Mike Mason began his pro career racing but his love for stunts and performing tricks on his dirt bike slowly took center stage. In fact, when he competed in racing events, you'd sometimes see him come out at halftime of those shows and do tricks. His rise in the world of FMX started with a 3rd place showing in 2005 at the Dew Action Sports Tour. Since then, he's won seven medals at the X Games including two gold medals in the 2013 Moto X Speed and Style competitions. Mason is also a two-time Action Sports Tour (ASA) World Champion of FMX.
Today, Mason is one of the stars of the touring choreographed FMX show that is Nuclear Cowboyz. As one of 10 FMX riders in the show, Mason's death-defying dirt bike tricks wow sold-out audiences across the country. Nuclear Cowboyz features a storyline told through more than 1000 freestyle tricks and is considered the most explosive choreographed arena-based production in the world.
Mason is currently on a 16-city tour with the Cowboyz. Check their schedule to see if Mason and the Nuclear Cowboyz are coming to an arena near you.
Years riding pro: 15
What age did you start riding and on what: Age 4 on a Suzuki JR50
What do you ride now? Honda CRF450
Hometown: Carson City, NV
- 7-time X Games medalist (3 Gold, 3 Bronze, 1 Silver)
- 2005 - Placed 3rd Overall Dew Action Sports tour
- 2006 - Placed 2nd Overall Dew Action Sports tour
- 2007 - Placed 3rd Overall Dew Action Sports tour
- 2006 - Placed 2nd ASA world FMX championship
- 2009 - Won the ASA world FMX championship
- 2010 - Won the ASA world FMX championship
- 2005 - Placed 3rd in Red Bull Ride to the Hills natural terrain contest
- 2009 - Appeared on the Conan O'brien show
- Stunt double in the 2002 motion picture "The New Guy"
Other sports participated in: Snowboarding, Golfing
Other hobbies/interests: Guitar player in the band "Main Event" and Call of Duty nerd
All Photos: Feld Entertainment
- How did you get started riding a dirt bike?
I got started at a very young age, my family was into motorcycles, and my dad actually ended up getting me a bike for my fourth birthday. I remember it's all I ever wanted to do. When I was at school I would draw dirt bike stuff on my binders and when I got home if I couldn't ride that day I'd be out in the backyard riding my bicycle around making dirt bike noises and pretending I was one of my heroes. It's always been in my blood and I can't thank my family enough for giving me the opportunity at a young age to pursue my dreams.
- You've done both racing and FMX - what led you to pursue the FMX route?
I always messed around with tricks even while I was racing. I loved jumping and that led to trying tricks over everything. When I went pro in racing, FMX half time shows were actually getting pretty popular so I would race all night and then earn some extra cash at half time doing tricks. Over the years racing kept getting more and more expensive and my opportunities for FMX shows were getting more frequent so I came to a point in my career I had to make a decision.
I had always set out some goals that I wanted to accomplish while racing and I did that, so when the time came to go FMX full time I left behind a racing career that I could be proud of, I didn't feel there was anything I wish I had done different so the move to FMX just felt right. Here we are 10 years later and I have now accomplished so much in FMX that I really just cannot be more happy with how my career on a dirt bike turned out. I'm especially excited to be part of the Nuclear Cowboyz tour. It's great to be riding alongside all my buds in this awesome show. I've been on the tour for five years now. Loving every minute of it.
- Clearly you have to be fearless in your sport - do you have to start young or is it a mind over matter process?
I think there is a difference between fearless and confidence - believing in yourself. Our sport is dangerous and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think that and respect it. I think being on a bike 28 years makes me more confident when it comes to pressure situations of being scared of a trick or being in the spotlight at a big contest.
I am far from fearless. Spiders and snakes scare me, and getting hurt on a dirt bike scares me. But I believe in myself when it comes to handling my fears and turning it into confidence, or knowing when is the right time not to push it to that edge.
- Tell us how you go about practicing a new routine and perfecting it until you're ready to show it off live.
If there's a new trick I am looking to get down for a contest or live show, I'll give myself a time frame and make sure I have all the time I need to perfect it and be confident with it. I'm not the guy to learn something the week before a contest and just show up and wing it. I like to know I've taken all the steps to learn the trick right and be confident I am going to land it perfect every time. If it means riding every day for two months until I have that feeling, then that is exactly what I will do.
