This article was originally printed in our December 2018 issue of TransWorld Motocross.
18 Holes With Adam Cianciarulo
Drives and Discussion
By Donn Maeda
It's been a little over a year since Adam Cianciarulo discovered his passion for golf. And, like everything else he does, the 22-year-old Florida native takes on his new hobby with an analytical approach and 100 percent commitment. "It's pretty much my only hobby that has nothing to do with racing or training," Cianciarulo said. "I am completely terrible at it, but I enjoy it because I can see improvement that comes from practice and effort." Within only a few minutes spent with AC at a driving range, it's obvious that his free time away from riding, racing, and training is consumed with golf. Hell, the kid knows every golf term, slang, catchphrase, and joke that has to do with the sport. He's no Tiger Woods, but it's obvious that his dedication has allowed him to progress admirably in a short amount of time, thanks to lessons and hours of online research.
Hidden Valley Golf Club is nestled in the boulder-laden hills of Norco, California, and the course has an amazing contrast between the perfectly manicured greens and the treacherous rough out-of-bounds areas. Though it is on the tougher side for a beginner like this author, it's long been a favorite. As luck would have it, Cianciarulo is a regular at Hidden Valley when he's training or testing in SoCal, so we decided to spend an afternoon doing something very different than the sport that's afforded him a very nice living. With a full afternoon and 18 holes of fun ahead of us, we decided to spread our interview out, one question per hole. Just like the handicap of each hole, we fielded our questions for Adam in corresponding difficulty.
Hole 1: Split Rock
Yardage: 525 / Par: 5 / Handicap: 9 / Donn: 8 / Adam: 7
How close have you ever actually been to leaving the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team in the past? Oh wow, you're going hit me with this? Really? [Laughs] To be honest, I've never really gotten close or even had to go shop for a ride. I've always been fortunate to have things set months and months ahead of contract time, and I have always felt that I had a secure place. I've been with Pro Circuit since I was 12 years old and they are all family to me. I am very grateful that they have stuck with me even in seasons where I have barely raced. I'm stoked on them. Obviously, I have had other offers from other teams, but it's always been a goal of mine to stay with Pro Circuit.
Hole 2: Sacred Slant
Yardage: 437 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 5 / Donn: 5 / Adam: 5
What are the best and worst things about racing for a living? The worst part about the sport is obviously the injuries. You are at a high risk any time you are on the bike, and that's not only when you're racing, because you have to practice and train at that same intensity. It's a constant risk, and from my experience with injuries, you go from being in the spotlight with everyone cheering you on, to being injured alone and doing physical therapy by yourself with no one around. That can be a dark place for guys who are not used to that. In contrast, the best part of the sport is that we are riding dirt bikes and the sheer love of that is why we all started anyway, right? I never dreamt of racing for a living, but here I am!
Hole 3: Bedrock Breeze
Yardage: 377 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 13 / Donn: 5 / Adam: 5
You were a child prodigy and tagged by many as the future of motocross. Six years later you have six Supercross wins and one National win, but no championships. Does this weigh heavily you? It does in the sense that I have not lived up to my potential, but I find peace in my results knowing that it's not from a lack of effort or hard work on my part. Obviously, I have been unfortunate with injuries, and I take accountability for them. They have been tough to deal with in 2014 and '15, but I have never felt that I do not have what it takes. I never take anything for granted and I always try to figure out what I need to do to be my best. I will always give it all I've got and hopefully when it's all said and done I will have some championships in the bank.
Hole 4: Boulder Slick
Yardage: 387 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 11 / Donn: 5 / Adam: 4
What is the first big purchase you made with earnings? My first purchase after turning pro was my house, which I still live in today. It's in Clermont, Florida, and it was a foreclosure that I got for $225,000, and it was a little bit of a fixer-upper. I'm super, super cheap with my money and I don't spend it on much, really, so that is by far the biggest thing I have purchased. I bought it when I was 17.
