Dropping In On: Travis Preston
The former Champ, Donky herder, and MX School instructor speaks
Dropping In On: Travis Preston
Photos and Typos: Scott Hoffman
Travis Preston was a staple racer on the circuit for many years and made a name for himself with his witty comments on the podium and for owning a pet donkey that, according to him, is very much like a dog. Preston earned his rank as a true privateer before landing that coveted Factory Ride with Honda, but remember he also rode for Factory Husqvarna as well and even won a race for them. TP’s biggest claim to fame, other than having a quick wit, was clinching a 125cc Western Regional Supercross Championship in 2002. YES, 125cc two-stroke. At age 34 he is still at it doing testing for some of the OEMs, running his own motocross school, and is still probably fast enough to make Supercross mains and place in the top 15 at Outdoor Nationals. www.tavisprestonmx.com
Motocross.com: So you are back in Cali after a little stay in North Carolina?
TP: It was 2 years in North Carolina.
What brings you back to California?
The motorcycle industry. The motorcycle industry is just so big in California and whether it’s testing with Yamaha or working with pro riders, California is where you need to be in the motorcycle industry.
So you are kind of like a free agent here doing a little bit of testing for some of the OEMs as well as putting on your own motocross schools, is that correct?
Yes, I’m coaching some riders and doing some teaching and I’m also testing for Yamaha part-time.
Are you still racing and riding?
Oh yeah, I still really enjoy riding. I think since I started teaching and coaching I’ve learned so much about riding that it kind of opened up a whole new world to me as far as riding. I pay attention more. I really enjoy riding right now and then I think it also helps me teach better.
Are you back in the high desert?
I’m back in the high desert living in the same house I lived in when I was racing.
Now that you’ve had time to reflect on your racing career, looking back on it what would you have changed knowing what you know now?
Man I would change so much it’s crazy. I would have taken it way more serious when I was an amateur. I would have listened to my parents more because it’s like they say, your parents are right. I probably would have paid more attention. When I was racing, my mind would just shut off and I’d keep taking bad lines over and over. I really wasn’t critiquing myself while I was riding and I think now when I’m riding I’m critiquing myself and I’m trying to make myself better each lap. I didn’t necessarily do that when I was racing.
When you quit racing you got an opportunity to stay in the motorcycle industry, not everyone gets to do that.
Yeah, it’s definitely worked out well and I just ended up teaching by chance. I was in North Carolina testing at JGR and I met a couple of people and they asked me to come out and coach their son. Well the kid had worked with other trainers in the area and they learned so much with me that the parents had me start working with the kid full-time and it became a full-time deal after that.
So most of your knowledge came from your racing days but other things you’ve learned were from the observations you made after your racing career.
Yeah, and that’s kind of unfortunate. I wish I would have learned this stuff while I was racing.
I think a young racer really needs to get with a guy like myself or a guy like Mike LaRocco who are just out of racing because I think our view is so much different from a person that hasn’t raced. Your life starts over. I think when I was racing it’s almost like you need to start planning your retirement after racing a little bit sooner and you also need to get a little bit more focused. I think some kids need to have riding coaches and they need to have trainers as well.
What was the hardest or scariest part about realizing OK, I’m no longer going to be a pro racer, now how am I going to make a living?
That was pretty tough. It was tough for me and then it was easy because I was on the MDK/KTM team. The team went bankrupt and at the same time the economy was really bad and the amount of money that was out there was not good but at the same time, luckily, I started teaching.
Now you are back in California, the hub of motorcycle racing, what do you see yourself doing over the next 5 years?
That’s a good question because I felt like I would have never been in North Carolina and then I would have never thought that after moving to North Carolina, I would be moving back to California. So a year from now, I have no idea where I’m going to be.
So for now you are a test rider and hopefully photo model every once in a while for Motocross.com and a riding coach.
Yeah, I think for sure I’ll be in the motorcycle industry doing something. I’ve been riding motorcycles since I was 5, 6 years old and I’ve been racing 20+ years so I’ve learned a lot and I feel fortunate to be able to share my knowledge with other people.
Will we be seeing more of the #11 at So. Cal tracks, flying around and doing some laps and showing the regulars how to ride?
Yeah, I can’t wait. I recently picked up a new Yamaha 450 and just at the time the Lake Elsinore Nationals are coming, so look for me to be at the track with the pros. I think when I’m out there it raises everybody’s level because you don’t want to see a 34-year-old guy that doesn’t ride that much pass you. It brings all the pros riding ability up a little bit.
How does it make you feel now when you go out to a local track and you start passing some top-10 National guys?
You know it feels good. I was at Glen Helen awhile ago and I pulled in behind Malcolm Stewart and Travis Baker and I kind of thought they would pull away and I ended up passing both of them so I thought that was pretty cool.
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