‘Sick’ Nick de WitThe dominant force in South African freestyle motocross over the last decade has been ‘Sick’ Nick de Wit.
Aside from his supremacy in South Africa, Nick de Wit’s performances overseas have showcased his pedigree. A veteran of three Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour stops (Spain, Egypt and Germany), Sick Nick has been ranked as high as fifth in the world. He’s also competed at X Games Dubai, where he finished fourth in the Best Trick competition, and he made a guest appearance on Nitro Circus Live’s sensational three-stop South African tour earlier this year. Despite all this, having a round of the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour in his backyard is still a very big deal for this South African rider.
THE RED BULLETIN: Finally, South Africa will get to see the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour right here in front of the Union Buildings. You must be pretty amped?
Nick de Wit: Yeah! Having the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour at home is huge for me. I don’t think people here in South Africa realise what calibre of event it is. I have participated in a couple of them and to now be able to ride one here is a dream come true.
What are the key lessons and experiences from Germany, Egypt and Madrid that you will be bringing to the South African event?
You need good variation in your tricks and you have to take into consideration all the judging criteria in order to have a good run. They don’t just judge you on how big your tricks are, but also on things like course usage, showmanship extension and a few other areas.
Is there something such as home advantage in Red Bull X-Fighters?
There will be a little, but the track is built from scratch and I won’t get any more practice on it than the other guys, so I think from the track point of view, no. But I will be riding my own bike and have all my friends and family cheering me on, so that will definitely help a lot. Freestyle is a big head game and riding in front of a home crowd will definitely pump me up.
What’s your preparation been like going into the event – do you do anything specifically for the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour?
You definitely need to prep for this event. It is one of the toughest FMX competitions in the world and I will be going up against the world’s top riders. There is a lot of mental prep that I need to do, as well as riding and physical training, too. I am spending a lot of time on my bike, just refining my old tricks and learning a few new ones to throw out during the event.
From an overall strategy point of view, what is the best approach in this competition? Do you save some of your best tricks for later on?
Red Bull X-Fighters is tough because you have to go through a few elimination rounds before you get into the final. You need to give it 100 per cent right from the beginning if you want to make it all the way. Maybe you’d save a really risky trick for the final if you weren’t 100 per cent confident in it.
What’s your signature move?
I don’t really have a signature move, but I was the first rider to consistently land the backflip in South Africa and I think that has stuck with me. I’m constantly working on new tricks and moves to stay ahead, though.
What are you busy working on at the moment? Is there something that you haven’t tried in competition yet?
There are a few things, but I don’t want to give away my secrets just yet! Once I have perfected them and got them ready for competition, I’ll throw them out in August.
What are the highlights of your career so far? And we’re not only talking about the results, but maybe places you’ve been to or people you’ve met.
It’s tough to pinpoint individuals because my riding has taken me all around the world, but places like Singapore and Taiwan must be the top locations on my list. Obviously riding in the Madrid stop of the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour was a highlight – when I was up and coming, I always wanted to take part in that one. It felt amazing riding in front of 20,000-plus screaming Spaniards. But now Red Bull X-fighters is coming to South Africa, I’m sure that will knock Madrid off the top spot.
Tell us about the bike you’re riding. What’s the basic spec and what are the mods made for FMX?
It’s a KTM 350SXF four-stroke. I do a few mods to the suspension and plastics, but the motor is pretty standard. I also bolt on an aftermarket exhaust pipe to give it a bit more power. The suspension is modified to make it a lot stiffer for the hard landings, the seat is cut down, and the sides of the airbox are cut out so I can grab the seat and do all the seat-grab tricks. I also have a set of flip levers that I bolt onto the handlebars which get flipped out when I do my backflip trick.
You don’t get this good without paying the price. Tell us about some of the injuries you have sustained.
FMX is a tough sport and it looks all nice and pretty when we fly through the air, but when things go wrong, it’s not so nice. I have been pretty lucky with the injuries, even though I’ve had a lot of crazy crashes. I’ve separated my shoulder and had some screws put in there, broken my wrist, and torn all the ligaments in my knee. That needed surgery, which put me off the bike for about five months. Not fun. All the hard landings are pretty tough on your body and I have to make sure I’m in top shape to withstand it all.
Tell us more about your life off the bike. How do you chill out? What are your hobbies or passions outside of riding?
When you are a pro athlete there isn’t much time for anything else. You either seem to be training, riding or organising your next trip, but what I do enjoy on a day off is some mountain biking or MX riding. For something really different, I like going away to the bush with my wife, Roxanne. I grew up on a smallholding, so I like open spaces and enjoy escaping the hustle and bustle of the city.
And, finally, what will 2015 hold for Nick de Wit?
Next year is going to be a big one for me and the sport of FMX here in South Africa. I think all the momentum and excitement from Nitro Circus Live and the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour will open a lot of doors for us, and I want to build FMX in South Africa to a level where we can have a few riders out on the Red Bull X-Fighters World Tour. I’ll also be travelling more and will carry on pushing to be the best FMX rider I can be.