Hole 5: Soaring Eagle Point
Yardage: 217 / Par: 3 / Handicap: 1 / Donn: 4 / Adam: 3
What do you love about dirt bikes? Oh, god. My first favorite thing about riding a dirt bike was the freedom. That's what hooked me. And then it was the jumping. I love catching air and I still do. But now what consumes me like a bad drug is winning. I can't just go ride and enjoy it; I need to have structure. On practice days I need someone there taking lap times so I can see that I am improving. Improvement is my addiction. That is what drives me and that is what's fun.
Hole 6: Blind Ritual
Yardage: 492 / Par: 5 / Handicap: 7 / Donn: 6 / Adam: 6
How tough is it to manage rivalries? You seem to like everyone, but there are a few guys you will run it in on. With dirt bikes, it's such a tight-knit group that you find yourself around the same guys a lot. Let's face it, there's probably not enough factory rides for all the guys who deserve one. When you're out, there's someone in line to take your spot. When we're out there, we are all aware of that. There is a lot of underlying tension between guys that is not always spoken about. I'm naturally a nice guy, so I have to force myself to hate everyone when I'm at the track. You only have a short window of opportunity to make it as a racer, so I'd rather be an asshole for 10 years and apologize to everyone when I'm retired.
Hole 7: Broken Arrow
Yardage: 314 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 17 / Donn: 6 / Adam: 5
Injuries play a large role in our sport and have haunted you since turning pro. Is this ever in the back of your mind while riding? You know what? I have never been bothered by that. I never think it's going to be me who crashes or makes a mistake. I don't ever think about what could go wrong, even on my first days back on a bike after injury. Obviously, I'm not stupid—some crazy kid who doesn't know the consequences—but I understand them and take calculated risks.
Hole 8: Medicine Bag
Yardage: 177 / Par: 3 / Handicap: 15 / Donn: 5 / Adam: 4
You worked with Aldon Baker from an early age and left him a couple years into your pro career. What was it about the program that didn't work for you? Let me start off by saying that I have a ton of respect for Aldon, and my favorite thing about his program was the structure. For me, I came in when I was 14 and started training like a pro when I was 15. Everyone knows that I was a little kid and I didn't hit puberty until I was 16. For me, my body was still developing back then and I couldn't recover from the high-intensity training sessions he puts his riders through. Unfortunately, it just didn't work out for me, as I didn't have anything left at the end of the day. We would start the day with a super fast bike ride and then go to the gym and then do motos. It was a bummer that it didn't work out for me, because I had a lot of fun.
Hole 9: Eagle Eye
Yardage: 462 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 3 / Donn: 4 / Adam: 5
At what age did you realize you had an attractive mom? Oh, my dear lord. This goes back a long time with you, Donn. [Laughs] My mother is the nicest lady in the world, and I will take this question and turn it into a tribute to my mom because she has to be the kindest person on earth and I don't know what I'd do without her. I love you, Mom.
Hole 10: Copperhead Nest
Yardage: 376 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 6 / Donn: 6 / Adam: 6
How much emphasis do your sponsors put on social media? You're one of the riders who has embraced it. You need to really be conscious of what you're putting out there and the perception it gives because perception is reality. If I only posted photos of me in the gym and riding, people would think I was a gnarly hard worker. But I like to post things that I think people like to see, like big jumps! So after I have done all my motos, I will have my mechanic film me hitting a big triple, and it gets a lot of views and blows up. The problem with that is that people then think I am only out there doing jumps! [Laughs] I have this vibe of always being happy and having a good time, and people assume I don't take it seriously. I am very conscious of results, expectations, and my lack of championships… But guess what? I'm going to smile through it and have a good time!
Hole 11: Burial Creek
Yardage: 556 / Par: 5 / Handicap: 10 / Donn: 7 / Adam: 6
Why do pro riders hide injuries? I think the only reason is to not give the rest of the field any mental advantage. For instance, if I lined up next to a guy who I thought had a broken foot, I would have a lot of confidence that I would beat him easily.
