Seasons of Change

Justin Hoyer put in an impressive performance last January, taking the gold medal in freestyle snowmobile at Winter X Games in Aspen. Shortly after, Hoyer and I were talking about the fact that he and Swedish rider Daniel Bodin were both legitimate freestylers on dirt bikes too. He then revealed to me that his thoughts were to try and get into the summer version of freestyle, on tires instead of skis and a track.

After several weeks of trying, including a missed appointment at the Mexico City round of Red Bull X-Fighters, I finally tracked Mr. Hoyer down; coming in from his back yard after repairing a hose on his loader ...

ESPN: So what's happened to you since we last saw you win the gold medal in Aspen?
Hoyer: Since the X Games quite a bit has gone on. I was pretty burned out, but you know I was really happy that I won, but it was a lot of stress after that. Then I went directly on the Masters of Dirt tour and I had a little mishap and ended up breaking my arm and my collarbone. So it's been two months of kind of relaxing and working on my house. I kind of needed that and now I am all fired-up to be back, you know, start doing some freestyle moto.

How long do you think it will take you to get back to full strength?
I dunno, I'm thinking that by early June I should be back to where I was, If not better. As far as riding, physically I'm doing OK and I have already rode a little bit. You know, I've lost a lot of strength just from being dormant so long, but it's coming back day-by-day, so by the beginning of June I should be shredding pretty hard.

I switched over from doing freestyle motocross first. I knew how to do the tricks and the jumps and stuff, it just took me a while to get the hang of how to ride the snowmobile.

-- Justin Hoyer

Is there anything you do in particular for your exercise routine? Anything that's pretty unique?
You know, not really. [laughs] As far as exercising and working out goes, I hate doing that stuff. I absolutely hate working out, but I realize that it's good for me to do, so I stick with the basics. Mainly I ride on the exercise bike just to keep my knees strong, for my joints. I've had both my knees reconstructed so I've got to keep them things strong and keep 'em tight.

Do you do any weird stretching or yoga, anything like that?
No, I don't do any yoga, but I do make sure to stretch out really well before. Everybody always says, "You should try yoga out" and all this stuff for flexibility, but I don't really know why I don't want to get into that. I just make sure to stretch out really well and it seems to help prevent injuries and keep me limber.

So you don't think it would be a good idea to do yoga and get to go into a room with girls in short shorts?
[laughs] Yeah, it probably would be, but I live out in the country so to go anywhere to get some quality girls with short shorts would probably be kind of a chore, so I just do my own thing.

Let's go back to Aspen [Winter X Games]. What do you think it was that set you apart from the rest of the guys this past year?
I think this year was just holding it together and putting down a solid run and not making many mistakes whereas a lot of people were just 'hail mary-ing' it and kind of making mistakes. I learned that in the past, that's not how you win. And this year too, I knew that doing stuff off the big ramps is going to be how you win. I'd seen that last year, I wasn't scoring as high not flipping the bigger ramps. I came this year to Aspen and I was thinking, "Now I really got to pull all the stops out. This is what I think would win", so I just did that and ended up doing well.

In the freestyle snowmobile world, who is your biggest competition and why?
You know, that's hard to say because each year it's so different and it's so new, but I think Joe Parsons has been really consistent and he has showed that he's got the mental focus to be up at the top. It's hard to count anybody out because no one has ever won twice. Each year it has been someone different, so everybody is really driven to win. For freestyle snocross, it's a newer sport and now that you can win gold medals people are working really hard at it and I think that shows in the progression over the last few years -- it has been really insane.

What did you think of those Moore brothers coming out and trying it?
They remind me of when I first got into it. I switched over from doing freestyle motocross first. I knew how to do the tricks and the jumps and stuff, it just took me a while to get the hang of how to ride the snowmobile. You have to give them credit for coming out and doing what they did. It was pretty impressive.

You were sitting there on the day and you got that Gold Medal for freestyle, but what made you think that you could pull the underflip in Best Trick on such a heavy machine?
The thing that made me want to try it is that I've done it a bunch of times in the foam pit. They haven't all been successful, but it has been a pretty good percentage rate; good enough to feel that I could stick it under a lot of pressure. I think I would have had it too except they had a little knuckle in my landing and that just freaked me out a bit and I ended up bailing off. I wish I had of stayed on -- I might have landed it. It's something you're going to see in my freestyle run next year.

