MPG / DAILY BREAD / FEBRUARY 13, 2017
Max Miller has a massive 2017 season of racing ahead of him. The Oregonian youngster is making the step up onto the 125 and the 150, pitting him up against some of the deepest competition he’s faced so far in his young amateur career. The Orange Brigade supported rider is coming off of one of his most successful seasons to date in 2016; he won championships at Oak Hill, Freestone, the California Classic, Mammoth, and scored his best results ever at Loretta’s with two overall podium finishes. Miller has also raced multiple times at the coveted Monster Energy Cup, scoring his best finish in 2015 with a second overall. He has really stepped up his program heading into the new year, changing everything from his diet to his training habits in order to take racing more seriously. We caught up with Max to chat about what he’s been up to this offseason, mountain bike racing with basketball legend Reggie Miller, and how he’s feeling heading into the 2017 season.
How old were you when you first got on a bike and how’d you get into the sport?
Well, I was three years old when I got my first dirt bike and uh...the reason I got is ‘cause I saw my older brother Jack ridin’ around on the farm, and I always looked up to my brother so I wanted to ride, too. There was a problem, ‘cause I didn’t have a bicycle and my parents wanted me to learn how to ride a bike first. So, I hopped on my older brother’s bicycle, stood on a cooler and jumped on it, and practiced riding around like the driveway. When my Dad got home, I hopped on the bike and showed him, went around his car and ditched it into the grass, then shortly later he got me a little Honda 50.
What’s your earliest memory on a motorcycle?
I remember being out at Territorial MX Park when I was super little. We lined up to race and stuff and I was just cruisin’ around the track, and I just remember pictures hanging out with my buddies and stuff. I still go to the track all the time; my Dad actually bought it ‘cause it was gonna get turned into a tree farm, so I go out there quite frequently so that’s pretty cool. I also remember riding around the property at my house in snow boots and an open face ski helmet -- there’s one picture where there’s this roller and I’m just sending it front end into the sky.
You’re in the unique position when you go to an amateur national where your Dad is actually racing the Vet class a lot of the time. Do you two get a little competitive with each other?
Oh yeah, for sure. Especially when we’re both doing good, sometimes he’ll win so it’s always a battle who can win more. Whenever he does, he talks a lot of junk about it which makes it fun and competitive, but my main excuse is that there’s no one in his class, haha. So, he wins some championships sometimes by being the only guy on the gate, but I mean...you gotta be there to win it.
How important is it to your program having the support of your Dad at the races?
It’s pretty awesome having my Dad racin’ with me, because we can be out there riding and he’ll say “Why don’t you do this?” or “This line’s better than that line,” or “Watch out over here.” He knows the track too, so it’s cool to have his detail and expertise on the racing. It’s also super fun just being able to travel the country, driving around in the motorhome with my Dad.
I just saw on your instagram that you were out shredding the slopes recently, and you just landed your first backflip on a snowboard. How many attempts did it take you to nail it?
It actually took me four attempts. It was actually a joke going into the day; I was joking around that I was gonna do some insta live footage and I should do something cool like a backflip. Well, I found a jump that kinda had a good lip to it, but it was sketchy...so I was like ‘Whatever, I’ll just send it.’ I sent the first one and came pretty close, but I went out and found a few other jumps and tried it -- on my fourth try, I landed it and got a little sketchy.
Are there any motorcycle backflips in your future?
Oooooh! I always actually thought about that kind of stuff...just like backflipping into a river or something, getting an old bike and just sending it. But, I don’t think I’ll be doing any flips to dirt anytime soon, haha.
What other things do you like to do for fun when you’re not riding and training moto?
I really enjoy snowboarding at all the mountains up here in the Pacific Northwest. I like fishing, hunting, and riding horses -- my sister rides horses, she does all the high school rodeos and competitive stuff with that, so sometimes I’ll go screw around and ride horses with her. Umm, I enjoy like floating the river, or mountain biking, stuff like that.
