Photos | Casey Davis @air_d617
For most people, when you hear the word “Supercross” your mind likely pictures the big-name factory rigs that house the elite, manufacturer supported athletes of the sport like Team Honda HRC’s Ken Roczen and Troy Lee Designs/GoPro/Red Bull/KTM’s Shane McElrath. However, if you were to take a trip to the outer corners of the pits you’ll find that the factory lifestyle only pertains to a small fraction of riders. This is where you’ll find the privateers of Supercross; the riders who are chasing a dream and doing everything on their own dime without the support of high-paying sponsors.
The life of a privateer racer isn’t for the faint of heart, as this job title requires 100% of your undivided attention, and in most cases the rider must act as the travel agent, truck driver and mechanic. Keep in mind that these riders still have to find time for riding and training, as well. It’s not an easy career path, but there is hope for some of these athletes because a select few have gone on to make it under the factory rigs after years of running their own privateer programs such as Autotrader/Monster Energy/Toyota/JGRMX/Suzuki’s Weston Peick and GEICO Honda’s Jimmy Decotis.
Anaheim One marked the official kickoff of the 2017 Monster Energy Supercross Series and we felt it was necessary to highlight the life of a privateer at round one, so we checked in with a number of unsigned riders to hear exactly what it is that they struggle with the most on a day-to-day basis just to make it to the next round.
“The hardest thing for me as a privateer is finding time to work on the bike while we’re traveling because the downtime isn’t always there. There’s always something that needs to be done, but sometimes there isn’t enough time to handle it all.” – Mike Bottolfson
“For me, one of the hardest parts about being a privateer is gathering sponsors and retrieving parts for my bike. Everything from motors and suspension to everything in between including chains, sprockets and wheels must all be obtained before the season starts. There’s a lot of micro-managing involved in order get everything ready along with having to ride and train at the same time.” – Deven Raper
“I think the biggest issue that I have to deal with is my confidence. Lining up against these factory guys and seeing the endless support they have is a little discouraging since I don’t have what they have. Showing up and lining up against these guys, you have to have your confidence right and you have to believe in yourself. Otherwise, they’ll just walk all over you.” – Andrew Silverstein
“Showing up to the races pretty much all by myself is my biggest battle. Not only do I have to focus on riding, but I also have to stay up on the bike maintenance along with the traveling. I just have my close family here to help and that’s it.” – Kyle Fry
“The hardest part of racing for me was coming here to America. I left my everything I know back home in Zambia including my family and friends to pursue a career as a motocross racer here in the US. I have to handle everything on my own, but thankfully my trainer BJ Burns is a former mechanic so he’s there to lend a hand with bike work. It’s just the everyday things that seem to be the hardest to deal with because racing takes up so much of our time.” – Bradley Lionnet
“Everything is on you to handle. The factory guys get to focus solely on their riding and training, while us privateers have to handle everything else. Keep in mind that it’s a series of racing, so if there’s a problem with the bike or something like that it has to be addressed immediately if you want to make it to the next round. It’s really tough doing everything on your own. My dad is there to lend a hand whenever he can, but he has a full-time job so he can’t be there 24/7.” – Blake Lilly
“The hardest aspect of being a privateer for me is the weight on your shoulders. We don’t have sports agents or anything like that, so we have to line up our own sponsors. I have to dial in everything by myself, and that includes bike maintenance, as well. If you want to have a solid program you have to hustle for it. We put a lot on the line for not much in return.” – Brandon Scharer
“As a privateer, the hardest part for me is the obvious; expenses. I have to pay for my pro license, my entry fee, the hotel room, plane tickets to fly to the East Coast rounds on top of paying for motors and suspension. My grandpa helps me out quite a bit though, along with a few sponsors including Fly Racing, 3BR and Suzuki. They’re extremely helpful, but there’s only so much they can do. Everything from the fuel in my bike to plane tickets and rental cars are all on me to pay for. It’s really hard showing up to the line knowing that all of the factory guys didn’t have to deal with any of that. Instead, their job is to worry about riding. My mechanic Chris See is another huge help in my program because having him around allows me to focus that much more on riding instead of the bike. At the same time though, If I encounter bike problems or a broken part anytime throughout the night that’s likely going to be it for me because of the lack of parts I have. I recently returned from Germany for some racing, and I’m planning on going back the weekend of Anaheim Two because those races are good money-makers. I’m not in championship contention here and I’m not signed to a team, so I’m going to do what’s best for me, right now, and that includes making money to fund my program here in the US.” – Nick Schmidt