Travis Baker was born into a motorcycle racing family. His grandfather Dallas was one of Southern California’s top flat track racers, known for his success at places like Ascot while riding heavyweight bikes made by BSA and Norton. Travis’ father Mike was a successful desert racer and scored several top finishes at races, such as the annual Barstow to Vegas (B to V) and Baja 1000, as well as the early “made for TV” Superbikers events held at Carlsbad Raceway.
The fact that Baker was born with a throttle in his hand should not come as a surprise—but unlike his father and grandfather, his sport of choice was motocross; and he was very good at it.
As a kid, he quickly made a name for himself as a very fast Southern California amateur. He won a title at Loretta’s and scored several podiums on his way to the top. During his early teenage years, Baker earned a full Yamaha support ride. He turned professional in 2010 and signed a contract with MotoConcepts Racing. But his pro career was short—he only raced for four seasons, calling it quits after the 2013 supercross season.
Today, Baker has mostly moved on from his time as a racer—but he still loves the sport.
Racer X: Travis, what’s going on? Where have you been hiding?
Travis Baker: Well, I pretty much quit racing after the 2013 supercross season. That year, I signed a contract with Valli Motorsports, and it was a performance-based contract. I did pretty well in supercross, but then the team owner decided that he did not want to go and race outdoors. So, I was out of a ride. But it was OK; it was his decision. I had a good season, but he was within the contract to not continue. So, I waited around a few weeks to see if I could get a fill in ride, but nothing really came around. So, I got a real job working on the pipelines!
That’s it? No drama or excitement? You just let it go that easily?
Well, pretty much! I was not interested to spend my own money racing, and without a ride, it is really hard in the 250 Class. I had bills to pay, and did not want to draw down my savings that I had risked so much to make. So, I got a job doing construction, and I just wanted to try and move forward with my life with a new opportunity. I had a great career and some great rides—I rode for three really good teams, and I just felt like it was time to move on.
Which teams did you ride for, and what were some highlights as a racer?
In 2010, I started with MotoConcepts, when they were new to the sport. Then in 2011 I signed a two-year deal with Troy Lee Designs (2011 and 2012), and then for 2013, I rode for Valli Motorsports, but just for supercross. So, I raced for just a few quick years, but I was pretty pumped on it. From being out there as beginner and going all the way to the top level, it was an amazing trip. My results were pretty good—my first year I was fast, but inconsistent. I managed to get one sixth-place that season, and that was an awesome feeling, but I also got hurt a lot. The following year, I had my TLD [Troy Lee Designs] contract, and that was a game changer. I had a couple more good finishes, and was well inside the top ten. Outdoors was also good. I was always in the tenth to fifteenth place area. But in 2012 I was one of only six riders to score points in all twenty-four motos, and I ended up with a tenth overall for the season. I was just consistent, and stayed focused, and tried to get better every year.
Scoring points in all twenty-four 250 motos as a young rider, is very impressive. The nationals are brutal, and for kid coming from California, where supercross reigns supreme, that is a very solid result!
Thanks. Through the whole time, I always tried my hardest and gave it my all. That is what I am most proud of. At the end of the day, when I decided I was done, it was a hard day. It was better because I knew I worked as hard as I could, and that I left nothing on the table during those years. I had no regrets when it was time.
Tell me a little about your background? I think many people will recognize your time, but not many people know much about you.
Well, today I am 24 years old, and I am from Murrieta, California. I was basically born right into the middle of the motocross and dirt bike world. I started riding when I was four, as both my grandfather and father were pretty successful professional racers. But they did flat track and desert stuff, and were never much for motocross. As a kid, I rode a lot, but never got serious until I was around 12 or so. Then I started racing that Hot Summer Nights racing series, which was held at Perris. From there, I went onto win some amateur titles, and then went pro in 2010.
How was the money for you?
It was pretty good. I was not a top-five guy, but I had contracts every year, so I got paid, and it was enough to pay my bills. I was able to save a little bit—at least enough so that I got a cushion and could have some time to figure out my next steps in life.
So that brings us to today—what are you doing now? You have been away from racing for just about a year.
