Ferris’ wheels: Truckee motocross racer rebounds from injuries
Talk about resilience: Truckee motocross ace Ryan Ferris defines the word.
At age 19 the professional racer already has had 23 screws and four metal plates removed from his legs, both of which were nearly amputated after a horrendous 2004 crash. But he bounced back, fighting the odds to regain the same winning form that has earned him headlines since he was a young child, as well as a shed full of trophies.
Exactly two years later ” Nov. 17, 2006 ” Ferris was struck with another debilitating injury. This time the wipeout broke his back, requiring 12 screws and two 12-inch metal rods to mend. And they’re never coming out.
Again Ferris rebounded from the injury, returning to the sport as if he’d never skipped a beat. He didn’t waste any time, either.
“It was only out about two or three months before I got back on my bike,” said Ferris, a 2007 Truckee High grad. “I was very surprised how quick I was back. One doctor said it might take six months.”
While giving up motocross racing seemed like the most palpable option, Ferris was far too good to throw in the towel. Plus, the sport is in his blood, passed on from his father Dave and fine-tuned through years of training and racing ” and winning.
Instead Ferris began entering races several months later, then turned pro in August 2007.
“I was winning the intermediate class and was ready to step up my game to the next level,” Ferris said. “It’s been a dream come true, racing with guys I watched growing up.”
On the track, Ferris somehow manages to suppress from the back of his mind the violent memories of his injuries.
“I don’t think about it when I ride anymore. Riding is how I clear my head of everything,” he said. As far as that portentous November day, he conceded he’s a little more wary. “This year on Nov. 17 I’ll probably just lay low,” Ferris said.
With the guidance of his father ” a former motocross racer himself ” Ferris began his young racing career at age 6 on a Yamaha Pee Wee 50. He won four of 10 races his rookie season before stepping up to the Mini Bike division the following year, in which he raced until he was 12.
Ferris doesn’t remember his Mini Bike career in detail, but his family’s shed filled of trophies, many of which were taller than him at the time he won them, attest to his success. In fact, he earned Northern California and Northern Nevada championships and was ranked among the top 5 in the world.
“Flyin’ Ryan” became his moniker. It remains to this day.
“He was always a hot shot as a young kid,” said Kevin McGovern, 24, a former Truckee resident and motocross racer who grew up with Ferris. “Even the older kids wanted to be like him. He was almost like the celebrity of town because everybody knew who he was. He was winning all the time.”
After a while Ferris got burned out. So he took an extended break between the ages of 12 and 15.
“It was nice to take a break and experience the team sports, and be a normal kid for a while,” he said, adding that he played football, basketball and baseball until his freshman year.
At that point he returned to racing motocross ” and winning.
“I just missed it,” Ferris said. “I never stopped riding, but once I got over the team sports deal I wanted to get back into racing.”
He had all the support he needed from his family, especially his father.
“He still helps me out,” Ferris said. “I couldn’t do it without him. He’s the main reason how and why I’m still racing.”
Since he turned pro Ferris said he’s competed in 30 to 50 events, winning “a lot of races” while posting many top-5 and top-10 finishes.
He moved to Temecula (Calif.) to live with McGovern for about four months before returning to Truckee in January.
Most recently Ferris swept his four pro motos at the Mustang Motor Plex in Nevada on June 8 ” part of the Silver Peak MX series. Competing in two classes, Ferris easily won both 450 Pro motos and both MX Lites Pro 250s. He even gave his competition a sizable head start in his final race before blasting past the field.
At the Hangtown Motocross Classic, held in Rancho Cordova on May 29, Ferris raced for the first time since receiving his AMA pro license. He was off to a hot start after winning the qualifier. But he ran into some bad luck when his radiator hose broke, killing his chance for a top-10 finish. In his second moto he finished 31st after a midpack start.
“I was a bit upset with (the result),” Ferris said.
He races next in the Mammoth Motocross on June 27-28, then heads East to compete in more Pro Nationals in July and August.
While he has more than a dozen sponsors, Ferris said his goal is to “get a factory ride and make a living out of it.
“I’m trying to get paid to ride and not to have to pay my way anymore,” he said.
Assuming he makes it big, McGovern said it couldn’t happen to a more deserving person.
“He’s a role model, definitely. He’s very outgoing and is not egotistical like many racers are. He’s a very humble kid,” McGovern said.
“As a friend he’s like a brother. You get to know Ryan and things just click. You become attached to him because he has so much personality and is such a friendly person.”