Hunter Yoder has been a mainstay at the front of the pack since joining forces with the FC Honda team as an amateur rider. Although he’s had some injury woes throughout the last few years, the young Californian has been able to build some serious momentum and is really beginning to come into his own on the big bike. Yoder moved up to the B class as a fourteen year old and is oftentimes competing against older competition but that didn’t stop him from coming away with the title in the 450 B Limited class last year at the Loretta Lynn Amateur National Motocross Championship. He’s been on the southern California grind at the beginning of the 2020 season, putting in laps with his fellow red riders as well as some other regular contenders in the professional ranks and continuing to gain confidence on the 250. Hunter was generous enough to give up a little bit of his homework time to help catch us up on what he’s been doing lately, his thoughts on the B class, and his account of winning the title last year at Loretta Lynn’s.
What have you been doing to keep yourself occupied during the quarantine lately?
I pretty much do about three things a day -- I ride my dirt bike, if I don't do that I'll do homework until about 6:30 pm to 7:00 pm and then I'll hop on the Xbox for a little bit. It's pretty easy to get sidetracked and mess up your sleep schedule, especially right now 'cause we're not doing so much. You got a lot of energy and you can get carried away a little bit, so I've been trying to keep my sleep kind of regular. Maybe I go to bed a little bit later, but for the most part, I try to keep everything pretty normal.
What're you getting into on the late-night Xbox grind?
I play Call of Duty, the new battle royale mode game mode. I don't really pay attention to how to get better and try to read anything online, I'm just playing over and over until I finally figure it out.
Yeah, there are lots of little tips and tricks for kind of cheating the game a little bit.
Always. All the people that are good are really good. I'd be nice to myself if I called myself mediocre.
Are there any other moto people that you play with?
Umm, no not really. I have one buddy that's a filmer that I play with a little bit and there's actually a kid living with me right now, we've played the last two nights. Honestly, I don't really have many people I'd call friends. I don't hang out with many people and the people that I'd call my friends like Max Miller...he lives across the street from me and I see him every day at the track. He has a house down in California and he's literally right across the freeway, we probably live two minutes from each other.
What have you been doing for riding? You've been up at Mumford's place?
Yeah, up at Mumford's out in the desert. We had a good couple weeks of rain, but I think that's stopping here soon. I don't know what we're going to do with the sand tracks and stuff like that. I've got to check my backyard but it's super small and we don't own any tractors or water trucks. We basically rent a tractor and prep it, then wait for the rain to come and ride it. The track gets pretty beat up after that like you would not want to ride it afterward, especially when it's dry. We usually ride it about once or twice.
There were some videos on your Instagram and you had some pretty fast guys out there.
Yeah, we had a lot of people over the other day. (Cameron) Mcadoo was here, (Jo) Shimoda, and Carson Mumford. I believe Cooper Webb commented on somebody's Instagram post and said he wanted to come ride, so that would be cool.
Was that the track where you did the standup bar drag video? How'd you manage that?
I dunno, I've seen people do it before. Mitchell Falk did it a couple of years back when he was around my age, but I don't know how he pulled it off. I'm pretty sure he kept both feet on the pegs. I tried that and I didn't crash, but I came to a dead stop. It was hard 'cause I put my leg up and that throws off your balance a little bit, but I thought it was pretty cool.
It was still impressive. It always seems like you're doing a bit of play riding to keep your training fun.
I try to keep my bike skills up. I know a lot of guys will go to the track and do motos all day and then leave as soon as they're done. If I did that, I'd be so burnt out. I couldn't imagine. I have a ramp in my backyard just 'cause I like to mess around and throw some whips, so I try to keep it fun.
Not only does that keep it fun, but it's ultimately more seat time getting comfortable on your motorcycle.
Yeah, exactly. Ryan Sipes is a great example. I mean, the dude races literally everything -- supercross, straight rhythm, flat track, hare scrambles -- I don't know if I'll get to that level, but obviously the dude is good on everything. Most guys are struggling to make it to the mains and he's doing a whole bunch of different things and still making mains and getting top tens.
What's it like being out in southern California and having the opportunity to spin fast laps with guys that are on the professional level?
It helps a lot, you know. You probably know, when you go out and ride and you ride by yourself, you feel like you're goin' pretty good. Even when you hop in behind somebody faster, I noticed that I can go two seconds faster all of a sudden and I feel like I'm going slower. I noticed a lot of these guys are so patient where they're not wide open the whole time and they keep it smooth in a higher gear. That helps me a lot because obviously the more you know the better you get and getting to ride with guys like McAdoo or any of the pros at the track is an advantage for sure. The other guys in my class don't get to ride with those guys so I think it's an awesome opportunity for me to be down here with some of the fastest guys out there. Obviously I love watching all those guys, too, so anything I can learn from them is great.
You definitely benefit from the spot you've earned on the FC Honda team in the sense that you get to be around a lot of these guys on the track and off the track.
Yeah, even when I rode supercross a little bit I just rode the Honda test track with Christian Craig and Mumford. Craig is so good on a supercross track like it's insane. He rides it like he's on a bicycle and he taught me a lot when I was riding with him. He taught me what to do going up to skim a dragon's back and helped me out a lot with the whoops. I learned a lot of things from him, even some stuff that's not moto related like bicycles or whatever. Obviously he's been around for a long time, so I'd say I'm lucky to have him as a teammate. I'm happy where I'm at.
What was racing like for you at the beginning of the season? Did you do any Supercross Futures?
