As far as privateers go, 250 class rider Austin Root finds himself on the more fortunate side of the “island.” Root has had the opportunity to live in Florida and train at Ken Roczen’s place with Ken, Adam Cianciarulo, and Chase Sexton, and while this is certainly an ideal situation for a lot of privateer riders—Root included—it doesn’t come without challenges. After a “rollercoaster” 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, Austin has been granted an opportunity to do two races in Italy. Not completely satisfied with how his season went, he welcomes a chance for personal redemption. We caught up with Root to chat about 2018, training at Roczen’s place, and his opportunity to race overseas.
Racer X: Let’s recap your 2018 season. Just kind of put that into your own words and tell me how 2018 went for you.
Austin Root: 2018 went good for me. I had some highs and lows. It was kind of like a rollercoaster. As a privateer, I was going through some bike stuff and getting to the rounds and stuff like that, so it was definitely an up-and-down season for me, but I had some really highs and I had some really lows. I’m pretty pumped on how I overcame things and stuff this year, due to last year.
I know some of the lows. You had some clutch issues for a few rounds, right? You were struggling with the mud races and smoking clutches every race or something like that, right?
Yup, smoking clutches. I got it figured out. I brought the bike after Budds Creek—I drove all the way straight back down to Florida and had a couple of the guys [mechanics] at the [Moto] Sandbox look at it. They all helped me and we figured it out. We went to Ironman, and it was just a bummer on how that day went. Everybody knows everything that went down that day. It was just definitely one to forget.
Speaking of the Sandbox, you’re training down there in Florida with Ken Roczen and all those guys. Let’s talk about that a little bit. Who’s all there and what’s it like training with those guys?
It’s me, Adam, Chase, and Ken. That’s all that’s there right now. It’s definitely awesome training with the guys. I definitely thought I was working hard before I got down there, and then it was just definitely different once I started working out and doing everything with them. It was definitely a lot different than what I expected. That caught up with me, too, in the season. I was expecting to do better in the year. It’s hard just doing it one season. They’ve been doing it for years, so I’m trying to play catchup with my fitness. That was the hardest part for me.
What was your biggest adjustment as far as training with those guys? Was it intensity? Not just on the bike, but off the bike? Was it the whole package?
Yeah, just the load of everything. The workouts, the riding. Just the load of everything. It was so much. We would do so much during the week where I was like, wow. Before a race, I would be like, “Wow, we did so much.” I’m like, “Dang, I don’t even know how I’m supposed to race right now.” That’s how much we did. On a Friday, I thought, oh my god, that was the best week I’ve ever had. But then you’re like, holy crap. You’re just hoping it’s a weekend and you got off, but you got to do that on Saturday—race.
You put yourself through the ringer during the week, to put yourself through the ringer during the weekend.
Yup [laughs]. I just found out that I was trying to gain. I was trying to make gains during the season, and it’s tough doing that. Your work should be done before the season has even started. The hard work should be done, and then the maintenance. But their maintenance was even higher than what I am. So it was just struggling with that a little bit, but I have gotten a lot better. I’ve been sticking with it, even after Ironman. I just went back and worked out with Adam the last two weeks. [I] definitely have gotten a lot better, but still just got to keep doing it. It’s one of those things where you don’t just wake up and you gain the fitness that those guys got.
As far as riding goes, are you able to keep pace with those guys for a while? Or is it like, Okay, I’m going to hang with them as long as I can, but I know they’re going to drop me eventually?
It’s like that, but during motos, it’s kind of like we stagger. It will probably go me first, so they can get me, but I can’t let them catch me as fast as they can. But it’s actually pretty good the way we do it. I can actually ride with them. It’s actually not as bad. I’m actually pretty good at the practice because we all ride in the same track every single day, so we know what each other is doing and stuff. So practice days, I’m not that far off. Maybe a couple seconds, but for me, that’s awesome from where I started when I first got there. When I first started there, it was a struggle. It was hard. These guys were ripping. But since I’ve gotten better, and towards the end of the season I actually can ride with the guys and actually put a moto together with them and stuff. I was pretty pumped on that.
Does that boost your confidence when you show up to the race?
Yeah, it does boost my confidence a lot. That’s what you would think. I’m training with Ken Roczen. I’m on the gate with him and Chase every day. You would think that would be like, “Okay, I train with the baddest dudes, so I got the confidence.” But I think still as a privateer, I’m still overcoming things like bikes and stuff. Other things were coming to my mind as the Saturday would come on. I’d have to worry about my bikes and stuff like that. It was just a different focus, I’ve noticed. People are like, “Man, you train with the baddest dudes,” but just trying to be mentally there even as a privateer, sometimes I would think about my bike issues and clutches and if my bike’s going to blow up this round. Just thoughts that you shouldn't have. So I had to overcome that too a little bit.