Hole 12: Coyote Crossing
Yardage: 362 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 8 / Donn: 4 / Adam: 5
Natural talent and hard work equal a winning package. What are your percentages? Wow. This is a good question. I think my ratio is pretty even. I don't have James Stewart type of talent, but I don't feel that I'm lacking in talent. I think it's about maximizing your talent with hard work and the right work ethic. You find limited success with lots of talent and no work ethic. There are plenty of examples of that.
Hole 13: Rattle Snake Den
Yardage: 172 / Par: 3 / Handicap: 16 / Donn: 5 / Adam: 4
What is your take on WADA and USADA in our sport? On one end, I think it's really good for the sport because we all need to be kept accountable and keep the performance-enhancing drugs out. On the other hand, I think the system is flawed for motocross. We need to find a better way to punish the guys who make mistakes. It seems like most of the time the guys who are being punished were not even trying to cheat. One mistake at this rate can end a guy's career. The penalties need to be personalized for motocross, and it doesn't seem like they care too much about. In cycling, the communication is very swift, but we're just dirt bike riders to WADA.
Hole 14: Indian Lookout
Yardage: 312 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 18 /Donn: 6 / Adam: 5
Families at the top of the amateur ranks have to make huge sacrifices for the racer in the family. Tell me about how that applied to the Cianciarulos. To be serious at the top level of amateur racing, families do have to make a lot of sacrifices, and my family is no exception. When I was racing, my parents didn't want my sister to have to live my life, so my mom and dad had to be apart from each other a lot. My sister was busy doing her thing, and it wouldn't be fair for her to be stuck in Tennessee and other places like that at my races. It is expensive and puts a big financial burden on families. But at the same time, it brings families closer together. My entire family is extremely close and very supportive of me. I am very lucky.
Hole 15: Red Tail Launch
Yardage: 574 / Par: 5 / Handicap: 4 / Donn: 5 / Adam: 6
Talk about your golf game. My golf game is rapidly improving, but that's not saying much considering how terrible I was when I started. When Christian Craig and Cole Seely moved to Florida last summer, they got me into golf because that's what they did in their off time. That's really the only hobby I have aside from dumb video games. I am completely terrible at it, but I enjoy it because I can see improvement that comes from practice and effort.
Hole 16: Moccasin Lake
Yardage: 384 / Par: 3 / Handicap: 12 / Donn: 5 / Adam: 4
When you first turned pro and won your first two races, you got kind of cool. Looking back, do you realize that now? Honestly, I don't even remember who I was when I was 16 and 17. I don't remember what I thought about how I felt. I have changed so many times since then, I really don't remember. I am completely unaware of becoming cool. [Laughs] For me, coming into the pros I had a huge chip on my shoulders because as an amateur, everyone told me the things I had accomplished meant nothing. When I enjoyed success in my first Supercross season, I can understand that I got cocky, but that was coming from a good place, not a bad one. Sorry!
Hole 17: Double Rock Crossing
Yardage: 384 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 14 / Donn: 6 / Adam: 6
Your parents are five foot eight at best, and you're over six feet tall. Where did that height come from? Did your doctor prescribe you HGH? I was never crazy small where we thought something was wrong with me. I was just a late bloomer and so were my mom and dad. I wanted to get bigger so fast so I could ride bigger bikes. I remember praying at night to grow faster so the other kids would stop giving me crap. [Laughs] I always thought that I would be a smaller guy, but now I'm one of the biggest and I have to watch what I eat! My grandpa was over six feet tall, so I guess that's where it comes from.
Hole 18: Feathers Landing
Yardage: 439 / Par: 4 / Handicap: 2 / Donn: 4 / Adam: 5
Give me an example of when moto fame has worked in your favor. Dude, I don't know. I think the biggest advantage of someone knowing who I am is when I am at a local track doing motos, people will move out of my way. [Laughs] I am not a big fan of being blasted with roost, and sometimes people will see me coming and move. I appreciate that! I've had my Chipotle paid for a time or two, and I've gotten a free round of golf here and there, but I honestly don't feel very well known or any bit of a celebrity. I am just a lucky guy who gets to race dirt bikes for a living!
Follow Adam on Instagram: @adamcianciarulo