Red Bull X-Fighters star, Levi Sherwood, has bounced back after an injury robbed him of a shot at last year’s title. Now, as he returns to form once more, the rider they call the ‘Rubber Kid’ reckons it’s time to get serious.
“I know nothing about it,” said Levi Sherwood in the run-up to last weekend’s second round of the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour in the Brazilian capital Brasilia.
“The last time Red Bull X-Fighters was there was really before my time,” smiles the 19-year-old, making it sound as though the series’ first Brazilian adventure, in Rio de Janeiro in 2008, was ancient history. “So I don’t know much about Brazil. All I want to do is go there and have some fun.”
It will be a different story this week. Riding out in the city’s Esplanada dos Minsterios, Sherwood will have been greeted by 100,000 crazed FMX fans, the largest single crowd to ever witness a freestyle motocross event. Brazil and its people are now likely to be imprinted on the young star’s mind forever more.
At the end of last season, Sherwood left the penultimate round in London with a win and the knowledge that he could lift the title at the final event in Rome. Just weeks later, however, he was out of contention and in surgery, having crashed badly at an event in California. It was a signal moment for the young star and now, while Sherwood still has the same easy-going confidence, it’s also allied to a greater steeliness, a determination to take his riding to the next level as he explains…
What happened at the end of last year? You went to the ASA FMX World Championships in Pomona, California and that was the last time we saw you Dubai this year?
I crashed pretty badly, and as soon as I crashed I knew immediately what happened. I had a broken femur. It was not even a month before Rome. I was going to Rome pretty excited. I had brought my season back to where I wanted it and I was riding really well. It was a real shame because it was a competition I didn’t really need to do. It looked like fun the year before, and everyone was doing it, so I thought ‘screw it, let’s do it and just go and hang out with the boys’. But it didn’t work out that way. After the crash I was so disappointed. All I could do was say ‘okay, just get me to surgery, get it fixed and let’s get out of here’.
How long were you off the bike?
Four and a half or five months. It was quite a long time, but you know I was no hurry, I’ve never been one to rush recovering from an injury. I just wanted to make sure everything was right before getting back on the bike. I rode a lot of motocross and I was having a lot fun with that. And then, when the time was right, I started riding freestyle again. As stupid as it was (the accident) it had always been my goal for the year that before I got back on the bike in the winter I wanted to take it easy, not push it, learn a few tricks and not go crazy trying to do something every day. Before, I think I was like ‘yeah, come on, let’s get into it’ all the time but I wanted to learn a bit of patience and learn a few tricks over a few rides rather than going for it too much.
You’re getting back to your best though now. Have you changed your style at all? Do you look at someone like Nate Adams for example and think ‘I need to approach things that way, because whatever he’s doing, it works’?
Yeah, definitely. During my time off, I thought about that a lot: how I can ride better, how I can improve my performances. My riding’s up to scratch when it needs to be but the biggest thing for me is probably not the practicing but being in the right mindset and having confidence, because the littlest thing can knock me back. So every time I have a bad day riding I just go to bed and wake up the next day and tell myself to be positive and I think that’s what I’ve done a lot. I think you have to think the best and that’s what I think Nate does. He’s definitely won more than anyone else. He’s incredibly consistent, so he knows how it’s done. He’s the guy to beat every year.
He seems very prepared and focused at events. Is that something you can find in yourself or do you have another way of getting the best out of yourself?
Definitely he’s the most focused and the best prepared and he practices more than any of us. I can take some of that, but I need to do it slightly differently I think. I can’t function if I practice too much. I just go backwards. I need to find a happy medium between the two.
But this year I have decided I’m not going to goof around any more. I’m going take it more seriously and give it a really good shot.
I think I was probably just getting lucky last year when I was riding well. I wasn’t practicing and I wasn’t doing what I should have been doing. What works best for me is when I find a course I really connect with and that flows really nicely. If the track’s uncomfortable for me I’ll have the worst time. I can’t force myself. I’m not one of those people who can make it happen like that. If it’s there it’s there, if it’s not…
You really seem to like the big courses.
Exactly! I don’t know why. I used to like the small ones but I changed my tune completely for some reason. I like big course, nice flowing tracks, ones that allow me get into it, so I don’t have to force anything.
So where will be the good venues for you this year?
I’m not sure. It’s a tough one. Spain doesn’t really suit me. I don’t do that stop-start stuff that much. All I can do is hope for the best. Rome is a different venue, so I don’t know about that and it’s the same for Poland and Australia. All I want to do is find some consistency.
The new Red Bull X-Fighters game launches next week in at E3 in California, USA.
- Watch highlights from Red Bull X-Fighters Brazil
- Red Bull X-Fighters iPhone game
- Watch Levi Sherwood live at Travis Pastrana's Nitro Circus