Do those guys help you as far as guidance on race day? If you’re struggling, are you able to go talk to Ken or Adam and say, “Hey, I’m struggling here. Do you have a suggestion? What I should do in this section?” Or are they so focused on themselves that you can’t really access guys like that?
We’re all so focused on ourselves, but some rounds if I am walking around, I do see them and ask them things. So I guess yeah, I could say they do help me for sure. They help me all the time. The biggest guy to help me out this year was probably Adam since he wasn’t riding. He was helping me out huge. He was on the couch. He was still working out and stuff, but he was just kind of watching the races and he would text me and kind of help me out, telling me lines before I would go and stuff like that. So for sure, the guys help me a ton.
How did this opportunity to train with those guys come about? How did you get the opportunity to go live in Florida and train at Roczen’s?
I actually called Jason, and I have a guy that helps me out, kind of a manager. His name’s Tony. He helped me out a ton getting down there. Got the number from Jason. I just called him and just told him I’m really trying to surround myself with the best people. I just told him I want to be around the best and I want to do this the right way. I don’t want to half-ass my training. I don’t want it to just happen. If I’m going to train, I want to do the best I can. If it works out, it works out, but at least I know I did everything I could to be the best I could be. And Jason liked that. So he gave me a chance to come down there. They’re offering for me to come back again for supercross. They all would love to have me back, so I’ll be back there training for supercross.
You’re getting ready to leave for Italy to do some races overseas. Kind of tell me when, where, who you’re riding for, that kind of deal.
There’s a KTM team over there. His name is Bader Manneh. He used to race over here and he moved over there, actually, and just did the GPs. Now he’s got a KTM team and he’s got a bike for me. I think the first race is like an Italian GP or something they have, the first weekend I’m there. Then the 30th, I’m going to do the MXGP in Italy. I got all hooked up by, actually, my girlfriend’s dad has a Honda dealership over there. He kind of was talking to the guy and was looking for someone because his rider is out. So I was like, I’ll do the last two. I wanted to do the last couple over there anyway, since my last couple rounds didn’t go the best with the bike issues. So I wanted to end my series on a good note.
Any expectations or goals to go over there? Or just kind of go have fun?
I have definitely goals. I don’t know any of the guys. I really don’t keep up with it that much. Obviously, I’m just going to go there and do my best. I’ve seen a couple of the results and stuff. The goal is to be top ten there, top 15, and on a bike that I don’t know.
Are you riding the 250 class?
250 class. So it should be solid.
Are you nervous at all? Have you been overseas before?
Yes, I have been overseas before. I’m a little nervous just because it’s different. I don’t have my parents. My parents are a big help in my program. Obviously, as a privateer, you can’t do it alone. So, my family is my team. So it’s tough going there. It’s going to be kind of hard because normally they’re at the races. They know me better than anybody. But it will be fun. I know people over there, like my second family over there. So it should be good. I’m just excited for this opportunity to do this. To go race overseas on a bike, it’s a pretty cool thing. A lot of kids would die to do that.
Let’s put dirt bikes aside for a second. What are some of the things you do for fun? I know Adam’s big into golf. Are you a golfer? What do you do to decompress?
I golf. I’m not serious or anything. They have to play and play by the scorecard. I can just go play and not take score. I just do it to relax me. I’m not the best, but I’m not bad. I just like to play for fun. I like photography. That’s pretty cool to me. I have a lot of friends at home in South Carolina that do that kind of stuff. Rooftop and buildings and just weird stuff like that. I kind of got into that. I kind of just grab something and I do it for a while, then I find something else. I get good at it, and then I go to something else. That’s a tough question. Probably photography or something like that.
I think all motocrossers are like that. We get into a hobby that we are all in and then, “Okay, I’m burnt out on it. I’m going to go all in on fishing or RC cars or something like that.”
Yeah, you just go and do different things. I like just other things. I’d rather put my money into something like a venture—going out with friends in the mountains, hiking, stuff like that. Outdoorsy stuff. That’s definitely me.
Let’s have you thank your sponsors that you want to thank.
First off, I’d like to thank my parents and my whole family. Then I’d like to thank my girlfriend and her family for letting me come over. They’re going to be housing me when I go over to Italy. Then I’d like to also thank 100% for being at the rounds every round this year. Fly Racing for all the gear this year for sure. EVS, Enzo Racing for my great suspension. ACS exhaust and Guts Racing, P3 carbon, and then Dedicated Ride and No Toil. I’d like to thank all those guys, and Guts Racing. They definitely were the ones that stepped up and gave me stuff this year to make things happen.