A Different Perspective on Motocross

Adam Jones, 23, introduced the shaolin back flip at the X Games on Aug. 2.
Adam Jones, 23, introduced the shaolin back flip at the X Games on Aug. 2. "He's a rubbery little kid," a fellow motocrosser said about Jones. (By Jeff Gross -- Getty Images)
By Katie Carrera
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, September 20, 2007

Adam Jones wanted a picture of his nickname stitched to the back of his pants, but he supposes the word "Gumby" will have to do instead of the green clay boy. Known as one of the most flexible freestyle motocrossers (FMX), Jones has earned a reputation contorting his body around his dirt bike in mid-air in ways that even most try-anything riders never thought possible.

"He's a rubbery little kid," said Jones's friend and fellow motocrosser Mike Mason. "You can bend him any which way and he does some crazy stuff out there."

This summer Jones, 23, made himself the rider to keep pace with in a sport in which innovation is a regular part of competition. In August, he debuted two new back-flip variations, the shaolin flip and stripper flip, to win his first X Games gold medal in FMX.

It took the Carson City, Nev., resident two weeks of practice before he could consistently throw a stripper flip, which he believes is the more challenging trick. For a stripper flip, a rider pushes himself through the space between his body and the handlebars while upside down, extends outward with one foot on the front fender and then passes over the handlebars again and returns to the foot pegs to land by the time the dirt bike completes its 360-degree rotation.

And although he's comfortable with the trick, Jones said it's still "scary hard."

"I thought it was awesome to see him pull them off," Mason said. "We ride all the time [in Nevada] so I knew what he was doing. He never uses a foam pit and just learns things straight on dirt. I'm shorter and stumpier, I can't get through the bars the way he can, so he doesn't really have to worry about me trying to steal those tricks."

A few weeks after the X Games, Jones used both back flips at the Dew Tour's third stop in Portland, Ore., to take first place and move to second in the Dew Cup standings. The proximity of the two competitions left other riders with little or no time to learn the new flips, but as the Dew Tour's Toyota Challenge begins in Salt Lake City today, they've had almost two months to practice since Jones unveiled the tricks.

"I'm sure people are at home trying them a lot," Jones said, guessing that at least one rider will try the new moves. "Both [tricks] have been working out great, but I think it has lit a fire under a few guys -- mainly under Nate."

Jones is referring to Nate Adams, the defending Dew Cup champion in FMX who's perched atop this year's standings with only two contests remaining. Adams has been touted as one of FMX's premier riders for several years and since Travis Pastrana essentially retired from the sport, Adams has made winning events look effortless.

A broken left index finger limited Adams in the X Games -- he took home the silver medal -- and made performing a few tricks impossible, but he said it's getting closer to being pain free.

"Honestly, I want to win," said Adams, who admitted to practicing the stripper flip in preparation for this weekend's event.

"There are guys who are better than me at different areas and [Jones] is so flexible," Adams said. "The hardest part [about the stripper flip] was making sure to remember to lift my right leg far enough out of the way so that it didn't get caught on the bike coming back."

To upset Adams and win the Dew Cup, Jones needs to finish first this week and again at the tour's final stop in Orlando in October while Adams would have to finish third in one of the two events.

"I'm buddies with Nate and he knows you win some and you lose some," Jones said.

"I've been practicing hard, and I think I could take the title. He'd probably have to mess up, but I'm really hoping it'll be a challenge for him and I'd love to win it."

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