ALL CLEAR: MAX MILLER
The beginning of the 2020 season was far from normal for Orange Brigade KTM's Max Miller. The jovial and light-spirited teenager spent the first few months of the year recovering from a fairly complicated broken collarbone, being forced to sit on the sidelines as the rest of the A class went racing. Miller made the jump up to the top of the amateur motocross pecking order at Mini Os last season and immediately did well for himself, collecting a trio of overall podium finishes between both supercross and motocross. Unfortunately, the untimely injury disrupted his ability to carry that momentum into the new season, but Miller remains undeterred as he aims to return to that same level of competition. He's just recently been cleared by the doctor to ride so he's spent the last few weeks getting reacclimated with his dirt bike after the layoff. We were able to pull Max away from a Wednesday morning homework session to get an update on what he's been doing lately, his plans for the remainder of the year, and trail riding with his dad.
What have you been up to in order to keep yourself busy during the current coronavirus situation?
Well, this morning I'm just cramming in some homework, gonna go do a little yard work and then load my stuff up and go riding this afternoon. I was coming off a collarbone (injury) so for the first half of quarantine I was just recovering and doin' homework, working out, and that whole deal. I actually left California right before it got shut down because I didn't know when I was gonna get back on my dirt bike and how long I'd have to wait to ride tracks there. I just packed my stuff and drove back to my hometown in Oregon. I've just been hanging out, recently got released to ride and I did a couple of trail rides with my dad and a couple of buddies up in the mountains. Yesterday I rode an actual track which was a good time.
Tracks are still open in Oregon? Not like what's happening in California right now.
It's similar. There are very few and they're limited, so it's like ten guys and you've gotta sign up early or whatever. It's pretty dialed though; the track's not crowded and they do a good prep, so that's pretty much it.
You and your dad share the experience of racing a lot of the big amateur races together, I'm sure it was nice to do something different and go trail riding with him.
For how silly this sounds, I've never actually ridden trails very much and there are thousands and thousands of miles of epic trail riding in Oregon. I've always just ridden dirt bike tracks and raced and whatnot. I jumped on my dad to get him to let me go out and ride some trails a little bit and just be mellow and we went to Huckleberry Flats OHV. We got there 'cause we were actually on our way to Crescent Lake to go ride the next day, we were on our way out and we got just about an hour of sunlight. We unloaded our stuff real quick, hopped on the bikes, hit a few trails, and it was a lot of fun. We're planning on going back up there as soon as we get a bunch of stuff done out here on the farm. As I said, I also went to Crescent Lake, Oregon and we rode around up on the high lakes and stuff, but there was quite a bit of snow still up there so navigating through that was tough. It cut us short on some rides but it was still a lot of fun!
It's hard to believe you grew up in Oregon and you're just now doing some trail riding. Did you enjoy it?
Yeah, I was surprised when we were at Huckleberry, some of the trails were a little beat up so it reminded me of some of the desert tracks in California. When you'd come out of a corner, there'd be a rut and some fat bumps, so it was fun. There were some puddles, too, so you'd kind of get technical and hop and skip around the trail.
That's probably a good way to get your riding fitness back and ease back into it after coming off an injury, too.
Yeah, get some muscle memory and just seat time.
What's your setup for training and riding when you are down in California on your regular grind?
I live in Menifee and it's basically just me and my mechanic in a little house down there. My parents come in and out and I had my buddy Levi Kitchen living with me for a month which was fun. I stay down there and train with Nathan Ramsey at the track and Randy Lawrence in the gym. The days are pretty basic: wake up, make some breakfast, head to the track, train for a few hours, come home, eat some more food, hit the gym or road bike ride, eat a little bit more, homework for a few hours, make some dinner, maybe play some Xbox and crash out.
Since you were coming off of a collarbone injury, you haven't done any racing this year. You must be itching to get back on the gate.
