Updated: November 8, 2009, 12:19 AM ET

Dozer Dane

Dane Herron's work has become the gold standard in Freestyle Motocross course design.

Sewell By Tes Sewell
ESPN.com/Action
Archive

If you have ever dreamed of turning your back yard into the ultimate moto playground, there is one guy that can almost certainly fulfill your dreams. Dane Herron is an 'OG' on the moto scene and has become the go-to builder for all of the majors like X Games and Red Bull X-Fighters. It was not always this way, however, so I decided to poke a little bit into the world of the rock star course builder. I caught up with Dane during some top secret testing at an undisclosed facility. Suffice to say, you will see the results of his team's work on ESPN some day soon.

Red BullThese days, it's rare to find Dane Herron outside of a dozer or without a shovel in his hand, but just ask the guy, he wouldn't have it any other way. "It has been an unbelievable situation and I'm blessed to have the job that I have." —Dane Herron.
You used to live in a house with [X Games Gold Medalist] Tommy Clowers and Jeff Tilton, how come you didn't join them in their quest for FMX stardom?

The reason I didn't become a freestyle motocross star is pretty simple: At that time, all the FMX guys weren't making much money — they were riding their asses off doing crazy stuff and I had a choice of either doing it or figuring out something better in my life. I was building some motorcycle tracks, or at least beginning to at the time and I had professional photography equipment so I decided to do both of them. I could continue my networking, make more money shooting photos and building jumps and still get to ride for fun.

Do you remember what the first real course you ever built was?

The first real course I ever built was in Wooster, Massachusetts. I believe it was LXD at the time. I remember it was right next to a place called Honey Farms.

The reason I didn't become a freestyle motocross star is pretty simple: At that time, all the FMX guys weren't making much money — they were riding their asses off doing crazy stuff and I had a choice of either doing it or figuring out something better in my life.

-- Dane Herron

How did you get the skills to actually become a course builder?

I had been working construction my entire life. I went to work for a friend of my dad's when I was eighteen years old — a guy named Carl Scanlon — who was managing Glen Helen and some of the local motocross tracks at the time. Building motocross tracks with Carl's equipment on the weekends and getting to practice on them Saturday and Sunday just went hand in hand.

What's your favorite piece of equipment to work with?

My favorite pieces of equipment are the skid steers, the little tracked skid steers, because when you get to that point you are finishing stuff off. Building the dirt take-offs with a skid steer is the Holy Grail for me at the end of everything.

What was your toughest building job?

I would have to say the toughest building job was probably X Games 2008. With the addition of the Adaptive racing, Speed and Style and all the number of events, I think we underestimated all of the work it was going to take. Yeah — for sure X Games 2008. No, wait. The toughest course for me to build was Red Bull X-Fighters Germany in 2008. Just because of the weather. It rained every single day and we had to change things around ... it was certainly Germany.

What's the most satisfying part of your job?

The first round of practice. Seeing those guys get excited, giving me the thumbs up and telling me how stoked they are. That makes it all worthwhile.

Mike Basher/mikebasher.comOne thing that makes Dane different from the rest of the course builders is that he has the skills to ride what he builds. In turn, this makes his understanding of course design and rideablity a lot more relevant.
You have been around for a while and you get to see a lot, so who do you most admire in the moto world?

I really admire Travis Pastrana. I think I admire him the most. I admire a lot of guys in different ways for different things, but Travis is the kind of guy who has no complaints, no bitching, no whining ... he's like, "Get your confidence up and just do it — wuss!" I think that's his motto, haha. I admire that a lot.

How often do you get to ride these days?

I don't ever get to ride! When I quit working for Red Bull I decided that it was going to be awesome. I was going to go back to building dirt bike tracks and I was going to ride every morning before. Got myself a brand new 450 and I rode it five times in the last two years.

In some instances I feel like it is dying a little bit, but I think that's just because jumps are straight. You know, thank god for X-Fighters and X Games, some of the courses are getting to be a little bit more park style.

-- Dane Herron

So if you're not riding, what do you actually do when you are not building?

