Dropping In On: Andrew Putt

These days, MotoTrials (or Trials), has little in common with the old days where riders without helmets slowly rode up creek beds. Today, the sport is truly an extreme sport with athletes hurling their exotic and lightweight bikes up eight-foot walls.

Pat Smage is the acknowledge king of the sport right now, but there are a few young guns closing in on the Wisconsin rider. One of those riders is Andrew Putt. The 17-year-old has already been to Europe several times to compete and train with some of the best in the world. This past weekend at the 2015 Aires US MotoTrials Series opener, Putt claimed a podium in his first ride in the Pro division.

We talked to the soft-spoken Pennsylvanian to get his take on the coming year.

Q: Tell us what you did this winter.

A: This winter I did a lot of training in my barn. There was a lot of snow in Pennsylvania this year so it was a good getaway, a lot of technical rocks. So that was just kind of good to keep me fresh and improve my skills. I also had the pleasure to train in Spain this year with the Spea team. That was a great experience. I learned a lot from them. A big difference in riding with their style and my style. I also got to train with my minder this year for the world rounds, Marcel Justribo, and he only speaks Spanish so that was interesting having to communicate with him. That was also a good experience seeing how he minds and seeing what he likes to see in my style for the world rounds. It’s a lot of training this year.

Q: So tell me what did you come away with training with the Spaniards?

A: The big thing with the Spaniards is they’re very technical riders. They’re very, very good at small minute movements and balance and that’s definitely something I need to work on more. That’s what I really learned is what I need to work on and definitely small changes in my techniques. They’re also very talented at big stuff but they love to work on their really technical riding. That’s definitely something that I’ll be working on in the future.

Q: What is your plan for 2015?

A: I’m going to do all the nationals this year. I’m going to hit all the US nationals, as well. One national conflicts with a world round and I’ll be riding that national, but I’ll still get championship points in the world rounds, so that will be good.

Q: So you’ll go to Japan and then Australia? Is that how it goes this year?

A: No Australia this year. It’s Japan and then it goes straight to Sweden and then Czech Republic.

Q: How do you feel you’ve improved since last year?

A: I’ve tried to work on consistency a lot. I can definitely tell that my consistency has improved a lot. I can ride a section three times and maybe score one point throughout them if it’s an easy section. I feel much more confident with my consistency. Also my technical skills have improved a lot. I haven’t been working too much on big hits. I felt confident in the past so this year was just a real year to kind of refine my technical skills.

Q: Is there any one big thing that you’ve said “I need to really work on this”?

A: For the nationals I think setups is something that I’ve been working on a lot. Make sure I can get to the big rock. That’s definitely been a big thing. And also my jap zaps. They’ve not been too strong in the past. I realize I’m a small kid so it’s definitely been one of my weaknesses. I’ve been working on that a lot and I feel like I’ve gotten a little headway with it, so I’m happy.

Q: You’re moving to the Pro division this year, right?

A: Yup, I’ll be riding pro this year.

Q: Are you a little nervous about that?

A: I am. Any year that I’ve moved up in a class I’m not quite familiar with what will be put in front of me so definitely some uncertainty but I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Q: This is going to be a stacked field this year too with Cody Webb riding again and, of course, with Pat Smage coming back.

A: Oh, it sure is. With Cody and Pat, Logan Bolopue, Brian Roper… it definitely is going to be a very tough year. I think there’s going to be a lot of battling.

Q: But we’ve got 10 full rounds this year which is good. That gives you more time to improve as the year goes on.

A: I’m definitely a fan of more rounds. It does give you a chance to kind of improve as the season goes out and get the hang of it. More rounds is more experience for the next year.

Q: How many world rounds will you miss?

A: Just two this year. I’ll miss Japan as well as Great Britain. But I think that I can still get a lot of championship points without them. Japan is a long haul. Maybe next year.

Q: What grade are you in school?

A: I’m in 10th grade right now. I actually do online school right now so it’s definitely more flexible for my schedule, which is really nice for me. I can do it in the RV while we travel as well as in Europe for the world rounds. That’ll definitely be very valuable.

Q: Do you go into a US national and a world round with a different mentality?

A: I try not to. At the nationals I’m definitely more comfortable. I know the environment. I want to try to carry that into the world rounds this year. I’ve done one world round now so hopefully I can feel a little bit more experienced. But it’s the same. Other than no stop, the riding is much different. That’s one aspect that is completely different going into, but everything else is very similar.

Q: Is there a huge difference between the way the sections are set up between the US and the lines that you ride in Europe?

A: In the pro class there’s a lot more hits, a lot more big hits and setups. In Europe it’s a lot more technical. There’s still hits that are pretty big but a lot of it is very, very tight, technical, really difficult stuff. With no stop it’s definitely taking it to a new level.

Q: Do you think that we would be better riders here if we concentrated on building more technical sections rather than sections with big hits?

A: It’s hard to say. I think if we did do more technical sections our riders would be more prepared for Europe. We’d have a little more skills going into it. I definitely had a rough awakening when I got to Europe and found that all the riders were extremely balanced very, very well, had great technical skills. It’s hard to say.

Q: I’ve noticed that even Martin Matejicek who came over last year from the Czech Republic, a lot of Europeans that come over that are maybe the same level as us are always amazed at how big our obstacles are here but our sections aren’t as technical as theirs.

A: I know the red line absolutely has bigger hits than we have here. That’s a whole other level. But the blue line is very different. It’s much more technical and there’s big hits but there’s nowhere near as many.

Q: Ho do you juggle having fun and being serious about training and stuff at the same time?

A: When I’m at home or anywhere training I always make it fun. That’s the biggest fun. It has to be fun. That’s when you’re really learning the most is when you’re having fun. So I try to do both. The biggest thing for me, if I’m not having fun it’s not training, it’s struggling. I think the biggest thing with trials is always keeping it fun.