Motocross legend Travis Pastrana, still only 30 years old, plans to make his long-awaited return to two-wheel racing at this October’s inaugural Red Bull Straight Rhythm in California. It marks the first time in five years that Pastrana will have participated in a motocross racing event, as he’s shifted his main focus to rally car racing ever since.
Despite his generally successful ongoing rally racing career, Pastrana’s tremendous freestyle motocross skills remain his legacy, which date all the way back to his early teen years in the late 1990s. At age 15, Pastrana won the gold medal at the X Games motocross freestyle event. He never looked back, grabbing a total of 10 X Games golds throughout his career, while also amassing several other victories and completing insane stunts on the side (like in 2007, when he jumped out of a plane without a parachute, then linked up with another jumper’s harness to complete a crazed version of a tandem jump).
So, Pastrana is an extreme sports renaissance man—a pro adrenaline junkie/daredevil/speed demon—whatever you want to call him. That said, it’s not too surprising to see him break his motocross racing hiatus for the Red Bull Straight Rhythm course. It’s a straight, half-mile-long track of hilly, treacherous terrain that tests competitors’ ability to navigate it as quickly as possible. Competition will also be done in a head-to-head, bracket format, with 32 racers in total squaring off in one-on-one, best-of-three contests until a champion is decided. “Motocross was my first love and I ride almost every day of my life,” Pastrana says. “Every couple of years a cool event comes up…and well, Red Bull Straight Rhythm is one of these awesome events I just can't pass up and absolutely have to try.”
The aspect of the event that truly won over Pastrana, though, was the lack of requirements on how strong of a bike he could use. Most motocross racing competitions have two classes—250cc and 450cc—but Red Bull Straight Rhythm has an open class. Pastrana’s team responded by making a monstrous 500cc, two-stroke machine, packing all the power he’s always wanted in past races. He also mentions that his history of serious injuries, several of which were life-threatening, prevents him from feasibly preparing for a full-length motocross racing event like the ones he did when he was younger. RBSR is much more of a quick sprint and is a perfect fit at this stage in his career.
“This event favors someone who is willing to take chances and be aggressive,” he says. “High-intensity bursts of excitement. All the fun of jumps and obstacles but never more than inches away from your competitor and no need to slow down.” Pastrana says he has no particular expectations going into the event, noting his lack of recent experience and the unfamiliarity every competitor will have when they arrive at the track early next month. Regardless, win or lose, Pastrana will have a blast at this new event. “I'm here to have fun and bring some energy,” he says. “If I can mix it up with these guys, I'll consider it a success.”