Robbie Maddison rocketed into 2008 with a bang—jumping his motorcycle 322 feet, 7.5 inches to break the world record at the Rio All-Suite Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas. He followed it up later that year with strong finishes on the AST Dew Tour and Red Bull X-Fighters series. He ended 2008 back in Vegas, jumping his bike onto the top of the 96-foot-high Arc de Triomphe at Paris Las Vegas and then freefell off of it, at Red Bull: New Year. No Limits., again on ESPN. For 2009, he's planning on breaking a few more barriers.
"I think my biggest accomplishments are all ahead of me," Robbie, a.k.a. Maddo, says. "I have another big jump planned for 2009 and getting really close to the top spots in FMX this year." With a solid second overall on the Dew Tour and third overall in the Red Bull X-Fighters series, Robbie has developed a hunger for first and he's gunning to take the Dew Tour, X Games and the Red Bull X-Fighters in 2009. "I don't really have any small goals," he says. "The three contests are really different; each tests riders in different ways. So my biggest accomplishment will be when I can say I've won all three. I just want to ride the best I can and close the gap between me and first place in every contest I compete in."
Robbie likes to joke that he was born on a bike and came into the world doing a no-hander onto the delivery table. It's not far from the truth. He started riding at age four and racing at six, and became Australia's national amateur champion at 16. "I had to make a tough decision about whether to turn pro and try to make a go of it on the professional racing circuit," he says. "In the end I took an apprenticeship as an electrician instead. Then one day in 2002, I'm looking in a magazine and I see pictures of a few of my old heroes doing this new sport of FMX, just crazy stuff. I got out on my bike and started messing around with some old tricks and trying some new ones, and I was hooked." Robbie won the King of Australia contest the next year, and he's been pro ever since.
Freestyle motocross combines some of the world's top athletes with a few riders that are just crazy enough to try anything. And that combination keeps the sport evolving. "There's a lot of competition for the number one spot, and there's also a lot of creativity in the sport," Robbie explains. "The best way I've found to deal with it is just to keep at it every day, because progress is an ongoing thing. Sometimes it comes in small steps and sometimes it comes in giant steps, but the main thing is just to keep riding every day and taking those steps. It's a tight enough community of riders that you're always seeing what everyone else is doing; and I'm always thinking about what I can change."
Robbie says his mind is full of new ideas for where to take his riding and push the progression of freestyle motocross. And he puts in the work to make it happen. When he's not on his bike, you'll most likely find him standing on a Bosu balance ball, lifting weights, or throwing medicine balls at his trainer Ryan Hughes, a former motocross racing champion and Maddo's personal hero and mentor.
"He went through so much in his career and has helped bring all his experiences to our training," Robbie says. "Just the mentoring and knowledge he passes on has really helped me get a grip and get a better attitude about everything. He fires me up so much to get in the right headspace to compete."
Even with his early age on the bike, Robbie's rapid rise through the FMX ranks came as a bit of a surprise to almost everyone in the sport. Even more surprisingly, he gives some credit for his success to a serious leg break he suffered last year at a Red Bull X-Fighters event in Ireland.
"In some ways that injury was the best thing that could have happened to me, because it helped me refocus on how important this whole adventure around the world is to me," Robbie says. "In the end it fired me up more than ever, so it was a blessing in disguise. Traveling the world, doing something I love, meeting the people I've met—it's been a wild ride and I want to keep it going for as long as I can."
Speaking of going long, Maddo and other riders have since pushed the distance even farther than his New Year's jumps. Robbie says he can't divulge any details just yet but promises something enormous is in the works. "I wish I could tell everybody and shout it to the world now," he says. "But you'll just have to wait and see."