2018 will have a lasting effect on Justin Bogle’s career. Expectations for the Oklahoma native were high following his overall win at the 2017 Budds Creek Motocross and signing to a one-year contract with AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing, but things went awry before he ever touched a tire to the dirt. A pair of concussions in the offseason sidelined him through the key training months and forced him to miss the opening rounds of the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross Series, which then resulted in him being a bit out of sorts in his return to action at Glendale and Oakland, evident in his two seventeenth place finishes. Things got even worse after an opening lap crash at the San Diego round and Bogle missed the rest of the Supercross series with a badly broken arm and a fracture in his back.
After asking the AutoTrader/Yoshimura/Suzuki Factory Racing team to delay his return to racing until he was back to top-ten speed, Bogle was back in the middle of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and captured massive holeshots at Southwick and Spring Creek. Unfortunately, a pinched nerve from the prior arm injury would make Bogle’s arm go numb mid-race and he would fall from first place to deep in the running order before the checkered flag. When it happened again at Washougal, Bogle consulted with doctors and underwent an almost immediate surgery to correct the issue. With that, Bogle’s 2018 season was over with only four full races to his credit and he parted ways with the Suzuki factory team.
We’ve closely followed where Bogle could land for 2019 and beyond. There were ties to a few well-known and established race teams, but a few weeks ago we learned that he bypassed those options in favor of a place with the newly formed Phoenix Racing team that is based in North Carolina. With ties to the off-road racing scene and well-known sponsors, it’ll be a fresh start for all involved.
Bogle is unlike most on the starting line, as he isn’t afraid to showcase his interests outside of motorcycling or his emotions and outlook on life. His musical side project, Pak X Emh, with friend Brad Frace was a large reason Bogle managed to stay sane through the challenging summer months and he put out a number of new songs, merchandise, and videos in the downtime. During a recent twenty-minute conversation, we touched on all of these topics and dove into the mental place that Bogle knows will keep him on the right path through 2019.
Word is out that you are going to ride for Phoenix Racing. How did everything between you and the team come together? Because for a while it looked like you were in with another team.
It was another interesting offseason, but this one was quite a bit different. This year was really difficult, to put it one way, and it was not the best year for me on and off of the bike. It was just a struggle in general with everything. Being hurt multiple times made it hard to sell myself, so we were waiting and trying to figure it out. Jimmy Button is such a huge help and he was on the grind making it happen. Me and Frace, he's the right hand, we we're in California for a while and then Florida and Charlotte. I had history with Justin, who is a big part of this team and got us involved pulling everything together. I knew him from the RCH days and he reached out, so we came up and checked it out. We had some boxes to check and that got sorted, so here we are. I'm genuinely excited. This isn't the typical, “New team, I'm stoked” talk. I'm excited because with the way things have kind of gone, I understand that nothing is promised and that I have to be grateful for the opportunities I get. I have a lot of say in how things will go for me while Justin and everyone at the team do their deal. Justin has been very willing and open to do what we need, so that's a different deal. It's nice to feel like you are in a place where you are wanted and everyone is hungry to make something happen. That's a beautiful place to be.
You alluded to this in the past and it's not like there was anything wrong with the team, but you were not racing enough to form a tight bond with JGRMX.
Yeah, it was just tough. I had two pretty bad concussions, the one before Monster Cup and one six weeks after that, and I wasn't really myself for a while. I was dealing with all of that and then I came back to racing but only got two in. My arm situation ended up being worse than we thought and I had hardware put in there and a fracture in my back. The stuff just kept derailing the program. I came back this summer and that went how that went. I was giving it a shot and ended up having to get another surgery on my arm. With all of that being said, I feel really good now physically. It took a long time to get there but the road isn't supposed to be straight, it's a little windy sometimes. With the team, there is nothing against JGR and I'm thankful they gave me the opportunity to ride for them and to be on a factory team. Coming from the RCH team to them, it was a great opportunity but I didn't mesh well with it just because I wasn't around enough. It was hard to establish a bond with guys that you aren't around. I didn't ride much at all last year and that would explain all of that stuff. I'm thankful that they gave me the shot and I'm bummed out that it didn't go better. I wish I could have fulfilled my end of things, but this is how things go sometimes with racing.
Although you only were able to do two races in the summer, your speed was good, but the arm issue is what held you back. Was that a detriment to your confidence because you think, "I know how to go fast but my body won't let me," or was it a positive thing because it showed you that have what it takes to be competitive?