What’s it like for you balancing your racing with still going to public school?
Yeah, it’s pretty crazy at times, but it’s actually awesome. My teachers are great; they work with me a lot makin’ sure I know everything, gettin’ me caught up, and sending me with all my work, emailing me. They just make it happen. If I didn’t have such awesome teachers, there’s no way I’d be able to do this. I really appreciate that from my teachers, but it gets really hard when I’m on these trips, and I know it has to get annoying for them to email me and explain things. But, it’s pretty great how they do that for me so I can go out and do what I love and have an intense racing experience, but also have the normal lifestyle of goin’ to school with my buddies and goofing off.
You just did an eight hour team mountain bike race out in Cali with Derek Drake, Kyle Peters, and Carson Brown…what was that experience like?
It was crazy! We were training with Ryan Raul at his house for this bootcamp and he had on the schedule for the two week camp that we’re doing a mountain bike race. First I was like ‘Heck yeah! This is gonna be so much fun!’ I was thinkin’ more so like jumps and stuff. I’d never run with clip-ins and we rode two days before and I got to try and figure out clip-ins, and then we were thrown into this race. The race was super intense -- being so competitive like we are, we’re trying to beat each other’s lap times, but in doing so you’re absolutely exhausted like climbing these mountains. But, it was a lot of fun racing people. During the race I was comin’ down this little hill to get some speed for the next one and I yelled at this guy in front of me that I was going on his left...well, he hit the soft stuff at the bottom and swerved a little bit and I ran into him, and it was actually Reggie Miller, the basketball hall of fame legend, and I just nailed him! I thought it was so funny, ‘cause all my buddies at school are super into basketball and they were like “No way, man! You gotta be kidding!”
Was it more tiring than a long day of racing at Loretta’s?
It’s crazy, ‘cause like I didn’t expect to be as gnarly as it was. With moto your adrenaline is so high and stuff and your whole body is tired, but like with this mountain bike race my legs were just shot, you’re breathing super hard, and your lungs hurt. Actually after the race, I asked Ryan why I couldn’t breathe in all the way and it’d make me cough, and my lungs hurt, and he said it’s actually because my lungs were actually like bleeding or something gnarly. You get this little metallic taste in your mouth, because you pushed your lungs to the point where they bleed a little bit. It was just crazy -- the difference in the two sports, but they’re so physically demanding, both of them are extremely gnarly. In moto, your whole body is working so you’re exhausted but you’re still pushing. In mountain biking, you’re going so long and so hard that like it’s almost mentally exhausting too, ‘cause you’re like ‘Oh my gosh, when is this lap over!?’
How long were the lap times?
Well, I ran like a forty-five minute lap time, but I think the fastest guys out there ran like a thirty-one to a thirty-six; they were cookin’!
What’s your preparation for spring nationals been like? Could you talk a little bit about your program and how you’re feeling coming into the 2017 season?
I’m feelin’ pretty good coming into 2017. I’m actually getting more serious into this -- starting to train harder, work out, and put in harder laps at the tracks. I’m trying to get more consistent and build speed. I got to train with Carson Brown and Derek Drake at the track, so I definitely felt like I gained speed on this trip tryin’ to chase those guys around. I’m just starting to eat better ‘cause of that camp. I’m working out just about everyday at my house. I’m starting to wake up every morning before school and hop on the spin bike, then go to school, get back and do some homework, work out. I just feel like I’m building my program and I’m excited for spring nationals to see what I can get out there and do.
How’d Loretta’s go for you this past year?
Yeah, Loretta’s was awesome. I started off the week a little bit off the beaten path from where I wanted to be. The first moto, I got eighth in the Mini Sr. 1 and I was pretty bummed about that, because I got a bad gate pick and I was so antsy to get to the front; I was going so hard that I’d come into the corners and hit kid’s rear tires or something stupid and crash. If I would have just cooled down and worked toward the front, I could have gotten a way better finish and maybe salvaged the championship. In Supermini, I fell a few times and got like a fifth and then in the next moto I got fifth. I picked it up and got a first in Mini Sr. the next moto and then a third in the Supermini, and another first in Mini Sr for a second overall and third overall in Supermini.