Well, up until eight months ago, or eighteen months ago, I was only working and doing a little golfing and doing whatever I could in-between. Work has taken over my life and I love it and respect it, but now that I have an eight-month-old daughter and a beautiful fiancÚ and I am going to get married & life's changed a little bit.

What was the most fun course you built this year?

Either Texas X-Fighters or the ESPN Moto-X World Championships. At the Championships it was the first time I got to incorporate all of the different events onto one field and it was really exciting to do. But for a straight freestyle course only I would have to say it was Texas X-Fighters.

What have you not yet included on a freestyle course?

I want to build big drops, like some step-downs and step-ups. The addition of the quarter pipe was a big deal, I think it's exciting, but I don't think people got to use it enough so ... I got some other ideas for things, but I think more freeride kind of stuff.

So where do you actually think freestyle motocross is going?

I get asked that question all the time. In some instances I feel like it is dying a little bit, but I think that's just because jumps are straight. You know, thank god for X-Fighters and X Games, some of the courses are getting to be a little bit more park style and people are understanding that if we make these courses more park style, a little more original sort of freestyle designs, it would make for a lot more excitement. You wouldn't know what everybody was going to do. Everybody wouldn't hit the same jump and they would all have a different variation of a run. It would be surprising and much more exciting.

Dane HerronBefore Dane adopted the use of course design technology, he would sketch up all his courses by hand — sometimes on bar napkins. Hey, whatever works right?
Who are your top three riders right now?

Mat Rebeaud, Nate Adams and, you know, always Twitch. I mean Twitch has got the dopest style of all of them, Nate has come a long friggin' way and Mat's the technician.

So what was the best single moment in your career to date?

Building the double-double section at X Games in Philadelphia and having Mike Metzger double back flip it actually. [Note: Metzger did back-to-back backflips. First off a 45' ramp-to-dirt hit, which he had practiced successfully, but then added the 80'+ dirt-to-dirt backflip by changing into second gear while upside down on the first jump, hitting a kinked 'tombstone' dirt kicker and smoothly landing a distance that no one had ever even previously attempted]. It was a pretty exciting day and it was historical for all of us. To me that was probably one of the most exciting times. Not to mention all those good times in Philly!

The reason I didn't become a freestyle motocross star is pretty simple: At that time, all the FMX guys weren't making much money — they were riding their asses off doing crazy stuff and I had a choice of either doing it or figuring out something better in my life.

-- Dane Herron

Assuming one day you actually got to get back on the bike — where are your favorite riding spots?

Ocotillo Wells obviously, because I grew up there and I know it like the back of my hand, but my second favorite riding spot would be any one of the sand dune spots and Caineville's a close third.

I seem to remember a time when pretty much all of your designs were on some sort of random paper — mostly bar napkins. Is it the same these days?

Bar Napkins? Bar napkins lasted a lot longer than I thought they were going to. Usually, twenty-four hours before the design was due, we were like, "Oh, we got to get a course design done — it's due tomorrow. Alright, order me two beers and get me a napkin!" (laughs). But, we have definitely come a long way. It's like any business, like an evolution of things. You've got to get better and you have different requests from your clients. You know, it's like when you want to get better at a sport — I treat my job like a sport and I want to get better at it every day. It's gone from napkins to SketchUp (Google 3D design product) and I am sure it will be CAD after that, but SketchUp's a pretty good step.

Well, back in the day the professional course builder was almost like a fictional character. How does it feel coming to this point where this is actually what you DO? Did you ever really think you would get here?

Honestly, if you asked me that ten years ago I would tell you, "Yeah, right. I'm in a novelty sort of spot and it's going to end. For sure it's going to end". To know that it's my job now and people call me on a daily basis for specialty things, to build tracks and to build courses. It has been an unbelievable situation and I'm blessed to have the job that I have. To have ESPN call me and do a little story on the 'dream jobs' thing was a big surprise to me, but I'm making a living at it and supporting a family — it's pretty badass!

Red BullJust another day on the job, building a top-class Red Bull X-Fighters course.

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