Thor Thursday: Travis Pastrana and the “Toilet Paper Roll”

Just six days ago, Travis Pastrana, arguably the world’s most famous motocross personality, attempted to continue the progression of freestyle motocross when he became the first person to try and combine flipping and spinning on a dirt bike in a single trick. The frontrunner of freestyle evolution since bursting onto the scene in the late 90’s, Pastrana has been the first rider to complete a wide variety of tricks that have now become standard within the freestyle inventory. Most recently, he completed the first double backflip to dirt at the 2006 edition of the X Games and for 2009, decided to make his return to the biggest action sports event on the planet with yet another new and sanity-challenging idea.

A teammate of BMX legend Dave Mirra in his newest passion of rally, the seed for Pastrana’s newest trick was planted when Mirra suggested the Nitro Circus star attempt to flip and spin a motorcycle 720 degrees to achieve what BMX-ers call a rodeo. For the next two years, Pastrana was dedicated to dialing in spinning and flipping, two separate and highly-difficult tricks, and then began combining the two. With the safety of a foam pit, Pastrana logged hundreds of hours and attempts and had “perfected” the trick. He entered the X Games and Best Trick competition last Friday ready to land what he had now named the “Toilet Paper Roll” to dirt for the first time. However, a slight flicker of concern was in Pastrana’s mind as he “lost” the trick in preparation for Friday evening. Never one to back down, he believed he could land it and gave it his all in what ended up being his lone attempt, coming up short and fortunately walking away with only a couple bumps and bruises. Pastrana discussed what happened in his inaugural attempt, where things went wrong, and what went into developing this trick.

Travis’ cameo appearance at the St. Louis Supercross was his return to the racing circuit. Thousands of fans flocked for their chance to catch a glimpse of the sport’s most familiar rider.

Where did the idea for this trick come from and what made you decide it was something you could do?

It’s really just about the progression of the sport and whatnot. (Dave) Mirra was literally (telling me) “I know you can spin a motorcycle while you are upside down.” Because (the sport) has been working with backflips, now they’re working with front flips and they’ve been working with spins. So now the next step is to start combining them. (In) BMX it was about three things: the superman, tailwhips and flips. Then they started doing superman tailwhips and superman flips and spins and whatnot. For me this trick was just forever coming because I don’t spin very well. I flip pretty well but unfortunately I get lost real easily. It was about two years (in preparation) but these last six months I’ve put a huge focus on it. I went to Woodward, I hired an Olympic aerialist coach for skiing and I really thought we had it dialed about two weeks out and then I had an MTV shoot that lasted a week, came out (to LA) for X Games, had a rally and then went to Red Bull (Compound) and it was on a scaffolding. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it or if I just lost the trick, but I didn’t land a single one in the past 20 or 30 I did before coming here. I guess I just ran out of talent. I don’t know. I lost it.

With that being said, were you expecting to pull it off (Friday) night?

If I wasn’t expecting to pull it off I wouldn’t have tried it. I guarantee you that.

How close were you?

Oh not. I over-rotated the flip. So right away instead of going up sideways, like I always do – the spin never happens until the halfway point – I had so much flip basically that I had done the flip – and the flip 180 is when you start going frontwards – I was already there at the halfway point. And it’s good to be at the 180 at the halfway point, but I just basically had to stop everything and try not to (go further). I was actually doing a front flip. I could have done a backflip 180 and if I would have tucked forward I probably would have done a front flip to the wheels. But instead I just landed on my side.

A shot-by-shot sequence of Pastrana’s lone attempt at the “Toilet Paper Roll.” Despite looking as though he was close to landing the trick, Pastrana declares that he wasn’t even close.

What made you decide to forego your second attempt?

I just lost it and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to land it. At that point it just becomes about being smart and not hurting myself. I didn’t want to take the chance of going back out there and possibly killing myself. I have other things to do still at X Games so it just wasn’t worth it.

Since you didn’t achieve landing the trick, does that mean you have to come back next year? Is this something you have to do now?

For me I definitely want to do this. I’d like to do it for X Games but everyone’s always asking me “why are you coming back?” Well, freestyle has always been like a hobby, but I’ve been more passionate and more pumped on my hobby than I have been about (anything). I’m probably better at my hobby than I am at any of my real jobs if you will. This year, I probably had more in bribes to not do the trick at Best Trick even if I would have landed it and rode out. But you know this is what I do. For me it’s to try and do something that’s never been done. Push myself, push the sport. If it’s just at home in front of five people or if it’s at X Games in front of millions, as long as I land it that’ll be exciting.

Pastrana’s primary occupation these days is rally car driver. He took the silver medal in last Sunday’s Rally Car event at the X Games. He has 2 gold’s, 1 silver and 1 bronze in the event.(Courtesy

Let’s talk a little bit about your passion for rally. Have you always wanted to go on four wheels or did it just kind of happen?

Four wheels was always what I did when I got hurt. I had a go-kart at two and was always driving everything I could at my dad’s construction company. I rolled my first car at 10 years old. I’ve kinda really enjoyed the four wheel stuff and it was a lot safer so anytime I broke a wrist or whatever I’d get on a shifter kart and then cars. I had the opportunity at 16 to go over and drive a WRC (World Rally Championship) car and from then I decided that whenever motocross is done for me in the professional racing sense I want to drive cars. It’s been amazing.

What does the future hold for you with Nitro Circus, rally and your appearances at events like X Games? Do you have a plan or do you just take each opportunity as it comes?

Kind of day by day. I just try to have the most fun I can and I’ve been really fortunate with the Nitro Circus show that now all of my friends instead of having to get real jobs, we can postpone that inevitability if you will and keep having fun. I got some great sponsors. Thor is still backing me for the moto stuff even though I don’t do a lot of that and it’s just been a wild ride. Ride it while you can you know?

No one would argue with Pastrana’s dedication to staying true to that belief as he continues to serve as an ambassador to the sport.

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