You and I have both discussed in the past about bringing your skills on a dirt bike to Summer X Games. How hard do you really think it's going to be to get to that level on a bike -- the level that you are at on the sled?

I don't think it's going to be difficult at all to get to the same level on the bike because I can switch the tricks from one machine to the other no problem.

-- Justin Hoyer

As far as bringing it to the level I am at on the sled right now, I don't think it's going to be difficult at all because I can switch the tricks from one machine to the other no problem. It's just a matter of doing it now, but as far as getting to the bar that FMX is at now, it is going to be difficult. It's a full time job and that's one of the problems that I have run into in the past. I've done two sports, and then FMX usually suffers because it's a full time gig. People that live down in the southwest; they get the good weather and up here in the fall and spring, you can't ride that much and there's a good two months where you can't ride anything. So that counts me out for a lot of it, but I just think it would be fun to try. See where it goes.

What's the biggest difference between the bike and the sled? Because, obviously, they are pretty fundamentally different machines.
Yeah, you know with the bike you balance the bike and yourself as one whereas on the sled you balance yourself on the sled and it kind of does what it wants. If you ride it like you do a bike you are going to be getting pretty much all crooked all the time. So it's kind of different that way, but in a lot of ways it's the same.

But do you think you are disadvantaged because you ride a sled half of the year?
You know, as far as guys that are pulling 360's and stuff, I just don't think that it's going to be possible on the sled. For example, if you pull a backflip heel clicker on the sled -- that's going to be pretty much the same on a bike. I could switch that over easy enough, but now you have to learn some ridiculous things to compete. Like the underflip for instance -- I can do that on the bike, but bringing it over to the sled has been a lot of problems. It would be cool if they were both the same and you could take everything and cross it over, but you can't. So some of the stuff you have got to go back and re-learn it, but re-learn it different. Then try not to mix the two up!

Where do you actually practice in the wintertime?
I practice at my house. I have a full set up, a foam pit, and I just bought a big skid loader so I can change everything around when I feel like it, so that's kind of cool. This is what I have been working on. Every dime I have made is invested into this place, but it is finally paying off.

Where is this home playground?
I live in Ellsworth, Wisconsin. It's just a small town, right on the border of Minnesota. It is a good place to live because I have the airport close by, but I live in a really small community.

So, which FMX rider would you say impresses you the most?
Wow, that's a tough one; there are so many good guys to watch. If you talk about standard tricks I would say that Dustin Miller is hands-down my favorite to watch. If you are going to watch flip variations or something like that -- it's almost two different things right now -- Andre Villa is really impressive because he is so tall and he extends everything so well and is just a really good rider. Or a guy like Sato who just goes for it and has huge tricks. Yeah, Villa or Robbie Maddison are really good to watch. They're going for it. They're not horsing around.

Yeah, Villa or Robbie Maddison are really good to watch. They're going for it. They're not horsing around.

-- Justin Hoyer

What's your favorite place to ride, both on the sled and on the bike?
For snowmobiling my favorite place is up north in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. They have a sled park up there called Evolution Sled Park and my buddy owns it so that's probably the most fun because they will build anything you want. They have forty acres of property and get tons of snow. For FMX, probably right in my back yard. Now I have the loader I can build anything I want. Pretty sweet, I can just roll right out of my house and shred.

Is there anywhere you just like to freeride though?
I used to like Beaumont [California,] but then it got shut down. I used to live out there for a while. Here's a good example for you: One day, my buddy and I took a Wednesday and went out there and shoveled some jumps early in the morning, just after it rained. By the time we got back to hit them, somebody else had already hit them all and they were all shredded and destroyed. I kind of was over that place after that. If I had a perfect place to go and no one else was going to touch it, I would say Beaumont.

Well, there you go. Interview's over -- painless, huh? Glad I finally got to connect with you.
Yeah, thanks man. Too bad I didn't make it down to Mexico City.