Jarryd McNeil Whips Up the Crowd | Featured Rider
For an FMX pro known for some of the biggest whips in the world, Jarryd McNeil is surprisingly thoughtful about growing the sport. You might think an athlete who’s been riding dirtbikes for more than two decades — since he was 2 years old — would just do his thing and rely on it all to come naturally to him. But the Aussie seemingly can’t help but think big picture when it comes to FMX.
We caught up with Jarryd in his hotel room during the second leg of Nitro’s 2015 North America tour, where he was taking it easy before a big show in Tacoma, Washington. Regardless of what city he’s riding in, Jarryd is known for throwing the biggest whips and has, in fact, practically made a career out of it. We’ll get into the evolution of that in a minute, but first we asked him to walk us through his signature trick.
“This is a hard one,” he says. “Like, how to do a whip, you mean?” That’s basically what we mean. “If you ask anyone how to do a whip, they’re just, like, they don’t know. It’s so hard to explain.” But he decides to try anyway.
“It’s all about body movement,” he begins. The more he talks, the more focused and detailed he gets. He tells us core strength, when to accelerate, and when you need to brake are all big factors. Then he gets specific: “Approaching the ramp, I’m in second gear, which is a pretty standard gear selection for freestyle, for 75 feet, which is what we jump in the show.” He goes on to explain in full detail every move he makes during a whip. His body position, what he’s doing on the throttle — even where he’s looking at any given moment. It’s vivid enough to feel like we’re watching him do it in slow motion. He talks for three solid minutes (we timed it) to break down a trick that lasts about two seconds in real time. In the end, he’s able to explain the unexplainable in more detail than we could possibly share.
“Good luck writing that out,” he says, laughing. Yeah, so we’ll show you instead:
OK, so we’ll summarize what he told us. This starts with Jarryd doing his go-to, a seatbounce whip, where his rear fender whips out to the right side. Notice that, as he goes off the lip, he’s leaning his body over to the left of the bike. When his front wheel leaves the take-off, he’s throwing this body to the ground to bring the back of his bike up over his body on the right. To control the rotation of his bike, which weighs twice as much as he does, he’s keeping those bars in full lock to the right side to compensate and move in the opposite direction of his back wheel. Here’s a snapshot of that moment in time:
Once he’s pretty much upside-down and backward — you know, the exact opposite of how you need to be positioned to land — it’s time to turn the bike around. So, he’ll rev it out again, even more this time, and pull the handlebars into his chest with his right arm. This movement pulls the bike back around beneath him just in time to land. A complex set of steps for one of the simpler tricks, but the result in the hands of a master is, well, you can see for yourself.
Jarryd grew up on a dairy farm in Australia, a prime place to get started in motocross. Like many FMX pros, he started racing professionally at first and had a lot of success, but he was eventually drawn by the high-flying world of freestyle, and in 2010 he gave up racing entirely to focus on his true calling.
Almost immediately he was noticed for his whips. He can toss a dirtbike around with the best of them — and he is, in fact, one of the best. He’s also not a big dude at all, which makes it that much crazier. His Nitro Circus teammate Ethen Roberts put it this way: “He’s one of the smallest dirtbike riders I’ve ever met, but he can throw the bike around better than anyone I’ve ever seen. Given the fact that he weighs about 125 pounds and his bike weighs about 250 pounds, he can throw it upside-down pretty mean.”
“Growing up, I loved to whip my dirtbike,” Jarryd says. But he had no idea it would be his whip that eventually propelled him to a professional FMX career. “It’s kind of funny. I never thought a whip would take me so far.”
He remembers the first time he ever tried to whip his bike. He was 8 years old, and he and his brother were out on their motocross track at the farm, practicing on a tabletop jump. His brother went for a lazy boy. He went for a whip. “I remember jumping off the lip and getting the bike sideways,” he says. He didn’t get it turned back, and he wiped out. “I ended up eating dirt trying a whip for the first time.” Now he has one of the biggest whips in the world, so let that be a lesson, young riders.
“It’s kind of funny. I never thought a whip would take me so far.”
“Obviously, my riding skills aren’t just all about my whip, but it’s crazy to think that a big portion of my career has revolved around throwing whips,” he says. “The more I did it — it’s kind of weird, but it just kind of made its own path.” It was all about momentum, much like actually performing a whip.
For this tour, which has 10 or so shows left, we’ve hit cities all over the U.S. and Canada, and he is stoked about not just the shows but also the sights he’s seen along the way. When asked about his favorite stop so far on this leg, he doesn’t hesitate: Vancouver, B.C., apparently, had the rowdiest crowd to that point, and Jarryd loved every second of it. “The crowd gave me shivers down my spine — that’s how loud they were,” he says. And he would know a good crowd. An original member of the Nitro Crew, he’s performed at all but eight Nitro shows since the beginning, he says, making him a veteran on tour — despite the fact that he’s one of the youngest of the moto guys riding for Nitro, at age 24.
He’s noticed a difference between crowds from various places. On this tour, the Canadian crowds, he says, have been far more amped up than the U.S. crowds. “Because action sports has been in America for so many years, I don’t know, maybe they look on it just a little different? Whereas these other countries, they’re just frothing over it, because it’s not in their backyard.” Sounds like a challenge, U.S. fans.
He says that’s true around the world: Certain audiences just show more excitement. It’s clear that he’s spent a lot of time thinking about it. This is that analytical side — his love for riding and performing is obvious, and he grounds that enthusiasm in trying to stay savvy about ways to grow the sport. He’s doing his part by throwing down some of the biggest tricks, as well as analyzing how audiences think — both of which he hopes will bring in bigger and bigger crowds. “Obviously, there are thousands of people who get it and love the show, but I’d love to see more of the general public come out to see the show.”
Though he no longer races, he has been competing in speed and style as well as whip competitions since 2010. In recent years he’s been getting the competition results that he knew he always could, with X Games medals and many other accolades starting to pile up on his mantel. He hopes to use his rising notoriety to help grow the sport, of course. For him there’s no distinction between competitions and performing in shows like Nitro. “At the end of the day, I’m entertaining people,” he says.
And he hopes to entertain a whole lot more people in years to come. “I would like to see more of the general public come to Nitro Circus and watch this sport, watch this show grow,” he says. “There’s no other show like this in the world.”
Bring a friend who’s never heard of us to see Jarryd McNeil and the whole Nitro Crew live! We are traveling the world, with several shows left in the U.S. and Canada. Then we’ll hit Europe and Australia early next year before coming back to North America next summer. Check out those links for info and tickets, and sign up for our mailing list to be first in line when we’re coming to a city near you!