Courtesy of Red Bull Motorsports
Any fan of freestyle motocross will know the name Levi Sherwood. Since the age of four, the ‘Rubber Kid’, as he’s fondly known, has been blowing minds with his riding. Sherwood’s father Dave was a professional speedway racer, so it was only natural that Sherwood would follow in his father’s tyre tracks. However, in his teens, he discovered his real passion: dirt jumps and landing difficult tricks. This led to an illustrious career in FMX. TV presenter and pundit Rob Warner travelled to Palmerston, New Zealand to catch up with Sherwood for his Rob Meets series of shows. “Rob has been there since the start of my Red Bull X-Fighters career, so it’s actually quite cool to reminisce and relive a few of those moments,” says Sherwood about filming the show. His list of achievements is impressive by any standard. Eight wins on the Red Bull X-Fighters tour and a championship title in 2012; two golds at the Nitro World Games for FMX; and, in 2017, two golds at the Summer X-Games for Best Trick and Freestyle. As Rob so succinctly puts it. “Levi is a man that can’t sit still – he’s constantly progressing himself and the sport.” Despite his success, though, Sherwood has always stuck close to home. “I’m quite grounded at home and I enjoy the space and the freedom in my head to do what I want. I spent a lot of time in California in the early years. It was awesome and I definitely did enjoy riding and skipping winters from home,” he explains. “In the end, though, I just really liked being at home. You can’t beat it and it’s actually really good for riding, because no one knows what I’m actually up to, so I can turn up to the comps and surprise everybody.” You can’t blame Sherwood for staying put. He’s got his very own dream set-up in his back garden – the sort that motocross riders dream about at night. In 2012, the same year he won his Red Bull X-Fighters title, Sherwood bought 60 acres of land and built his own jumps to play and practice on. His yard – if you can even call it that – is also home to one of only three airbags in the world specially made for jumping bikes on to. The other two live with Nitro Circus and Travis Pastrana. “In the last three or four years, I’ve migrated up to my workshop and spend a lot of time developing my bike and trying to make stuff better in that way,” he says. He’s needed the distraction recently. His last few seasons have been plagued by injury and the demons that follow, robbing Sherwood of his competitive edge. Those injuries and a changing FMX scene, left him feeling isolated from the sport. “One thing I pride myself on is probably not jumping in-line and becoming a sheep,” he says, talking about his big rivalry with Tom Pagès. “It became that if you weren’t doing what he was doing, or you weren’t prepared to walk that line, what you did didn’t count. There was a lot of ‘new ramp this, new ramp that’ and a lot of secrecy behind stuff. “You’d turn up to something and you’d be like, ‘Well, I’ve never seen that ramp before, I’m not going to be able to jump it without weeks and months of training and now it’s here at this competition’. That kind of stuff really got me and I really lost the love for our sport.” However 2017 was a special year for Sherwood. During his run at Red Bull X-Fighters Madrid, he landed two Double Backflips – both tricked – for the first time in Red Bull X-Fighters history. He also pulled off a world-first No-hander Double Backflip. After teaching himself to let go of his past accidents, he was able to pull-off arguably the hardest trick in the FMX bag. Sherwood knew there was more to achieve. “I still had more in the tank and that’s when I started to learn, you know, ‘Let’s see what I can do. Where is this limit? Let’s find it’.” Rob Warner also takes a look into Sherwood’s garage, where he’s spent a lot of time developing his bike into a specialised freestyle machine. The current bikes on the FMX circuit are slightly modified motocross bikes, but every part of Sherwood’s bike has been modified in some way to tailor it for riding freestyle. He won’t share those details just yet, though. It’s just one of the ways he’s pushing the sport forward. “It’s completely lifted the roof off the limits,” he says.