Every privateer has a story. Often, that story goes like this, “guy lives in his van, struggles to compete against the factory dudes, and makes very little money.” While that’s a standard cliché that gets tossed around our small sport, there are those who fully embrace it. Case in point: Alex Nagy. Nagy hails from a small town in Illinois not far from the Wisconsin border, and for the past few seasons has loaded up nearly all his belongings into the back of his van and made the journey westward to California—by himself.
While a number of privateer riders travel together, or with a mechanic, Nagy prefers to do things on his own. A self-proclaimed “loner,” Alex admits that he doesn’t mind the solitary lifestyle that he’s chosen to live. We found Nagy at Milestone MX this week—parked basically by himself, amongst a facility packed with factory dudes and other riders—just doing his thing. He gave us a tour of his van, chatted a little bit while doing bike work, then we decided to do an interview. Read below as Alex talks about his season, his program, and life as basically a gypsy.
Racer X: How’d the first round go for you?
Alex Nagy: First round went pretty good. Whenever you’re going into the first round you never really know what to expect, but with this year seeing how many people were riding the local tracks and the entry list and how fast everyone was going, I knew it was going to be a pretty stacked opening round with everyone healthy and everyone riding good. I was able to make the night show, which was cool. Barely got in with the 39th fastest time of 40 for the cut. That was about the highlight of the day was qualifying. Then from there I think I got 17th in the heat and 16th in the LCQ. So not the greatest night show for me but for the first round to get it out of the way and get it over with, it was good.
I know during the mains the track was getting pretty wet, pretty gnarly. How was it for you when you were out there?
In practice it was pretty good. The first two practices it wasn’t raining at all, and then right before the last round of practice it kind of started raining a little bit. The track was still faster in our last practice even though it was raining while we were out there. Conditions were pretty prime during the day for all the qualifying. Then as soon as the night show started, it started raining again. By the time our heat races came up, the track was pretty slick and greasy. It held together pretty well and we were able to hit most of the jumps still. By the end of the LCQ, it was definitely falling apart and turned into even more slop.
As far as A1 tracks go, this one was a little bit technical, a little bit gnarly with that big double-double section across the start straight after the over-under bridge. Did you have any issues with that?
I thought the track was really cool this year for A1. In the years past it seems like they try and build it kind of mellower, whether it’s for the weather conditions they’re thinking is going to happen or to try and keep everyone safer. Maybe that’s just how they build it at the first round, but this year it was definitely different. It was a cool track. I liked the big double-double in the middle. That was cool to mix it up instead of just the same cookie-cutter type obstacles that they have. I wish I could have ridden the track a little bit more in qualifying to enjoy it. Instead every lap I was trying to go as fast as I could to get a time to make the cut. So that was kind of a bummer. I never really got to spend any fun, slow laps or anything to really enjoy the track. But by the time the night show came, it wasn’t nearly as fun as in practice. Once it got slick and the conditions weren’t as good, the jumps definitely started to get a lot sketchier than they were in practice. But it was a sweet track with big whoops and big jumps, so I liked it.
With it being super slick like that, was it kind of sketchy in the fact that you could maybe know what you were going to do, but you didn’t know if you could really trust the guy next to you? You had to kind of just commit to your lines and hope you made a pass or hope a guy didn’t jump into you?
Yeah, definitely. Especially with how greasy it was. You would plan on going straight and you would end up bumping off the Tuff Blox like a pinball going through the rhythm section. At the end of the LCQ there’s a big double-double in the middle. Most of the people I was around, we were single-double-singling it. Someone on the last lap was able to nail it and get the double-double and I think he passed like me and two other guys. That was pretty cool that person was able to get that down in the mud. Other than that, it was a cool track.
Aside from A1, let’s just talk about your story a little bit. How’s a kid from Illinois end up out here in California just living in his van, going to the races?
Usually I’m willing to do whatever it takes to get it done to get to each race. Usually what it comes down to is me only having to rely on myself to get there or get to wherever. It’s a long drive from Illinois, but I try and get it knocked out as fast as I can, in two full days of driving and get it done and get there and get it over with. Then for going to all the rounds, usually I’m driving by myself and then my dad will fly in on the weekend and help me. So I’m lucky to have him be able to help me on the weekend. But during the week I’m always on my own, for the most part.
I know I’ve seen you kind of just doing your own deal, not really having anybody around and just kind of hanging out by yourself.
Yeah. I think the last time I did that was maybe a couple times during outdoors. It’s definitely not the ideal situation to be in, but just like anything else, once you hit the track you’re on your own anyway. So I try and make the best of it.
Does it add to the stress a little bit? You come back and you don’t really have anybody to do anything for you so if something breaks in practice or in a moto, now it’s on you to fix it and then you don’t really have time to rest and then you got to go right back up to staging?
Yeah. It’s definitely tough, especially when you’ve got a mud race or something like at Ironman this year. It was just me and my dad. I had bike issues in the first moto. Luckily I had him with me too to help, but we were working nonstop just to get my bike to even run in the next moto. Then when you’re by yourself, you’re even worse off because then you’re having to wash your bike and everything kind of gets neglected and forgotten about because you’re trying to focus on yourself and eat and make sure your bike is still in good running order and everything else and get up to the track on time and all that stuff. I think I’ve always kind of been sort of a loner, so when it comes to being by myself it’s just like another day of doing it.
