The future of freestyle motocross, electric dirt bikes, and more with Nate Adams
Nate Adams is far more than just a freestyle motocross rider. He’s also the man behind the motocross glove and lifestyle brand DEFT Family, a father to twins, and recently, he’s converted to riding electric motorcycles full-time. Naturally, Adams stays plenty busy between all of these rolls. Recently, we had the opportunity to catch up with him and find out what he’s been up to in the last few months. We also chatted with Adams about the sport of freestyle motocross and where it’s headed.
It’s been a little while since TransWorld Motocross has caught up with you, what’s life been like for Nate Adams lately?
Well, I became a dad of twin boys a little over two years ago and they’re awesome. They’re becoming little boys, putting together little sentences and that sort of stuff. That’s a lot of fun and a lot of time too. I’m still just running DEFT Family and riding. I’ve been on the Alta Motors electric bike for almost over a year now. I actually have all of my 450s for sale. I just sold one the other day so I’ve got three more to go as I’m making the transition to electric. I turned 34 in March and I’m at the stage in my career where I’ve come to the realization that I’ll ride for the rest of my life, but I probably won’t compete. I just love it, but there comes a time for everyone. I’m just enjoying it. I haven’t set an end date, whenever I feel I’m done then I’ll be done, but I recently came to the realization that I’m probably going to do this for a lot longer [laughs]. When I was younger, I thought I’d have some retirement date set or something, but now that I’ve gotten older I’m going to ride forever. When it stops being fun competing and traveling and doing all that then that’s when I’ll pull the cord. Other than that though, I’m just living life, running DEFT, and riding electric dirt bikes and hanging out with my family.
You mentioned that you’ve switched to the Alta, what was it about that bike that caught your attention?
They approached me and at that time I had only seen little tidbits of Hill riding it. I thought, “Oh, that looks like a legitimate electric dirt bike.” They reached out to me and asked if I wanted to try it out. I said yes and they told me they’d get the suspension set up for me and meet me out at my local freestyle spot. Sure enough, they had the bike all set up for me and after the first day riding it I was jumping ramps, doing tricks, riding the Supercross track at the ride spot, and doing everything that I had been doing on my 450. It was such an easy transition, easier than I thought. I don’t know what I expected going into the first day, but it was just easy to adapt to and that was it. I got one day of testing opportunity and then a few months later I was signing a deal with them to get a couple of bikes, and here we are almost a year later. It’s been fun.
What do you think the easiest thing was to adapt to, and also, what was the biggest challenge?
I was really concerned about having no motor noise, but that was the easiest thing to adapt to as far as what I was worried about because there is motor noise. It’s just not a 450. Even when you can’t hear the engine, you actually hear – this was a trip the first day I rode it – you can actually hear your rear tire hooking up or breaking traction or things like that. Then, when you get around other people racing at a moto track or when I’m doing a live show and we’re doing a freestyle train, I thought that was going to be a big issue because I’ve got 10 other gas-powered bikes around me and I won’t be able to hear anything. It’s never been a problem though. I was able to adapt to the bike pretty easily and I don’t know what I thought before I went and rode it the first day. It’s hard to go into something with zero expectations, but it’s been a fun and simple transition.
When it comes to DEFT Family, how are things in the glove business?
We’re doing good! We’re actually making another push with clothing and hats and new gloves this September. I had some issues with old partners and things like that so I’ve gotten them out of the business. Basically, the things that were slowing me down the past two years a bit on the business side of things I’ve gotten out of the way and they’re no longer an issue. I’m just excited to move forward and in my mind, it’s a clean slate. We’ll start with that and get back to what we were doing two or so years ago with multiple runs of gloves, new clothing all of the time, and just pushing the brand to the max.
As far as the landscape of freestyle motocross today goes, it’s vastly different from what it just 10 years ago. What do you think it is that led the sport to where it is now?
Well, I know things really changed a lot when we had the market crash. That global economy hiccup there in 2006-2009 or whenever it was. I just noticed that promoters really weren’t willing to put in a big course. They would build one landing and a few ramps in different directions and that’s it. I believe that has taken its toll. Freestyle fans will be there, but man, when it was a big course that took up the entire L.A. Coliseum floor, I feel like it had more of a presence. Nowadays, it’s gone more towards shows, which is great for me [laughs]. I’m 34 and I don’t need to compete every week. I can go do some shows, do some riding, and do some of my hard tricks and make a living for my family. There are lots of shows, lots of tours. Nitro Circus is doing a great job and Octane Addiction is doing a great job. We still have X-Games and Nitro World Games. I did a big contest in San Jose, Costa Rica, and there was something like 40,000 people there! But, it was a huge course. It was a full soccer stadium. We’ve got the Gladiator Games in Prague, Czech Republic, every year. There’s still big stuff going on, but for the most part, it’s the shows, the demos, and the tours that are doing great. All of that stuff is great and it keeps us making a living on our bike so that’s what we want.
On that note, where do you see the future of the sport going in terms of progression, both with events and tricks?
In my heyday so to speak, you had to have a foam pit at your disposal. If it wasn’t yours, it would be a buddy who had one. Now it is an absolute must and we have these airbag landings because it’s just getting so intense. Double backflips are a norm. Look at Josh Sheehan and these guys like Tom Pages who do them in their runs. Also, in their runs, they’re doing Holy Grab flips and body varials. Tom’s run in Costa Rica last month was insane. He did a bike flip, an inward flair, a forward flair, a body varial, a bike flip, a front flip seat grab and it’s insane! Like I said, the competitions will be around, but unless like X-Fighters comes back or X-Games or Nitro Circus decides to do more throughout the year, I see what will sustain the average freestyle rider as the weekly shows and tours and a couple of competitions every year to get the big TV spots. That keeps the big sponsors happy. The future is interesting. If you’re 18-24 and a freestyle rider, the next ten years are going to get super gnarly [laughs]. I’m glad that I’m 34 and did my time. I think it’s going to be more specialty tricks like barrel rolls and front flips. I hear guys even talking about going back to the days when a bike was built for bar spins or tail whips and things like that. Now the half-pipe stuff is insane too. There are a lot of different niches and varieties where a guy like Axell Hodges can get in and build through social media. You have to be a great rider, but it’s not just freestyle anymore. You can be a free rider and have a few tricks and live the freestyle lifestyle. Anyways, I think more shows, more demos, and it’d be great if another company were to come up and challenge Nitro and X-Games with another world contest. Other than that, I think it’ll keep progressing, the tricks will get gnarlier, and it’ll be harder and harder to have your spot on tour or at a contest. More and more guys are killing it every day and there are more guys that can ride at that level.