Well, today, I am working through the process of getting hired for a job that is more consistent and very career oriented. I don’t want to say it until it happens, though! It is nothing to do with racing or motorsports. But it will set me up for my future and is something that I hope is a lifetime career opportunity and a good job. I hope to find out for sure in October, but I am thinking things are looking good.
Well, that’s cool, and good luck with that. We will have to check back in for an update. What about your personal life?
I am living in Menifee with my wife, and we have two dogs and no kids! Kyndell, my wife—she is awesome. She is super supportive of me and what I do, and what I did. We were dating before I went pro, and she has been around for the whole deal. And for her job, she works at a pre-school, and that has given her a fix for kids, at least for now!
Do you have any regrets, having raced pro for such a short time?
[Long pause] No, not really! You know, you make mistakes and you learn from them, but I did not dwell on them; everything I did wrong, I tried to learn from and improve. I had no regrets when I hung up my boots in 2013. Ok, maybe I was a little mad about how quick it came about—but I raced as a professional for nearly four seasons, and I made good money at it. So what else could I ask for?
Do you still follow the sport today?
Oh, for sure—it is in my blood. I do sometimes wish I were still out there, but that’s OK. I always told myself from the beginning that if I fell out of love with it, I would not do it anymore. But that has not happened … I still love watching it, and the battles.
I see it like this: if you get pissed off [by] the sport, it’s like, why? Just go onto the next thing and not make a big deal about being mad at the sport for whatever reasons. I have raced my whole life, but there is more to life than motocross, and I think sometimes people don’t move forward beyond the sport.
What was it like riding for Troy Lee Designs?
Riding for Team TLD was awesome. The whole team was very good. I still talk to those guys today, actually. Everyone I worked with, even at the other teams, they were all awesome. MotoConcepts, Valli, I am still very good friends with my old mechanics. But Troy’s program had some really good bikes and great overall support. For me, it was my best years and also a fun team of people to be around. I like to be really serious when I was working as a racer, but make it fun at the same time—and they did that for me.
Do you still ride at all?
Yes, for sure! But I am just a weekend warrior now, and pretty much ride with my dad as much as we can. I have thought about maybe doing a race for fun, like Mammoth or something. But I still love motocross and have been riding a [Yamaha] YZ250 two-stroke. My dad modded it out for me, and man is it sweet!
No four-stroke for you?
I wanted to switch it up! I got a 125 two-stroke as well, so I wanted to change it up, and now that I am just riding for fun.
What is your take on the nationals this season?
I love watching it! Jeremy Martin—all I can say is wow! He was a surprise for me. But the 450 Class—I think no one is really surprised—but the Lites Class was a really big surprise for me. And between [Blake] Baggett, [Cooper] Webb, and Martin, they are even picking up the pace now, they are so aggressive; it is crazy.
Jeffrey Herlings was on his way over for Unadilla, but he got hurt. How do you think he would have done?
I saw that, and was looking forward to seeing him race here. I think one of two things would happen: he would either be over confident and get hurt, or he would kill it and win both motos. There is no question the guy is fast, but I don’t know [how he would have done] against our guys on our tracks. [Clement] Desalle came over and did good, but he did not win. But Herlings is better. However, when Baggett is on it, he is really hard to beat. Same thing for Martin, but I feel that Baggett is maybe the fastest out there. But you never know; it all depends on the start and who is on the pace that day. It’s racing!
What do you think about the MotoConcepts team racing in Canada this summer?
Mike Genova is a good guy. He does have some crazy ideas—but then again so did Troy, and so did Chad Lanza. But they can do whatever they want, as they are the ones paying the bills! I think all those team owner guys are good, as they are putting resources into the sport and it is their decision to do whatever they want, for better or worse. Sometimes it works out to be a good decision, and sometimes not. But I think it’s good they take the chance along the way.
Well, I need to wrap this up. Anyone you want to give a shout out to?
I would just like to thank all the teams and my friends and family, especially my parents and my wife, as well as the guys at Factory Backing. But my dad over at Pro-Tec, he is my biggest supporter!
Wait a minute, Pro-Tec, as in that company that used to hop up old Yamaha four-strokes back in the day?
Yeah! That’s them. That was my father and grandfather’s company. They still build some very cool stuff today, but they have always been in the hop up market.
Sounds good and enjoy the ride, Travis. Good luck with that next step.