We saw you today at Milestone and you were kind of parked over by yourself, just kind of doing your own deal. You gave me a tour of your setup and I have to admit, packing 17 rounds worth of gear and bikes and clothes and food and everything in one sprinter van is pretty impressive.
It’s definitely a lot of stuff to cram into a small area. It’s just a small wheelbase Ford Transit van. I’ve got a little pallet-shaped bed that I sleep on with a futon and then I got my two bikes crammed in there then like you said, all the parts, all the gear, and all the stuff. It’s pretty funny because even the other day I lost a shock spring in the van that I couldn’t find and I spent like an hour looking for it in the van. The van is only like 10 feet by 15 feet or whatever, and somehow I managed to lose a whole shock spring in there. I finally found it after an hour looking for it. That’s the toughest part is going to A1 and trying to organize everything, and then you get to A1 and then everything pretty much goes to chaos inside of what you once had organized. The day after that, you’re trying to find where everything went and organize. It’s always a constant battle of trying to keep the clutter under control.
I got a kick out of it earlier today. I thought it was funny. I asked you where do you sleep, where do you live? Just wherever you can park? You said you just park on side streets. That’s kind of cool.
Yeah. It’s pretty funny. I would always joke with my friends that live out here when they would ask me where I’m staying. I’m like, “You never know. Maybe one night I’ll just be sleeping in front of your house.”
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Are you kind of used to that? You said you were a loner. Does that kind of make you feel at home just being by yourself, kind of doing your own deal? No drama, nobody really to bother you?
Yeah. It’s pretty nice to kind of be independent and self-sufficient. Surfing on couches and all that stuff, it’s cool when you got a good friend or whatever and you can stay at their house, but it’s kind of tough when you’re doing that with people that you don’t know too well and they don’t know you too well. Sometimes it’s just easier to do your own thing. That’s kind of what I’ve always tried to do is not have to rely on people too much for stuff and kind of just do it my own way and get it done.
Do you just make money riding or do you kind of work during the off-season to raise some money to get out here? How do you do it? How does one do it the way you do?
It’s pretty much impossible to do it making a living racing. It’s no secret that someone like me or anyone else in my situation, we’re definitely trying to break even and most of the time not. It’s tough, but that’s pretty much all I do is race. I’ve been siding my parents’ house back home for the past couple years on my own which has been a pretty big project. I’ve been helping them out with that. My parents have always helped me out with racing and all that stuff. I always do whatever I can for them with that. So they’re definitely my biggest support system for getting to the races and stuff like that. Also a company called Like You Live has been helping me out a lot lately as well. So without my parents and Like You Live, I definitely wouldn’t be able to be staying afloat with racing because the amount of money we make on the weekend is spent. Like the month of December, when I came out to California and then I got my riding fees and gym fee, whatever, gas, food, all that stuff—it adds up to be a very expensive month of December. Then at A1 I made $1,000 but that goes to my entry fee, my dad’s hard card, my license, and then $450 a month to ride at Milestone, all the fuel back and forth. So you add it up and you’ve got a debt of like five to ten grand in the month of December that you’re just chipping away at through the season. Then you’ve got all the added expenses on top of that to get to the races.
Even though you’re just doing the van deal, you’re still able to find a local gym and be able to train and work out?
Yeah. That was one change that I made for the first time this year, thanks to my friend Evan that was with me for a bit. He was like, “We got to go to Planet Fitness and get gym memberships.” It was only like 30 bucks for a month and it worked out good because then I was able to workout and shower every day and then van living it. That came in pretty good for the situation.
That’s kind of funny to me. You just kind of rely on the gym for a shower!?
Yeah. [Laughs] For the longest time I would just literally rough it for as long as I could until it was like, “I need to shower,” and then I’d hit up whatever friend that I had that was cool with me coming over for the night or whatever to shower and sleep on the couch. But once I did the Planet Fitness deal I was good to go. It was like that was my second home.
As far as your results have been, have you made a main event yet and if not, what do you think it would take for you to put yourself in the main event?
I have not made a main event yet, which is one of the big things I’m definitely trying to check off the list. Honestly, I don’t even know. I’ve been trying to do everything I can. Two years ago I switched to a KTM and I think that better bike helped me out quite a bit with that. Then trying to ride and train as much as I can. I’m doing it all on my own, so I think maybe if I could figure out a way to change that up, that might help me more. I don’t know. You kind of get to the point of where not that you’re doing the same thing, but you’re trying to mix it up but you almost have to start over once you get to where you’re staying the same. I was thinking of riding a 250 this year and switching that up. I don’t know. It’s tough to figure out what it takes to break to that next level.
Are you planning on doing all 17 rounds on a 450? Or when it goes back East are you going to ride the 250? What’s your plan as far as racing goes?
I’m planning on doing all 17 rounds for sure. Whether I’m going to ride a 250 at East Coast or maybe at some of the West Coast rounds, I don’t know yet. I really like riding the 450 in supercross and I really like riding the 250 outdoors. For some reason 250 supercross and 450 outdoors is harder for me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m so much smaller that a 450 outdoors is a lot of bike, or what it is. I don’t know what my plan is this year so far.
Do you want to go ahead and thank the sponsors that you do have and the people around you that help you pretty much live your dream?
I’d definitely really like to think Like You Live, Skivi, Cycle Gear, Shoei, Spy, Moto XXX Official, Hell-Bent Holsters, KeyBar, Defy Graphics, Rekluse, EVS, Tom Zont Racing, O’Neal, Stroker Industries, Flow Motorsports, Galfer USA, Pirelli MX, and Yoshimura.