I didn't just 'cause I don't get any supercross points because I'm not in the A class. I watched a couple of them and they seem a little sketchy to me, so I just stayed out of 'em.
How'd the weekend of racing for you go this year at Spring A Ding Ding? The B class was pretty heavily stacked at the front this year.
Yeah, a lot of those guys are shredding right now obviously. They're always going to be good, I feel like the B class is always really stacked. I'd say my weekend went okay. I didn't get the results I wanted to, I don't know exactly what it was. I felt like I was riding pretty good but those guys just had a little bit more speed than I did. I started up front and trailed 'em a little bit, but it's hard when they pull you a little bit. I couldn't really make up that speed, so I got beat, but there are more races and I've been working on it. I'm sure those guys are workin' on it too and everyone's going to be fast this year no matter what.
One thing about the group of guys we had there is that you guys battled really hard on the track, but it seems like you all get along off the track which is cool to see.
Yeah, me and (Chance) Hymas are really good buddies and Levi Kitchen, too. We're all pretty good buddies and we were even hanging out off the track after racing was done, screwin' around at night. We're all pretty good friends and I usually hang out with those two at all the other races.
What do you like about the track at Spring A Ding Ding?
The dirt is really soft, sandy, and rutted and most of the races you do as an amateur beside Loretta's, it's usually pretty hardpack. It's pretty soft in the mornings which I'd say is normal for most races, but at Spring A Ding Ding I almost feel like it's just deep sand and it keeps digging down all day. Our bikes are so fast that it slows us down a little bit which is good. Obviously you're always going to crash on a dirt bike no matter where you're at and I feel like it being a little bit softer it's probably safer and it slows you down a bit which is good because it prevents potential injuries. The jumps are pretty big and that's probably my favorite part of the whole race, gettin' to have some fun, too. You go to some races and the track is fun but there aren't any jumps you can really have fun off of. Besides the two big jumps, most of 'em are smaller and they don't really break down which makes it safer. Even the little 50 kids get to jump most of the jumps there because you go to some tracks and they make them a little too big, so there's a variety for everyone.
You've gotta give us some insight into your mindset running the fake mustache for the last moto.
Oh, I mean I didn't ride very good all weekend and I figured we might as well. It was the last race of the weekend so we might as well have some fun with it. I went out there with my mustache on and that was my best finish all weekend...and it stayed on the whole time! I completely forgot about it until the last like two laps, I went over the big jump and I felt that it was still there so I was pretty pumped on that. Yeah I mean, somebody's gotta have fun, right?
How was it for you winning the 450 B Limited title at Loretta's last year? It's been a long road for you the last couple of years with injuries and your last championship there was in 2016. It seemed like the win last year was extra special for you and the team.
Yeah, that was my first win ever at Loretta's (in 2016) and last year was my second win there. After 2016, I broke my leg and that whole year was not great for me, I don't think I did one national. I broke my thumb and then my leg during summer and then at Mini Os I did a total of fifteen laps on the supercross track and I broke my tib/fib in the first corner when somebody t-boned me on the start. That wasn't good. I had the holeshot and I remember I looked down and my boot was unbuckled, but I was still in front and I went around the corner and my leg was like in some pretty good pain. But I thought it was normal 'cause this dude just hit me and I jumped the first jump with both feet on the pegs and my leg just completely collapsed. I got back and took my boot off and my foot, if you could imagine, was just completely folded over, like, no stability. That one was pretty broken. After that,. I got on the 150 and some of those supermini guys were going really fast that year, so I don't think I won at all until my final moto at Mini Os on the outdoor track. That was when I won my first championship on the 150. That was a good way to go out 'cause that was my last race on it too, so that one was special to me. Then 250s -- I'd say I was more of the underdog. It was my 15th birthday last year at Freestone and a lot of those guys are 17 and 18, obviously they don't want to get beat by me, so that was something I wasn't really used to. I had a good year and then obviously Loretta's I won. That one was special too, because I was younger and I don't think a lot of people expected me to win. I even notice now that a lot of kids are moving up to the 250 a little bit younger after that. That one was really special to me and my whole team.
Yeah, you and Jace Kessler had some hard battles right down to the wire for that title.
Yeah, my first moto I pulled the fortieth gate pick I believe, so that doesn't leave me with many options on the gate other than far outside. In that moto I got second and the second moto for that class was like the last moto of the day maybe, the 5:30 pm moto. I don't remember exactly where I started in that one, I think I started kind of in the front but I remember I had to pass a couple of guys. I passed somebody on a Yamaha, I remember passing them right before the Ten Commandments on that straightaway coming out of the corner and going into the corner I endo'd completely over the bars, blew my visor off, and obviously, at that point I didn't think I was going to come back and win. He (Kessler) might've tipped over actually but either way, I ended up coming back and winning that one. If I didn't win that one I don't think I would've got the championship. But anyway, in the last moto, me and Kessler battled each other, like hard battling, for fifteen out of the twenty minutes. We passed each other like three or four times on one lap and probably like fifteen in the whole race which is pretty gnarly considering twenty minutes is a lot of time. We were so intense the whole race. I think he tipped over on the third to last lap and that's when I started to settle down, but sprinting for the first fifteen to seventeen minutes was gnarly.
That puts it into perspective -- such an intense race where the championship is on the line and all of the things you just recounted built up to a pretty amazing feeling when you got your hands on that title.
Yeah, when it all comes together it's the best feeling ever.