When it comes to performing, once you roll out on the floor in a sold out arena there is no turning back, you want to make sure you have done everything you can to prepare yourself for that very moment. Those who do this are the ones you will see rise to the top of their sport. There are plenty of kids who have came out with the "New" trick, they get to the show and crash first attempt and you never hear about them again. There's a reason there is only a handful of guys who have made their mark in FMX.
- If a routine goes wrong do you know it right away and brace for impact or do you not know until you've hit the dirt?
It really depends on the situation. There have been times where in mid-air I know something is not right and I brace myself for a fight. I always try my hardest to ride out of any crash, sometimes it works sometimes it doesn't. There have been those times though where everything feels totally normal and you're ready to spot your landing and the next thing you know you're waking up in an ambulance with no clue where you're at or even what city you're in.
- You've been doing FMX for years, is it like clockwork now or do you need to mentally prepare yourself each and every time you go out?
It is like clockwork to a certain point. Show wise I have ridden hundreds of shows over my career so the nerves of being in front of massive crowds doesn't get to me too much, if anything I look forward to that feeling of hitting that first trick in the show and hearing the crowd scream as I land.
With that being said though you also have to respect the danger that we face each time we throw a leg over a bike, so there is some mental preparation involved. I always like to make sure I am focused and know all my routines before I hit the floor. That's a good way to get yourself hurt is to be over confident and take a dirt bike for granted, so I like to always remind myself to take it serious and never lose focus.
Photo: Feld Entertainment
- No matter our professions we all at some point wake up and just don't feel it - considering the nature of your sport do you ever have these days and simply stay off the bike?
Oh yeah, I have that feeling often. Like I said I have been riding for 28 years, it's just like any job, there's going to be days where you wake up and the last thing you want to do is go to work. People always say that's stupid and I should feel so lucky to do what I do for a living and yes they are absolutely correct, I wake up appreciative every single day of my life, but that doesn't mean we don't have days where we just don't want to be on a motorcycle.
Some days you just have that feeling you shouldn't ride like maybe something bad could happen; some days your brain just doesn't feel up to the task of being 100 percent focused; some days your body is just too sore to perform at a high level. All this is taken into consideration each day and sometimes you just need to stay away from your bike for a couple days or even a week just to get that fire and drive back and want to get back out there.
- What's your favorite trick to perform?
I love doing under flips. It's basically where we take the old school whip and incorporate it with a back flip. It feels so cool because as you're taking off and leaning back to do the back flip you're actually leaning off the side of your bike as well so when it comes off the ramp and your upside down you are also completely sideways. I wouldn't say it's the hardest trick in FMX these days, but it's definitely one of those tricks where every time you're coming up to the ramp it gives you that feeling of excitement because it is such a stylish trick.
- Congratulations on the X Games Gold medals! Can you describe the atmosphere of participating in the X Games and your thoughts standing on the podium?
That feeling of winning X Games is a feeling I don't think I could ever describe accurately. X Games is our Olympics. It's that event we work so hard to do well at and when you do well and all that hard work pays off it's just the best feeling in the world. As fortunate as we all are to do what we love to do, normal people will never understand the pressure that athletes deal with.
When it comes to X Games there's 100 million people watching you live all over the world, all your sponsors are watching you and hoping their investment pays off, your family and friends are all watching hoping for the best. We have all eyes on us and it's up to nobody but us to perform at our highest level on that one night. When you push through all that pressure and keep your focus and win that event, it's like the weight of the world is lifted off your shoulders.
As weird as it may sound I love that feeling of pressure, and I love when I overcome all odds and stand on top of that podium, that is a feeling I will never ever forget.
- You've done more than most people do in a lifetime and do things on a bike most would never want to attempt - where do you go from here?
I'm not even sure where I go from here! I have had the perfect life, I've got to do what I love to do for 15 years and make a living with it. I've met the best group of friends from riding that I could ever ask for, I showed my parents that all their hard work and investments for me as a young kid have paid off. Where do you go from here? What could possibly top how the first 32 years of my life have panned out?
I'm sure there are many more moments and memories that will happen throughout the rest of my life, but it's hard to believe that anything would ever come close to the experiences I've had, I am so thankful for everything and all I can keep doing is living this life to the best of my ability, we will see what the future has in store!