The conditions were insane at the beginning of the week at Loretta’s. Since you’re from the northwest, do you enjoy playing around in conditions like that?
Yeah, riding in the mud is pretty awesome. I was actually pretty bummed, ‘cause at Loretta’s I never really got a good mud moto, I just got a little bit of mud. But, I ride in the mud all the time at home, ‘cause I mean...if I didn’t ride in the mud I wouldn’t really get to ride at all sometimes. I enjoy riding in the mud; I think it’s a different aspect of riding. Instead of being able to send it and hit your marks, you kinda have to slide, drift, ride the rear wheel, and stand up through spots. It’s almost like controlled madness, haha.
You raced Monster Cup this year and showed good speed all day, but just experienced some bad luck with starts. How’d the racing go there for you?
Yeah, Monster Cup was definitely a learning process, ‘cause the year before I got second overall. This year I was comin’ into it strong and I thought I was gonna have a good time, get some podiums, but my starts weren’t there. I was comin’ through the pack one moto and tried to cut in and take the line from someone -- we were right after opening ceremonies, so when I came into the corner I just lost the front and slid into the mud, and ended up getting tenth that moto. Second moto, I had another bad start and came through the pack to get fourth. I ended up with a sixth overall. It was awesome; it was a fun event. I was just a little bummed with my performance.
Did you feel like your starts were sort of a result of the elevated start and the metal grate and everything?
I mean, it was all wild. I think we had our gearing a little bit different than what we should have. I had practiced starts all before, but that grate was kind of weird to mess with. I might not have gotten my shifts as early as I thought I should just because it was a fast drop. There were a bunch of things that could have happened, but once it happened I was in such a panic mode that like I was going through the pack so hard. If I would have just cooled it and settled for a fifth, I could have gotten third overall which is kind of ridiculous. Training before was super fun; I felt a lot better this year actually. I felt really consistent and my lap times at the test tracks were pretty fast compared to all the other guys, but I mean...it’s just a different type of racing.
That’s something you’ve mentioned twice now -- kind of needing to calm down a little bit coming through the pack. Is that something you’re working on coming into the new season?
Yeah, I’ve been working on starts and I’ve been working on being more consistent. We’ve actually been doing sprint laps at some of the test tracks, and you have to stay reasonably close to your fastest sprint lap the whole twenty or thirty minute moto. So, that’s been helping me a lot actually -- being able to have the fitness to do it, and also like trying to smooth it out and not be so frantic. There was a lot of pressure at both of those races, but once I figured it out -- like at Monster Cup and Loretta’s --I had some bad starts, but I just put my head down and passed people when I could. I’d just take different lines, shift up, and carry more speed. It would come easier than fighting it and I would end up doing better. It’s more so just being calm and getting through it.
What sort of goals and expectations do you have for yourself?
Lately I’ve been training really hard, so I’m ultimately going there and I’m gonna try really hard to podium and maybe get up on the top. But, you never really know with all the other guys that are gonna be in the class. There’s gonna be a lot of 125 riders this year and the Schoolboy class is gonna have all the B riders, too. So, I’m just gonna go in there, get my feet wet, and try to run with the big boys.
Who would you like to thank?
Orange Brigade, KTM, AXO Racing, FMF, Dunlop Pro Taper, ODI Grips, DVS Motosport, Ethika, Vertex Pistons, Acerbis, Dubya Wheels Nihilo Concepts, Motion Pro, Hinson, Motorex, Leatt, Sidi, Bell, Scott, Factory Connection, Deft Family, Jon Eide, Jarrod Rogers, Rad MX
/ Words / Lake Kilpatrick
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