Rider Spotlight: Michael Avila
NEWS March 1, 2012
Photo by Dave Hoenig
AMAP: Where are you from?
MA: I’m from Madera, California. I was born in Monterey, but my dad had to move to Madera for work. I’ve lived here for pretty much my whole life.
AMAP: You have to be enjoying the winter months then, huh?
MA: It rains quite a bit, but we have a lot of indoor tracks, so we get to race all year long. Unfortunately, with the economy many local racing series have closed down or don’t have as many races though, due to lower rider counts.
AMAP: How did you get into motorcycle riding?
MA: I started when I was four years old. My dad was a pro-novice, and I started riding my bicycle without training wheels when I was three and a half years old. He saw the balance and skill I had to ride the bike at such a young age, so he thought “What the hell, why not put him on a bike.” He bought me my first bike, a PW50, which took me a little while to adapt to it, since I fell down a couple times, but towards the end of the day, I improved greatly. For my fourth birthday, we went to a flat track race in Caruthers, Calif.. It was my first race, and I won it. Funny thing is that I beat the local hot-shot kid that thought he was all that.
AMAP: Other than flat track racing, have you ever tried your hand at road racing or motocross?
MA: I’ve done a few motocross races on a 65cc bike when I was younger. On road racing, I did a couple track days and tried out for the Red Bull Rookies Cup in 2008. Last year, Bruce Porter introduced me to Kevin Schwantz, and he got me into a track day riding 600cc sport bikes at Barber Motorsports Park. I don’t have a lot of experience on road race bikes, but I see my future going in that direction.
AMAP: Out of all the motorcycles you’ve ridden, what’s your favorite?
MA: By far, the Harley-Davidson XR750 flat track bike is my favorite bike. I’m a bigger guy, 6’2” and the 450cc singles bike is a little small for me. The XR is so much fun. I know speeds are a lot faster, but it’s so much fun, it almost feels slower. The torque is much tamer than a 450cc singles bike. It’s awesome, heavy and American flat track racing at its best.
AMAP: Next year, you’ll be riding in the expert class.. tell us about that.
MA: I’m excited. I know the competition is higher, and I have to be on my game. It’s 10 more laps too, so my fitness has to be increased as well. For the singles events, I’ll Joe Bisha, George Mack and myself wrenching on my bikes. I’ve got a great bunch of people behind me.
AMAP: Out of all the racetracks you’ve been to, what’s your favorite?
MA: The Indy Mile for sure. It’s unfortunate we didn’t get to race there last season after the incident that happened on the fairgrounds, but it’s my favorite event. I would have loved to race there last season, but it makes me more excited to race this season.
AMAP: What draws you to the sport? The thrill, competition or speed?
MA: It’s the speed for sure. Most of the motocross guys jump high, but throwing a motorcycle into a turn at 100mph is something else. People will say, “Anybody can ride in a circle,” but when you’re actually out there, it is a whole different story.
AMAP: Is there any special training or physical fitness that you will be doing differently in preparation for the Expert class leading up to DAYTONA® Flat Track?
MA: I run and peddle on the bicycle a little bit, but I’ve found that riding motorcycles is the best thing you can do. This winter, I had surgery in December and sponsor stuff in January so there were two months that I wasn’t training. I got with Alex and Jimmy from A&J Racing to pick up my training, and we’ve done a lot of riding since then which has helped tremendously.
AMAP: What are your expectations going into 2012 in the Harley-Davidson Insurance Expert Class?
MA: I don’t have as much pressure as I did on myself as last season, so I would like to see myself get a top 10 in points and get the Saddlemen Rookie of the Year title like fellow AMA Pro rider Brad Baker did last year. I want to make as many mains as I can and learn from everything.
AMAP: Who’s your racing hero?
MA: I’d have to say Ricky Graham. I think he had 12-13 National wins in a row, and he was a West Coast California boy too. He was really fast when I watched his smooth riding style as a kid.