Jamie Bestwick is a professional BMX Vert rider with eight X Games medals and countless contest wins under his belt.
If you’ve ever seen or heard of the X Games, you’ve most likely also heard of Jamie Bestwick. The Englishman plies his trade upside down above the deck in the extreme sport of BMX Vert. With eight X Games gold medals Bestwick is the top ranked rider in BMX Vert and has been for quite some time. His riding style on the ramp is totally nuts, precise and controlled at the same time. One would think if he were to ride motorcycles, motocross would be the perfect fit. Not so however, as Bestwick is a sportbike fiend that prefers the grip of full race slicks.
Recently we had a chance to sit down with the X Games star at Monster’s Southern California headquarters to pick his brain about his love for the track and how his vert skills carry over into the world of sportbike track days and club races.
Tell us a little bit about your bikes and what you do with them.
I’m really into sportbikes. I’m the owner of a Ducati and a GSX-R600 race bike that was outfitted by Vesrah. I’ve been club racing a lot last year, and I’ll be doing a lot this year too. I try and race as many tracks as I can throughout the year. You know, we have many stops all over the US and all over the world, and if I can I go jump on a motorbike and hit some famous tracks.
So last year Monster took you to Valencia to take in the spectacle of Moto GP. How was that?
Yeah, last year I got to go out to the Valencia GP. I hung out with Ben Spies who is also part of the Monster Family, and I got to do a photo shoot with Valentino Rossi which was very, very cool. I also saw The Doctor test out the new Ducati.
As a huge fan of roadracing and Valentino Rossi, Bestwick had a special helmet made to pay homage to the superfast Italian.
It's not everyday you see a pro BMxer bunny hopping over a pro roadracer. Here Cal Crutchlow gets a good look at Bestwick's rear tire.
So Valencia last year was a very special time, it’s always a great race. There’s a hundred-thousand Spaniards going crazy, so it’s always electric. Cal (Crutchlow) got to test out the new Tech3 Yamaha, and it was great to see him slip on the Monster leathers and go out there for the first time. Also Bradley Smith moved up to Moto2; that was a great experience to see him cutting his teeth in a very heavy class. Valencia was a blast. We came out of there with smiles on our faces and some great memories.
So how did you get into riding sportbikes?
Well coming from England, sportbikes are the majority of the bikes over there. It was quite funny when I first started coming to America, I would find it puzzling to see a sportbike rider in a pair of sandals, cut-off shorts and a vest, where I was so used to seeing everybody in full leathers. Being from the middle of England, I lived near Nottingham which was only 20 minutes from Castle Donington, the famous racetrack. So I kind of always had racing all around me. I lived in a small town and in the next town over lived Ron Haslam. Now his son Leo rides for BMW and is also part of Monster, and then also there was Jamie Dobs who was a world motocross racing champion. So it is kind of a racing triangle where I lived. For a while Valentino Rossi, John Hopkins, Marco Melandri and a lot of the top international racers all lived around the Donington Circuit. So I’ve always been surrounded by motorbikes. People in my family have had them, although no body raced them. Once I got to an age where I could afford a bike and I could afford the upkeep, all I wanted to do was hit the tracks and learn how to be a small percentage of my racing heroes. I feel I’ve achieved that, and it’s awesome.
Do you ride in the dirt as well?
I do ride a little bit of dirt, but I wouldn’t say I’m real competent at riding dirtbikes. I just feel like they are so out of control and unpredictable. I think that’s why I leave them alone. But I have great admiration for dirtbike riders and even the FMX guys. I mean those guys are amazing what they can do on motorbikes these days. It great to see them pushing the
Bestwick says his BMX skills cross over to the roadrace track and vice versa.
envelope, and I think there is probably nothing more exciting than a Supercoss or AMA outdoor race. Even taking out the racing for the lead, just the evolving track throughout the race that they have to put up with is something else. It’s something I’ll never experience, but just watching it is amazing. So I and motocross have crossed paths now and again, but I’m definitely a huge fan.
What’s the crossover effect like going from your vert ramp riding over to riding on a roadrace track? Are there any skills that you can take from one and apply to the other?
Yeah, taking small parts of me riding my BMX bike over into riding a sportbike around the track is something that I do. Peripheral vision is huge, just being aware of your surroundings 100% of the time is pretty huge. It’s just the balance, there are certain things I do on a BMX bike that I kind of emulate when I’m on a sportbike. It’s fun because when I’m doing it on the track I think, “Ah yeah, this is how I do this trick on my BMX bike!” The two kind of merge into each other although they look completely different, you know. It is kind of neat when you have to hang off the bike and you realize at certain times when I’m 12 to 13 feet out off a ramp and I’m doing a trick it has some similarities. I think also the bravery aspect of riding sportbikes is tough especially if it’s a new track. But I think if you are very competent at doing something else it gives you more willingness to step outside your box and try something new. You usually find you can adapt to it very quickly. That saves a lot of trial and error, and trial and error on motorbikes isn’t that much fun.
Speaking of not much fun, do you have any scary stories from you time on the track?
Yeah! I was racing in CMRA last year, and it was the season finale at Texas World Speedway. Anyone who has raced at Texas World Speedway knows that track is no joke. It gets pretty slippery and the banking coming into the start/finish is pretty intense, especially Turn One. It was my third race of the day. I had one totally good race that I was totally stoked
Bestwick takes every opportunity he has to visit the track to either ride or spectate. Thanks to Monster he gets to hang out with super-fast guys like Josh Hayes.
on; I knocked five seconds off my best lap so I was totally buzzing. The second race didn’t go so well, but in the third race I felt good. I was ready to get back to putting down some good lap times, but as we approached the carousel some guy just cut straight over the front of me and I had to lowside it. And unfortunately the provisional novice who was right behind me got target fixation on my head. So he chose to run over my head, and I cannot remember a thing after. Last thing I remember was sliding down the track in my Alpinestars leathers quite merrily, and it all went black. I came to with the ambulance people asking me questions, and then I walked back to the pits and just looked at the wreck that was my bike. It was a bit too close that time, but that’s what happens sometimes in racing. Everyone walked away, and I guess that is the good moral of the story. BUT if you’re a Pro-Nov please try not to run over anybody’s head!
You’ve won a slew of X Games medals. Is that the pinnacle for you or is there something else that tops that?
You know, going to the X Games and winning all the medals is just recognition for all my hard work I put in throughout the year. Is that the end all and be all? I’ve battled for sixth spot at Eagle’s Canyon Raceway in Texas, and I thought that was the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Putting my knee on the tarmac for the first time, I was like a kid in a candy store. There are certain things you take for granted in your own sport, but when we step outside of that and do something completely foreign the rewards are massive. So for me riding a motorcycle is where I get my rewards. Those are my huge X Games moments. Just taking a corner a couple miles an hour faster than I’ve ever done before, that’s huge. Getting out there and battling and picking up my lap times, those are the moments. For me, stepping out of my comfort level, those are the great memories for me.