Travis Pastrana, Nitro Circus Ringleader Interview 2019

The hardest-working man on two wheels

Travis Pastrana illustration.
"My biggest regrets at the moment are the times that I didn’t go for it when I thought I had it."Kent Barton

Travis Pastrana's fingerprints are all over the motorsports world. From the insanity of Nitro Circus to Supercross and motocross, rally and rallycross, and even NASCAR, the man is a vehicular force of nature. He's helped lift action sports to their lofty place through a combination of a love of motorcycles and a lifetime of bone-breaking labor.

When did you realize you could make a career out of motorcycles that was more than just racing?
When they start out riding a dirt bike, every kid believes they're going to be a professional in that sport, and for me the reality never really set in. I think the injuries are what really made me find another way to do what I love to do. My dad always said, "Heck, you're too crippled to come back to construction."

Do you have any regrets about how you've used up your body pursuing this thing?
My biggest regrets at the moment are the times that I didn't go for it when I thought I had it. Motorcycles come down to calculated risk, or risk versus reward. That's always changing. Why would I stop doing what I love to do? When I'm hurt, it's not the injury or the pain that I'm bummed out about, it's not being able to do what I love to do.

To take your body and put it through the wringer over and over again isn’t the smartest thing. My dad just had his third back surgery this year, and he’s been an avid motorcyclist his whole life. He’s like, “Never stop, son. The second you stop, you’re done.”

You've said riding at your level requires constant work. There's no such thing as a holiday. Who taught you that diligence?
I was really fortunate. I got brought up with my dad and his five brothers. They all worked construction. They were some of the hardest-working people I ever met. My dad said, "You're not going to make it as a professional athlete and make money doing it, but any day you do not work construction, any day you can live what you love to do, then do whatever it takes to ride that train until the wheels fall off."

If your kids came to you and said, "Dad, I want to do what you do," what would you say to them?
If they're half as passionate as I am about riding motorcycles, or as my wife is about skateboarding, then I feel like I've succeeded as a parent. Look, selfishly, yeah, it would be awesome to go ride with my kids, and yeah, they have dirt bikes and they love it, but there's a difference between riding for fun, riding on the weekend, and trying to win the freaking Supercross championship.

What does retirement look like for you? Is that something you have any interest in?
I was talking about this last week with my wife. We're sitting down and the Olympics came up, and she has a chance to qualify in skating. She was like, "Well, are you willing to be a stay-at-home dad while I chase this dream?" I didn't really sign any contracts for this year. This is the first time since I was 7 years old that I don't have contracts that I have to follow through on. For me, I feel like I've lived my college years too many years at this point, but you know, I have time to really enjoy where I am in life and to count my blessings. At the same time, I love what I do, and I'm fortunate to have a lot of opportunities in the motorcycle industry to keep doing what I love. Retirement could be anything.