With 36 career wins in the IFMA under his belt and a steady check coming in from Nuclear Cowboyz demos, 30-year-old Dustin Miller is what many would call a seasoned vet in the world of FMX. And Miller's disposition, one that speaks to the rigors of riding FMX, can attest to that. Miller may not be competing as much as he once was, but he manages to maintain his position as a professional while planning his next steps in life. Recently, Miller and his wife made the move to Austin, Texas, and we caught up with him to discuss life in and out of FMX.
ESPN.com: Dustin Miller, how is life in Texas?
Miller: I'm loving it so far! I lived away from town for so many years that being right in town, here in Austin with the music scene and public transportation is great. You can ride a bicycle everywhere. There's a couple good moto tracks I've ridden that are pretty close, and were super fun. So, first impressions are good.
I heard you were back in school there. Is that true?
No I'm not currently in any type of school or anything. The first reason for being here was my wife is a teacher and Nevada has a horrible outlook on education and its funding. There was no future there, especially for me after riding. The job market there was bad and it just wasn't where we wanted to be. She hates snow, and I'm not a fan of cold unless it involves snowboarding. I basically looked at most of the way I had lived my life and wanted to do the opposite -- change from a big house to small house, the boonies into a city, gave away all my old furniture. It's just a fresh start.
You rode Nuclear Cowboyz and the LG World Championships last year, but besides that you kind of just watched from the pits. What grade would you give 2011 for FMX?
I don't think I even see enough to give a proper analysis. Most riders do the same tricks, or attempt to learn the same tricks. Some riders are exceptions and go out of the box a bit. But I don't really watch much FMX. I have fun riding with my friends and learning stuff, but I don't pay much more attention than that. Mostly because I'm not competing, so I don't need to know what the competition is doing anyway.
The first thing I would like to dive into is your thoughts on X Games. What did you think of the event?
Even when they are outside, they are still basic. There's just more jumps to hit. You watch most of the good guys and they will jump everything in about two minutes. So I don't think it makes much difference if it's inside or out. Being indoors, it's easier on the riders with no weather issues. I think with the short amount of time the riders get for their runs, they should have to do two or three different runs. If you repeat a run, then you get a bad score. When you see a guy do the same run nine times starting from qualifying to the end, it's boring. Plus it forces them to learn more tricks, and mix them up. You only need eight good tricks to win contests now. A lot of guys have way more tricks than we see -- they just stick to the same ones, because they get judged better doing the same run three times.
One of the touchier subjects in our sport is always Best Trick. What did you think of the event and in your mind is progression kind of peaked?
It can be a bit of a dumb event. But at least it gives some riders a reason to push for new things. It's actually kind of sad that there are so few guys invited, and it's all just big new stunts. It would be cool to see more smaller variations of tricks mixed with the big stunts. As far as what's being done, I think Kyle Loza is far ahead of most guys with his creativity. He impresses me.
Do you think the sport is going to stat moving toward more technical riding?
No. No one wants to see that stuff. America loves Monster trucks, NASCAR, Football -- things where people crash or could crash. Ballet and figure skating don't get much TV coverage. That's the best comparison I have. Plus if it was headed that way, I'd be making the money I was five years ago. But that's not the case.
Do you think the slowed progression of "banger tricks" will hurt the public opinion of FMX?
Yeah, it could. Mostly it comes down to money. If guys are making money from sponsors to reward their risk to do stunts, then they will do it. If not, you will see more playing it safe and small variations. If you notice, most of the guys who win contests don't really do best trick. And that's because they don't want to ruin their whole year for a one-night shot at glory and a possible injury.
What is your take on the inherent risk involved in riding in FMX?
I know a lot of guys say that they aren't worried and you have to do what you love and all that manly stuff, but I think it shows in people's riding the last couple of years that they don't feel invincible any more, especially after Jeremy Lusk died. Most of the small precautions for safety are taken at this point. It's just luck of the draw. Most riders have to distance themselves from the thought of injury or death, because they can't or don't want to quit making the money and living the life. But I think about the risks often, and it reminds me to stay focused, and also to look at new career options for life after FMX, so I don't ride until my luck runs out.
What is your take on an average FMXer's income?
Well mine is better than most jobs, but it's also been a lot of years of stress and fear and anxiety to get to this point and keep it going. Riders have different reasons for doing this for a living. Some love the life, some the money, some like competition. So even when the money is bad, it's like an addiction, you complain about it but you don't stop.
Most North American FMXers will tell you that they don't get salaries from sponsors anymore. Most if not all of their income comes from contests, demos, and if they're lucky, the Nuclear Cowboyz tour. Is the money in FMX overseas?
The money is in your image. There's only a few strong sellable images in our sport. But you can make more money outside of the U.S. Those spots aren't always available, unless you have a name over here.
If you had to choose an event or series to ride in, which one would it be and why?
I love competition so I would ride any of them. I really like the ASA championships, because the course is usually fun and the atmosphere is not as hectic as something like X Games. But really I miss the Dew Action Sports tour series and the old IFMA series the most. They really gave you a reason to keep sharp on all your tricks and keep learning new stuff.
Where do you see in FMX in three years?
I don't know. I'd imagine I won't be seeing much of it, because I will be involved in something else.
Thanks Dustin, what do you got planned for 2012?
No problem. People can catch me on the Nuclear Cowboyz tour and after that it's up in the air. Maybe I'll just retire and occupy the Staples Center during X Games.