Considering how Justin Barcia seems to thrive so much on combat, contact and conflict, you’d expect him to show up every weekend with a huge scowl on his face and fire in the eyes. But in Toronto we saw something else: A smile. And … glasses?
“There’s a place in Tallahassee I’ve been working with, they do some vision stuff like reaction and stuff like that,” Barcia explains. “They’re like, “We need to check your eyes first.” I don’t think I’ve really ever had my eyes checked since I was a little kid. Come to find out I’m pretty damn blind!”
Now Barcia is wearing glasses throughout the day, and experimenting with contact lenses while riding. So far, he’s been unable to get used to it (he tried contacts during Daytona practice, but had to stop and rip them out) but he’ll keep experimenting and may consider Lasik surgery. All this talk about not being able to see leads to an elephant in the room that even someone with 20/15 vision would notice.
The guy who can’t see sure does bump into a lot of people, eh?
“Sorry everyone but the only reason I’m Bam Bam is because I can’t see!” he says with a laugh.
You’d be surprised how often Barcia laughs at the races. There’s a big disconnect on the intent of Barcia’s aggression. It may appear that he comes to each race on a suicide mission, to hunt and kill (or, Seek and Destroy as his intro music says). But to Barcia, the hard passes are just part of the game, just racing, and not personal. To him, it’s supposed to be fun, and he’d be happy if everyone else got in on the action, too.
“That’s what I think this sport’s losing a little bit, like the Bob Hannah era,” he says. “Sometimes I tell people I was born in the wrong era because I would have loved to bang bars with those guys.”
It’s fun for Justin, but it doesn’t work for everyone.
“The whole Bam Bam thing this year, obviously people have been talking about it huge but what I’ve said, in my opinion, I put myself in a few bad situations, but I don’t think anything’s been more out of the blue than my 250 days,” he says. “I think people just get the wrong impression of me sometimes. Yeah, people call me Bam Bam and stuff, but I’m just an aggressive rider and I want it really bad. But then you can say other guys want the same thing really bad, I understand, but not everyone’s the same. I think, all in all, my aggressive riding hasn’t been that bad. There was the whole [Malcolm] Stewart thing, but that was just wrong place, wrong time a little bit.”
The first sign Barcia doesn’t think a little bar banging will hurt anyone is that he enjoys getting it just as much as he loves dishing it out. We can name plenty of riders who tired of Barcia’s riding, but virtually no situations where Barcia called foul when someone rammed him trying to make a pass.
“I love it because I’ll just give it back,” said Barcia. “Last week, [Andrew Short] Shorty was like, “Dude, I would have done the same thing.” I’m like, man, I haven’t heard anybody say that! I respect that guy more now! I was just trying to make the damn pass. That track was so hard to pass on. Then I get home and people are like talking shit about it. I’m like, Shorty was stoked, I was stoked… Shorty had a great finish. It’s crazy. It was fun!”
Barcia had more fun in Toronto because he did well. He led a bunch and finished second—still good considering the season he’s had. Plus, considering James Stewart’s incredible run, you could argue Barcia as “first mortal.” Even Barcia had no choice but to give it up to the man who went from 14th to first.
“You never can think you have it [the win] in this sport, I’ve learned that,” said Barcia after spraying the podium champagne. “I’m thinking just lines, lines, speed, no mistakes. Had a few mistakes unfortunately, rode a little tight. James rode good. He just rode really good. I rode good, but not the best.”
Barcia was glad to list out the reasons for his improvement in Toronto. First, of course, was starts. “Number two would probably be bike setup,” he said. “I usually don’t change my bike before the main event but I was struggling in the heat race and the team came up with a good suspension setting, front and rear. It was awesome. The Honda Muscle Milk guys did good on that. Number three would be I bonded with the track well. I had fun. Threw some big whips, Racer X, your guy Cudby captured those. I was stoked on that. I think probably number three would be the biggest thing: just had fun and liked the track and rode like myself a little bit. I’ve been kicking myself in the butt this whole year. It’s just little things. When there are five, six guys going so fast, and the littlest things on the bike and not getting starts, all those little things add up. It’s taken way too long to get these things fixed. And unfortunately that’s a bummer and took me out of the championship, and some big crashes too. There’s not a ton of races left but looking forward the outdoors and the future, for sure.”
While Barcia is usually smiling before, during and after the battle, this year has indeed been a serious matter.
“I should be at home right now pouting, the way my year has been,” he says. “It’s been really bad. On and off the track it’s been pretty tough. I kept mentally strong and fought through it and didn’t let anyone’s words hurt me.”