Interview: Mike Mason
We talk to Mike Mason about respect, X Games, still being fast, and what he's going to do with the rest of his year.
Mike Mason was denied a spot anywhere at X Games 17 and it took a social-media firestorm to get him an official invite just to do Speed & Style. And then he almost won. On the track, he did win, but his friend Nate Adams took the gold by virtue of his stronger tricks. We caught up with Mason while he was working on his YZ250 in his garage – in 100-degree weather in Las Vegas – today to get his perspective on things.
Motocross.com: First off, there was a little bit of controversy surrounding you before X Games because you didn’t immediately get picked to go to X, right?
Mike Mason: Yeah. I wasn’t in for anything. I talked to the people in, like, February and I told the lady from ESPN I’d ride anything. I kind of knew that the actual Freestyle was a long shot because they were only doing eight guys, but I told them I’d ride Speed & Style and Step Up. And then the first list came out and I wasn’t on anything. And then I talked to some people and they basically said that I wasn’t on anything, not even as an alternate. And that kind of pissed me off because I felt like I’ve ridden my ass off and tried really hard for, like, the last eight years and then in one year I’m just kind of clipped from everything. So I told Adam Jones the whole story and he went on Twitter saying to tell everyone to let me in the event. Then next thing I knew it was like a huge blow-up on Twitter. A bunch of people were replying, and then next thing I know I was getting a call from ESPN that I was in the event. So, it was pretty cool.
I follow you on Twitter (@Mike_Mason81), and you’re a funny guy. However, your persona on Twitter is definitely not a good corporate image like some companies probably want. Do you think that hurts you when it comes time to picking riders?
Yeah. I don’t know what the deal is. It’s weird because I get along with everyone but I just feel like I’m the first guy that always gets canceled out of contests if there’s not enough room or whatever. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t like to use my Twitter to just sit here and tell everyone that I ride Freestyle every day. I’m sure after a year of that they’d get pretty bored. So I tell people exactly what’s on my mind. My parents get pissed when I talk about being naked or whatever, but it’s for fun. I want to show that we’ve got humor, too. Like I said, dirt bikes are cool but I’m not going to bore everyone with dirt bike stuff every single day.
I think you’re right because that’s what’s fun about Twitter is getting a real look at the person, not just what they do…
Yeah, exactly. That’s what I figure. It’s like I’ve got enough energy to tell everyone my life story and what’s going on and what I’m doing. What I’ve always liked is finding out what athletes or rock stars or whoever are really about. I don’t know. I follow Slash and he’ll just say some random thing during the day that’s cool. Like, it’s cool to get to know people. I guess my sense of humor is a little different than others’ but that’s why they seem to follow it. I try to keep it somewhat clean.
The funniest part is that your Twitter persona is already probably you tamed down a bit…
Yeah, for sure. I try to keep it somewhat decent.
And then, when you did finally get the invite to X and all this stuff, you said you wanted to just win the race against Nate [Adams, in the Speed & Style final]. So, you did that on a two-stroke, and Nate has actually been racing a bit…
When I got the invite I made it a point to kind of prove to ESPN that I was worth being in the event. I really buckled down last month and worked hard. I was moto-ing in Vegas four or five times a week. If it was my 450 at just local tracks or my two-stroke on a supercross track, I was just riding a lot. It was pretty much the most work I’ve ever put into something just because I kind of had that chip on my shoulder that they didn’t even want to invite me. When I got there, my bike was just set up a little wrong for the ramp so I was struggling a little bit with flips and that kind of hurt me, but I didn’t really care. I hadn’t ridden Freestyle for two months so I was just wanting to win the race and just prove to those guys that I did used to race and I could still beat them all, because I feel like I’ve had more experience with Arenacross and Supercross compared to those guys. So, it’s kind of like a pride thing. I didn’t want to get beat by them on the track.
You said something about your gearing, right? Were you just geared too tall?
Yeah. I was geared really tall and then actually my shock was set up… I don’t know, I took a lot out of my shock just to kind of make sure I was going to be safe in the whoops and not kill myself. Between my gearing running out on the ramp, and then when I was going to flip I could feel my bike not springing off the ramp when I was flipping, it wasn’t ideal. For some reason with the underflip it worked good but the heel-clicker flip, stuff like that, it was just soaking it up a little too much and I was kind of under-rotating and coming up short. But that’s why I decided just to play it safe. I figured even if I did a heel-clicker flip, Nate’s three  and his lazy boy, all of that was going to beat me anyway, so I just wanted to really focus on the track.
For those of us who don’t know the life of a freestyle guy, what are you doing for the rest of the year?
For the rest of the year now I go back to my normal, boring life of riding ramps and doing the same six tricks that I’ve done for the last eight years. It’s actually pretty busy. After X Games is usually when we’ll start to get into Europe and do a lot of demos over there. So, I’ve got to start flying back and forth there, making some money. And then I guess I was noticed a little bit at X Games and Dew Tour is going to be Freestyle-only for me – we got that coming up in September – I’m not doing no Speed and Style event. I’ll just stay busy. I’ll try and ride my bike as much as I can and try and enjoy getting a medal. It’s really satisfying to get a medal again so I’m pumped on that. But there’s not much time to enjoy it; I’m kind of right back into work.
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