Yeah, for sure. It was unfortunate when I broke my collarbone and my recovery process was longer than expected because I broke it in three spots. The coronavirus hit while I was doing my recovery so I really wasn't doing much anyway. Everybody was freaking out about how they weren't able to do anything, but my life didn't change much when the virus hit. It was just homework, gym, physical therapy, and made a lot of food. I missed spring nationals or what there was of it because that got shut down, too. I didn't really miss much; I missed Spring A Ding Ding 'cause I would've been there, but now I'm just waiting for the go so we can get to racing.
What's your opinion on the timetable for all of this?
I think it's interesting to follow and watch what they're saying because it's so unpredictable how everything's going to pan out with what you're allowed to do, what the government is going to let you do, and everything. It's interesting to see how it's gonna play out. I hope we can get back to racing soon, 'cause I'm going a little stir crazy -- now I'm getting to ride my dirt bike a little bit, so it's a little better. I can't wait to get some gate drops. I had a lot of plans this summer with racing and maybe going to hit some outdoors, had a bunch of ideas but it's going to be such a weird summer if it starts late and starts on the east coast. It'll be all flip-flopped.
Yeah, you just moved up to the A class at Mini Os last year so this was set to be a big year for you.
Yeah, for sure. It's like your transition point; all your work and you've gotta make this year count and we're pretty much not even racing dirt bikes this year. (laughs)
What was your original plan this year after Loretta's in terms of making that transition to the pros?
We were going to see how I was doing with a thirty-five-minute moto and how the big amateur races were going. It was a little bit planned out but nothing was set in stone. We talked about maybe hitting a couple outdoors, maybe going up to Canada and hitting a national or two, and obviously racing Loretta's. If I was riding really well and I was strong through a thirty-five, then I'd probably go ride a couple (of outdoors.) However that goes would probably decide what my next year would look like; either stick with the big show or do another year of A. I haven't really been A for very long, so we weren't sure if we were going to go A class for a full year. I went half a year B and then I jumped into the A class and we haven't even gone half a year and we're stuck and stagnant, so we're just kind of playing it by ear.
Yeah, there's definitely a possibility this whole situation could set everything back a year.
For sure, that's actually interesting you said that because I wonder what they're going to do with contracts and everything. For the guys that are on a two-year deal and they don't even get to prove themselves their second year, that could be tough.
What was the motivation in moving up to the A class so quickly after only half a year in B?
So I rode 125s for a few years and had some knee injuries. I went to Australia for the Junior World Championship and that year I tore my ACL at Cal Classic and raced the rest of the year with a blown knee, so after Australia I went back to Oregon and got my knee operated on. Then I went back to school for a bit and once my knee was healed I got straight onto a 250F and sold all of my 125s. I started training on the 250 and raced the rest of the year on 250s. We weren't sure if we wanted to go A or stay B, but I did well at most of the big amateur races in the B class, so we were assuming we'd get bumped out anyway and we just went A. I'm pumped with the decision 'cause I've wanted to go A forever and it's been really cool 'cause I got to race Top Gun at Washougal with a bunch of awesome pro riders like Freddie Noren, (Ryan) Breece, Stankdog, and a bunch of northwest dudes. It was a full gate of pros so it was a really fun experience for one of my first races in A and I've just been going from there trying to build speed and waiting to go to the big show.
Are you within a pretty reasonable driving distance to some of the Canadian Nationals if you decided to do that?
I'm not sure about the exact distance and all that but I couldn't imagine it'd be too crazy far. If I stole the 'ole motorhome from my dad this summer and we went moto-ing around, that'd probably be the way we'd do it. We'd train in California until outdoors started, probably after Mammoth or something, and then between Mammoth and Loretta's we'd hop in the rig, drive around, and hit some races. Then go race Loretta's and maybe hit a couple of outdoors after but I don't know the exact plan. All of this is up in the air with my trainers and my dad and everything, but that would be the sickest thing...to just go race my dirt bike.