A smooth run with excellent extension and the precision of a surgeon allowed Levi Sherwood to become the first Nitro World Games Freestyle MX Champion.
There were no double backflips, front flips, or world’s-first tricks in his run, but New Zealander Levi Sherwood turned in a flawless performance at the inaugural Nitro World Games last weekend to become the event’s first-ever Freestyle MX Champion. Riding a heavily modified KTM 250 SX, Sherwood wowed the crowd and the judges with his smooth style and trick maximum extension. We caught up with the NWG Champ shortly after his exciting victory at Rice Eccles Stadium.
Winner of the inaugural Nitro World Games. How does this rank on your list of accomplishments?
Honestly, it’s pretty up there! It’s such a new event, but it’s the same talented people that I’m always struggling to beat at every single round of X-Fighters or X Games. It’s been a while since I've won an event, so I’m pumped. I feel like I rode pretty good, as I was able to ride quite a bit during practice and qualifying. I really had to hang it out to beat Sheeny, but he unfortunately missed a few tricks. I knew he was going to be the guy and I knew I had to do something gnarly to beat him. Dude, I’m pumped!
You came away as the winner with no double flip or anything super crazy like that, but rather with clean tricks, perfect extensions and smooth landings…
Yeah, I’m stoked on this format, too. This format is something that suits my style, and the way I think about writing my runs. When I won X fighters in 2012, the series was kind of similar, so I did a lot of thinking about what tricks I did and where I did them. I’ve got big tricks, but I’ve never been one to have those super gnarly tricks. You just have to be smart about it and I spent a lot of time looking at the trick list and the scores. Everything worked out!
You’re one of the guys still riding a two-stroke. Since we're at a little bit of altitude here in Salt Lake City, did you have trouble getting your bike to run well?
Honestly, my bike was running perfect! Not even one issue. I think we are at 4500 feet or something crazy like that, but I’m not sure. We’ve been to Mexico City a lot and for that area I always throw on a 300cc cylinder along with all sorts of other stuff. My mechanic Chad just knows what he’s doing. I think we dropped the main jet and used some different fuel. I think we used U4 because it’s got oxygen in it. Yeah, that thing was running good.
Was it weird doing a freestyle event with no dirt?
It is! I actually thought about that this morning, “Hold on a second…We’re on dirt bikes!” I'm actually really used to riding on that stuff because we have to do it all the time. Five years ago, none of us would have wanted to ride on a portable landing, but it was pretty cool. Obviously, I enjoyed the course, but do I like dirt right? Yeah, I do. (Laughs) I’m not complaining whatsoever, because it really worked out for me. One of those landings is like a giant blowup cushion that still wouldn’t be fun to crash on, but there’s a good amount of cushion there. I think that’s kind of cool and it makes things interesting. I remember this morning that most of the places we go are very hot and that heat bakes into the dirt, which causes the scaffolding underneath the dirt to flex. It’s not bad at all, it’s just a little different to ride on.
It looks like all the carpet and rubber padding wreaks havoc on your tires! Plenty of traction out there, eh?
Yeah! There’s a lot of grip out there, and it definitely takes a toll on our tires. My rear tire is pretty smoked, but I’m sure some of that is from a burnout. (Laughs)
So what’s next for Levi Sherwood?
For me, I’ve got a couple of months off and then I’ll get busy again at the end of the year, so I just want to go home. I’ve had this idea to make some new ramps to hopefully elevate the tricks. Definitely not to the level of what Travis has developed here for best trick, though. I think it’s time we have new ramps that are bigger and steeper. Our landings are getting so tall now with quarter-pipes and everything else that it makes it a little harder to get over them with our standard 75ft ramps, so I’ve designed some new ramps while I’ve been away on the road. Now I’m going to go home to build them, test them and try to do a cool enough trick using them so that I can put it out on the internet and put the plans out for everyone.