Freestyle motocross stars lift performance art to new heights

Freestyle motocross is crazy enough to begin with, considering the high-risk stunts performed by daredevil athletes as they soar great distances from ramp to ramp.

But thanks to Nuclear Cowboyz, a dazzling new tour sweeping across the United States, the sport has become much crazier. The introduction of fire, a mysterious plot, an acrobatic ground force and dazzling female dancers have transformed FMX into some kind of bizarre circus act.

“It does have a circus feel,” acknowledges Micky Diamond, a show choreographer and stunt coordinator. “But it’s more full-throttle, all the time. And with the noise and pyro, it’s kind of like a rock ‘n’ roll show. But there really isn’t anything else like it.”

Nuclear Cowboyz has, in essence, taken some of the world’s premier freestyle motocross riders and made them stage actors — something they never dreamed they’d become.


But of course, they’ve kept their edginess. Consider, for example, a theme that pits two motorcycle tribes — one in white, the other in black — that had survived a nuclear catastrophe and converged in a charred urban setting to wage a battle for supremacy.

Then throw in a gang of outcast “Lord of the Flies” types that had lived beneath the city, emerging as mutant warriors to wreak their own brand of havoc.

There’s no field announcer and no actual competition. The FMX riders, belonging to either the Soldiers of Havoc (white) or Metal Mulisha (black), follow a storyline, told through choreography, that has them soaring 50 feet high and 70 feet across a landscape crawling with acrobatic Shadow Warriors and spectacular Nuclear Cowgirlz dancers.

“It’s definitely not Shakespeare,” Diamond says.

Neither is it the X Games or any other top-level FMX event that is solely about out-performing one another, often resulting in violent crashes and painful injuries.

“I think the main difference is that every freestyle show that everybody’s seen is standard announcer/contest format — just watching a bunch of jumps and listening to a guy talk all night,” Adam Jones, a four-time X Games gold medalist, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “Here, there’s no announcer there to tell you the same things you’ve heard in every other freestyle show.

“There’s voice-overs and stuff, but everything’s choreographed. Instead of seeing me go out and do a double-grab, then wait 15 seconds and see the next guy go out and do a back-flip, you’ll see trains of riders as close as they can possibly get, all doing the same trick, which really looks cool. The whole show is built into a nonstop entertainment show.”

Nuclear Cowboyz, which features other top riders such as Ronnie Faisst, Beau Bamburg and Mike Mason and Jimmy Fitzpatrick, recently visited Pittsburgh, the third of 12 tour stops on a schedule that has expanded considerably since its debut season in 2010.

That was a feeling-out process. The shows are longer, more technical and far more dangerous now that fire and close-quarter jumping are brought into play.

“It’s tough for a newborn, a bad idea to bring a newborn there,” Diamond says. “But any young boy would just be thrilled. If I was a young kid I would definitely want to make this show, and if I was a parent and had young boys I would make sure that we went to the show. “

That’s because the boys might be slow to forgive them if they didn’t.

For ticket info to a show near you go to NuclearCowboyz.com