Gales Creek daredevil
Rider Fisher is 14.
Randy Fisher is his dad.
Together, they are a team putting everything they've got into a sport they both have, do, and will continue to love — no matter what.
Motocross has been around for more than 100 years. Beginning in Europe, the sport spread to Asia, then ultimately into the United States in the 1960s. Racers of all ages compete on outdoor tracks, in arenas like Portland's Moda Center and in Supercross events in some of the largest stadiums in the world.
Over countless hours of practice at the Fishers' homemade track on a neighbor's plot of land in Gales Creek, Rider Fisher has honed the skills that have made him an elite competitor on a national scale.
For a soft-spoken Gales Creek boy raised by a former professional rider and amateur adrenaline junkie, motocross is a passion that simply can't be replaced.
"I honestly don't know what I'd do," said Rider Fisher when asked to think of life without motorcycle racing. "I guess I'd have to find something else I love."
It is and always has been about love for Rider since he first got on a bike more than 12 years ago.
Randy Fisher, 58, got Rider his first bike at age 2. He'd introduced the toddler to snow skiing before he could walk, and after putting him on a bike for the first time, he knew he was witnessing something special.
"I got him a little Honda CRF 50 with training wheels," said Randy. "And when he starting riding I was like, 'This kid can really ride!'"
From there, Rider, who also thrives on adrenaline, started doing tricks that kids twice his age struggled with. Later, he got more technical.
Not reckless, but loves the 'rush'
To understand Rider the dirt bike star, you have to first understand what makes the teenager tick. Like his dad, he seeks excitement — not the type you or I might enjoy, but the type that you or I might think twice about before saying "no way!"
If an average kid sees a rock, bridge or rope swing at a lake, he may want to jump off it. If Rider sees that same rock, bridge or rope swing, he's definitely jumping from it and more likely starting with a back flip.
But don't assume he's reckless. Rider enjoys the "rush," but he also understands the risks and appreciates the danger. He carefully plans his approach to everything — when he sees a track for the first time, he methodically studies it before attacking any of the myriad obstacles facing the competition.
"I always do a few laps to look at the jumps," said Rider. "I'm not just going to jump something on a whim ... I take my time and size it up."
Rider competes for Fisher Racing, the team he and his dad have formed, and primarily on the Amsoil West Arenacross Series in the Supermini 2 13-16 Class, in which he's won the season-long points competition for four consecutive years.
But while Rider is a couple years away from a chance to race professionally (you can't turn professional prior to your 16th birthday), the teenager — who already holds sponsorships deals with a number of companies, including Clarke Manufacturing, RDF&P and the Diversity Cafe — has his hopes and dreams set on a career on the bike.
"I want to be national champion and one of the best in the sport," said Rider. "I watch the big pros race Supercross and I want to do that."
Online school allows for practice
Meanwhile, he also wants to get an education. Rider travels for much of the year and because of that made the decision to enroll in the Insight School of Oregon Painted Hills — a K-12 Inc.-powered online public charter school (virtual school, not homeschooling). Since ISOR_PH is entirely online, Rider is able to complete his school work anywhere with an Internet connection at any time of day. This flexibility has been instrumental in his success, as he can travel freely without worrying about falling behind in class — because his class travels with him.
"There are pretty helpful teachers online, and it's really flexible for racing and traveling," said Rider. "We have a thing called Class Connects that is every day that the teacher talks and teaches you. It's usually five days a week and we often stop for Wi-Fi when on the road."
"It's fun for me, too, because we get to be a team racing and with school," added Randy Fisher. "I'm his learning coach, and he comes to me with problems and we go through it at night."
However, like in anything, things haven't all been perfect for the riding duo. Even as he spoke with the News-Times, Rider was nursing a broken collarbone from a practice spill the weekend prior, and he's suffered a number of injuries in recent years, the most serious as a result of a tumble at the national championships in Las Vegas two years ago.
After coming up a bit short on his first couple attempts at what's called the "catapult jump," Rider hit the gas his next time around and his back tire slid at the top of the 85-foot jump, causing the bike to slide sideways in the air. The mishap forced the then-preteen to jettison the bike and land feet-first on the upslope of the next ramp. The fall resulted in seven broken bones in his feet and ankles, two weeks in the hospital prior to surgery and three days after, and a suggestion by at least one doctor that Rider would never ride again.
"It was tough," said Randy. "They wouldn't let me on the track for a bit after it happened, and the hospital stuff was a struggle. But the first thing Rider said to me after surgery was, 'When can I get back on the bike?'"
Rider ended up having to have one of his ankles fused and still only has 33 percent flexibility in that ankle, but it hasn't slowed him down and he has no plans of letting it anytime soon.
"I was a little nervous to get on the bike at first, but once I did and hit that first jump I was fine," Rider said.
So he continues to ride and still dreams of that "ride" taking him to the promised land of professional motocross. Rider aspires to be the best and Randy hopes to help him get there.
"We're a team," Randy says, "We're in this thing together."
And if it doesn't work out? The team has still gotten to travel America, race regularly on television and in arenas in front of 20,000 people and experience things that few father-son duos get to experience.
"That's pretty cool," Randy said.
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