I don't know. I would line up every race and just go for it. I would think, "I'll try to get a good start and see what happens." But that's how I approach most things in life; I might not know how to do them yet, but I'm going to figure it out. I looked at it like, "What if this time I get on the box? I know I just got twelfth, but you never know." So I was able to keep trying at least, but it was beyond frustrating. I was struggling with the setup of the bike, which goes back to not riding and testing, so I didn't jell with it at all. I'd get two laps in and wouldn't be able to feel my hand, which was frustrating because my brain was telling me to hit a jump my way, but if I did that, I was going to crash because my hand was going to fall off. Most of the time when I was racing I was counting birds and rocks and stuff because I was bored, all because I couldn't go any faster than what I was. It wasn't bad for my confidence because the whole time I knew what was going on and everyone else was going to think what they wanted to judge it, but I don't care. I pulled off in the second moto at Washougal and was like, "We're going Monday to get this fixed because we're wasting time."
You see the big picture of all of this. Your life is not defined by what happens in the twenty or thirty minutes between the gate drop and the checkered flag. Does it ever get frustrating to explain how you want to maintain a balance to people in order to be your best?
That saying, "The company you keep," it's so important. I have people around me that are very good for me and keep me on track by being understanding the process. We understand that anything worth anything comes from the long game because making a decision off of the short game does get you anything sustainable. It may not look awesome right now to everyone else, but having a plan and understanding there will be detours and things that will happen in life, but we will keep moving and look at life through optimistic eyes and it will get better. For me, dealing with stuff and letting it get you down, I'm a human being and I go through stuff be it on or off the bike and the coloration between the two, you can't have one without the other. I want to move back to Oklahoma right now for parts of the year to be with my family. And that would be the main reason (for the move) because I miss being around my family and they make me happy and they keep me grounded and understanding of what this is all about. And I miss that. Having that aspect of things in order with faith, family, friends, if you have those things in order you can stay in a good place while dealing with problems. Last year I was by myself for a while and I was close to going off the ledge, it was not good. But the second I got around people that care about me and that I care about everything was better. That's a lesson learned as well. It's not an easy thing to do, it takes time, but I've been fortunate with my whole crew being very tight-knit and likeminded.
I appreciate you saying that, because as a guy that left his family and beats himself down with questions of, "Am I doing the right thing?" When you're in that state of mind, it sometimes gets to be the only thing you think about. But once you find the thing that changes it positively, you know to stay in that lane.
That's the biggest thing and it's different for everybody. For some people it's their family, for others it's friends or relationships or jobs. If you have something that you care about and you know it cares about you, you're able to deal with the difficult times much easier. For me, I can go to Brad. He moved down here and we started making music and videos because he could tell that things weren't going so good. As a friend, he saw what we had to do to figure it out. I think that you have to find whatever it is for you that makes you happy and gets you through things. Because no one is going to avoid the difficult parts, no one is immune to it.
To shift back to racing, how is it to be back on a Honda?
It didn't take time to get adjusted to it, there's a similar feel and it's still a Honda, but there are some different things with it. The push button start is the coolest thing I've ever dealt with. Why would you kickstart a bike when you can push start? [Laughs] I was so pumped on that right off the rip. I rode a stock bike when I was getting acclimated to riding again after everything this summer. We have good people on board and it's moving forward. There is stuff out of my hands the team has sorted out, but on my end of things, it's going very well.
You've spent your entire career on teams that are established, from GEICO Honda to RCH to JGR. Was there any level of concern in the initial conversations with Phoenix Racing, just because they are a new deal? In some ways, you're going off the reputation of the people involved and not a race record.
Of course. I'm not going to sit here and lie to you. The unknown is scary, no matter what it is, so when you come into something new there is always skepticism. But once I got involved, I see it's okay. I got that from everyone this year, "Yeah, you won a race but you don't have it now." When I got here, these people were super willing to do whatever we need to get better. It's not a chip on the shoulder thing, but we all want to be successful and it takes a group of people that all feel the same way to get to that point. I can feel the vibe of everyone and the people we deal with and we all just want to figure this out to get results. That feels awesome. I'm a skeptic by nature anyway, I can't help it but I am, so to feel good about something and optimistic is a good sign for me and my crew.
We've always discussed the music because it's what we're mutually interested in. You haven't hidden it much lately, so are you down to talk about it now?
Yeah, I don't care [Laughs].
Okay, you and Brad put out so much stuff over the summer with the videos, the music, and the clothes. Was that a nice release from what has been your life for the past ten years?
Yeah, and it's something that I love. I've made music quietly for a decade now and it got to the point where with everything in my life, the ground was shaky, so with the things I had to maneuver at the time, I needed something to focus on. Idle time and thinking can make you depressed, so when Frace came down to the house we started making music as often as we could. We made clothes and sold them, we hand painted a Calvin Klein jacket that we sold, and we did stuff we thought was cool It was super fun but there is something that I would like to pursue in the future eventually. I'm having fun with it and it was something to focus on during that idle time that wasn't detrimental. I'm thankful to have that because without it, I don't know how the year would have gone. There was a lot of idle time. I'm not scared or embarrassed anymore, we're good enough now to be proud of the stuff we're doing and I'm proud of what we are going to do. I'm blessed and thankful to have one of my best friends be a super ill producer slash video guy. We can get cool content knocked out with time.