramps and these triple-backflip ramp. All of those are going to help progress the sport and it won’t be long before we see more crazy stuff. A lot of these guys are used to doing the body variels and double-backflips over normal ramps. There’s no telling what will happen when everyone gets used to these new ramps. We need innovation like that and it’s great that Travis and the Nitro crew are able to provide that in the form of Nitro World Games. They take incredible safety measures, as well with all of the airbags and resi mats. The sport has always been dangerous, but now it’s been taken to new heights , so it’s good to see the safety standards progress, as well.
One thing about you that we have always admired and respected is that you’re an ace at marketing yourself. You’ve been with Monster Energy for so long and the same goes for DC Shoes and GoPro. How did you learn to do that? Is that something that you learned on your own from watching others?
When Twitter and Instagram first came out I really didn’t see the potential because I thought it was just a waste of time. As it grew in popularity though, I noticed that it could become your own little media outlet. You don’t necessarily need a sponsor to run ads of you, which when they do is great, but at the same time you can promote yourself daily and your sponsors daily. And if they choose to run an ad of me, then I’ll plug it into my own media outlet. This stuff may even replace magazines one day. For me, I’ve watched what the people at GoPro do and I watch guys like Brian Deegan, Rob Dyrdek and Ken Block; who is a genius. I’m not on their level by any means, but I look at it like this; if you want to be successful, model yourself after successful people and surround yourself with that. That’s what I try to do, and it’s paid off because I’ve had a little success with the social media game. Just trying to keep the ball rolling.
A few years ago, there were seemingly endless FMX contests for you guys, but that’s obviously not the case anymore. Is it a little harder now to make money or is it easier because there are still a few tours left?
For me, I’d have to say that it’s a little harder because I’m a little bit older, now. I had that bad shoulder injury that kept me off the bike for almost a year followed by another devastating injury to my other shoulder that kept me off the bike for six months. There was a lot changing at that time with the industry and the sport, and when I was finally able to prove to myself and to my sponsors that I could still do this, things again changed. It’s come down to this; whether I’m riding domestically or internationally I am earning a fifth of what I was earning just a few years ago. It’s not about the money to me though, and it never was. I still love to ride and I’m still able to make a living doing so. For a guy like me in his early 30s, it is a little bit harder to make money. Instead of chasing a $20,000 check I’m chasing a $2500 check, now. Again, it’s all good because I’ve got my boys, my wife and my bike. Until I am completely irrelevant in the sport to where I’m no longer receiving phone calls, I’ll be showing up to ride at these contests.
You were the guy to beat for a very long time. You even dethroned Travis Pastrana. Unfortunately though, you’re not always the favorite to win these days, but you’re okay with that. You still get paid to go out and ride, but at the same time you realize that this is what’s fun for you, now. You’re not necessarily going out there and killing yourself to win anymore.
Correct. However, every time I show up to an event I am still giving it 100% of everything I have. I remember what it’s like to be the young kid with all of the big tricks ready to do them all at a moments notice. With the older guys, I just remember having it when they didn’t. Jeremy McGrath was dominant for so long, and then his time came to be outdone by someone younger and more willing to push the envelope. That’s life and that’s just how things work out. I ride with Jarryd McNeil and a few of the other younger guys in the sport, and I don’t want to toot my own horn, but I can see that they respect me. They tell me all the time that they were watching me on TV when they were 11 years old or something. To hear that I was someone’s motivation to get on a bike is something that I am extremely grateful for. I like where I’m at right now; at this point in my life. I’m not a favorite to win anymore, and that was hard for me to accept because I felt that my injuries robbed me of a lot of potential success. That’s something that I had to let go of, but whether I’m favored to win or not, I’m showing up and riding my very best, whether that lends me on the podium or in 10th place. Truth be told, I have more years behind me then in front of me, so I can sit here and be irritated that I’m not the top guy anymore or I can accept it as a blessing that I’m still able to ride.
Bilko and Deegan are both doing off-road stuff along with Travis, so do you have anything planned in your future? Do you want to be a full businessman or do you still want to satisfy that competitive urge?
That’s really hard for me to say because the future is so uncertain. I don’t know if I can make a living on my bike making video edits just being a social media guy, and doing a few events like this a year. That’s pretty much what I’m doing now, actually. Again I don’t know what the future holds for me, but as long as I can find an avenue that involves my dirt bike I’ll be good.